My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Owen Bradley

Album Review: Crystal Gayle – ‘I’ve Cried The Blue Right Out Of My Eyes’

ive-cried-the-blue-right-out-of-my-eyesCrystal’s earliest recordings were made for her sister Loretta’s label Decca (later MCA) in the early 1970s. Loretta’s producer Owen Bradley served as Crystal’s producer, and the idea seems to have been to present her as a kind of junior version of the star, albeit with a little sweeter version of the Nashville Sound in the backings.

Loretta even wrote Crystal’s debut single, ‘I’ve Cried The Blue Right Out Of My Eyes’. It’s a very good song well suited melodically to Crystal’s pure voice. It reached #23 on the Billboard country charts in 1970 – a modest but promising start. Unfortunately it was to remain Crystal’s most successful single on Decca/MCA.

Follow-up ‘Everybody Oughta Cry’ was forgettable. ‘I Hope You’re Havin’ Better Luck Than Me’ (written by Ted Harris) is rather good and deserved to do better, although Crystal was definitely drawing on Loretta’s vocal stylings.

The seductive ballad ‘Show Me How’ moves more in the more sophisticated MOR direction which would prove to be Crystal’s sweet spot.

MCA never released an album on Crystal while she was actually signed to them. After Crystal had made her breakthrough, these recordings were collected on this 1978 compilation with a selection of previously unreleased tracks.

Two more of Loretta’s compositions were included: the catchy but slight ‘Sparklin’ Look Of Love’ is very much Crystal as Loretta junior. ‘Mama It’s Different This Time’ is much more interesting, dating from Crystal’s first session in 1970 when she was only 19. She plays the part of an even younger girl still in high school, defying Mom’s best advice about a young man, and not learning any lessons from her previous boyfriends, because

Billy has a job after school
He drives a car and the way he looks is cool

The boy I thought I loved last week
He sure fed me a line
But mama, it’s different this time

Knowing Crystal married her own high school sweetheart the same year (they are still together today), and that Loretta herself famously wed even younger adds a fascinating layer of complexity to how we hear the song.

Their brother Donald Ray Webb contributed ‘Clock On The Wall’, which is quite good and given a heavily strung arrangement. ‘Too Far’ is a sad Marty Robbins song with a pretty melody which suits Crystal’s voice and which is a highlight. Also very good is Joe Allen’s ‘Touching Me Again’, another song to have an orchestral backing.

‘MRS Degree’ is a rather dated song about rejecting higher education in favour of early marriage and housekeeping.

While this release was a cash-grab from MCA, it is still interesting to hear Crystal’s early music and the roots of her later sound.

Grade: B-

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Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘White Christmas Blue’

loretta-lynn-white-christmas-blue-1476726333The crop of Christmas albums has been hit or miss this year with big band affairs aptly showcasing Chris Young and Brett Eldridge’s vocal prowess and Kacey Musgraves’ continued decent into her own quirkiness. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood had the most disappointing record, a haphazard affair unbecoming from an artist (Yearwood) with impeccable song sense who knows better.

Loretta Lynn has released the years most intriguing holiday record, White Christmas Blue, which comes a full fifty years since her Owen Bradley produced Country Christmas. The album is a full-on traditional affair and a delight at every turn.

I usually find fiddle and steel out of place on a Christmas album, but White Christmas Blue is changing that perception for me. The album is mostly comprised of holiday standards, with jovial renditions of “Frosty The Snowman” and “Jingle Bells” sitting comfortably along side “To Heck With Ole Santa Claus,” one of the album’s strongest cuts and a personal favorite of mine. “Blue Christmas,” a full-on honky-tonker in Lynn’s hands, is also excellent.

The ballads don’t hit as hard. It may be the starkness she brings to “Away In A Manger,” “Silent Night” and “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” that didn’t do it for me or the fact I’ve heard them so often, in so may different versions, their simple beauty has begun to wear thin. “’Twas The Night Before Christmas” was a complete surprise, a perfect way to end the album.

White Christmas Blue also boasts two original numbers. “Country Christmas” is a rerecording of the title track from the last album and Lynn hasn’t lost any of the spunk she brought to the original. The other, the title track, is a rather somber affair, which finds Lynn with everything she wants – except her honey:

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m still all alone

It’ll be Christmas day when you come home

Icicles hanging from the eves, snow is glistenin’ from the trees

My Christmas time with you is over due

 

You turn into my white Christmas blue

You turn into my white Christmas blue

I should be saying ho ho ho instead of bu bu bu

Oh Santa Claus would no want you to break my heart in two

You turn into my white Christmas blue

I cannot recommend this album enough.

Grade: A-

Album Review: Tammy Wynette – ‘The Ways To Love A Man’

the-ways-to-love-a-manBy the time The Ways To Love A Man, Tammy’s sixth solo album, was released in January 1970, Tammy and producer Billy Sherrill had found and perfected the formula for her recordings. Unlike fellow ‘Nashville Sound’ producers such as Chet Atkins at RCA, Owen Bradley at Decca/MCA and Don Law at Columbia, who made considerable use of symphonic strings and choral arrangements, Sherrill’s use of symphonic strings was minimal but his use of background voices was very aggressive indeed. Sherrill also used the steel guitar to shade the musical accompaniment in similar fashion to the way Owen Bradley would use string arrangements.

The Ways To Love A Man follows the usual formula with two singles, both of which went to #1, some covers of recent hit singles, and some filler. The album reached #3 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart, making it the fifth album to do so (a religious album in 1969 only reached the top twenty).

The album opens with the title track and second single, a song credited to Tammy, Billy Sherrill and Glen Sutton as co-writers. It’s a fairly sappy song that in the hands of another artist wouldn’t be very believable, but the song was crafted with Tammy’s vocals in mind and it soared to the top of the charts.

There are so many ways to love a man and so many things to understand
And if there ever comes a time you decide to change your mind
I’ll need a way to hold you and I can
Cause I’ll know all the ways to love a man
But there’s so many ways to lose a man so quickly
He can slip through your hands
One little thing goes wrong then all at once he’s gone
I’d have no way to hold him like I planned
It takes more than just one way to love a man
With my hands my heart anything I can find
My child my home my soul and my mind
I’ll know that I can hold him yes I can
If I know all the ways to love a man

Next up is “Twelfth of Never”, a late 1950s top ten pop hit in the USA and Australia for Johnny Mathis. The lyrics were written by Jerry Livingston and Paul Francis Webster and appended to an old English folk melody. The song and was recorded by many other artists, most notably Cliff Richard, who had a major hit with the song in the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Holland, Malaysia and Norway during the mid 1960s. My favorite version of the song was that recorded by Glen Campbell on his 1968 album A New Place In The Sun. It’s a very nice song, but not particularly well suited to Tammy’s voice. That said, Tammy and Sherrill acquit themselves well on this crooner ballad.

“I’ll Share My World With You” was a major hit for her then-husband George Jones in 1969. Written by Ben Wilson, the record reached #2 for George when released by Musicor. Tammy is not in George’s league as a singer (very few are) but the song works.

“Enough of A Woman” comes from the husband and wife team of Leon Ashley and Margie Singleton. Both Leon and Margie had some success as singers (Margie as a duet partner for George Jones and Faron Young) but I don’t remember this song being a hit for anyone.

“Singing My Song” was the first single from this album, although it appears that the song may have first appeared on Tammy Wynette’s Greatest Hits which was released just before this album. This song has a triumphant feel that isn’t that characteristic of her music.

Here’s a song I love to sing,
It’s about the man that wears my ring.
And even though he’s tempted, he knows,
I’ll make sure that he gets everything.
‘Cause when he’s cold, he knows I’m warm,
And I warm him in my arms.
And when he’s sad, oh, I make him glad.
And I’m his shelter from the storm.
I’m his song when he feels like singing.
And I swing when he feels like swinging.
I don’t know what I do that’s right,
But it makes him come home at night.
And when he’s home, I make sure he’s never alone.
And that’s why I keep singing my song.

