My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Neal McCoy

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“Why Should We Try Anymore” was originally made famous by Hank Sr.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

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Classic Rewind: Neal McCoy – ‘Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye’

Week ending 7/12/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

Anne_Murray1954 (Sales): I Don’t Hurt Anymore — Hank Snow (RCA)

1954 (Jukebox): I Don’t Hurt Anymore — Hank Snow (RCA)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Even Tho — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1964: My Heart Skips A Beat — Buck Owens (Capitol)

1974: He Thinks I Still Care — Anne Murray (Capitol)

1984: Somebody’s Needin’ Somebody — Conway Twitty (Warner Bros.)

1994: Wink — Neal McCoy (Atlantic)

2004: Whiskey Girl — Toby Keith (DreamWorks)

2014: Somethin’ Bad — Miranda Lambert with Carrie Underwood (RCA)

2014 (Airplay): My Eyes — Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Sebastian (Warner Bros.)

Week ending 7/5/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

vern1954 (Sales): I Don’t Hurt Anymore — Hank Snow (RCA)

1954 (Jukebox): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Even Tho — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1964: My Heart Skips A Beat — Buck Owens (Capitol)

1974: Room Full of Roses –Mickey Gilley (Playboy)

1984: I Can Tell By The Way You Dance (You’re Gonna Love Me Tonight) — Vern Gosdin (Compleat)

1994: Wink — Neal McCoy (Atlantic)

2004: If You Ever Stop Loving Me — Montgomery Gentry (Columbia)

2014: : Play It Again — Luke Bryan (Capitol)

2014 (Airplay): Lettin’ The Night Roll — Justin Moore (Valory)

Week ending 6/28/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

waylon1954 (Sales): I Don’t Hurt Anymore — Hank Snow (RCA)

1954 (Jukebox): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): I Don’t Hurt Anymore — Hank Snow (RCA)

1964: My Heart Skips A Beat — Buck Owens (Capitol)

1974: This Time — Waylon Jennings (RCA)

1984: When We Make Love — Alabama (RCA)

1994: Wink — Neal McCoy (Atlantic)

2004: Redneck Woman — Gretchen Wilson (Epic)

2014: This Is How We Roll — Florida Georgia Line ft. Luke Bryan (Republic Nashville)

2014 (Airplay): Beat of the Music — Brett Eldredge (Atlantic)

Week ending 6/21/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

eddy raven1954 (Sales): I Don’t Hurt Anymore — Hank Snow (RCA)

1954 (Jukebox): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Oh Baby Mine (I Get So Lonely) — Johnnie & Jack (RCA)

1964: My Heart Skips A Beat — Buck Owens (Capitol)

1974: I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore — Charlie Rich (Epic)

1984: I Got Mexico — Eddy Raven (RCA)

1994: Wink — Neal McCoy (Atlantic)

2004: Redneck Woman — Gretchen Wilson (Epic)

2014: This Is How We Roll — Florida Georgia Line ft. Luke Bryan (Republic Nashville)

2014 (Airplay): Play It Again — Luke Bryan (Capitol)

Week ending 3/29/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

conway-twitty1954 (Sales): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Jukebox): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1964: Saginaw, Michigan — Lefty Frizzell (Columbia)

1974: There’s A Honky Tonk Angel (Who’ll Take Me Back In) — Conway Twitty (MCA)

1984: Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler) — Alabama (RCA)

1994: No Doubt About It –Neal McCoy (Atlantic)

2004: Watch The Wind Go By — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2014: This Is How We Roll — Florida Georgia Line ft. Luke Bryan (Republic Nashville)

2014 (Airplay): Helluva Life — Frankie Ballard (Warner Bros.)

Week ending 3/22/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

NealMcCoy_sm1954 (Sales): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Jukebox): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1964: Saginaw, Michigan — Lefty Frizzell (Columbia)

1974: There Won’t Be Anymore — Charlie Rich (Epic)

1984: Elizabeth — The Statler Brothers (Mercury)

1994: No Doubt About It –Neal McCoy (Atlantic)

2004: Watch The Wind Go By — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2014: Bottoms Up — Brantley Gilbert (Valory)

2014 (Airplay): Compass — Lady Antebellum (Capitol)

Album Review: Neal McCoy – ‘Pride – A Tribute to Charley Pride’

prideNeal McCoy has never been one of my favorite artists as his taste in material at times has been questionable. The Neal McCoy songs that I like, I tend to like quite a lot; the ones I dislike, I tend to really dislike. That said, I’ve seen him in concert and he is an excellent and quite high energy performer.

