My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Fred Burch

Album Review: Charley Pride – ‘Country Charley Pride’

RCA took an unconventional approach in introducing Charley Pride to country audiences. Legend has it that they avoided putting his picture on the sleeves of his singles, in order to conceal his race and increase the likelihood that radio would play them. However, his debut album Country Charley Pride, which does have his photo on the cover, was released in 1966 before he’d scored any charting singles.

Produced by Jack Clement, Country Charley Pride consists mostly of covers of well-known songs of the day. The only original song is Pride’s debut single, the non-charting “The Snakes Crawl at Night”, a tale of infidelity and revenge, written by Mel Tillis and Fred Burch. Given the subject matter, it is a surprisingly upbeat number about a cuckolded husband who sentenced to hang after shooting his unfaithful wife and her paramour. The album’s other non-charting single was “Before I Met You”, one of my favorite Charley Pride songs. Originally a hit for Carl Smith a decade earlier, the song was later recorded by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. Reba McEntire also covered it in 1984 on her My Kind of Country album.

It was unusual in the 1960s (and now) to release a full album for a new artist that had yet to prove himself at radio but for whatever reason, RCA did sanction an album release. Interestingly, the lack of a radio hit did not impede the album’s sales. It reached #16 on the album charts and earned gold status — a rare feat for a country album, particularly one as traditional as this one. Clearly audiences connected with Pride’s voice. It also didn’t hurt that Clement and Pride played it safe and went with mostly well-known songs of the day, beginning with Harlan Howard’s “Busted”, and including credible covers of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Bobby Bare’s “Detroit City” (another Mel Tillis tune co-written with Danny Dill). Curly Putman’s “Green, Green Grass of Home” is also included, as are a pair of Jack Clement tunes, “Miller’s Cave” and “Got Leavin’ on Her Mind”, which closes out the disc.

None of these tunes lent themselves particularly well to 1960s Nashville Sound orchestral arrangements, so strings are mercifully absent from the album. Most of the songs do contain vocal choruses, though, which are quite intrusive at times as they tend to drown out Pride’s voice. That is my sole complaint about an otherwise stellar album. In addition to very strong material and wonderful singing by Pride, there is also a lot of prominent steel guitar work throughout.

Charley Pride is one of those artists, who despite being a huge star in his hey-day, is not as well remembered today as he ought to be. This is partially because he peaked before the CD era and for decades RCA did a poor job of managing its back catalog and allowed most of his work (and many of their other artists) to go out of print. That error is finally being rectified. Country Charley Pride is available on a 2-disc import set that also contains three of Pride’s other early albums, all of which are worthy of a listen.

Grade: A

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Album Review: Lorrie Morgan – ‘Letting Go … Slow’

51bUlVvWr7LI’ve been a fan of Lorrie Morgan ever since I first saw her video of “Trainwreck of Emotion” on TNN back in 1988. I’ve followed her career ever since, though admittedly not quite as closely since her days as a major label artist ended about 15 years ago. I’ve always felt that the true artists are the ones who continue to make music after they’ve peaked commercially. Morgan certainly falls into that category; she released three solo albums and one collaboration with Pam Tillis in the years since her tenure with BNA Records ended. But post- commercial peak projects are often a mixed bag, particularly for artists who don’t write a lot of their own material. Finding good songs is frequently a challenge – and then there is the added problem of declining vocal power, which often plagues aging artists.

Fortunately, Morgan has overcome both of those obstacles on her latest collection Letting Go … Slow, which was released by Shanachie Entertainment last week. In an interview with Country Universe she said that she spent a considerable amount of time working to get her voice back in shape. The effort has paid off in spades; she sounds better on Letting Go … Slow than she has in years. And although she relies heavily on cover material to compile an album’s worth of songs, she’s managed to dig a little deeper and come up with some gems that are deserving of another listen but have been largely overlooked by the plethora of artists releasing covers albums in recent years. Read more of this post

Album Review: Patsy Cline – ‘Sentimentally Yours’

Sentimentally Yours was the second full-length album of Patsy Cline recordings released by the Decca label, and her third overall.  After its release in August of 1962, it would hold the distinction of being her final album released in her lifetime.  Producer Owen Bradley had made no secret of his ambition to make Patsy a pop star, as well as having country hits with her.  The virtuoso did just that when he was finally able to ink Cline to a contract with Decca.  The resulting first album, Showcase, spawned two quintessential American standards with the hits ‘I Fall to Pieces’ and the sublime ‘Crazy’.  Their success on the popular music charts had made Cline a star beyond Nashville and Sentimentally Yours, a collection of mostly cover songs made famous by the pop singers of the day, aimed at continuing that success.

The only two new songs on the album were the single ‘She’s Got You’ and its B-side ‘Strange’.  The former was Patsy’s second and final #1 on the Country Singles chart, known then as How C&W Sides.  ‘She’s Got You’ also went to #14 on the U.S. Pop chart and was her first charting hit in the U.K., peaking at #43 in the nation.  Writer Hank Cochran pitched the song to Patsy at her house one night in late 1961.  Patsy loved the song and recorded it at her next session.  Bradley employed The Jordanaires as backing singers again, and a jazzy piano provided by Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins accompanies Patsy’s own sweeping vocals.  It’s been re-recorded several times over the years, most notably by Loretta Lynn, who had a #1 hit with the song in 1977 as a single from the I Remember Patsy tribute album.

Mel Tillis and Fred Burch wrote ‘Strange.  The kiss-off number is an interesting listen in itself with its almost-calypso beat.  Patsy’s singing is more restrained on this.  I get the impression she wasn’t close enough to the microphone or wasn’t belting it out like she usually did.  From these two originals, we are treated to Patsy’s interpretation of ten standards.

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