“He’ll Never Take The Place of You” was written by Charlie Daniels, Bob Johnson and Billy Sherrill. The song is a slow ballad and while she does a nice job with it, it’s just album filler. Ditto for “I Know”, a ballad composed by George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

“Yearning (To Kiss You)” was a hit for George Jones in 1957 (released as a duet with Jeanette Hicks), his first top ten duet single. George co-wrote the song with Eddie Eddings. It’s worth hearing although the original was better. “These Two” was also composed by George and Tammy, another mid-tempo ballad.

“Where Could You Go (But To Her)” is a definite misstep, a Glenn Sutton-Billy Sherrill ballad that was a charting B side hit for David Houston with “Loser’s Cathedral” as the A side. Tammy sings the song alright but Sutton and Sherrill could have done a much better job of rewriting the lyrics to suit the feminine perspective.

“Still Around” was written by Billy Sherrill is another slow ballad. It is a nice song, gently sung by Tammy with perhaps the most subdued production of any song on the album. I think this could have been a successful single for Tammy:

To make you stay I’ll never try
And when you go I will not cry
But for a time I might be found somewhere live still around
But may you find a love that’s true
Someone to love and cherish you
And if you love your whole life through
And may you love as I love you
But if you’ll ever feel alone
With no true love to call your own
And if you’ll need a place to hide
These arms of mine are open wide
And if a troubled love brings you pain
My love is all like summer rain
Always remember I’ll be found still around

A solid effort for ‘The First Lady of Country Music’, a strong A-

Album Review: Tammy Wynette – ‘Take Me To Your World/I Don’t Wanna Play House’

take-me-to-your-worldReleased in January 1968, Take Me To Your World/ I Don’t Wanna Play House, was Tammy’s second solo album and represented another step forward in Tammy Wynette’s career, rising to #3 on the Country Albums chart. Not only that, but the two singles released from the album both rose to #1 giving Tammy her first two solo #1 records and her third overall #1 (her duet of “My Elusive Dreams” with David Houston reached #1 in 1967).

For me, the apogee of female country singers was reached in the late 1960s and early 1970s. While female singers may have achieved better chart penetration later, qualitative the major label crop of female singers was abundant and excellent with the likes of Connie Smith, Wilma Burgess, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, Jean Shepard, Dottie West, Skeeter Davis, Lynn Anderson, Liz Anderson, Norma Jean, Rose Maddox, Jeanie Seely, Jeannie C Riley, Barbara Mandrell and Wanda Jackson being among the competition. There also were a host of second-tier artists on the major labels and many female artists on minor and independent labels. Within a few years the likes of Tanya Tucker and Barbara Fairchild would appear on the scene. The ghost of Patsy Cline was also on the scene.

While Tammy Wynette did not have the sheer vocal power of a Jean Shepard or Loretta Lynn, she did have the advantage of a record producer who was perfectly able to overcome Tammy’s vocal limitations and devise accompaniments to perfectly frame the essential teardrop in Tammy’s voice, and to write (when necessary) to showcase the voice and the production.

(As an aside, when I refer to the term “Nashville Sound”, I am referring to recordings where steel guitars and fiddles are accompanied (or sometimes replaced) by symphonic arrangements and choral accompaniments. The chief architects of this style were Chet Atkins at RCA, Owen Bradley at Decca, and Billy Sherrill at Epic. In Sherrill’s hands the arrangements were sometimes referred to as ‘country cocktails’. The style was very effective in covering up a singer’s lack of range, particularly in the higher registers.)

The album opens with “I Don’t Wanna Play House” a Billy Sherrill-Glen Sutton composition that won the 1968 Grammy for Best Female Country Performance. In the song, the narrator, a woman whose husband has left her, hears her daughter tell a neighbor boy that she doesn’t want to play house and the reason why she doesn’t want to play. This is a very compelling song:

Today I sat alone at the window
And I watched our little girl outside at play
With the little boy next door like so many times before
But something didn’t seem quite right today

So I went outside to see what they were doing
And then the teardrops made my eyes grow dim
‘Cause I heard him name a game and I hung my head in shame
When I heard our little girl say to him.

I don’t want to play house; I know it can’t be fun
I’ve watched mommy and daddy
And if that’s the way it’s done
I don’t want to play house; It makes my mommy cry
‘Cause when she played house
My daddy said good-bye.

Next up is “Jackson Ain’t A Very Big Town”, a minor hit for Norma Jean in 1967. Tammy does as nice job with the song.

“Broadminded” comes from the pen of Leona Williams and Jimmy Payne. At some point Leona would become one of Merle Haggard’s wives and would have some success on the country charts, although never as much as her talent would have warranted. The Leona Williams version of the songs is far superior to Tammy’s rendition, but if you’ve not heard Leona’s version you will likely like Tammy’s recording. At this point in her career Tammy really hadn’t become quite assertive enough to give this sassy up-tempo song the proper reading.

Broadminded, narrow minded man
Every night I catch you sleepin’ with a smile on your face
And a-callin’ names that I don’t even know
If it ain’t Carmel, Pat and Gracie
Aand drinkin’ down at Stacey’s
It’s making plans to see a girly show

Broadminded, I just don’t understand
A broadminded, narrow minded man

“Cry” was a big 1950s hit for male pop singer Johnnie Ray. Tammy gives it a straight ahead reading, but the song works better in the hands of someone with a bigger voice – both Lynn Anderson (#3 in 1972) and Crystal Gayle (#1 in 1986) would have big hits with the song in the upcoming years.

“The Phone Call”, written by Norris “Norro” Wilson, is just album filler, a phone call between a daughter and her mother, telling her mother her tale of woe about a man who mistreated her.

“Take Me To Your World”, a Glen Sutton-Billy Sherrill collaboration, is given the full Nashville Sound treatment by Sherrill. The song is an outstanding effort and showcases Tammy vocals perfectly.

If you can find it in your heart to just forgive
I’ll come back and live the way you’ve wanted me to live
All I want is just to be your girl
Please come and get me, and take me to your world

Take me to your world, away from bar rooms filled with smoke
Where I won’t have to serve a drink, or hear a dirty joke
All I want is just to be your girl

“(Or) Is It Love” was written by Buddy Ray. It too, is given the full Nashville Sound treatment, turning a piece of filler into a worthwhile effort. Harry Mills’ “Fuzzy Wuzzy Ego” is a song about a woman essentially talking her man off the ledge and into returning home. The production on this song is very country, including use of a dobro.

With one elbow on the bar you’re drinking double
Tryin’ hard to drown up my memories
And you’re tellin’ all your buddies all your troubles
Layin’ the blame smack upon me.

If you set that bottle down and while I listen
You lose your pain inside that hurts you so
Neither one of us is all to blame baby
It’s your foggy woggy, wishy washy, fuzzy wuzzy ego.

My vinyl album contains “It’s My Way” a song credited to Wayne Walker and Webb Pierce. It is a good song, but it does not appear on my digital version of the album.

Glen Sutton’s “Good” would have made a good single, a tale of a woman torn between good and bad, who simply cannot keep herself in line. The production is subdued Nashville Sound.

Now I’m back here in a barroom,
A waitress again.
The good world I’ve lived in,
Just came to an end.

For temptation comes easy
To a woman like me.
And regardless of my chances,
I know that I’ll never be.

Good like I used to be;
I guess it’s just not in me.
With all my heart how I wish I proved
I’ve been good like he wanted me.

“Ode To Billy Joe” is a cover of the Bobbie Gentry hit from a few years earlier. Tammy gives the song a satisfactory rendition, but she does not have the soulful Gothic feel of Gentry’s original.

“Soaking Wet” is the bonus track on my digital copy of the album, a straight ahead country treatment devoid of Nashville Sound trappings. I have no other information concerning this song.

At this point in Tammy’s career she and Billy Sherrill were still looking for that magic formula that would turn Tammy into a full-fledged star. Consequently this album features songs with the full Nashville Sound treatment, some songs with scaled back Nashville Sound treatments and a few straight ahead country arrangements.

