My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Lee Greenwood

Classic Rewind: Lee Greenwood – ‘Touch And Go Crazy’

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Album Review: Lee Greenwood – ‘Love’s On The Way’

Released in late 1992, Love’s On The Way was the third album released on the Liberty label and his thirteenth major label studio album. Unfortunately it also signaled the end of Lee Greenwood as a viable chart artist. While the immediate prior release of patriotic songs, American Patriot, had sold platinum in the wake of the cowardly attacks of 9/11/01 and temporarily brought the fading Greenwood back into prominence, this more conventional album again failed to chart. The two singles released from the album made almost no impact – “Before I’m Ever Over You” made the slightest dent on the singles charts reaching #73 and the other single released, “I Never Thought Your Memory Would Ever Go This Far” failed to chart at all despite getting a favorable review in Billboard: “Perhaps country’s Phil Collins, Greenwood has a ballad to brag about. Slow and dreamy instrumentation sets the mood for Greenwood’s pristine performance.”

Of course, by the time this album was released, Greenwood had already turned fifty years old, and was rather long in the tooth for the youth-oriented playlists of the early 1990s. My copy of this album is on an audio cassette so I do not have the songwriter or production credits, although I was able to find the session personnel through other sources.

The album opens up with “Before I’m Ever Over You”, a mid-tempo rocker written by Sandy Ramos and Jerry Van Diver. This is followed by the tender ballads “In Other Words” and “Final Touches”
“Linda Lu” would have made an interesting single. The song was originally an R&B hit in 1959 for Ray Sharpe. Sharpe was sometimes described as the ‘the greatest white-sounding black dude ever’ and the song got some rockabilly airplay as well as R&B.

This is followed by “I Never Thought Your Memory Would Ever Go This Far” (discussed above).

“I Miss The Romance” is a decent nostalgic slow ballad. This is followed by the mid-tempo “Soldier Of Love” and another slow ballad in “Waiting On The Tables To Turn”. All three of these are what I would describe as album filler, albeit of decent quality.

On the other hand “She Wants To Be Wanted Again” is a good song that I can see being a hit had it occurred during Lee’s peak years or had it made its way to Kenny Rogers.

The album closes with the title track “Love’s On The Way”, given a very soulful treatment by Greenwood. This sounds like some something that T. Graham Brown or Con Hunley would have tackled successfully.

This album has a slightly more country sound than does some of his earlier albums; however, the early 1990s were the peak period for the “New Traditionalists” movement. Included among the musicians are such country stalwarts as Don Potter (acoustic guitar); Mark Casstevens (acoustic guitar, mandolin); Steve Gibson (electric guitar); Weldon Myrick & Dan Dugmore (steel guitar); Rob Hajacos (fiddle); Brent Rowan (dobro, electric guitar, bass); Matt Rollings (piano); David Briggs (piano, synthesizer); Mike Lawler (synthesizer, organ); David Hungate, Michael Rhodes (bass); Paul Leim, Eddie Byers (drums); Ron “Snake” Reynolds (percussion); and Andrea Zonn, Greg Gordon, Donna McElroy, Russell Smith, Curtis Young, Carol Chase, Cindy Richardson, Karen Staley, J.D. Martin, Russell Smith (background vocals). Even so this is more of a ‘blue-eyed soul’ album than the market was buying at the time plus, of course, Lee was already well into middle age.

I didn’t dislike any of the songs, but I didn’t really love any of them either. I would give this album a C+ or B-.

Album Review: Lee Greenwood – ‘Stronger Than Time’

Lee Greenwood’s most recent studio album was released in 2003 on Curb Records.

Three singles were issued, none of which charted. The first, ‘Rocks That You Can’t Move’, is a nice song about a Wise Old Man sharing his hard-earned wisdom with the protagonist as a child, a popular trope given a slight, and pointed, twist by making the old man a hard working African American farmer:

He’d seen the Great Depression
When a dollar’s all a hard day’s work would bring
He watched the crosses burnin’
In a time when freedom didn’t ring
He’d seen a world where minds were closed
And so many hearts were made of stone
But I never heard a bitter word
When I asked him ’bout the pain that he had known

He’d say, “life is full of fertile ground
But it takes a little rain to make things grow
And when it comes to harvest time
We’re all bound to reap just what we sow
So the best that I can tell you, boy,
Is always do the best that you can do
Move the rocks and plow your fields
And plow between the rocks that you can’t move”

Greenwood makes the story (written by Rob Crosby and Will Rambeaux) believable, and a nicely understated production works really well.