Neal was a protégé of sorts of Charley Pride and toured with Charley for a number of years. While there is very little of Charley’s influence in Neal’s singing, particularly in songs like “Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On”, “24/7/365” and “The Shake” , Neal has always spoken highly of Charley Pride and of the positive influence Charley has been on his career

Until 2005, Neal had never recorded any of Charley’s songs. Then in 2005, he recorded a live duet with Charley on “You’re My Jamaica” that appeared on Neal’s That’s Life album. Since then, nothing more of Charley songs had been recorded – until now.

Given good material, Neal is a fine singer. Charley Pride, who was not himself a songwriter, recorded one of the greatest catalogues of songs during his long and successful career with RCA so it stands to reason that a Charley Pride tribute could prove to be an artistic success.

Neal does not attempt to clone Charley’s vocal style or song arrangements, a wise move since Charley Pride can truly be said to be inimitable. Moreover, Neal could never be described as a stone-cold traditionalist. Instead, Neal McCoy makes these songs over to fit his own singing style, updating some of the songs with a modern take on the traditionalist arrangements Charley used, and in other cases going for something entirely different. Neal wisely stays away from Charley’s “poor boy” songs, going mostly for Charley’s post-1970 songs.

Neal kicks off the album with a rockin’ version of “Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone” that probably owes as much to Doug Sahm’s later version as to Charley’s version. Instead of the staccato violins of Charley’s rendition, harmonica tends to dominate this recording.

“I’m Just Me” was Charley’s second biggest hit. Neal gives it a pretty straight-forward vocal treatment, but the instrumental background is mixture of zydeco and country, which really works. That extra male voice you hear on this track is Raul Malo of the Mavericks.

It takes a brave man to tackle Charley’s signature song “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”. You don’t want to do a carbon copy of Charley’s arrangement, but since everyone with any interest in country music knows the song, you don’t want to take too many liberties with the song. Neal slows the song down very slightly and extends the song by allowing the musicians somewhat longer instrumental breaks than on the original recording which used short ‘turn-arounds’. Darius Rucker joins Neal on this track.

“Kaw-Liga” was Charley’s first #1 record reaching the top on Cash Box. The song, itself a cover of one of Hank Williams’ songs (the other side of Hank’s single was “Your Cheatin’ Heart”) is Neal’s only misstep on the record. The arrangement is a bit melodramatic and Neal can’t quite get Charley’s sound effects going vocally. It’s not a bad track (I’d give it a C+) but it’s not up to the rest of the album.

Most people have forgotten about “You’re So Good When You’re Bad”, one of Charley’s last #1 records from 1982. The song was about as close to R&B as Charley let his records get, and Neal relaxes the tempo a bit and gives in to that soulful R&B groove. Piano seems to be the predominant instrument on this track.

“It’s Gonna Take A Little Bit Longer” had more twang to it than did any other major label single released in 1972. Released in late spring, radio stations everywhere played the song constantly, many playing it every hour as the pent up demand for real country sounds cascaded upon disk jockeys. The song spent three weeks at #1 with lead guitar, steel guitar and fiddles twanging away in unison through the choruses and instrumental breaks. Neal gives the song a very heavy-handed hard country approach but uses a more acoustic sound featuring harmonica, piano and dobro to achieve the effect. I love this recording.

Charley Pride focused on heart songs for much of his career, particularly after getting past the ‘poor boy’ classics of the mid to late 1960s. Rarely did he till the pastures of nostalgia, but when he did, he did so effectively. “Roll On Mississippi” from 1981 was one of those efforts. The song reached only #7 on Billboard, breaking a string of 35 consecutive songs to reach #1 on Billboard, Cashbox and/or Record World. It is, however, a nice song with Neal ably assisted by Trace Adkins.

“Just Between You And Me” was Charley Pride’s first chart hit reaching #9 in early 1967. Written by the legendary Jack Clement and released after a couple of singles that didn’t chart but were well received, it kicked off a long string of top ten records that wouldn’t end (excluding a gospel record and a special Dallas Cowboys tribute limited release) for the next 52 records. Neal gives the song a modern traditionalist treatment with piano and fiddle on the verses and tasteful steel guitar on the choruses and instrumental breaks. The relaxed tempo suits Neal’s voice well and the track is a standout.

“Mountain of Love” was written by Harold Dorman, who had a decent sized hit with the song in 1960 and enjoyed the royalties from a number of successful covers. This song is not necessarily identified as being a Charley Pride song so Neal’s somewhat rockin’ blues rendition isn’t likely to bother Charley’s fan too much.

“Someone Loves You Honey” is a quintessential Charley Pride heart song from 1978 which Neal pairs with a classic ‘Nashville Sound’ arrangement complete with steel guitar shadings and a rather languid delivery that suits the song perfectly. I consider this the best track on the album.