While Tammy and Billy were still experimenting here, the very next album would answer all the questions and set the trajectory for subsequent albums.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Your Squaw Is On The Warpath’

MI0003863545Loretta Lynn had released about a dozen albums by the time Your Squaw is on the Warpath was released in 1969. It was her first album released that year and saw her teaming up again with Owen Bradley and Decca Records.

Lynn either wrote or co-wrote four of the album’s songs. The title track, a top 5 hit she penned solo, is a classic. She also solely composed “Sneakin’ In,” a steel-drenched ballad about her cheating husband. She also co-wrote two ballads – “Let Me Go, You’re Hurting Me” and “He’s Somewhere Between You and Me” with Lorene Allen and Doyle Wilburn respectively.

The remainder of the album consists mainly of ballads. “Living My Lifetime for You” is flavorless and Teddy Wilburn’s “Taking The Place of my Man” benefits from the helping of Steel. The cover of Marty Robbins’ “I Walk Alone” has beautiful touches of piano throughout and a powerful vocal from Lynn.

The album’s other top five hit, “You Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out on Me)” has beautiful jaunty guitars and ribbons of Steel. I love the touches of piano, too, dated as they may be to today’s ears. Lynn takes the bull by the horns on “Harper Valley, P.T.A.,” although I cannot help but find her signing it a bit odd. She copes brilliantly but hardly fits the image of the wife in the lyric. The final number, Kaw-Liga, is a wonderful yet also out-of-character cover of the Hank Williams classic.

Your Squaw is on the Warpath is neither here nor there for me. I don’t hate the album but I didn’t feel the magic I felt with Don’t Come Home. This isn’t a bad album in the least just not one that blew me away. I still recommend you listen to it and come to your own conclusions.

Grade: B

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)’

MI0003832259Loretta Lynn scored her first chart topping single with the title track to her seventh album, Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind). The record, produced as usual by Owen Bradley, was the first by a female artist to achieve Gold status.

Don’t Come Home also continues Lynn’s tradition of populating her albums with cover songs and little by way of self-penned material. She had writing credits on two excellent honky-tonkers in addition to the title track. She co-wrote “Get What ‘Cha Got and Go,” with Leona Williams (one-time wife of the late Merle Haggard) and composed “I Got Caught” solo. The cover tunes include a brilliant steel-drenched take on “There Goes My Everything” and an equally exquisite reading of “The Shoe Goes on the Other Foot Tonight.”

Johnny Bond and Ernest Tubb co-wrote the wonderful “Tomorrow Never Comes,” a ballad concerning a woman fed up with her man’s dead-end promises. “Saint to a Sinner” has ear-catching flourishes of piano as do “I’m Living In Two World,” “Making Plans,” and “I Really Don’t Want to Know.” “The Devil Gets His Due” is a refreshing change of pace, in the mid-tempo range, with glorious twang guitar. “I Can’t Keep Away From You” is just as good, with a nice helping of steel added to the mix.

Don’t Come Home is nothing short of a spectacular album. Bradley helped Lynn shed the trappings of The Nashville Sound and embrace a honky-tonk style much more pleasing to my ears. The ballads can get sonically maudlin after a while, but the mid-to-up tempo numbers are where the album truly shines. I highly suggest seeking out this project if you’ve never heard it. You won’t be disappointed.

Grade: A

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Songs From My Heart’

Loretta_Lynn-Songs_from_My_HeartLoretta Lynn’s third solo album, Songs From My Heart, was released on Decca Records in 1965. The twelve track record was produced by Owen Bradley.

“Happy Birthday (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year)” was the only single released. Lynn was pitched the song while performing in Canada, where she promptly put it on hold. The track was an instant success and peaked at #3.

She had a hand in composing two of the album’s tracks. “When Lonely Hits Your Heart” is a mid-tempo ballad with light, yet attractive, percussion. “It Just Looks That Way” is much the same but with some delightful riffs of steel guitar weaved throughout. “You Made Me What I Am” has solid piano and a strong lyric written by her husband Oliver Doolittle.

Songs From My Heart is also notable for cover versions of popular hits and tracks penned by notable songwriters. Lynn is foolish for tackling “Once a Day” after Connie Smith laid down the definitive version, but she copes with the track and vocal comparisons as best she can. She gives Don Gibson’s “Oh, Lonesome Me” a female spin, which works beautifully. “I Don’t Believe I’ll Fall in Love Today” is an excellent mid-tempo Harlan Howard number while “Half A Mind” showcases Roger Miller at his most straight-laced.

“You’re The Only Good Thing” is a nice steel drenched ballad while “Boy Like You” is a gorgeous honky-tonker. “When Dreams Go Out of Style” and “Wound You Can’t Erase” are more of the same – maudlin but nicely executed ballads.

Songs From My Heart is a very solid album that doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. Each track is wonderful, but there aren’t enough rocklin honky tonkers or tracks that feel distinctive. As it stands this is just a very fine album, at least to me.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Sings’

loretta lynn singsLoretta Lynn Sings was Loretta Lynn’s debut album on Decca Records. Released in December 1963, the album followed on the heels of an uncharted single 1961 (“I Walked Away From The Wreck”), two 1962 singles including her first chart single “Success”, and another uncharted single (“World of Forgotten People”), and in 1963 another charted single, “The Other Woman”. There would be another single released in 1963, the #4 “Before I’m Over You” (not found on this album) before this album was released.

The album opens up with “Success” written by Johnny Mullins, who was a high school custodian. “Success” was a lament about how a husband’s career success was undermining their marriage. The song went to #6 as would “Blue Kentucky Girl”, another Johnny Mullins-penned song a few years later.

Since Loretta was a new artist that Decca was trying to break into the country markets, this album, more so than most country albums of the time, is full of covers rather than a few covers and some filler.

For many years Jimmy Gateley was the front man for Bill Anderson’s band. He was also an adept song-writer, as “The Minute You’re Gone” proves. Sonny James would have a top ten country hit with the song in 1963, and British rocker Cliff Richard would take the song to #1 on the UK pop charts (and top ten in seven other countries). Needless to say, Loretta sounds nothing like Cliff Richard but her presentation is strong and clear.

Betty Sue Perry would provide Loretta with quite a few songs during the 1960s. “The Other Woman”, not to be mistaken for the Ray Price song of the same title, tells the love triangle story from the perspective of the mistress.

According to Billboard, “Alone With You” was Faron Young’s biggest hit, spending a whopping ten weeks at #1. While I don’t think it was Faron’s biggest seller, it was a great song and Loretta acquits herself well on the song.

“Why I’m Walking” was writing by Stonewall Jackson and Melvin Endsley. A big hit for Stonewall Jackson, it resurfaced decades later as a hit for Ricky Skaggs. Again Loretta acquits herself admirably.

The first of Loretta’s own compositions “The Girl That I Am Now” is next. Although not released as a single, I think it would have made a good single and it demonstrates how proficient Loretta already was as a songwriter. This song is bout a wife who cheated on her husband and is racked by guilt and the hope that he never finds out about what she did.

He loves the girl I used to be
But could he love the girl I am now

I don’t think I need to say anything about the lineage of “Act Naturally’. Loretta tackles the song with aplomb. The instrumental arrangement remains up-tempo but the acoustic guitars have a very hootenanny era feel.

Another Loretta Lynn composition follows, “World of Forgotten People”. I don’t remember it being a hit single for anyone but everybody and his cousin recorded the song including the Osborne Brothers, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Vernon Oxford, The Wilburn Brothers, Ernest Tubb and countless others:

I live in the world world of forgotten people
Who’ve loved and lost their hearts so many times
I’m here in the world of forgotten people
Where every heart is aching just like mine

“The Color of The Blues” was written by George Jones and Lawton Williams and was a hit for George Jones. Lawton Williams, of course, wrote “Fraulein” and “Farewell Party”. Loretta handles the song effectively.

“Hundred Proof Heartache” is another of Loretta’s compositions. This works as an album cut but would not have made a good single for Loretta.