A remake of ‘God Bless The USA’ also failed to make any headway, despite being released at the time of the US invasion of Iraq. Lee’s performance is heartfelt, and he is backed by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a storied black gospel choir who add a sense of universality without overwhelming the song. I think I prefer this arrangement to the original.

The third and last single was ‘When A Woman’s In Love’, a pleasant sounding if not very memorable ballad.

The best song is ‘Beautiful Lies’, a sweetly sung ballad written by Gary Burr about denial. Another highlight is ‘Cornfield Cadillac’, written by Terri Argot, with a pretty melody and tender recollection of teenage love. ‘Round Here’ is quite good, a pleasant song about a cozy small-town community.

The title track, ‘Love Is Stronger Than Time’, a romantic AC big ballad written by Chris Lindsey, Bill Luther and Bob Regan, is emotionally sung but a bit bland. Similar but more more effective is the Greg Barnhill-penned ‘It Almost Makes Me Glad’, in which the protagonist sees his ex happier in her new relationship.

‘Love Me Like You’ve Never Been Hurt’ is an emotional ballad written by Pat Bunch. ‘Invisibly Shaken’ is a downbeat AC ballad written by Rodney Atkins, who later had a hit with his own version.

‘One Life To Love’ and ‘I Will Not Go Quietly’ are dull ballads.

This is an album which will appeal to Greenwood’s established fanbase.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: Lee Greenwood – ”Fool’s Gold’

Album Review: Lee Greenwood – ‘A Perfect 10’

The winds of change swept through country music in the late 1980s, with younger stars reviving more traditional sounds. Lee Greenwood’s singles were getting less radio play than they had earlier in the decade, and he must have realised that if he wanted to stay relevant he needed to make some changes. In 1990 he moved from his longstanding label MCA to Capitol, and for his second album for that label (then using the Liberty name), in 1991, he released a duet album with ten female vocalists. They were mainly newcomers the label wanted to promote with a few of Lee’s contemporaries.

The only single was ‘Hopelessly Yours’, a duet with Suzy Bogguss, who was about to make her breakthrough. It peaked at #12 but deserved better, as it is a beautiful song written by the great Keith Whitley and Curly Putnam with hitmaker Don Cook, sung by both vocalists with a wistful tenderness, and tastefully produced with some lovely steel guitar.

One of the label’s biggest stars at the time was Tanya Tucker. ‘We’re Both To Blame’ is a traditional sounding waltz about a couple whose marriage is breaking down – another really lovely track.

All-female bluegrass-country group Wild Rose collaborate on the vibrant up-tempo ‘The Will To Love’, which I enjoyed a great deal.

Karen Staley was better known as a songwriter, but released a couple of excellent albums herself in the 90s. I don’t believe she was ever formally signed to Liberty or Capitol (she certainly didn’t release anything for them), but label boss Jimmy Bowen had produced her 1989 MCA album Wildest Dreams. She has an distinctive and unusually deep voice for a woman, and almost overpowers Greenwood on the brassy ‘I’m Not Missin’ Anything’. Cee Cee Chapman, a Curb artist with another deep alto voice, has a boring song for her duet with Lee, ‘You’re Not Alone’.

Carol Chase has an excellent voice and is well matched to Lee on the enjoyable mid-paced pop-country ‘Looking At A Sure Thing’. ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ is a cover of an R&B classic sung with Donna McElroy, who has provided backing vocals on many country records but is predominantly a gospel singer herself. This version of the song pays not the slightest attempt to sound country, but is pleasant enough listening in its own vein, with a strong soulful vocal from McElroy.

Of the older artists, Lacy J Dalton is wasted on ‘From Now On’, a nice enough but bland MOR ballad which just does not showcase her. Previous duet partner Barbara Mandrell joins Lee for ‘I’d Give Anything’, another dull ballad. Marie Osmond’s pristine vocal on ‘It Wasn’t Love Before’ has phrasing from musical theater.

