My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Hank Williams Sr

Classic Rewind: K.T. Oslin — ‘I Saw The Light’

K.T. Oslin covers the Hank Williams classic on the 1988 ACM Awards:

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Album Review: Moe Bandy – ‘Here I Am Drunk Again’

Moe Bandy released his fifth album, Here I am Drunk Again, on Columbia Nashville in 1976. The album, produced by Ray Baker, had two charting singles, both of which peaked at #11. The title track, a classic country shuffle, peaked first.

Sanger D. Shafer solely wrote the album’s second single, “She Took More Than Her Share,” as well as two other songs on the record. His three solo contributions are brilliant, and range from the delightful Texas fiddle tune “She’s Got That Oklahoma Look” to the excellent (and stone cold) “The Bottle’s Holding Me.” His final contribution, the steel-drenched “What Happened To Our Love” was a co-write with Bandy.

Eddy Raven is responsible for “Please Take Her Home,” a cautionary tale from our protagonist to the lover of the woman he finds too tempting to resist. “The Man You Once Knew,” a tale regarding a guy falling on hard times, was from Dallas Frazier. J.R. Cochran contributed “If I Had Someone To Cheat On,” a reverse barroom anthem where the guy wishes he had someone’s memory to drink away, the excuse to actually be in the joint in the first place.

“Mind Your Own Business” is the Hank Williams classic. The production is a bit slicker than the rest of the album, and slightly cluttered in places, but Bandy executes it was ease. “Then You Can Let Me Go (Out of Your Mind)” is far more sparse, with steel guitar to accentuate the melody.

Here I Am Drunk Again is an incredible album from start to finish, a collection of ten perfectly chosen tunes and not a clunker in the bunch. I have a love/hate relationship with country music from this era, I find a lot of what we’ve spotlighted through the years to be dated and not my kind of country, but this I love. If you missed this album the first time around, or need to revisit it after all these years, I implore you to check it out. You most certainly won’t be disappointed.

Grade: A+

Compilation Review: The Best of Hank Williams Jr, Volume One: Roots and Branches’

MI0002768558Released in 1992, The Best of Hank Williams Jr: Roots and Branches is a compilation of songs Hank recorded between the mid 1960s – mid 1970s. The songs trace Hank’s career before he developed his own sound and became the superstar country-rocker he’s best known as today.

All and all, the collection consists of twenty songs including six that Hank wrote himself. “Standing In The Shadows” is an excellent honky-tonk ballad as is “I Was With Red Foley,” which features a nice spoken word lyric. “Rock in My Shoe” and “Stoned At the Jukebox” is more contemporary in nature, with flourishes of harmonica and 1970s-era acoustic guitar pairing nicely with the ribbons of steel still heard throughout. “Living Proof” showcases Hank just as he began to shape his own identity. In contrast, “It’s All Over But the Crying” appears to be from his earliest days, with Hank framed in a Nashville Sound-era arrangement.

Hank’s father had a hand with three of the tracks. “Cajun Baby” is billed as being written by both father and son, and it’s an excellent fiddle-based uptempo tune. “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” and “Cold, Cold Ground” are mid-tempo honky-tonkers.

The rest of the compilation features tunes written by a bevy of different songwriters. “I’d Rather Be Gone” is a Merle Haggard-penned straight country ballad as is the Harlan Howard-penned “I Walked Out on Heaven.” Toy Caldwell had “Losing You” and “Can’t You See,” two of the meatiest tunes on the whole project.

The whole album is indeed a first-rate run down of Hank’s career during this period. Unlike most of the albums we’ve highlighted this month, Roots and Branches is still available (although not digitally) and worth seeking out.

Grade: A

Album Review: Hank Williams Jr and Lois Johnson – ‘Give Me Some Lovin”

1399982Hank Williams, JR followed Removing The Shadow with another duets record with Lois Johnson. Released in 1972, Send Me Some Lovin’ was Hank’s twentieth release for MGM Records.

The ten-track album was dominated by Hank’s versions of cover tunes. The title track was originally sung by the likes of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Otis Redding. The pair transforms the ballad into a solid honky-tonker complete with ample steel guitar and appealing drum work.

“Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” becomes charmingly playful in their hands, with the pair trading verses, as Hank turns cautionary as the song becomes about her father. The arrangement is faithful to the song, but strong nonetheless.

I first came to know “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” when Neil McCoy had a version I adored twenty years ago. I soon came to learn the song’s origins date back to Eddy Arnold. Hank and Lois sing beautifully, but the production is horrendous. I hate the early 1970s sheen on the track, which might’ve been hip at the time, but horribly dates the proceedings today.

Johnny Paycheck had the original version of “Someone To Give My Love To” before it was covered by the likes of Connie Smith and Tracy Byrd. Hank and Lois had their shot with the song, too, and their version is a lovely and tender ballad that I quite like.