I’ve got a hundred proof heartache and a case of the blues
My baby’s gone and left me I’ve lost all I can lose
I’ve got a hundred proof heartache my world keeps turnin’ round
This hundred proof heartache’s got me down
You waded through my tears and said goodbye
You didn’t seem to care how much I’d cry
You made your home the tavern down the street
And this old heart cries out with every beat

Cindy Walker was a great songwriter, being a favorite writer for Bob Wills, Jack Greene and countless other country stars. “I Walked Away from the Wreck” equates a failed love affair with an automobile accident. Although released as a single, the song did not chart.

Justin Tubb’s “Lonesome 7-7203″ proved to be the only #1 record for Hawkshaw Hawkins, and a posthumous one at that for “The Hawk”, who died in the same plane crash that killed Cowboy Copas and Patsy Cline. The song would also be a hit for Tony Booth about a decade later. Whoever arranged the song took it at a far too slow tempo. Taken at a faster tempo I think Loretta could have really nailed the song.

There was a distinctive “Decca Records” sound during the 1960s that tends to permeate all of the label’s recordings. Since the same studio musicians and same arranger (Owen Bradley) were used on most of the major artists recordings, this is understandable. There was a little bit of an attempt to vary Loretta’s sound through occasional use of banjo or acoustic guitar on Loretta’s recordings but it was still basically a formulaic background production. Set apart Loretta’s recordings was her voice which could never be anything but country, no matter the pop trappings applied to the final product.

Loretta Lynn Sings would reach #2 on Billboard’s country albums chart. This album is a solid B+ but better albums would follow.

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Full Circle’

91pRGFM-iWL._SX522_Twelve years after winning a Best Country Album Grammy, Loretta Lynn has finally gotten around to releasing a follow-up album. Not only is Full Circle well worth the wait, it is bound to be warmly received by fans who were disappointed in the genre-bending Van Lear Rose. Produced by Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash, Full Circle finds Lynn singing traditional folk songs she grew up with, remakes of her own hits and some new songs, with the occasional traditional pop standard thrown in. She moves through the somewhat eclectic track list effortlessly and seamlessly, sounding equally at home with each musical style represented.

I was blown away by Lynn’s vocals, which are showing no sign of diminishing with age. Her voice is stronger now than it was on Van Lear Rose and she could easily hold her own vocalists less than half her age. After some introductory studio banter the album gets underway with a remake of “Whispering Sea”, which is the first song that Loretta ever wrote, and was included as the B-side of her first single “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl”. It’s the first of three remakes of old Lynn hits; the other two are 1965’s “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven” and 1968’s “Fist City”, which even at age 83, Loretta pulls off with gusto and credibility.

A pair of traditional pop standards are a little unexpected on a Loretta Lynn album, but they fit in surprisingly well with the rest of the album. “Secret Love”, first introduced by Doris Day in 1953, gives Loretta a chance to demonstrate that she hasn’t lost any vocal range. It has a simple yet sophisticated twin-fiddle arrangement, and is reminiscent of the Nashville Sound records that her old producer Owen Bradley used to make with Patsy Cline. Ditto for “Band of Gold”, a pop hit from 1955. Don Cherry’s doo-wap style is replaced with Bob Wills-type of arrangement with some excellent steel guitar.

She also covers some more contemporary numbers, including Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” and T. Graham Brown’s “Wine into Water.” Elvis Costello provides some subtle harmony vocals on the toe-tapper “Everything It Takes” a new track that Lynn wrote with Todd Snider. It’s reminiscent of the type of record Loretta made in her heyday, although the message is delivered in a less fiery and more world-weary manner. It’s my favorite song on the album. She also duets with Willie Nelson on “Lay Me Down”, a quiet acoustic number that finds the two legends looking with resignation and acceptance toward an uncertain future.

Loretta looks back at songs from her childhood: the traditional “In The Pines” and The Carter Family’s “Black Jack David” and “I Never Will Marry”. I wouldn’t have minded an entire album of tunes like this. Her own composition, a new song called “Who’s Gonna Miss Me?” has a similar old-timey sound. It finds her looking back on her accomplishments, reflecting on her legacy and asking, “Who’s gonna miss me when I’m gone?” The answer to that, of course, is everybody. It is hard to imagine country music without Loretta Lynn but fortunately there are no any indications that she will be saying her farewells anytime soon. It’s a bit early in the year to start making predictions about the best album of the year, but it’s hard to imagine how anything will top this one. I cannot recommend it enough.

Grade: A+

Classic Rewind – Brenda Lee – ‘Too Many Rivers’

One of Lee’s many classics, she recorded “Too Many Rivers” with Owen Bradley for Columbia Records in Jan 1964. The B Side of her single “No One,” radio favored this Harlan Howard penned tune to the official single and played it instead.  Lee would have a #13 peaking it with the tune. The Forester Sisters would take the tune up the charts again 22 years later where it would peak at #5.  Many other versions from the likes of Claude Gray, Eddy Arnold, Liz Anderson, Jean Shepherd, and a host of others exist as well.

Willie Nelson: The early years

country favoritesWillie Nelson, alone among his contemporaries, continues to be an active and prolific recording artist. Not only is he releasing albums at a pace that would leave today’s stars thoroughly exhausted, but Willie continues to make guest appearances on the albums of other artists, famous and unknown alike.

The eighty year old Nelson continues to tour relentlessly, something he has been doing in one form or another for over fifty years.

Prior to “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”, most knew Willie Nelson (if they knew of him at all) as the man who wrote “Hello Walls” for Faron Young and “Crazy” for Patsy Cline, and some songs that other singers had success recording.

Outside of his home state of Texas, the public consciousness of Willie Nelson as a performer basically dates back to the two albums Willie recorded for Atlantic in the early 1970s after which time he moved to Columbia for his recording heyday. This article will discuss the major label albums issued before then.

The first album out of the box was … And Then I Wrote which was released on the Liberty label in September 1962. This album featured “Touch Me” as the single (it reached #7 on Billboard’s country chart) and featured some songs that other artists had recorded with some success such as “Hello Walls” and “Three Days” (Faron Young), “Crazy” (Patsy Cline), “Funny How Time Slips Away” (Joe Hinton, Billy Walker). Although not released as a singles, “Mr. Record Man” and “Darkness On The Face of The Earth” would become songs associated with Willie, and “Undo The Right” would be a top ten hit for long-time friend Johnny Bush in 1968 (Johnny Bush and Willie Nelson were both in Ray Price’s band the Cherokee Cowboys during the early 1960s, and played in each others bands at various points in time). “The Part Where I Cry” was the other single release from this album.

… And Then I Wrote was not a terribly successful album but it was the first opportunity most had to hear Willie’s quirky phrasing. Although marred by Liberty’s version of the ‘Nashville Sound’, it is certainly an interesting album.

Willie’s second and final album for Liberty was Here’s Willie Nelson. This album featured five songs that Willie wrote (“Half A Man”, “Lonely Little Mansion”, “Take My Word”, “The Way You See Me” and “Home Motel”). The originals compositions were nothing special – only “Half A Man” attracted much attention from other artists – but among the covers are the Fred Rose composition “Roly Poly” (a successful recording for Bob Wills and for Jim Reeves) and Rex Griffin’s “The Last Letter”.

There were no Country Album charts until 1964. Neither of the two Liberty albums made the pop charts.

From Liberty, Willie very briefly moved to Monument Records, with no success (I’m not sure if any tracks actually were released at the time). Some of these songs were released in 1980 on a two album set titled The Winning Hand featuring Brenda Lee, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson and released to cash in on the popularity of Dolly and Willie. All four artists had recorded for Monument in the past, and Kristofferson and Lee recorded additional vocals to create duets (and some existing tracks were edited together to create duets). Twelve of the twenty tracks were duets, and despite the contrived origins of the project, it was critically well received and well worth owning.

Willie’s immense songwriting talents attracted the attention of Chester Burton (“Chet”) Atkins”, the head honcho of RCA’s Nashville operations, and he was signed to RCA.

