My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Floyd Domino

Album Review: Asleep at the Wheel & Leon Rausch – ‘It’s a Good Day’

91xsgyplbl-_sx522_Leon Rausch was the lead singer for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys during the late 1950s and early 1960 and rejoined the band for its final recordings in 1973.  In 2010, he joined forces with Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel for It’s a Good Day, a diverse collection of western swing, big band, jazz and mainstream swing (if there is such a thing) tunes.  He is front and center for the album, handling most of the lead vocals, with AATW acting as his backing band. Floyd Domino, AATW’s original pianist, rejoins the group for this project, as he did for the previous year’s Willie and the Wheel.  The album was produced by Ray Benson.

At age 83, Rausch’s voice is gravelly but still quite strong and he sings surprisingly well for his age.  He holds his own with AATW’s Elizabeth McQueen who duets with him on “Alright, OK, You Win”, a Count Basie tune written by Maymie Watts and Sid Wyche.  It had also been a hit for Peggy Lee in the 1950s, and he outsings Willie Nelson, who acts as his duet partner on “Truck Driver’s Blues”.

I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone to hear that my favorite songs on the album are the more country ones, although I really do like all kinds of swing music and enjoyed the entire album.  The best ones are those that were penned by the great Bob Wills himself:  “I Didn’t Realize”, “Cotton Patch Blues”, “Sugar Moon” (a co-write with Cindy Walker) and “Osage Stomp”, the instrumental jam-session album closer.  I also quite enjoyed “Mean Woman with the Green Eyes”, which was not written by Bob Wills but was recorded by The Texas Playboys.

Benson and his band take a back seat to Rausch on this project, but Asleep at the Wheel , which is one of the best bands in any genre of music, is the glue that holds everything together. As always, the musicianship is excellent.  It’s not a strictly country album, but there isn’t a bad song to be found here.

Grade:  A

Album Review: Asleep At The Wheel – ‘Comin’ Right At Ya’

comin-right-at-yaUnited Artists released the first Asleep At The Wheel (“AATW”) album in 1973. The album featured a mix of straight ahead country and honky-tonk, along with western swing. No doubt United Artists felt a need to mix the western swing with country as it had been a good dozen years since western swing had been a viable force in the marketplace, aside from the small band swing novelties of Hank Thompson and his Brazos Valley Boys.

The core of this early version of AATW was Ray Benson on lead guitar and vocals, Leroy Preston on guitar, drums and vocals, Lucky Oceans on steel guitar, Jim Haber (aka Floyd Domino) on piano and Chris O’Connell on vocals and rhythm guitar. Guests Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher and Andy Stein augment the band on fiddle, with Gimble also playing electric mandolin.

The album opens with a Bob Wills-Tommy Duncan composition “Take Me Back To Tulsa”. The arrangement on this track swings but not nearly as much as it would in later years.

Track two is the Leroy Preston composition “Daddy’s Advice”, a straight ahead country song with a very traditional steel guitar sound paired with the fiddles. The vocal sounds like it may be Preston singing.

Leroy Preston also contributed “Before You Stopped Loving Me” is a nice ballad handled by the inimitable Chris O’Connell. I think that Chris may have been the best female vocalist AATW ever had.

Jerry Irby’s “Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin” was a hit for Ernest Tubb. Although Ernest was not a western swing artist, his recording of the song straddled the line between western swing and honky-tonk, as does this recording.

The Hank Williams classic “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” is given a straight-ahead country arrangement. Again, the vocal sounds like Leroy Preston.

Lucky, Leroy and Floyd wrote “Space Buggy” which has a barrelhouse boogie sound. Ms. O’Connell handles the lead vocals on this bright up-tempo song.

“Cherokee Boogie” was one of Moon Mullican’s great songs, one that was a hit for Moon and has graced the charts several times since them. Since Mullican was one of the great piano influences on Jerry Lee Lewis, it is only appropriate that Floyd Domino’s piano is featured heavily on this track.

Track eight on album is another Leroy Preston original titled “Hillbilly Nut”, a bit of a novelty with some instrumental snippets of other famous tunes. Preston sings this song.