This is generally a fairly strong album with something for everyone.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: Lee Greenwood – ‘IOU’

Album Review: Lee Greenwood — ‘This Is My Country’

Lee Greenwood released his seventh studio album, This Is My Country, 31 years ago today in 1988. This was his second to be co-produced by him and Jimmy Bowen.

The album’s first single, the excellent ballad “I Still Believe” peaked at #12. The second single, “You Can’t Fall In Love When You’re Cryin,” another wonderful ballad, stalled at #20. “I’ll Be Lovin’ You,” which is extremely dated to modern ears, but still a great song since it was co-written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, peaked at #16.

Although it may seem puzzling at first, Greenwood actually does a good job covering The Captain and Tennille’s “Do That To Me One More Time.” He also does well with his take on “Tennessee Waltz,” although the string-focused arrangement is a bit too heavy and slow. “Ruby” is a piano based torch song, which Greenwood interrupts well, co-written by Mitchell Parish and Heniz Roemheld.

“Lola’s Love,” written by Dennis Linde, is the only real uptempo song on the album and a good one at that, with a wonderfully infectious melody. “I’ll Still Be Loving You,” which isn’t the Restless Heart classic, is also very strong with a melody to match. “As If I Didn’t Know,” is a slow ballad and “Mountain Right” is contemporary pop.

This Is My Country doesn’t have much by way of actual country music on it, but that doesn’t dampen the listening pleasure. It’s still an enjoyable above average album from beginning to end.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: Lee Greenwood – ‘God Bless The USA’

Album Review: Lee Greenwood and Barbara Mandrell – ‘Meant For Each Other’

At his commercial peak in 1984, Greenwood was teamed up with MCA labelmate Barbara Mandrell for a duet album. The pairing was a fitting one: both singers had strong, distinctive voices, but were making mainly bland pop-country music. This album, produced by Mandrell’s producer Tom Collins, represents the worst of 1980s MOR-pop-country, with boring songs swathed in strings, tinny synthesizers, and brass, despite some strong vocal performances.

‘To Me’, the single which followed Lee’s enduring ‘God Bless The USA’, is a romantic love song written by Mike Reid and Mack David. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard country chart. The second single was less successful – ironic, because it is one of the better songs on the album. ‘It Should Have Been Love By Now’, written by Jan Crutchfield and Paul Harrison, has a big melody and wistful lyric as a couple call it quits.

Crutchfield and Harrison also wrote the album’s other half-decent track, ‘Now You See Us, Now You Don’t’, a soulful ballad about a breakup. Greenwood wrote ‘I’ll Never Stop Loving You’, a slow ballad on the same topic, and the very bland and forgettable ‘We Were Meant For Each Other’. Equally bland is the mid-tempo ‘One On One, Eye To Eye, Heart To Heart’.

‘Soft Shoulder’ is an urgent uptempo number about missing a loved one on the road, which is not bad. The pacy ‘Held Over’ is very brassy but quite entertaining. ‘Can’t Get Too Much Of A Good Thing’ is a perky, very pop tune. ‘We’re A Perfect Match’ is similar.

Unless you are a Lee Greenwood or Barbara Mandrell completist, I would avoid this.

Grade: D

Album Review: Lee Greenwood — ‘You’ve Got A Good Love Comin”

Lee Greenwood was celebrating his first two number one singles when MCA readied his fourth album in May 1984. The project went Gold and spawned three top ten hits, and while the album likely isn’t well-remembered today, it was a game changer in Greenwood’s career.

He received his cultural identity from the album’s first single, the patriotic standard “God Bless The U.S.A.” Greenwood was inspired to write the song, which he recorded in November 1983, as his way of coming to terms with the downing of Korean Airlines Flight 007 after it entered into Soviet Airspace following a navigation error.

What most people don’t know is, “God Bless The U.S.A.” not only wasn’t a #1 hit, it missed the top 5 entirely, peaking at #7. The song saw a major resurgence in popularity following the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, where it re-entered the country charts and peaked at #16. The song itself is excellent and one of the best ‘country pride’ songs I’ve ever heard. It’s regarded as Greenwood’s signature song and 35 years since its original release, the song hasn’t lost any of its popularity.

