My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Miriam Eddy

Album Review: Jessi Colter – ‘A Country Star Is Born’

51sgd4uaavl-_ss500Whatever optimist gave this album its title jumped the gun just a little, for although it marks the official beginning of Jessi Colter’s recording career (not counting two prior singles issued under her birth name), it would be another five years before her commercial breakthrough that propelled her to stardom.  Released in 1970, A Country Star Is Born was her first and only solo album for RCA.  She was presumably signed to the label because her husband Waylon Jennings was already on its roster, but the album’s  lack of commercial success suggests to me that she perhaps was not a huge priority for RCA.

The album was produced by Chet Atkins and Waylon Jennings, and upon the first listening, one might be a bit confused as to why it didn’t perform better in the marketplace.   In order to understand why, one has to bear in mind the way it would have been perceived back in 1970.   The album follows the standard practice of the day of using one or two hit singles to drive sales and padding it with covers of recent hits for other artists and perhaps some original songs by the artist and/or producer.   In this case, the lead (and non-charting) single was one of Jessi’s original compositions “I Ain’t The One”, performed as a duet with Waylon.    The second single was “Cry Softly”, another Colter original that also failed to chart.  Its melody is somewhat similar to “I’m Not Lisa”, which would become her breakthrough career record a few years later.  It’s a decent song that might have enjoyed some success if a more established artist had released it.

Filling out the rest of the album are three more songs Jessi wrote — all credited to her real name Miriam Eddy:  the uptempo “If She’s Where You Like Livin'”, the mid tempo “Don’t Let Him Go”, and the bluesy “It’s All Over Now”, none of which were strong enough to be considered for release to radio.  Along with these originals are two excellent songs written by Harlan Howard, which might have had hit potential had they not been relatively recent releases for other artists.  “Too Many Rivers” had been a Top 20 pop hit for Brenda Lee in 1965 and “He Called Me Baby” had been a minor posthumous hit for Patsy Cline in 1964.  The latter would go on to be recorded by many other artists and would eventually (with a pronoun change) become a big hit for Charlie Rich in 1974.   The album’s best track “It’s Not Easy” had previously been recorded by its composer Frankie Miller.  “Healing Hands of Time” was a non-charting Willie Nelson single from 1965.

I enjoyed all of the album’s songs, but I get the distinct impression that RCA only made a half-hearted effort to promote it.  Pairing her up with Waylon for her first release was a reasonable strategy.  It’s surprising that “I Ain’t The One” didn’t at least enter the charts.  A great song it is not, but his star power at the time was sufficient that it should have garnered some attention from radio.  When it failed, it was almost inevitable that the next single would also tank, since Jessi Colter was still an unknown entity.  Why they didn’t have more songs to try and promote her is somewhat puzzling.

RCA released two more solo singles in 1971 and 1972  (not on this album) — including “I Don’t Want To Be a One Night Stand” which would become Reba McEntire’s debut single a few years later.  There were also two minor hit duets with Waylon (“Suspicious Minds” and “Under Your Spell Again”), but it would be five years and a label change later before the world learned who Jessi Colter was.

A Country Star Is Born is available for download and streaming and is worth a listen.

Grade: B+

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Album Review: Waylon Jennings – ‘This Time’

220px-WaylonJenningsThisTimeThis Time marked a turning of the tide for Waylon Jennings. He had grown annoyed with the executives at RCA who continued to police his recording sessions although he supposedly had full creative control. For this project Jennings took matters into his own hands and recorded This Time at Tompall Glazer’s Hillbilly Central studio.

Willie Nelson, who co-produced the album, contributed four cuts to This Time. The results are mixed, with “Pick Up The Tempo, an exuberant mid-tempo number about a band in need of a little more pep, as my favorite. “It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way” is a tender ballad that could’ve used a soaking of steel and more confidence from Jennings vocally. “Walkin” has the steel, and is very good lyrically, although the track itself does nothing for me. Nelson randomly joins Jennings on the closing seconds of “Heaven or Hell,” which is good but not my cup of tea.

Billy Joe Shaver supplied “Slow Rollin’ Low,” another mid-tempo song. I admire Shaver’s lyric and the choice to soak the tune in harmonica, but other than that I’m somewhat indifferent to the whole proceedings.

“If You Could Touch Her At All” was written by Lee Clayton. The track plays like a classic Jennings song – deep vocal, excellent guitar work, and a nice full production bed. For me, it’s night and day in comparison to the other tunes and one of my favorite tracks on the album.

“Slow Movin’ Outlaw” is a stunning Dee Moeller ballad about our changing world and the struggle to find our place within it. The sentiment is timeless even if the production is a bit dated. Jennings also gives a heartbroken vocal that’s completely in service to the lyric.

“Mona” is one of Jennings’ first associations with Miriam Eddy, who solely composed the exquisite ballad. Eddy’s lyric, about a man confronting his girl about the love she doesn’t feel he’s giving her, is truly wonderful. Jennings would later marry Eddy, who had changed her name to Jessi Colter by then.

The remaining two songs are the most notable moments on This Time. “Lousania Women,” the first song recorded for the album, is an excellent mid-tempo ballad by JJ Cale, allowed Jennings to give a smooth vocal unlike anything else on the album. The other one is the title track, a song Jennings had written five years prior. RCA rejected it as rubbish at the time. As this project’s sole single, the track became Jennings’ first chart topper.

For me, I’m finding it hard to put aside my personal feelings and give an objective critique of this album, which I’m sure, is of very high quality. I just cannot get past who uneven I feel it all is, with too much going on to prevent a cohesive sound. I expected more from Nelson’s tracks, especially since they also appeared on Phases and Stages that same year.

This Time is unfortunately a let down as far as I’m concerned. There are a few bright moments but nothing I would deem essential.

Grade: B