There is the misconception that Willie Nelson’s RCA albums found Willie buried by syrupy string arrangements and soulless background choruses. While it is true that RCA was never really sure what to do with Willie, the reality is that only the occasional track suffered from over production. Unlike Decca where Owen Bradley buried his more traditional artist such as Webb Pierce and Ernest Tubb with unnecessary choral arrangements, Chet and his other producers went much lighter on the embellishments. Although what we would deem the classic ‘Willie and Family’ sound never completely emerged on the RCA recordings, many of Willie’s albums had relatively sparse production. In fact, when Mickey Raphael produced and released the 17 track Naked Willie album in 2009, an album in which he removed excess production off Willie’s RCA tracks, he probably corralled about 80% of the tracks on which the production could be deemed excessive. Whether or not RCA could turn Willie into a star, his records always featured some of the best musicians and arrangers on the planet.

Country Willie – His Own Songs features twelve songs Willie wrote or co-wrote. Some of the songs were also on his major label debut, but I prefer the RCA take on the ‘Nashville Sound’ to that of Liberty. The songs are great and Willie is in good voice.. Songs included are “One Day at a Time” (not the Marilyn Sellars/Cristy Lane gospel hit of the 1970s), “My Own Peculiar Way”, “Night Life”, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Healing Hands of Time”, “Darkness on the Face of the Earth”, “Hello Walls”, .”Are You Sure”, “Mr. Record Man”, “It Should Be Easier Now”, “So Much to Do” and “Within Your Crowd”. Pickers include Jerry Kennedy and Jerry Reed, and steel guitar is featured on some of the tracks. This could be considered a ‘best of’ compilation of Willie’s songs (not recordings) up to this point in time. This album reached #14 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

Country Favorites – Willie Nelson Style is one of my two favorite RCA albums. This 1966 album was recorded with members of Ernest Tubb’s legendary Texas Troubadours, augmented by fiddler Wade Ray and pianist Hargus Robbins. Willie and Wade, of course were regulars on ET’s syndicated television show and the use of the Troubadours and the lack of the ‘Nashville Sound’ trappings made for a swinging set of western swing and honky-tonk classics. This version of the Texas Troubadours included Buddy Charleton (steel), Jack Drake (bass), Jack Greene (drums) , Leon Rhodes (lead guitar) and Cal Smith (rhythm guitar) augmented by Wade Ray and pianist Hargus Robbins. This album reached #9 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart .

Standout tracks on this album include “My Window Faces The South”, “Columbus Stockade Blues” and “San Antonio Rose” but the entire album is good. Willie sounds comfortable and relaxed on this entire set and his vocals, while sometimes an awkward fit , reflect the fun he was having performing with this collection of musicians , who were not credited on the initial release. A truncated version of this album was released on RCA Camden in 1970 as Columbus Stockade Blues.

Country Music Concert was recorded live in 1966 at Panther Hall in Dallas Texas, one of two live albums RCA would record there (the other was 1968’s Charley Pride Live at Panther Hall). This live performance featured Willie on guitar and vocals backed by his band members, Johnny Bush on drums and Wade Ray playing bass guitar. This album is my other favorite RCA album, again featuring Willie uncluttered by strings and choruses, singing mostly his own songs, but with a few covers. The album opens with Willie introducing the band and then starts with the music with a pair of long medleys in “Mr. Record Man”/”Hello Walls”/ “One Day At A Time” and “The Last Letter”/ “Half A Man”. To me the highlights of the album are Willie’s take on Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” and his own “I Never Cared For You” and “Night Life”. This album reached #32 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

Make Way For Willie Nelson is a mixed bag of original compositions and covers. Released in 1967, some of the recordings are a bit overproduced and the album produced no real hits. The quasi-title track “Make Way For A Better Man” is one of those songs only Willie Nelson would write:

Hear me talkin’ now you tried to make her happy you couldn’t make her happy
Make way for a better man than you
You tried your brand of lovin’ she couldn’t stand your lovin’

Make way for a better man than you
I held back cause you and I were friends
But old buddy this is where our friendship ends
I’m takin’ over now those signals she keeps sendin’ means your romance is endin’
Make way for a better man than you

Willie’s own composition “One In A Row” reached #19 two years before this album was released. Notable covers on the album include “Born To Lose” and “Mansion On The Hill”. This album reached #9 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

“The Party’s Over” and Other Great Willie Nelson Songs featured the title song, which while never a big hit, was made famous by the late Don Meredith, one of the original trio of announcers for ABC Monday Night Football. When the result of the games was already determined (regardless of the time left in the game) Don would sing this song. “The Party’s Over” reached #24 for Willie, in a somewhat overproduced version. The rest of the album could be described as moody and downbeat. This album also reached #9 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

Good Ol’ Country Singin’ was released on RCA’s budget Camden label in January 1968. RCA sometimes used the Camden label to release truncated versions of older albums, but RCA also used it to release material that would not be released on the main label. This album is the latter but RCA actually issued a single from the album, “Blackjack County Chain”, which reached #21. My favorite track on the album is a classic weeper “You Ought To Hear Me Cry”. Billboard did not chart budget albums.

Texas In My Soul was Willie’s 1968 tribute to his home state of Texas. Three of the songs, “Waltz Across Texas”, “There’s A Little Bit of Everything In Texas” and “Texas In My Soul” were songs performed by and associated with Ernest Tubb. “Who Put All My Ex’s In Texas” was one of the first songs written by Eddie Rabbitt to be recorded. This album reached #9 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

Good Times is a little different and finds Willie breaking away from ‘The Nashville Sound’ mold to some extent. Other than Mickey Newbury’s “Sweet Memories” and the Jan Crutchfield-Wayne Moss composition “Down To Our Last Goodbye”, all of the songs were written or co-written by Willie. The title track has very minimal production. This album reached #29 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

My Own Peculiar Way, released in 1969, features eight Willie Nelson compositions (one, “Any Old Arms Won’t Do”, co-written with Hank Cochran) plus an exceptional cover John Hartford’s “Natural To Be Gone”. The title track wasn’t a hit, but it is quintessential Willie. This album reached #39 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart (are you seeing a pattern?).

Both Sides Now was released in 1970 and is basically a covers album with Willie penning only three of the eleven tracks. This album included two songs from the Roy Acuff catalogue (“Wabash Cannonball”, “Pins and Needles In My Heart”), a song from the Ray Price hit list (“Crazy Arms”) plus covers of pop songs “Both Sides Now” (penned by Joni Mitchell but a hit for Judy Collins) and and “Everybody’s Talking” (penned by Fred Neil but a hit for Nilsson). The single from this album was penned by soon-to be-ex-wife Shirley Nelson and reached #42. The now familiar “Bloody Mary Morning” makes its debut here – it would be re-recorded and released as a single after Willie moved to Atlantic.

While I like this album, it is a disjointed affair and Willie’s unusual phrasing on some of the songs won’t be to everybody’s taste. “Crazy Arms” features steel guitar and a walking base line whereas “Both Sides Now” features little more than a guitar. This album did not chart.

Laying My Burdens Down also was released in 1970 but by this time RCA had given up on having Willie score any hit singles. The title track reached #68 and the over-produced “I’m A Memory” would reach #28 and would be Willie’s last top fifty chart appearance while signed to RCA. This album is mostly composed of Willie originals but isn’t his best work. This album did not chart.

Willie Nelson and Family is a collection of songs released in 1971 as performed by Willie and the beginnings of his family band. Paul English was on board playing drums as was his sister Bobbie Nelson playing the piano. This album would set the template for future albums. Songs include the Willie Nelson-Hank Cochran collaboration “What Can You Do To Me Now” along with Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, Hank Sr.’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain”, Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again”, plus some Nelson originals. This album reached #43 on Billboard Country albums chart.