As far as singles go, two more followed, with mixed chart success. The strong ballad “Fool’s Gold,” a confessional about a “24 Karat mistake,” hit #3. The title track, funky, mid-tempo, and co-written by Van Stephenson (who would form Blackhawk in the mid-90s) reached #9.

Greenwood co-wrote the soft ballad “Worth It For The Ride” with Jan Crutchfield. The remainder of the album doesn’t have much by way of variety in melody or tempo and fits right within the contemporary stylings found on commercial country records from the era. The most adventurous track is “Lean, Mean Lovin’ Machine,” which has a light disco vibe and female backing vocals.

You’ve Got A Good Love Comin’ is dated to modern ears, but it delivers lyrically. This isn’t the most outstanding collection of songs I’ve ever heard, and the only true masterpiece is “Good Bless The U.S.A.,” but the album itself is solid.

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Lee Greenwood – ‘Ring On Her Finger, Time On Her Hands’

Album Review: Lee Greenwood — ‘Somebody’s Gonna Love You’

Following the success of Lee’s debut album Inside Out, less than a year later MCA, in March 1983, released Lee’s second album Somebody’s Gonna Love You. The album would be Lee’s first top ten country album, reaching #3 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and reaching #73 on Billboard’s Hot 200.

Three singles were released from the album, but the bigger news was the single that wasn’t released. Lee Greenwood was the country first singer to record the sappy “Wind Beneath My Wings” and MCA’s plan was to have the song released as the second single from the album. Unfortunately, Gary Morris (or someone associated with Morris) heard Lee’s recording and raced to get the song released while Lee’s first single “I.O.U.” was still riding the charts. While Morris had a top ten country hit with the song, and other luminaries such as Roger Whitaker, Lou Rawls, and Bette Midler had successful recordings of the song, Lee’s version remains my favorite, being less whiney than the other versions.

“I.O.U”, written by Kerry Chater and Austin Roberts, was the first single released from the album and was an across the board success, reaching #6 country, #4 A/C, #4 Canadian Country and #53 pop. The song may be one of the greatest and most meaningful love songs everYou believe, that I’ve changed your life forever.

And you’re never gonna find another somebody like me.

And you wish you had more than just a lifetime,

To give back all I’ve given you, and that’s what you believe.

 

But I owe you, the sunlight in the morning,

And the nights of honest lovin’,

That time can’t take away.

And I owe you, more than life now, more than ever.

I know it’s the sweetest debt,

I’ll ever have to pay.

The next two singles released gave Lee his first two #1 country singles. Rafe Van Hoy & Don Cook’s “Somebody’s Gonna Love You” is a man telling a female acquaintance of what could be:

Lonely lady living down the hall

Don’t you have any friends at all

I never hear a knocking at your door

Could it be you just don’t try anymore?

You’ve been hurt so seriously

You act so cold but it’s so easy to see

You’re a waste of real good love

But you can’t hide or run fast enough

 

Somebody’s gonna love you, no matter what you do

Somebody’s gonna find all the pieces of a broken heart

Hidden inside of you

Somebody’s gonna touch you, it’s just a matter of time

Jan Crutchfield’s “Going Going Gone” is a quintessential losing the girl song. Crutchfield seemingly had this subgenre gown pat as he also wrote “Statue of A Fool.”

Lonely lady living down the hall

Don’t you have any friends at all

I never hear a knocking at your door

Could it be you just don’t try anymore?

You’ve been hurt so seriously

You act so cold but it’s so easy to see

You’re a waste of real good love

But you can’t hide or run fast enough

 

Somebody’s gonna love you, no matter what you do

Somebody’s gonna find all the pieces of a broken heart

Hidden inside of you

Somebody’s gonna touch you, it’s just a matter of time

The remaining songs on the album are slow to mid-tempo ballads, basically well-performed filler. The instrumentation is standard 1980s country with choruses and electric piano but far more country sounding than many albums of the period, and at no point does the backing detract from Greenwood’s vocals. Greenwood is in good voice throughout

B+

Album Review: Lee Greenwood – ‘Inside Out’

Lee Greenwood’s debut single, ‘It Turns Me Inside Out’, was released on MCA Records in September 1981. It eventually peaked at #17 on the Billboard country chart, but made more of an impact than that position might suggest. Written by Jan Crutchfield, brother of Greenwood’s producer Jerry Crutchfield, it is an excellent song imbued with regret as Lee sings emotionally of his mixed feelings over a breakup:

In a way I guess it’s better
Even though there’s nothin’ good about goodbye
But I know I couldn’t hold you
Now you’ve found the wings and you’ll be groomed to fly

It’s for sure I’m gonna miss you
But I guess that’s what goodbye is all about
In a way I’m glad it’s over
In another way it turns me inside out

Musically the song has a soulful, contemporary vibe, with strings and the now dated backing vocals popular on many recordings of the period.