Neal closes out the album with his take on Charley’s #1 record from 1979, “You’re My Jamaica”. Charley’s take on the song had a very Caribbean feel to it and Neal has focused more heavily on the Caribbean elements of the song.

One thing that has changed since the time Charley Pride recorded these classics is the length of the tracks. Other than “You’re my Jamaica”, none of Charley’s recording ran more than 3:06 and most were in the 2:15 to 2:45 range. In contrast only two of these tracks are less than three minutes long, the shortest track being “It’s Gonna Take A little Bit Longer” at 2:46 (Charley’s version ran 2:35). On average Neal’s recordings are about 45 seconds longer than the Charley Pride originals.

Garth Fundis was the producer of this project which is fitting since he was a studio engineer on many of Charley’s earliest recordings. Between Neal’s vocals and Garth’s production, they have achieved what any tribute album should seek to achieve: a properly respectful but not imitative album chock full of good music. This album will stay in my CD player for quite a while.

Grade: A

Album Review: Neal McCoy – ‘XII’

One way for a minor 90s star to get some attention for his independent comeback is to recruit two of today’s biggest names to assist with production. Neal McCoy called on Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert to produce his twelfth album, helped by the experienced Brent Rowan. Together they do a good and unexpectedly restrained job on the sound of the album, and although some of the material is pleasant but forgettable, there is a good humored mood which makes the record thoroughly engaging.

The relaxed lead single ‘A-OK’ is quite catchy with its whistled opening and would be radio friendly if cut by a current star. Blake and Miranda sing recognisable backing vocals, contributing to the feelgood mood. On similar lines is the slightly jerky and bluesy ‘Real Good Feel Good’.

Much better is the soul-laced ‘Judge A Man By The Woman’, which is very well done with excellent phrasing and emotional interpretation. It was previously done by Heartland, best known for their one and only hit ‘I Loved Her First’ a few years back, and has also been cut by actor John Corbett, but Neal’s version, dedicated to his wife of over 30 years, is the best.

The most entertaining track is the frivolous but amusing western swing ‘Mouth’, written by Jamey Johnson and Barry Tolliver. It is about putting one’s foot in it. There is more wry humor in ‘That’s Just How She Gets’, a plaintive complaint from a drinking man, previously cut by Australian Adam Harvey:

All that liquor made her different
And I knew I couldn’t win
She wasn’t the girl that I knew when I met her
She was makin’ a fool of herself and I let her
Kept cussin’ and a-screaming ’till I couldn’t even think
That’s just how she gets when I drink

The bright up-tempo ‘Shotgun Rider’ is one of the Peach Pickers’ standard efforts lyrically (but better than most of their work), but some nice production choices and Neal’s warm vocal make it an attractive listening experience. ‘Borderline Crazy’ is a Mexican styled tale of dreams of Mexican vacations, “countin’ Margaritas instead of sheep”. ‘Crazy Women’, written by George Teren and Rivers Rutherford, is mellow and frankly a bit unexciting for a song with that title.

Neal co-wrote a couple of the songs. ‘That’s You’ (written with Clint Daniels and Jeff Hyde, is quite a nice love song with a sincere vocal bringing it to life. ‘Lucky Enough’ is more generic and over- produced, and is a co-write with Hyde and Ryan Tyndell.

The melodic ‘Every Fire’ was written by John Scott Sherrill and Cathy Majeski, and although I don’t think it’s ever been a single, it has been recorded by a number of artists in the past, starting with Shenandoah on their 1994 effort In The Vicinity Of The Heart. It’s a pretty tune with a faintly melancholic undertow, which is well worthy of a revival, with Miranda Lambert’s harmony adding sweetness to Neal’s convincing lead.

Finally, Allen Shamblin and Tom Douglas wrote the introspective ‘Van Gogh’ a rare down tempo moment, offering reflective thoughts on the nature of artistry:

You pour your heart out on the page
You bare your soul up on stage
You’ve got the power to make us feel
You’ve got the power to help us heal

You’re not crazy when it hurts and makes you cry
You draw the beauty from your pain
Life is just too beautiful to put it in a frame
Maybe that’s the reason why
Van Gogh went insane

You offer up your best and it don’t sell
It cuts you to the bone and hurts like hell
Promise me you’ll still give your fragile heart
Cause you and I both know, baby
That it’s still a work of art

This is definitely not the kind of song I expected from Neal, and is the best song included.

Overall, this is a surprisingly attractive record with even the lesser material sounding good. The worst thing about it is the dreadfully unimaginative cover art, but if it was a budget issue I’d rather they spent the money on the music.

Grade: B+