My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Larry Williams

Spotlight Artists: The Bellamy Brothers

Our December Spotlight Artists are the Bellamy Brothers, Howard (born 1946) and David (born 1950). The Brothers have been around seemingly forever, yet remain vital and innovative artists to this day.

I first became aware of David Bellamy when his name was listed as co-writer on Jim Stafford’s 1974 hit “Spiders & Snakes”, a #3 US pop hit that achieved success in a number of countries. As a recording group the Bellamy Brothers hit pay dirt in 1976 when “Let Your Love Flow” became a massive world-wide hit. Interestingly enough, the song was not authored by the Bellamy Brothers, having been penned by Larry Williams, a roadie for Neil Diamond. Both Neil Diamond and Johnny Rivers passed on the song.

To me “Let Your Love Flow” sounded like a country song, even If the original instrumentation wasn’t especially country. The song went #1 pop and adult contemporary, and reached #21 on the country charts, suggesting that some disc jockeys felt the same way about the song as I did. WHOO-AM in Orlando played the song in heavy rotation. The song would achieve at least top ten chart status throughout most of Europe and would succeed in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia as well.

Since then, the Bellamy Brothers have achieved many US and International hits. Their music is quite melodious, their harmonies are tight and they have an interesting sense of humor which has manifested itself many of their songs. Although their US chart action has cooled off since 1990, their strong sense of melody continues to appeal to European audiences where they remain major stars, with hit albums even after 2010. They have been particularly successful in German speaking countries where a form of sentimental pop music called “Schlager” remains popular and in Scandinavia where similar pop music tastes prevail. Many of their albums intended for European consumption have never been released in the US, and they have had at least a dozen hit singles in Europe of songs never released at all in the US.

They also have had success outside of Europe – in November and December 2017 alone they have appeared (or will appear) in South Africa, Namibia and Sri Lanka before returning home in early December.

When not touring the Bellamy Brothers live on the family ranch in Derby, Florida, near San Antonio, Florida. While I have never met the Bellamy Brothers, I have met their mother when I was an insurance underwriter quoting an insurance policy for the ranch. She was quite a lady and if her sons are anything like her, they must be fine people indeed. They are known for their involvement in charitable work for Florida’s environment (and other causes), and have played many tours for US military personnel abroad.

I digress – but the Bellamy Brothers have put together a sizeable catalog over the last forty years, and while we will be touching upon a number of albums during December, don’t think for a minute that the albums we don’t get to aren’t worthwhile. Although not all of their albums are classics, they all have their moments, so kick back while we shine our December Spotlight on the Bellamy Brothers.

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Album Review: Joe Diffie – ‘A Thousand Winding Roads’

Joe’s debut solo album was released on Epic in 1990, and immediately propelled him to stardom; overnight success (at the age of 32) which was thoroughly deserved, because this is an excellent album, and a fine exemplar of the neotraditional movement which all too briefly dominated the genre. It was produced by Bob Montgomery (then also working with Vern Gosdin) and Johnny Slate. They provided a sympathetic backing which showcased Joe’s vocal prowess.

The lead single ‘Home’ (written by Andy Spooner and Fred Lehner), which has the disillusioned protagonist looking wistfully back to his childhood, took Joe right to the top of the charts. It set records as the first ever debut single to hit #1 on all three of the major charts then in existence (Billboard, Radio & Records, and Gavin). The nostalgia feeds on the protagonist’s disillusionment about the dreams he has been pursuing:

The rainbows I’ve been chasing keep on fading before I find my pot of gold…

Now the miles I put behind me ain’t as hard as the miles that lay ahead
And it’s way too late to listen to the words of wisdom that my daddy said
The straight and narrow path he showed me turned into a thousand winding roads
My footsteps carry me away, but in my mind I’m always going home

The pained ballad ‘If You Want Me To’ was almost as successful, reaching #2 in 1991, and is my personal favorite of the four singles from this project. One of Joe’s own songs (written with Larry Williams), it was the first showcase of the apparently effortless slide between registers which is Joe’s most remarkable gift as a vocalist, as the narrator gently tells his beloved he is prepared to do whatever she wants from him, even if:

If it takes good-bye to make you happy
Then I’ll just walk away if you want me to

‘If The Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)’, written by Kim Williams (Larry’s brother) and Ken Spooner, took Joe back to #1, with its witty western swing twist on being broke and too easily swayed by a persuasive car salesman. The optimistic final single was written by Joe with his friend and regular co-writer Lonnie Wilson (who also plays drums and sings backing vocals on the album), about finding a ‘New Way (To Light Up An Old Flame)’. The only really happy song on the album, it was another #2 Billboard hit, and cemented Joe’s status as one of the brightest new stars of the early 90s.

Heartbreak also comes uptempo with the drinking-to-forget-the-heartbreak song ‘I Ain’t Leavin’ Til She’s Gone’ (written by Joe with Wayne Perry and Lonnie Wilson). Joe wails,

One drink’s too many
Ten ain’t enough
Lord, but she’s still here
So I’ll have one more

More western swing is on offer with the similarly themed ‘Liquid Heartache’, another of Joe’s songs, this one written with the veteran Red Lane, with a great groove which really lets the musicians stretch out.

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Album Review: Kim Williams – ‘The Reason That I Sing’

williamskimI’ve mentioned before that I always enjoy hearing songwriters’ own interpretations of songs which they have written for other artists. The latest example comes from Kim Williams, a name you should recognize if you pay attention to the songwriting credits. Kim has been responsible for no fewer than 16 number 1 hits, and many more hit singles and album tracks over the past 20 years. Now he has released an album containing his versions of many of his big hits, together with some less familiar material.

The album is sub-titled Country Hits Bluegrass Style, although the overall feel of the record is more acoustic country with bluegrass instrumentation provided by some of the best bluegrass musicians around: Tim Stafford (who produces the set) on guitar, Ron Stewart on fiddle and banjo, Adam Steffey on mndolin, Rob Ickes on dobro, and Barry Bales on bass, with Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford providing harmony vocals. Kim’s voice is gruff but tuneful, and while he cannot compare vocally to most of those who have taken his songs to chart success, he does have a warmth and sincerity which really does add something to the songs he has picked on this album.

Kim includes three of the songs he has written for and with Garth Brooks, all from the first few years of the latter’s career. ‘Ain’t Going Down (Til The Sun Comes Up’), a #1 for Garth in 1993, provides a lively opening to the album, although it is one of the less successful tracks, lacking the original’s hyperactivity while not being a compelling or very melodic song in its own right. ‘Papa Loved Mama’ is taken at a slightly brisker pace than the hit version, and is less melodramatic as a result – neither better nor worse, but refreshingly different. ‘New Way To Fly’, which was recorded by Garth on No Fences, also feels more down to earth and less intense than the original, again with a very pleasing effect.

The other artist whose repertoire is represented more than once here is Joe Diffie. The lively western swing of ‘If The Devil Danced In Empty Pockets’ (written with Ken Spooner) with its newly topical theme of being well and truly broke is fun. Although ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ (from the 1992 album Regular Joe) was never released as a single, this tender ballad about separation from a loved one has always been one of my favorite Joe Diffie recordings. Kim’s low-key, intimate version wisely avoids competing vocally, but succeeds in its own way.

One of my favorite hit singles this decade was ‘Three Wooden Crosses’, a #1 hit for Randy Travis in 2002, which Kim wrote with Doug Johnson. A movie based on the story is apparently in development. I still love Randy’s version, but while Kim is far from the vocalist Randy is, this recording stands up on its own terms, with an emotional honesty in Kim’s delivery which brings new life to the story.

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