“Why Should We Try Anymore” was originally made famous by Hank Sr. Hank and Lois turn in a stunning reading complete with delightful steel and a delicious ache in their voices. The pair also recorded “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave)” to similar results.

The album as a whole is a delightful affair even if it falls victim to the trappings of early 1970s music. The pair, whom I’d never heard sing together before, are wonderful together. Like a lot of music from this time, Send Me Some Lovin’ isn’t of my era so I’m not terribly familiar with the majority of songs. I really liked what I heard, though, even if I couldn’t really connect with it.

Grade: B

Album Review – Heidi Feek – ‘The Only’

Heidi-Feek-The-OnlyI became a fan of Heidi Feek after her profile during a season one episode of The Joey + Rory Show. During the segment, she introduced the world to her then fiancé and spoke about her love of listening to vinyl records. She’s since become a regular fixture on her parents’ television show, providing background vocals during performances and singing Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” and Hank Williams’ “Kaw-Lija” during Crosley Radio Vinyl Rewind pieces.

Like her parents Feek is a throwback to a simpler era making it easy to forget she’s in her mid-twenties, around my age. She’s a great vocalist, with a distinctively bluesy twang not far removed from Cline or torch singer Mandy Barnett. I’ve been anticipating a full-length album since that initial appearance, and while I didn’t buy her 2010 EP Eden I was quick to acquire a copy of The Only when the release was announced in late August.

Needless to say, I’m not disappointed. Feek’s first full-length album is a wonderful showcase for her distinct stylings and a fine introduction to who she is as an artist. The album blasts off with the rockin’ “I Like The Way,” an excellent electric guitar drenched number reminiscent of Dwight Yoakam, and the first of four tracks she penned solely with her father Rory. Reverb heavy “I Didn’t Know About You” (co-written by Feek, her father, and James Slater) continues in a similar uptempo vein, transporting Feek back to the Sun Records era of the 1950s while also updating that sound to keep the track modern and fresh. Similarly to “I Like The Way,” “I Don’t Know About You” succeeds on its electric guitar centric sound, giving Feek some muscle behind her energetic vocal.

“57 Bel Air,” another father daughter co-write, is not only the best of the uptempo numbers, and the strongest track on the whole project and the one song I can’t wait to hear each time I listen to the album. It picks up on the electric guitar heavy sound that threads together the uptempo numbers, but adds a distinctive drum beat that elevates the track above the rest. “57 Bel Air,” in which Feek compares her current relationship to the classic car, does the best job of maintaining the rock sound Feek loves while also keeping the track firmly within the realms of her country roots.

As a fan of Feek I was excited to hear her trademark ballads, the side of her musical personality I was most familiar with going in. Feek’s style is best summed up when she’s inspired by Cline, as she shows on “One Night With You,” a co-write with her dad, Austin Manual, and Aaron Carnahan and “There Lives A Fool,” which her dad co-wrote with Sara Evans about sixteen years ago. Both numbers are ripe with bluesy elements that allow Feek to shine vocally, although a chaotic guitar solo suffocates the end of “One Night With You.” The gorgeously understated opening of “There Lives A Fool,” featuring Feek’s vocal backed solely by an upright bass, showcases her impressive range and is one of album’s standout moments.

I also really enjoy “Someday Somebody,” the album’s first single and a co-write between Feek and her dad. The song takes a modern approach to her bluesy side with distinctive electric guitar riffs infused with a steady drumbeat framing her straightforward vocal. Even more contemporary is the title track (which Feek penned solo), a 90s country inspired ballad about a woman telling her man he isn’t the end of the line in terms of relationships. I love how the drums and guitars work together to create a gentle ease that helps guide the song along. “Berlin,” co-written by Feek, her dad, and Slater, follows the same path although it’s far more addicting with the wonderful ‘we hold on/we let go/body and soul/still I love you’ refrain keeping it memorable.

By all accounts, The Only is a solid album, although it didn’t provide the listening experience I was hoping for despite some truly outstanding numbers. There aren’t any clunkers on the project (not even a very atypical cover of “Heartbreak Hotel” that shows off Feek’s interpretation skills) but the production is too heavy handed at times, giving the album a sense of sameness that grows tiring after hearing just a few tracks. But The Only isn’t a bad album by any means, and well worth checking out.

Grade: B+

Album Review – Pam Tillis – ‘Sweetheart’s Dance’

Pam-Tillis-Sweethearts-DanceWhen the time came for Pam Tillis to record her third album for Arista Nashville, she knew she wanted more say over the project. Tillis lobbied with her label and got their permission to co-produce the project with Steve Fishell instead of using Paul Worley and Ed Seay, who had helmed her previous work. As a result, Sweetheart’s Dance became the most successful of her studio projects to date.