Released with no fanfare in September 1971, Yesterday’s Wine contains some of Willie’s finest songs, and is Willie’s first concept album. The album contains the full complement of RCA’s finest session players but sounds surprisingly spare at times. The album has a deeply philosophical and religious feel to it without being too preachy (the premise is the life of an ‘Imperfect Man’ from birth to the day of his death). The single released from the album “Yesterday’s Wine” b/w “Me and Paul” barely dented the charts, but both are still loved and remembered today:

Miracles appear in the strangest of places
Fancy me finding you here
The last time I saw you was just out of Houston
Let me sit down, let me buy you a beer

Your presence is welcome with me and my friend here
This is a hangout of mine
We come here quite often and listen to music
And to taste yesterday’s wine

Yesterday’s wine, yesterday’s wine
Aging with time, like yesterday’s wine
Yesterday’s wine, yesterday’s wine
We’re aging with time, like yesterday’s wine

“Family Bible”, a song Willie wrote but sold in order to keep eating, makes an appearance here. This album did not chart.

There would be a couple more RCA albums, and RCA would re-release various permutations and combinations of old material after Willie hit it big in the middle 1970s (including an album an which Danny Davis and The Nashville Brass were overdubbed onto ten of Willie’s songs, but by the end of 1971 it was clear that Willie would need to look elsewhere if he was to achieve success as a recording artist.

It should be noted that RCA issued several singles on Willie that either never made it onto an album, or made it onto an album years later. Two notable examples were “Johnny One Time” which hit #36 for Willie in 1968 and was a minor pop hit for Brenda Lee in 1969, and “Bring Me Sunshine” which reached #13 in 1968 but wasn’t on an album until the 1974 RCA Camden release Spotlight On Willie.

In the digital age, there are plenty of good collections covering Willie’s earlier years, both anthologies and reissues of individual albums. For the obsessive Willie Nelson fan, Bear Family has issued an eight CD set with 219 recordings. That’s overkill for all but diehard fans, but there are numerous good anthologies available. There is also Naked Willie for those who would like to have multiple versions of some of Willie’s RCA recordings.

Country music’s fellow travelers: Burl Ives

burl ivesThis is the first in a series of short articles about artists who, although not country artists, were of some importance to country music. In a sense, a previous article I wrote about Patti Page would logically belong in this category. First up, America’s troubadour Burl Ives.

WHO WAS HE ?
Burl Ives (1909-1995) was the Renaissance Man among folk singers. Not only was he a folk balladeer but he also had success on Broadway, television and movies. Mostly though, he was a folk singer and anthologist , publishing several books of folk songs and recording dozens of albums of folk music, sometimes by themes (Folk Songs of Ireland, Folk Songs of Australia, Women: Songs About The Fair Sex, Down To The Sea In Ships) and other albums that were simply collections of songs. The warm friendly voice of Burl Ives could sell any song, without faking accents or use of any artifice. So wildly popular was he that Queen Elizabeth II requested that he perform at her Coronation Concert in 1953.

WHAT WAS HIS CONNECTION TO COUNTRY MUSIC?
In the days before folk became too politically left-wing, many radio stations billed themselves as paying country and folk music, so his records got some airplay on country radio stations. Also he often recorded some country songs on his albums, placing on Billboard’s country charts in 1949 and 1952 and recording country material on some of his 1950s albums. In the early 1960s, his records were produced by noted producer Owen Bradley, who marketed Burl’s records to the country music market with some success as the 52 year old Ives hit Cashbox’s top slot (#2 Billboard) with Hank Cochran’s “A Little Bitty Tear Let Me Down”. This was followed by two more top ten country singles “Funny Way of Laughing” and “Mr. In Between” and several more charting singles, including the amusing “Evil Off My Mind”, an ‘answer’ song to Jan Howard’s biggest solo hit “Evil On Your Mind”. His otherwise 1964 country album, Pearly Shells and Other Favorites, produced a surprise pop hit with the title track, a Hawaiian song written by Webley Edwards and Leon Pober.

Since Ives never stayed anchored too long in any one realm, Burl drifted off into other areas of folk music, recording albums of children’s music, seasonal music and yes, another album or two of country music.

Country Heritage: Roy Drusky

I am not sure why this should be true, but the 1960s produced an enormous number of silky-smooth male vocalists. Perhaps it was due to the crossover success of artists such as Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves. More likely it was the result of the Rock ‘n Roll revolution of the mid-50s wiping out the radio market for classic pop, so that artists who would have aspired to become the next Eddy Howard, Johnny Ray, Julius LaRosa or Frank Sinatra, found themselves looking toward a Nashville that was attempting to broaden its appeal by co-opting the easy listening market.

The end result often was some of the blandest music Nashville ever produced – no fiddle, no steel, pleasant but unmemorable voices and songs played at slow to medium-slow tempos. Most of these pleasant male voices made an album or two and faded from sight. This, not Hank and Lefty and ET, was the music that fueled the outlaw revolt of the mid-1970s.

Still, there were a few of the pleasant crooners who had something to distinguish themselves from the crowd – a little grit in their voice, some soul in their musical interpretations and something that set their voice apart from the crowd. Roy Drusky — the country Perry Como — was one of those few.

A true southerner, Drusky was born on June 22, 1930, in Atlanta, GA. His mother, a church organist, attempted to interest her son in music but like most boys of his era, Drusky’s first love was baseball. It wasn’t until he enlisted in the US Navy in the late 1940s that he shifted his focus to music, although even after leaving the Navy, he first tried out for the Cleveland Indians. In 1951, he put together a country band, the Southern Ranch Boys, who played in the Decatur, GA area. In Decatur, Drusky landed a job as a disc jockey. He continued to perform in local clubs after his band broke up, and on the strength of a 1953 Starday single, “Such a Fool,” he was signed to Columbia Records in 1955. Several singles were issued for Columbia, but now album until 1965 when an album, The Great Roy Drusky Sings,  was released on the budget Harmony label. This album is of interest mostly to fans and collectors of Roy Drusky recordings.

From Georgia, Roy moved to Minneapolis to continue his work in radio. Shortly after arriving, Drusky began headlining at the Flame Club, where he was able to showcase his talent as a singer and a songwriter. His songs came to the attention of Faron Young, who recorded two of Roy’s songs: “Alone With You,” released in 1958, was Young’s biggest Billboard chart hit spending 13 weeks at #1 (oddly, it only reached #2 on Cash Box’s country chart), and “Country Girl,” released in 1959, which also reached #1.

Soon thereafter, Roy moved to Nashville, signed with Decca and worked with legendary producer Owen Bradley. In 1960, a pair of successful ballads, “Another” (#2) and “Anymore” (#3), led to an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. That same year, he also released a Top 30 duet with Kitty Wells, “I Can’t Tell My Heart That.”

In 1961, Drusky released the double-sided hit “I’d Rather Loan You Out” (#10)/”Three Hearts in a Tangle (#2)” and also issued his first LP, Anymore With Roy Drusky. The next year, he reached the Top 10 again with “Second Hand Rose” (#3), and after a 1963 switch to Mercury records, the amusing “Peel Me A Nanner” (#10). Drusky continued to chart records, finally achieving that elusive #1 in 1965 with the “Yes, Mr. Peters,” a duet with Priscilla Mitchell (aka Mrs. Jerry Reed). Interestingly enough, in 1965, Roy’s version of the Liz Anderson-penned “Strangers” outperformed Merle Haggard’s version of the same song. Both versions reached the Top 10 (Roy’s reached #6, Hag’s reached #7), even though the song seems tailor-made for Haggard.

Roy Drusky appeared in his first film, White Lightnin’ Express, in 1965 and also sang the feature’s title song. He later appeared in two other films: The Golden Guitar and Forty Acre Feud. Roy also served as a producer for several acts, most notably Brenda Byers.

His recording success faded after 1965. Although he released 11 chart hits between 1966 and 1969, only two (“Where the Blue and Lonely Go” and “Such a Fool”) reached the Top 10. In 1970, he had a brief renaissance with “Long, Long Texas Road” (#5 Billboard/#3 Cash Box /#1 Record World) and “All My Hard Times” (#9). In 1971 he made his last trip to the Top 20 with a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Red, Red, Wine,” which reached #17. After that it was all downhill.

Drusky’s last Mercury album was released in 1973, followed by a pair of albums on Capitol in 1974 and ’75. After that period he recorded for smaller labels, including a stint on Plantation, where he re-recorded his biggest hits. In all, he had 42 charted singles on Billboard’s country charts.

