My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Gale Storm

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Singin’ With Feelin”

Loretta+Lynn+Singin+With+Feelin+506836Loretta’s 1967 output included three albums: Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind) released in February, a duet album with Ernest Tubb released in June, and a second solo collection, Singin’ With Feelin’, released in October. It consists of the Top 10 single “If You’re Not Gone Too Long”, three songs written or co-written by Loretta, and the usual remakes of other artists’ hits.

Written by Wanda Ballman, “If You’re Not Gone Too Long” is an upbeat honky-tonker in which Loretta bits adieu to a lover who is about to embark on a journey. She tells him that she will try to remain faithful to him while he’s away, but she isn’t making any promises. The single had been released the previous May and reached #7 on the Billboard country singles chart. Equally good is Loretta’s original number “Bargain Basement Dress” that opens the album. This is yet another round in the battle of the sexes, a theme she would revisit several times and one that would always serve her well. Once again she’s hopping mad when her drunken husband comes crawling in the wee hours of the morning. This time he’s at least had the foresight to come bearing a gift, but Loretta wants no part of the peace offering. The song is very much in the same vein as “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” which is likely why Decca chose not to release it as a single so soon after that mega-hit. “Slowly Killing Me”, another Loretta original, finds her coming to terms with her husband’s philandering but in a less confrontational manner than we’ve come to expect from her. “I’ll Sure Come a Long Way Down”, which she co-wrote with Maggie Vaughan, finds her Loretta in a similar situation that Tammy Wynette faced in “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”. Had it not been for the similarities to Tammy’s song, which was released earlier the same year, this might have been a good single for Loretta.

As stated earlier, the album contains a number of remakes that had been hits for others. “Dark Moon” had been a huge crossover hit for country singer Bonnie Guitar in 1957. It was also covered by actress and pop singer Gale Storm that same year. Although Loretta sings it well, it doesn’t seem to be quite the right kind of song for her and it’s one of my least favorites on the album. She does much better with “Secret Love”, a 1953 hit for Doris Day, which Loretta also remade for her current album Full Circle. Also included are very nice versions of George Jones’ “Walk Through This World With Me” and Wynn Stewart’s “It’s Such A Pretty World Today”. Loretta’s managers Teddy and Doyle Wilburn are also represented: Teddy wrote “Wanted Woman”, a somewhat plodding ballad about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who ends up killing the object of her unrequited love, and Doyle wrote the filler track “A Place To Hide and Cry” that closes the album. Also falling into the filler category is “What Now”, which is not particularly memorable but noteworthy because it was co-written by a very young Becky Hobbs.

Overall, Singin’ With Feelin’ is a very good but not great album that doesn’t quite reach the high marks set by Blue Kentucky Girl and Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind). It is out of print but completists can find used vinyl copies online.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Wynonna – ‘Sing, Chapter 1’

81hrny-Ha0L._SX522_I always felt that Wynonna was miscast as a country singer but was otherwise a great vocal performer. This album is the proof of my latter assertion, a twelve song collection of great songs perfectly executed by a master singer.

The album opens up with a thirty’s classic “That’s How Rhythm Was Born”, a Boswell Sisters hit from the 1930s, long forgotten but well worth reviving. The Boswell Sisters pre-dated and were an inspiration for the Andrews Sister. The song sounds very Andrews-ish with Vickie Hampton and Wynonna doing harmonies to create that trio sound. There is an old-time, non-bluegrass banjo in the mix played by Ilya Toshinsky.

Next up is the greatest country song ever written, Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. While there are versions I prefer to Wynonna’s, she does an excellent job with the song. The Nashville String Machine provides tasteful and effective orchestral accompaniment.

Wynonna gives the sisterhood some wise advice in the very bluesy “Women Be Wise”.

Dave Bartholomew was a noted New Orleans songwriter closely associated with the legendary Fats Domino. “I Hear You Knocking” was a big R&B hit for Smiley Lewis in 1955 (#2 R&B) and a big pop hit (#2) for actress Gale Storm. Fats Domino also recorded the song a few years later, and because of his sustained success, Fats’ version is probably the best remembered. Wynonna’s version has a more New Orleans style rock feel. It is quite good

Larry Henley and Red Lane penned “Til I Get It Right”, a major Tammy Wynette hit from 1973. The focus is on Wynonna’s vocal with spare but graceful accompaniment that includes unobtrusive strings.

Another country classic follows, Merle Haggard’s “Are The Good Times Really Over For Good”. Not one of my favorite Hag songs, but still a good song. I do like the brass instrumentation in Wynonna’s arrangement.

I was not a big Stevie Ray Vaughan fan but I could take him in small doses and Wynonna’s take on “The House is Rockin'” is just enough Stevie Ray for me. Wynonna’s take on this song rocks just enough.

The almost forgotten Bill Withers had a relatively short career as a recording artist (he is still alive) but the music he did produce was exceptional leading to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Ain’t No Sunshine” was one of those classics and Wynonna gives it the appropriately moody reading.

Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller are arguably one of the two or three greatest pop songwriting tandems in history. “I’m a Woman” was initially released in 1962 by Christine Kittrell, but is best remembered as a classic Peggy Lee track. Wynonna’s version is as good as any of them albeit very different from Peggy Lee’s sexy rendition, Wynonna’s being a very assertive R&B track

I am not a big fan of most Burt Bacharach-Hal David compositions, other than those written for the great Gene Pitney. That said, “Anyone Who Had A Heart” had a distinguished pedigree with British songbird Cilia Black taking her George Martin-produced record to #1 in the UK for three weeks in 1964. Cilla’s version also went to #1 in Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa, but I don’t think it was released in the US. Dionne Warwick also had a notable hit (#8 pop/ #2 adult contemporary) with the song in the US but only got as high as #47 in the UK. Both versions competed in various global markets, basically to a draw in Europe. Wynonna’s version is a pretty standard, but effective presentation.

“When I Fall In Love” is a pop standard that has been recorded by many artists, most notably Jeri Southern and Doris Day. Wynonna gives it a fairly standard interpretation with the Nashville String Machine setting the mood for Wynonna’s strong vocal.

The album closes with a Rodney Crowell original “Sing”. I think that this is the weakest song on the album, but I would also give it a B+ which should tell you what I think of this album

Of all the Wynonna albums I’ve heard, this one is my favorite, both in terms of the strength of Wynonna’s vocals and the quality of the material. To me this is a definite A+.

Country Heritage Redux: Bonnie Guitar

Born with the last name Buckingham, Seattle native Bonnie “Guitar” was a true renaissance woman who moved from role to role during the course of her long career. You name it, this 88 year old has done it: singer, songwriter, session musician, producer, executive and record label owner.

Bonnie Guitar learned several musical instruments during her adolescent years–becoming especially proficient on guitar–and before graduating high school she had already written several songs. During the early 1950s she recorded for Fabor Robison’s Fabor label, which also featured such artists as Ned Miller, Jim Reeves and Jim Ed & Maxine Brown. By the middle of the decade she had moved to Los Angeles where she worked as a session guitarist, playing on records for a number of big name (or future big name) artists, including Ferlin Husky.

In 1957 Bonnie signed with Dot Records, a label she would be associated with, off and on, for many years. Her big break occurred shortly thereafter when she recorded the Ned Miller-penned “Dark Moon.” Her version soared to #6 on the Billboard pop charts, selling nearly a million copies along the way. Unfortunately, her label also issued a pop version of the song by noted television actress Gale Storm, who appeared on such shows as My Little Margie and The Gale Storm Show. Storm’s very similar version, no doubt aided by her greater fame, reached #5 on the Billboard Pop charts, also selling nearly a million copies (and outselling Ms. Guitar’s version by a few thousand copies). Bonnie made many television appearances in the wake of her success with “Dark Moon.”

In 1958 Bonnie formed her own record label, Dolphin Records (soon to be renamed Dolton Records), where she produced a number of acts, the most successful of which, the Fleetwoods, had a million seller with “Mr. Blue.”

Wishing to focus on her own career, Bonnie sold Dolton Records and went back to recording her own music for Dot (later ABC-Paramount), and eventually became an A&R director for the label on the west coast. After several years of focusing on A&R work, Bonnie got serious about her recording career again, and in 1966 scored several hits including “I’m Living In Two Worlds,” “A Woman In Love” and “I Believe in Love,” which all made it into the top 10. After 1967 the hits fell off – she had no further top 30 chart entries.

Perhaps this was to be expected, as by 1967 Bonnie was already 44 years old – rather long in the tooth, even in those days.

At the first annual Academy of Country Music Awards in 1967, Bonnie Guitar was named Top Female Vocalist, but this was essentially an award for past services and accomplishments. She would continue to perform until 1996, and still makes occasional appearances. According to one source, she is gearing up for a few appearances even as this article is being printed.

Discography
CD

As far as I know, there are only two Bonnie Guitar CDs currently available, both issued by Bear Family (Germany).

Dark Moon features her recordings from 1956 to 1958, so it catches her two biggest pop hits (“Dark Moon” and “Mister Fire Eyes”) but misses her country hits for Dot.

By The Fireside – The Velvet Lounge, released in April 2011, features recordings made in three 1959 sessions at RCA’s Hollywood CA studio as produced by noted performer and songwriter Don Robertson. The album features Bonnie performing country standards, accompanied only by a solo guitar. The recordings on this 15 song CD were billed as previously unreleased; however, eight of the titles match up with the song titles on a 1969 RCA Camden album titled Night Train To Memphis.

VINYL

Other than the above CDs, you’ll need to do some vinyl hunting. While Bonnie Guitar had one of the prettiest voices ever to sing country music, her 60s output has some rather syrupy backing–the full “Nashville Sound” treatment–which sounds more easy listening than country at times (although most of it is vastly superior to today’s pop country). Despite the musical arrangements, Bonnie Guitar is an outstanding singer whose voice shines through–always. Bonnie released fifteen albums on Dot Records from 1957-1969. After 1969 there are some scattered albums on a variety of smaller and reissue labels.

Listen to some of her music at http://www.myspace.com/bonnieguitar