The main element that threaded the songs on Sweetheart’s Dance is the thematic diversity among the ten tracks. Unlike her previous work, and that of her contemporaries, Sweetheart’s Dance is a joyously upbeat affair that relies on a remarkably sunny disposition for most of its thirty-four minutes.

For most, relying on a singular emotion would be a downfall but Tillis is an astute enough songsmith to understand the delicate art of balance. The lead single is one of only three ballads, and relays a biting conversation between two female friends – one is in desperate search for true love while the other acts as moral support, having been there herself. “Spilled Perfume,” which Tillis co-wrote with Dean Dillon, is masterful in its simplicity but its Tillis’ vocal, tender and without underlying judgment that brings the song to elevated heights.

The lead single would peak at #5, but Tillis would have greater success with the next two releases. A cover of Jackie DeShannon’s “When You Walk In The Room” would peak at #2. Covering 60s pop hits is always a risk, but Tillis presents the track in a new light, turning it into a slice of country-pop that aptly shows everyone else how it’s done. She’d finally score her only Billboard #1 with the next single, Tex-Mex rocker “Mi Via Loca (My Crazy Life).”

Tillis’ abruptly chose to end her winning streak when she pulled Layng Martine Jr’s “I Was Blown Away” in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombings. If circumstances had been different, this could’ve been her second #1. The fiddle drenched number peaked at #16.

The highlight of the project is “In Between Dances,” a gorgeous waltz by Craig Brickhardt and Barry Alfonso and the best song (next to “Maybe It Was Memphis”) Tillis has ever recorded. A tale of a woman between relationships, the writers brilliantly place her in a dancehall between partners, waiting for the right time to rejoin the action – “The partners are chosen, look at them waltzing away/
The tempo gets slower, closer and closer they sway
/I’ve had my moments when I could get lost in the sound
/But when the song ended the one in my arms let me down.”

Matraca Berg and Mike Noble co-wrote the excellent “Calico Plains,” a track Berg herself recorded on Lyin’ To The Moon four years earlier. It tells the story of a young girl who worships her older sister, whose dreams of a grander life are cut short by an unexpected pregnancy. The urgency by which Tillis brings the song to life only heightens the track’s beauty; accentuated by beautiful dobro riffs.

The detours into pain and longing are few, but those three ballads help ground the album. The title track is a fabulous country shuffle and one of the best fiddle tunes of the modern era. She revs up again on the delightful bluegrass inspired “Till All The Lonely’s Gone,” a joyous song about death that references Hank Williams, Sr in the opening verse – Well Hank made a living out of lonely/he sang liek a freight train whistle moan/Said “You’ll never get our of this world alive”/as if he’d always known.

Sweetheart’s Dance is flawless from start to finish, a classic in every sense of the term. Even the tracks that somewhat pander to trends – “They Don’t Break ‘Em Like They Used To” and “Better Off Blue” are exceptional examples of modern country done right in that era. This is an artist truly on top of her game at a time when such material was getting massive airplay on country radio. If you don’t own this album, I suggest you rectify that immediately – it’s easily one of the best country albums I’ve ever heard.

Grade: A+

Album Review – Marty Stuart – ‘This One’s Gonna Hurt You’

By the summer of 1992, Stuart was finally in favor with mainstream country music. Released in late 1991, “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin,” the inaugural duet between him and Travis Tritt, peaked at #2, the highest peak Stuart would ever see. The duo would also go on to win a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration that same year, marking Stuart’s first such win.

Capitalizing on his recent success, Stuart released “This One’s Gonna Hurt You (For A Long, Long Time),” another duet with Tritt in June. The title track for his third album with MCA Records, it would prove successful as well peaking at #7. Written by Stuart, it’s just as good, if not better, than their previous collaboration. The tale of love gone wrong is framed in a stone cold arrangement complete with steel and piano that helps accentuate the mournful and clever lyrics.  I love how she’s the one who’s going to hurt, not him.

Released next, the bluesy “Now That’s Country,” written solely by Stuart, would peak at #18. A honky-tonker complete with electric guitar and steel flourishes, it depicts the ways in which Stuart was raised:

Well, that’s country,

I was born, yes, a country child

Now that’s country, but baby that’s my style

The almost dirty production is very good and helps elevate the song. But with very little to hold onto lyrically, the tune isn’t particularly memorable.

“High On A Mountain Top” came next, peaking at #24. Written by Alex Campbell and Ola Belle Reed, it isn’t to be confused with the Loretta Lynn song of the same name. This “High On A Mountain Top” is a rocker complete with accents of mandolin that details the story of a man reflecting on the journey that led to the current moment:

High on a mountaintop, standing all alone

Wondering where the years of my life have flown

High on a mountaintop, wind-blowing free

Thinking about the days that used to be

It’s too bad producer Tony Brown saw fit to create such a cluttered arrangement, as this could’ve been a wonderful song. The screaming guitars hinder Stuart’s vocal and nearly drown it out.

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