He continued to perform and record, increasingly turning to gospel music in his later years. He also appeared on various country reunion projects. Roy Drusky passed away September 23, 2004 at the age of 74.

Discography

Vinyl

Roy Drusky was never a major star so his output was not quite as prolific as some performers of his generation. He released 18 albums on Mercury (plus 3 hit collections). On Decca there were two albums released, and on Capitol, two more for a total of 22 major label albums. There are also a number of off-label recordings and budget releases on labels such as Vocalion and Hilltop. Since Roy was recording during the era in which albums consisted of one or two hits singles, some covers of other artist’s hits, and some filler, the song titles should tell you whether or not a particular Roy Drusky album will be of interest to you. Please note that Roy’s recordings never went so far ‘uptown’ as to eliminate steel guitar and other country instrumentation. If you like Roy’s voice and the song selections, you will like his albums, especially the ones on Decca and Mercury.

Here are some representative albums:

Songs of The Cities (Mercury, 1964) – Detroit City | Columbus Stockade Blues | Kansas City | El Paso | Abilene | Battle Of New Orleans |Texarkana Baby |St. Louis Blues | Down In The Valley (Birmingham Jail)| I Left My Heart In San Francisco | Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy|Waterloo

In A New Dimension (Mercury, 1966) – Rainbows And Roses |Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurtin’ Me) | Workin’ My Way Up To The Bottom | You’re My World | Today | I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry | Unless You Make Him Set You Free| Crying Time |Try To Remember |Unchained Melody | World Is Round |You Don’t Know Me

Jody and The Kid (Mercury 1968) – Jody And The Kid | Let’s Put Our World Back Together | By The Time I Get To Phoenix | When The Snow Is On The Roses | Your Little Deeds | You’d Better Sit Down Kids |You’ve Still Got A Place In My Heart | When I Loved Her | Shadows Of Her Mind |Through The Eyes Of Love | Yesterday

A Portrait of Roy Drusky (Mercury, 1969) – Where The Blue And Lonely Go |Little Green Apples | Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife | I’m Gonna Get You Off My Mind |Today I Started Loving You Again | Memphis Morning | Portrait Of Me |I Wouldn’t Be Alone | Set Me Free | Country’s Gone | True And Lasting Kind

Roy was always adept with gospel music and his first Capitol album includes Peaceful Easy Feeling includes nice versions of “One Day At  A Time” and “The Baptism of Jesse Taylor”. The rest of this album is secular music, a little more pop than his Mercury albums, the title track being a recent Eagles hit.

CD

Drusky is very poorly represented in the digital era. Currently only one collection is available: Greatest Hits Volumes 1 & 2. This is a straight reissue of two albums which catch his Mercury hits through 1967 and have a few remakes of earlier Decca hits. This disc was released in 2007 by Collectors Choice Music.

In 1995, Polygram released a collection titled Roy Drusky: Songs of Love and Life. This CD is out of print but can be found with a little effort. It contains 13 songs, including the three later hits “Long, Long Texas Road,” “All My Hard Times” and “Jody and The Kid”–the latter is a nice early recording of a Kristofferson song. Only five of the songs overlap with Greatest Hits Volumes 1 & 2 so this disc is a worthwhile acquisition.

There are some digital downloads available via Amazon.com plus a couple of albums described as CD-R (manufactured upon demand).

The 10 best reissues of 2011

I probably spent more money on reissues of old music this year than I did on new music, although I purchased lots of new music. Here is my list of the best reissues of 2011 – just one man’s opinion, listed in no particular order.  No fellow travelers such as Americana, just real country music (at least in my top ten).

 

JESSI COLTER – I’M JESSI COLTER / DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH

The Australian label Raven, has issued a number of American country music albums, usually in the form of two-fers. Here Raven presents two albums from the talented Jessi Colter, mother of modern day artist Shooter Jennings and widow of legendary performer Waylon Jennings. While Jessi wasn’t the most prolific recording artist and is actually well served by several of the anthologies available, it is nice to have two of her Capitol albums available, as she originally conceived them.

Her first album for Capitol Records, I’M JESSI COLTER (1975), spawned the #1 Country / #5 Pop hit “I’m Not Lisa” and the follow-up hit “What’s Happened To Blue Eyes”. The album was produced by Waylon Jennings, and features many of the musicians who played on his albums (Reggie Young, Weldon Myrick, Ritchie Albright, Jim Gordon ) but no one would ever mistake the arrangements as anything that would ever appear on a Waylon album, as he deftly tailors the production to fit his bride’s  individual talents. An early take on “Storms Never Last” minus Waylon, is my favorite track on the album. DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH (1976) wasn’t quite as successful reaching #4 on the Country chart and yielding the hits “I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name” (No.29 Country) and “You Hung the Moon (Didn’t You Waylon?)”. The title track “Diamond in the Rough” gives Jessi a chance to stretch and show her blues sensibilities.

This set includes a nice and informative booklet and three bonus tracks from a later Capitol album. If you have no Jessi Colter in your collection, this is a good starting point. Read more of this post

Country Heritage Redux: Ernest Tubb (1914-1984)

An expanded and updated version of an article previously published by The 9513:

Disclaimer: Expect no objectivity at all from me with this article. Along with Webb Pierce and Merle Haggard, Ernest Tubb is one of my all-time favorite country artists. Yes, I know he started out most songs a quarter tone flat and worked his way flatter from there, and yes, I know that 80% of The 9513s readership has technically better singing voices than Tubb had. But no one in country music (and few outside the genre, Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Phil Harris among them) was ever able to infuse as much warmth and personality into his singing.

Ernest Tubb, known as E.T. to nearly everyone, was born in 1914 in Crisp, Texas, a town in Ellis County which is no longer even a flyspeck on the map. Tubb grew up working on farms and used his free time learning to play guitar, sing and yodel. As with many who grew up in the rural southeast and southwest, E.T. grew up listening to the music of the legendary “Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933), and like such contemporaries as Gene Autry, Jimmie Davis , Bill Monroe, Jimmie Skinner and Hank Snow, E.T. started his career sounding like a Jimmie Rodgers clone. In Ernest’s case, he eventually met Jimmie’s widow, Carrie Rodgers, who was sufficiently impressed with Tubb to sponsor his career and give him one of Jimmie’s guitars to play. Tubb played clubs around Texas and the southwest and, with Mrs. Rodgers’ help, secured a record deal with RCA. As there had already been one Jimmie Rodgers, Tubb’s sound-alike records sold only modestly.

Good luck can take many forms. In Tubb’s case, his good luck came in the form of illness. In 1939 E.T. suffered a throat infection that necessitated a tonsillectomy, robbing him of his ability to yodel and thereby forcing him to develop a style of his own.

Moving to Decca Records in 1940, Tubb continued to record. Nothing happened initially, but his sixth release–a self-penned number titled “Walking the Floor Over You”–turned him into a star. The song was released in 1941, before the advent of Billboard’s country music charts. It did, however, appear on the pop charts, selling over a million records in the process. The song was covered by such luminaries as Bing Crosby and became Tubb’s signature song. Over the years the song has been recorded hundreds of times with artists including Pat Boone, Hank Thompson, Patsy Cline, Asleep at the Wheel and Glen Campbell being among the more notable.
Read more of this post

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Van Lear Rose’

Van Lear Rose was to Loretta Lynn what the Rick Rubin-produced American Recordings were to Johnny Cash: a late-career release that earned almost universal critical acclaim and a resurgence in popularity. Released in 2004 and produced by Jack White of The White Stripes, it blends elements of alternative rock with Loretta’s brand of traditional country, and if nothing else, it is a bold experiment in bucking the mainstream musical trends of the 2000s. Loretta was the sole songwriter on twelve of the album’s thirteen tracks, and co-wrote the remaining track (“Little Red Shoes”) with White, marking the first time in her career that she had a hand in writing every song on an album.