An album, produced by Jerry Crutchfield, was released in 1982.

The album’s biggest hit and best song followed, and reached #5. ‘Ring On Her Finger, Time on Her Hands’ was written by Don Goodman, Mary Ann Kennedy and Pam Rose, and relates the story of a neglected wife who turns to an affair. Reba McEntire later covered the song, adapting the lyric to tell it from the woman’s point of view. Greenwood’s original, perhaps more interestingly, has him portraying the cuckolded husband but taking the blame.:

She stood before God, her family and friends
And vowed that she’d never love anyone else again, only me
As pure as her gown of white she stood by my side
And promised that she’d love me till the day she died

Lord, please forgive her even though she lied
‘Cause you’re the only one who knows just how hard she tried

She had a ring on her finger and time on her hands
The woman in her needed the warmth of a man
The gold turned cold in her wedding band
It’s just a ring on your finger when there’s time on your hands

‘She’s Lying’, another Jan Crutchfield song, peaked at #7. It is an emotional, perhaps even overwrought, ballad about a man who knows his wife is cheating but in response lies himself that he believes her. The production is dated but Greenwood sells it vocally.

The final single was ‘Ain’t No Trick (It Takes Magic)’ sounds more R&B than country, and is not to my taste at all, but was another #7 hit.

Greenwood himself wrote three songs. ‘A Love Song’ is a pleasant AC ballad. ‘Thank You For Changing My Life’ is a bit duller, sounding like Kenny Rogers at his most MOR. ‘Home Away From Home’ is quite a good song about the sacrifices of life as a musician on the road.

‘I Don’t Want To Be A Memory is a pretty good mid-tempo song written by Sonny LeMaire and J B Pennington of the group Exile.

Jan Crutchfield contributed another pair of songs. ‘Love Don’t Get No Better Than This’ is a nice love song, and ‘Broken Pieces Of My Heart’ is a regretful ballad about a failed relationship.

This is far from a traditional country album, but it is competently produced and Greenwood has a strong and distinctive voice. The material is quite strong, and this is not a bad album overall.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: LeeGreenwood – ‘It Turns Me Inside Out’

Spotlight Artist: Lee Greenwood

In many ways, Lee Greenwood has had an unusual career in music. Born in 1942, Lee was only a month shy of 39 years old when his first chart single was released on September 19, 1981. This was preceded by a five year run as a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas and as a lounge singer. Older folks in the Orlando (FL) will remember television commercials that Lee did for a local Toyota dealership, although I don’t believe that he ever lived in the Orlando area.

Lee had been knocking about the music business for nineteen years before his big breakthrough, forming his own band in 1962, later working for Opry star Del Reeves. In 1979, Lee was “discovered” by Larry McFaden, bandleader and bassist for Mel Tillis. Greenwood was signed in 1981 by the Nashville division of the MCA label and McFaden became his manager.

Lee’s voice is reminiscent of Kenny Rogers, and while he never became a superstar like Rogers, he did have substantial success for a little over a decade with seven #1 records between 1983 and 1986, and with thirty-three chart records during the 1980s and 1990s. According to Billboard, Lee Greenwood was the 25th most popular country artist of the 1980s. He was an excellent singer and an excellent musician.

Lee’s first single, the Jan Crutchfield-penned “It Turns Me Inside Out”, reached #17 on Billboard’s country charts. Apparently Crutchfield (best known as the writer of “Statue of A Fool”) had initially offered the song to Kenny Rogers, but Kenny rejected the song. The next single “Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands” reached #5, starting a string of eighteen consecutive top ten singles.