Ray Benson and Leroy Preston collaborated on “Your Down Home Is Uptown”, a country ballad sung by Chris O’Connell.

Preston also penned “I’m The Fool (Who Told You To Go)” another straight ahead country ballad with Chris O’Connell shining on harmony vocals on the chorus. Ray Benson sings the lead.

Geoff Mack, an Australian country singer, penned “I’ve Been Everywhere”. The song originally featured Australian place names; however, with American place names, the song became a massive hit for Hank Snow. Leroy Preston takes the lead vocals on this song, which are NOT taken at the breakneck speed often associated with the song. The vocals of this song frequently have been rewritten to reflect the nationality of the singer.

The album closes with “The Son Shines Down On Me”, a nice gospel ballad sung by Chris O’Connell. The songwriter is credited as ‘L. Lee’ but I know nothing further about that person.

Comin’ Right At Ya is an album which sees the band finding itself. The album produced no hit singles, and while there are traces of western swing styled elements throughout the album, the album is less western swing than any of their future efforts would be. As a vocalist Leroy Preston isn’t all that good and his vocals would be less prominent on future albums. I liked this album (I picked up a copy on vinyl when it first came out) but it is mostly a harbinger of things to come. I’d give it a B.

Koch paired this with Texas Gold (a much better album) on a CD reissue in 2000. Texas Gold, released on Capitol in 1975, would feature the band’s biggest hit “The Letter That Johnnie Walker Read”.

Album Review: Dale Watson – ‘Heah!!’/’Whiskey or God’

51V1Y7TJRXL-2Whiskey or God, released on Palo Dura Records in 2006 is exactly the same album as Heeah!!, which was issued on the Continental Song City label in 2005. Same songs, in the same sequence – if you have one album, you don’t need the other – but you should have one of them. Heck – buy ’em both and keep one as a spare!

Regardless of which title the album has, it is a great album which finds Watson delivering fourteen songs with the fire and passion he typically invests in all of his recordings.

The band that accompanies Dale on this album is top shelf all the way consisting of Dale (lead guitar), Herb Bolofsky (drums), Gene Kurtz (bass), Don Pawlak (pedal steel), Don Raby (fiddle), Jon Blondell (trombone), and former Asleep At The Wheel pianist Floyd Domino. Background ground vocals seem a bit sparse but Dale has such a compelling voice, this represents but a very minute shortcoming. On a few numbers Dale adds some tenor vocals.

The album opens with sad but upbeat “Sit And Drink And Cry.” Fabulous steel guitar and fiddle dominate the background. Watson’s forlorn lead vocal is forlorn in a very upbeat way,

The second track “Whiskey Or God” is pretty self-explanatory

Whiskey or God
Is gonna bring me relief
Believin or not
Bending my elbow or my knees
I’m gonna drink until my conscience bleeds
Before I fall asleep I’m gonna say a prayer for a brighter day
Whiskey or God
Bring salvation to me

“I Don’t Feel Too Lucky Today” is a song Merle Haggard, Bob Wills or Asleep At The Wheel would have been proud to record. Dale wrote this mid-tempo ballad and the song has lovely steel/fiddle tandem work.

“No Help Wanted” is the story of an unemployed truck driver, stuck in Pittsburgh perusing the classified ads but finding nothing.

Next up is a tender love ballad “My Heart Is Yours”

It’s been through hell and back
Been broke showin’ cracks
But it’s yours, my heart is yours

It’s been a while since it had to feel
Love shy and newly healed
But it’s yours, my heart is yours

Let’s take it easy, it’s easy to see girl
It still ain’t that strong
It’s barely beaten from being so beaten
For so long

It’s been through hell and back
Been broken, showin’ cracks
But it’s yours, my heart is yours

This is followed by “It Hurts So Good”, another song that has a strong western swing feel.

There aren’t too many songs about truck drivers who are transvestites or drag queens but Dale has never lacked for courage and takes an entertaining stab at the topic with “Truckin’ Queen ( I Got My Nightgown On)”. I suspect that this one never got any airplay.

“Darlin’ Look At Me Now” is another song about a guy who is nuts about a girl – nothing special in terms of either the lyrics or arrangement but certainly more than mere filler.

