My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Gary Paxton

Album Review: Vern Gosdin – ‘You’ve Got Somebody’

Vern’s third solo album was released in 1979. Produced as before by Gary Paxton, it boasts some excellent songs and stellar vocals, but is marred by rather dated production. The Jordanaires sing backing vocals, legendary steelie Pete Drake and piano man Hargus ‘Pig Robbins’ all contribute, but the overwhelming presence is that of the string section.

The title track is an excellent almost-cheating song, with a catchy tune and great vocals, which is my favourite track. As the lead single it performed respectably, peaking at #16. A middle aged singer meets up with a married woman in a bar after his show, but after they swap photos of their kids, decides their hearts really aren’t in it any more:

You’ve got somebody
I’ve got somebody
What are we doing here?
This scene was fun when we were single and young
Now we’re just fighting the fear

You got somebody
I got somebody
Why can’t we go home?
When you’re trying to prove you’ve still got what it takes
You’re afraid to walk out alone

The follow-up single, ‘All I Want And Need Forever’ is a nice love song which Vern sings intensely, and which faltered just outside the top 20. The third and last single was one of four songs written or co-written by Vern on the album. ‘Sarah’s Eyes’ is a story song typical of 70s country with another beautifully judged vocal, but was not a success, failing to make the top 50.

‘Til I’m Over Gettin’ Over You’, another co-write, is an okay song with rather intrusive jerky production. ‘Fifteen Hundred Times A Day’, which Vern wrote alone, is a fine song about having trouble getting over someone, with some interesting instrumentation.  The beaty ‘Took It Like A Man, Cried Like A Baby’ is quite entertaining although the cheerily upbeat sound does not quite fit the heartbroken lyrics.

‘He Must Be Lovin’ You Right’,also co-written by Vern, is a the story of a man who sees his ex is happy with another man. The asong is a classic heartbreaker and the vocal is excellent, cutting through a rather poppy production with strings and loud brass. In the equally strung ‘The Rock I’m Leanin’ On’, Vern plays the contrasting role, that of the man who has stepped in when another man has let down the woman.  Producer Paxton wrote the melancholy ‘She’s Gone’, where all joy has gone out of the world for the protagonist.

Vern’s instantly recognisable vocals are great throughout, but the heavy handed Nashville Sound production with extensive use of string sections, if not an entire orchestra, make this less essential than Vern’s later classics.  One of the few let-ups from the orchestra comes with a lively slice of rock and roll in the form of a surprisingly effective cover of ‘Shake, Rattle And Roll’.

The album did not sell very well, and failed to chart. Elektra released a Best Of compilation, but no more new material. You’ve Got Somebody was re-released on its own on CD a couple of years ago (but isnt easy to find), and is also on the new 3-on-1 bargain reissue with its Elektra predecessors. While it’s not his very best work, that voice is in fine form and makes the record worth getting hold of.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Vern Gosdin – ‘Till The End’

After releasing a pair of unsuccessful albums as a member of both The Gosdin Brothers and The Hillmen, Vern Gosdin took a sabbatical from the music business in the early 1970s, returning mid-decade with his solo debut, 1976’s Till The End, which was produced by Gary Paxton and released on Elektra Records. The album contains some remakes of his earlier work, including his debut single “Hangin’ On”, which included harmony vocals by Emmylou Harris. The remake outperformed the original 1967 Gosdin Brothers version on the charts, giving Vern his first Top 20 single. Perhaps encouraged by this success, Elektra opted to release another track that included Harris, “Yesterday’s Gone”, which cracked the Top 10, peaking at #9.

Although uncredited, future country Janie Fricke supplied the harmony vocals on several of the album’s remaining tracks, including “Till The End”, which was another Gosdin Brothers remake that Vern wrote, “Mother Country Music”, and “It Started All Over Again”. All of these were released as singles, peaking at #7, #17, and #23 respectively.

Gosdin is largely remembered today as one of the standard bearers of traditional country music, and though Till The End is rootsy by 1970s standards, it is still very much a product of its time, with pop flourishes such as lush string arrangements which sound somewhat dated today. “The Chokin’ Kind” (a Harlan Howard tune), “Answers To My Questions” and “We Make Beautiful Music Together” are all firmly in the 1970s pop-country mold. He covers Roberta Flack’s 1972 pop hit, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, with Janie Fricke once again providing background vocals. The song has never been one of my favorites, but I have to admit that Gosdin and Fricke do a very nice job on it, even if the result isn’t even remotely country.

I have a tendency to prefer album cuts over singles, but in this particular case I think the label made the right call when choosing the singles. “Yesterday’s Gone”, “Till The End”, “Mother Country Music” and “It Started All Over Again” are all timeless classics. “Hangin’ On” is decent, but it’s one of the tracks that hasn’t aged particularly well. I would have liked to have heard Vern redo this song with more up-to-date production.

I’m more familiar with Vern’s 80s work from his years with Columbia and tend to have a soft spot for the music he made during that era, but Till The End was a fine debut from one of country music’s finest and underrated vocalists. Though it was out of print for a long time, it has recently been reissued on CD along with the two albums that followed it, 1978’s Never My Love and 1979’s You’ve Got Somebody. All three albums are available on a single disc and can be purchased from Amazon.

Grade: A-

Album Review: Mark Chesnutt – ‘Almost Goodbye’

In 1993, country music was a hot commodity.  And so was Mark Chesnutt.  His first 2 major label albums had gone platinum, and his first 9 single releases to country radio had all cracked the top 10.  As an artist on Music Row’s most powerful label in the early 90s – MCA was also home to George Strait, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna, etc. – Mark was getting tons of media exposure and was making a name for himself as a respectable country crooner, with a penchant for the traditional.

It’s safe to say that when Almost Goodbye was released 17 years ago this month, Mark Chesnutt was about as high as his commercial star ever rose.  It holds the distinction as Chesnutt’s most successful album, peaking at #6 on the Country Albums chart, mostly propelled by the 3 consecutive number-one singles.  The album’s fourth single, a cover of Don Gibson’s 1972 chart-topper, stalled at #21 and ended Chesnutt’s run of a dozen straight top 10 single releases.

Opening the set is Dennis Linde’s ‘It Sure Is Monday’, an up-tempo blue-collar anthem that finds the narrator recovering ‘from another wild weekend’.  A recurrent favorite on radio still today, it’s one of the least dated productions on the album, even if the lyrics get a bit mundane around the second or third listen.

The album’s second single is a great country power ballad, with a hint of Nashville Sound strings added to the mix.  This is a song that could have easily been overwrought by a loud or overbearing vocal, but Chesnutt delivers the lyric with a cool bravado that is never lost in the music or the background singers, owning the lyric with his Texas tenor.

‘I Just Wanted You To Know’ is akin to the sound Clint Black brought to country music with its meaty melody and honky-tonk feel.  In this, a man is remembering his days with an old flame, telling how he re-lives the memories literally driving down memory lane.  It was the album’s third single, and third consecutive chart-topper.

Don Gibson took the song ‘Woman (Sensuous Woman)’ – written by the incomparable Gary “Flip” Paxton – all the way to #1 in 1972.  But in 1994, Mark Chesnutt’s fiddle-laced version stalled at #21 on the Country Singles chart, and is virtually forgotten today.  I had even forgotten about it until I began this review.  I won’t take anything away from Gibson’s original, but I much prefer Chesnutt’s vocal and the surrounding instrumentation, mostly sans the overly loud backing vocalists on the Gibson recording.

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