Like Martina McBride, Lee Greenwood is best known for a song that was not initially one of his bigger hits. “God Bless The USA” only reached #7 on its initial release in May 1984. The song has endured, however, and continued to sell over the years, eventually selling over a million copies. These days the song has become a standard, performed at events held on holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans’ Day and numerous other occasions. The song has been covered numerous times including by Dolly Parton, Beyonce’ Knowles and many country and A/C artists. I suspect the song will retain its popularity for a long time to come.

This month we will examine the career of Lee Greenwood, a talented singer, musician and songwriter, whose music has held up well over the years.

Album Review: John Conlee – ‘Fellow Travelers/Country Heart’

John Conlee’s career was one of the casualties of the wave of young stars emerging in the late 80s swept away the old guard. Columbia having dispensed with his services, he signed a deal with prominent independent label Sixteenth Avenue, which had also recently picked up superstar Charley Pride.

He decided to ‘Hit The Ground Runnin’’, a nice upbeat tune about moving on with some cheerful accordion. Next up was the reflective ‘River Of Time’, written by Larry Cordle and Jim Rushing (although iTunes miscredits it having confused it with the Judds’ song of the same name). This song looks at the changes in attitude brought as one grows up and older:

I was 16 and strong as a horse
I didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’
But I knew everything of course
I turned 21 totin’ a gun
And losing some good friends of mine
I was crossing my first dreams of sorrow
On the way down the river of time

This river rolls like a rocket
It don’t meander and wind
Ain’t a power on earth that can stop it
We’re all swept up in the grind
So find your companion
The one that will love you
All the way till the end of the line
It’s the dearest of dreams
In the great scheme of things
Goin’ down the river of time

I woke up at 30 and started to worry
About the glaring mistakes of my past
I still had high aspirations
But I knew that I’d better move fast
Now I’m starin’ at 40 and oh Lordy Lordy
I’m still a long way from the top
I’ve still got the heart but I’m fallin’ apart
Reachin’ the hands of the clock

Both tracks received enough airplay to chart in the 40s.

The third single was ‘Hopelessly Yours’ written by Keith Whitley, Don Cook and Curly Putman. It had been cut a few years earlier by George Jones, and was a bona fide hit a few years later for Lee Greenwood and Suzy Bogguss. Conlee’s version is melancholy and very effective, but despite its quality it got little attention from country radio. The final, non-charting, single was even better. ‘Don’t Get Me Started’ is an emotional ballad written by Hugh Prestwood which portrays the lasting sadness of lost love:

Well, thank you for askin’
I know you mean well
But friend, that’s a story I’d rather not tell
To even begin it would take all night long
And I’d still be right here and she’d still be gone

So don’t get me started
I might never stop
She’s just not a subject that’s easy to drop
There’s dozens of other stories I’ll swap
But don’t get me started on Her
I might never stop

You see, deep in my heart is a dam I have built
For a river of tears over love I have spilled
And the way I make certain that dam will not break
Is to never look back when I’ve made a mistake

Prestwood contributed a number of other tunes to the set. ‘Almost Free’ is about a relationship on the brink:

Last night you pushed me a little too far
I was not coming back when I left in the car
There was a time, an hour or two
I was feeling so free – from you
I picked up a bottle and drove to the Heights
Parked on the ridge and I looked at the lights
The engine was off and the radio on
And the singer sang and I sang along

And I was almost free
There almost wasn’t any you-and-me
I was almost free
Whole new life ahead of me
Almost free

Sunrise rising over the wheel
Bottle’s empty and so is the feel
This car knows it’s the wrong thing to do
But it’s driving me home – to you
Maybe I’m too much in love to be strong
Maybe you knew I’d be back all along
If I could be who you wanted, I would
If I could forget I’d be gone for good

It’s just too hard to walk your line
Maybe baby I’ll cross it next time

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Album Review: Brandon Rickman – ‘Things Kids And Dogs Know’

Brandon Rickman, best known as a member of the Lonesome River Band, released an excellent solo album almost a decade ago. At last the follow up has arrived, and he mixes country and bluegrass to similar effect.

He opens with a nice cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘Black Rose’. If anything it is a little too pretty and not quite forceful enough vocally, but the arrangement is a bluegrass delight.
The self-styled ‘front porch philosophy’ and faith of ‘Prayers Go Up’ is warmly sung and sweetly positive, and is very pleasing. The title track is also rather charming, celebrating simple values:

I think we’d all be a lot better off
If we thought with our hearts and gave our minds some time off
If we did what we did ‘cause we love what we love
Living would never get old
Then we would know things kids and dogs know …

Monsters are real
Magic is real
And car rides are better with your head out the window

‘By His Hands’ is a religious song and very nicely done.