“I Wish I Was Crazy Again” is the first track on the album in which the trombone is prominent as an accent. The song reminds me of something Haggard might have written, and that is never a criticism, because I have never heard a bad Merle Haggard song, This song is taken at a medium -slow tempo

You left me, I left too
I went right out of my head
The old boy they all knew
They all knew was pretty much dead

You know, they say I went crazy
And by “crazy” I mean mentally insane
I had a world where I still had you
Oh I wish I was crazy again

Crazy again, crazy in love
Ignorantly bliss baby
That’s what dreams are made of
There was no hurtin’
I lived life without pain
You’d still be in my arms baby
If I was crazy again

I’ve never really associated Dale Watson with Cajun music, but here he proves that he is no stanger to the genre with happy and danceable “I Ain’t Been Right, Since I’ve Been Left.” Don Raby really kicks this one off with a great Cajun fiddle introduction.

Dale slows down the tempo with “Tequilla and Teardrops” which again features brass and a subdued mariachi feeling.

When I was single forty some-odd years ago I was often looking for “38..21..34” but rarely found it and when I did find it, I quickly realized it wasn’t that important. It’s a fun upbeat medium-fast song there Hank Williams song “Hey Good Looking” is sampled in the lyrics

“Outta Luck” is a honky-tonk romp about a fellow who keeps plugging along but can’t apparently catch a break , although it is unclear whose fault that is, he doesn’t necessarily blame himself or anyone else but knows he needs a change of scenery.

“Heaah!!” is the title song for that album as it was released in Europe. Jon Blondell’s trombone gives the song the feel of a big band or perhaps the feel of one of Bob Will’s larger, jazzier bands.

This is a very strong album that works the line between honky-tonk and western swing, with more lean toward western swing. The band is crisp throughout and I wouldn’t regard any of the songs as misses, and Dale’s vocals are strong throughout with any missteps.

Grade: A+

Album Review: Suzy Bogguss – ‘Swing’

swingAlthough there was a swing revival that lasted for a few years (roughly 1998-2003), swing as a musical genre had its heyday during the period from 1935-1946, the period in which swing was America’s popular music. The economics of trying to keep a large band on the road after World War II led to the great swing bands breaking up and the music scene becoming the domain of smaller musical groups and solo singing stars.

Suzy Bogguss falls into that small group of country artists who comfortably perform in a wide variety of musical genres. Western, folk, country, pop and jazz all are areas which Ms. Bogguss has conquered.

The title of the album, Swing, suggests an album full of classic swing-era music from the Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie era. I would love for Suzy to record such an album, but this one isn’t it, although she does reach into the past for some classic swing numbers.

Swing could be described as Suzy’s tribute to modern day swing/jazz, with five of the twelve songs on the album coming from the pen of April Barrows.  Ms. Barrows, an excellent singer in her own right, composes and sings songs with the feel of swing, but with more modern and introspective lyrics than customarily found in the swing of the big band era.

In order to achieve an authentic feel for this album, Suzy engaged country music’s leading purveyor of swing, Ray Benson and members of Asleep at the Wheel.  Ray Benson plays guitar, Floyd Domino is on piano, David Sanger beats and brushes the drums and Jason Roberts plays fiddle.   Suzy and Ray produced the album.

Swing opens up with the Nat King Cole-Irving Mills composition “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, a major hit for the Nat King Cole Trio during the middle 1940s reaching #1 on the Harlem Hit Parade and spending six weeks at #1 on Billboard’s country chart . The song was based on a folk tale that Cole’s minister father had used as a theme for one of his sermons. In the song, a buzzard who had been taking different animals for joy rides would bounce them off and eat them after they were smashed on the rocks below. The monkey who is riding the buzzard in this humorous song is much too smart to fall for this trick, hanging onto the buzzard’s neck, with the admonition to “straighten up and fly right”.  There are people who swear that Nat King Cole was the best male vocalist ever in any genre of popular music (they may be right). Suzy handles the song effectively, although perhaps not with the quite the humor permeating her vocal that Cole had in his version.

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