‘Tunnel Tunnel’ is a vibrant bluegrass story song about a prisoner who tires to dig his way out of prison, with fatal results when it caves in on him and the warders seal it up behind him.

‘Lowdown Blues’ is one of those bluegrass songs which sound upbeat musically despite downbeat lyrics. ‘It’s In My Mind To Wander’ is about a man who has tired of roaming and sounds like a traditional tune.

‘It’s Easy As Sin’ is a western swing love song with some lovely fiddle. ‘One Step, Two Step’ is a charming Texas dancehall delight.

‘Train Long Gone’ is a Dennis Linde song Randy Travis recorded on his 2004 album Passing Through. The lovely ballad ‘Hearts Aren’t Made To Break’ (written by Roger Murrah and Steve Dean) was a hit for Lee Greenwood in the 80s.

This is a really appealing record with a lot to offer fans of both bluegrass and country.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: The World’s Most Famous Unknown Band

November Spotlight Artist: Conway Twitty

For the last twenty years of his life, Conway Twitty was introduced on stage as “The Best Friend A Song Ever Had”. The conceit was not new to Conway – during the 1960s classic pop singer Jerry Vale was frequently called “A Song’s Best Friend” – and Ray Price and Gene Watson certainly could make a case for being called that – but certainly few artists were as versatile singers as Conway Twitty.

Conway Twitty was born as Harold Lloyd Jenkins ( September 1, 1933 – June 5, 1993) was born in Friars Point, Mississippi. His family moved to Arkansas when he was ten, and he grew up listening to country and rhythm & blues music, and eventually becoming a performer. After a hitch in the army, Conway (as we shall refer to him) mde his way to Memphis where he worked with Sam Phillips but did not record any records for commercial release

In 1957 Conway selected his stage name with the aid of a road atlas using Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas as his inspiration. In the interim, Conway has been signed to Mercury Records where several rockabilly singles were released without much success (“I Need Your Lovin’” reached #93)

Moving over to MGM in 1958, Twitty released his signature song “It’s Only Make Believe”. The song, a powerful ballad that many assumed was an Elvis Presley recording, broke out first in Canada where Conway was working road dates. In the US it took longer for the record to hit as MGM has initially pushing “I’ll Try” as the A side but eventually the record broke out in Columbus Ohio, ultimately becoming a #1 pop hit in both the US and Canada, It also reached #5 in Australia.

During his tenure with MGM, Conway continued to issue rockabilly records, some of which charted, but his bigger successes were with ballads pointing the way for his later country music success. In 1959 “Danny Boy” (#10) and “Lonely Blue Boy” (#6) reached the top ten, the only other MGM singles to do so, although a rocked up recording of “Mona Lisa” would become a number one record in Australia.

The ‘British Invasion’ is often blamed for the demise of many American artists’ chart careers, but the truth is Conway’s major pop success ended in 1959. Six singles were released in 1960, but none of them cracked the top twenty, and the four MGM singles released after 1960 failed to crack the top sixty.

Conway and his band (“The Lonely Blue Boys”) continue to tour, but Conway , who claimed that his heart was always in country music, shifted his focus toward Nashville, where he was met with some skepticism. His songwriting skills got his foot in the door when Ray Price took “Walk Me To The Door” to #7 on the country charts in 1962. From there Conway eventually got Owen Bradley on his side and signed a contract with Decca in 1965. The first Decca album was released in 1966 and throughout 1966 and 1967 Conway’s singles also charted with four of the five singles reaching the top forty.

In 1967, “The Image of Me” reached #5, starting a string in which 52 of 53 solo singles reached the top ten (and of those top tens only three missed the top five).

Conway Twitty was nothing if not adaptable, being able to adjust to the changing trend in music. When rockabilly died out as a chart force, Conway switched to more conventional rock and roll and pop ballads. As country grew less traditional, Conway changed with it. At various points in his country career Conway changed producers, labels and even his appearance to avoid become dated.

During the periods 1985-1986 and 1989-1990, Conway’s records were charting minimally but he was able to re-gear and achieve more top tier hits. Toward the end of 1991 Conway realized that he had again lost traction with radio and spent the next year searching for material to take him to the top again. His final album, fittingly titled Final Touches, was released after his death in June 1993 – it probably would have taken him back near the top again if Conway had been around to promote the record. As it was, MCA was not interested in promoting n artist who was no longer around to tour and help push album sales

Conway Twitty’s career is sometime compared to that of George Strait, the man who surpassed the number of #1 chart recordings that Conway achieved. It really isn’t an apt comparison as Strait was basically a singer who found a groove and stayed there, but for most of his career didn’t write his own material, and whose singles never reached the top twenty of the Billboard Hot 100.

In contrast, Twitty wrote many of his album tracks and some of his biggest singles including “It’s Only Make Believe” and “Hello Darlin’”. The variety of types and tempos of songs that Conway Twitty took to number one is staggering plus Twitty has a number of successful singles as a duet partner. Moreover, many artists raided Conway’s albums for singles material. For instance the following:

1 – Oak Ridge Boys – “I Wish You Could Have Turned My Head (And Left My Heart Alone)”, originally from Twitty’s 1979 album Crosswinds. The song went #1 Cashbox/#2Billboard

2- Statler Brothers – “You’ll Be Back (Every Night in My Dreams)”, from Twitty’s 1980 album Rest Your Love On Me. This song reached #3

3 – Lee Greenwood – “It Turns Me Inside Out”, from Twitty’s 1982 album Southern Comfort – this was Lee’s first hit reaching #17

4 – John Conlee – “In My Eyes”, from Twitty’s 1982 album Dream Maker – this reached #1

5 – John Schneider – “What’s a Memory Like You (Doin’ in a Love Like This?)”, from Twitty’s 1985 album Chasin’ Rainbows – #1

There are other examples of artists snatching hit songs off Conway’s albums, something which did not happen much with Strait’s albums.

Our November Spotlight Artist is one of the most open-minded, capable and enduring artists in the history of the genre. If you’ve not encountered Conway Twitty before prepare to be amazed. If you are familiar with his material you may find yourself surprised by the breadth and depth of his recordings. Either way you may find yourself agreeing that Conway Twitty was indeed” the best friend a song ever had”.

Album Review: Kenny Rogers – ‘Love Will Turn You Around”

Kenny Rogers’ thirteenth album, Love Will Turn You Around, was his second studio release since parting ways with longtime collaborator Larry Butler. The album, released in 1982, was a platinum-selling success.

The title track, one of my favorites in Rogers’ catalog, was issued as the lead single. The whimsical mid-paced ballad, the theme to his film Six Pack, peaked at #1 on both the Country and Adult Contemporary charts.

The second and final single, “A Love Song” was written and originally recorded by Lee Greenwood on his Inside Out album the same year. The lush ballad, which peaked at #3, is a bit too slow and delicate for my tastes.

Bobby Harden’s “Fightin’ Fire with Fire” is the story of a man being tormented by a woman named Diana and the new flame she’s literally rubbing in his face. “Maybe You Should Know,” composed by Peter McCann, is a forceful confessional from a man to his woman.

The funky R&B leaning “Somewhere Between Lovers and Friends” was co-written by Brent Mehar and Randy Goodrum, who were enjoying ample success during this period writing for everyone from The Judds and Anne Murray to Ronnie Milsap. With that degree of pedigree, it’s odd this wasn’t chosen as a single.

“Take This Heart,” by J.P. Pennington, moves Rogers’ further away from country with a lyric and melody that would’ve perfectly suited Crystal Gayle. The straight-up rock of “If You Can Lie A Little Bit” recalls his work with the First Edition. “The Fool In Me,” another Goodrum co-write (with Dave Loggins), is one of the album’s strongest tracks, complete with horns.

The best album cut on Love Will Turn You Around is closing track “I Want A Son,” co-written by Steve Dorff and Marty Panzer. The reflective ballad isn’t particularly country but that doesn’t diminish its quality in the least.

Love Will Turn You Around is a mixed bag at best, melding a slew of different styles both effective and ineffectively. The title track is the obvious classic and easily the most memorable cut from this set.

Grade: B