Unfortunately, I can’t include myself in the considerably large camp that loves this album. While I don’t actively dislike it, I don’t share most critics’ opinion that the musical styles of Lynn and White always mesh well. The songs themselves are all solid and well written. The production is both the album’s greatest strength and its greatest flaw. White made a conscious effort to avoid the slick, cookie-cutter type of production that had become prevalent in 21st century Nashville, and for that I applaud him. However, at times the album is not quite polished enough, sounding like it was recorded in someone’s garage, and on a few occasions, White’s production choices are a distraction that overwhelm Loretta’s vocal performance, badly marring otherwise very good songs.

The title track is a perfect case in point. It tells the story of the courtship of Loretta’s parents. It starts off fairly quietly with Loretta singing with an electric guitar accompaniment. By the second verse, drums and some steel guitar licks are added to the mix. While not guilty of overproduction, it’s a tad too loud. I would have preferred a quieter, more acoustic arrangement similar to the treatment that “Miss Being Mrs.”, a song that appears near the end of the album, receives. On this track, Loretta talks about her loneliness that comes with widowhood, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. The stripped-down arrangement is quite effective, and “Miss Being Mrs.” is easily the highlight of the album.

Another track on which the production becomes overwhelming is “Have Mercy”. While not lyrically deep, it’s a good song in which Loretta gives a remarkable vocal performance that finds her sounding much younger than her nearly 70 years, but it is ruined by the loud, indulgent rock-tinged production that dominates the final 40 or so seconds of the song. But perhaps the best example of the production getting in the way of the song is “Little Red Shoes.” On this track, the lyrics are spoken, rather than sung. It recalls a story that Loretta told in her second memoir, about a serious illness she suffered when she was a year old, and a pair of red shoes that Loretta’s desperate mother shoplifted because she couldn’t afford to buy them for her daughter. The poignancy of the story is totally lost due to White’s cluttered production which seems to be competing with, rather than accompanying, Lynn’s storytelling. It’s my least favorite track on the album, along with “Portland, Oregon”, a duet with Jack White that on which Loretta strays farther from her country roots than she ever had in the past. This track is not to my taste at all; it was downright jarring the first time I listened to it, but I’m apparently in the minority since the song won a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 2005.

The remaining songs on the album are more conventional. It’s easy to imagine “God Makes No Mistakes” , “Women’s Prison”, “Trouble On The Line” and “Mrs Leroy Brown” appearing on Loretta’s 1970s albums, albeit in more polished form. “Family Tree” finds her treading familiar territory, confronting the other woman in her husband’s life. Unlike songs like “Fist City” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”, “Family Tree” reveals a more mature Loretta, who isn’t looking for a fight this time around:

No, I didn’t come to fight
If he was a better man I might
But I wouldn’t dirty my hands on trash like you.
Bring out the babies’ daddy, that’s who they’ve come to see
Not the woman that’s burnin’ down our family tree

In addition to the aforementioned Grammy for Best Country Collaboration for Vocals, Van Lear Rose won the 2005 Grammy for Best Country Album. It reached #2 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, making it Loretta’s highest charting album since 1977’s I Remember Patsy, which also peaked at #2. Van Lear Rose also reached #24 on the Billboard 200, becoming the most successful crossover album of Loretta’s career, despite receiving no support from mainstream country radio.

Though Van Lear Rose is not my favorite Loretta Lynn album, both Loretta and Jack White deserve credit for their willingness to experiment instead of delivering a phoned-in performance, as many artists at this stage of their careers might have done. I have never tried harder to like an album than I have with this one. I thought that with repeated listenings, I’d come to appreciate it as much as everyone else seems to, but I’ve come to accept that many of the production choices are just not to my taste. If “Little Red Shoes” and “Portland, Oregon” could have been thrown out, and Owen Bradley brought back from the dead to produce the remaining tracks, I probably would have loved it. However, despite its flaws, it is an important entry in Loretta’s discography and stands as a testament to the fact that it’s never too late to break the mold and experiment a little.

Van Lear Rose is readily available from Amazon and iTunes.

Grade: B-

Single Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘The Pill’

Continuing her style of writing about topics that were considered controversial and taboo among her mostly-conservative fan base, Loretta Lynn took to singing the virtues of the birth control pill for her 1975 hit, ‘The Pill’.  Although birth control pills were made available to the public in 1960, it was more than a decade later that they became widely used in rural areas – to the people presumably listening to Loretta Lynn hits.  Loretta has even said that countless doctors have praised her song, saying it did more to highlight the pill’s availability than all the pamphlets and other literature that had been sent out.

As was the case with several Loretta Lynn hits, ‘The Pill’ was banned by country stations across the nation, and preachers (especially in the south) took to bashing the song in their Sunday sermons.  All this talk only further piqued the public’s curiosity and the album the song came from, Back to Country, was soon flying off the shelves.  Because of the ban, ‘The Pill’ failed to crack the top spot, peaking at a respectable #5 in 1975.  Sensing this controversy might be the case, MCA held the song for nearly 3 years before including it on an album release.  Loretta actually recorded the song in 1972, but the label had held it over.

The self-penned tune kicks off with a snazzy steel guitar lick, now a signature of Loretta Lynn’s sound.  The steel is the driving instrument in the song, but producer Owen Bradley employs a subtle keyboard and rhythm section to give it a chugging pace.  The narrator in the song has been having babies for years while the man is out ‘having all his fun’.  Comparing herself to a chicken and their home to a hatchery, she’s telling her husband she’s ‘tearing down this brooder house’.  We find her singing of all the sexy clothes she’ll be wearing now that her figure will be back to normal, but the biggest outcry from purists perhaps comes from the song’s final verse, in which the woman is looking forward to a night of loving, knowing that getting pregnant isn’t an issue, she sings:

It’s getting dark, it’s roosting time. tonight’s too good to be real
Aw but Daddy don’t you worry none, ’cause Mama’s got the pill

Even though it failed to top the charts, ‘The Pill’ is to this day one of Loretta Lynn’s signature hits, and stands as her highest charting single on the pop charts, charting at #70 from unsolicited airplay.  The controversial nature of these kinds of songs didn’t hurt Loretta Lynn’s commercial success any either.   She would end the 1970s as the most successful female artist in the genre, and eventually be named the Artist of the Decade by the ACM.  I like to think it was real, honest songs like ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’, ‘Rated X’, ‘One’s On The Way’, and ‘The Pill’ that solidified her position as the premier vocalist and ambassador of her generation.

Grade: A+

‘The Pill’ is available on several Loretta Lynn compilations, and can be purchased digitally from amazon.

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’

Loretta’s sixth studio album was released on Decca in September 1966. It marks a significant advance in her career, as her first album to hit #1 on the country album chart. Produced by Owen Bradley, there is no doubt that this record is solid country from the first note to the last. Loretta wrote half the twelve tracks, mostly without assistance.

The title track is one of Loretta’s classic hits, a confident rebuttal to a woman making moves on Loretta’s husband, and one of my personal favorites, as she firmly declares:

Sometimes a man’s caught lookin’
At things that he don’t need
He took a second look at you
But he’s in love with me

This song strikes the perfect attitude, balancing awareness of male frailty with faith in love, and like many of Loretta’s best songs, drawn from real-life experience (although not directly autobiographical – it was inspired by a couple at one of her shows). It was the only hit from the album, but it was a significant one, reaching #2.

Equally assertive is a sassy country cover of Nancy Sinatra’s then-current pop hit ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’, written by Lee Hazlewood. Loretta’s own ‘Keep Your Change’ is a cheerfully assertive up-tempo riposte to an ex wanting to crawl back; it is not as good as the title track but still entertaining and full of attitude as Loretta tells the guy she doesn’t want him back, and asks witheringly,

What happened to the scenery
That looked so good to you?
Did you get tired of the change you made –
Or did she get tired of you?

Not everything is assertive. The B-side of ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’ was the hidden gem ‘A Man I Hardly Know’ (covered a few years ago by Amber Digby). This song has a honky tonk angel as the protagonist, a woman seeking refuge from her heartbreak in the arms of strangers.

‘God Gave Me A Heart To Forgive’, which Loretta wrote with Bob and Barbara Cummings (her only co-write on the album), shows a more vulnerable side to Loretta as she plays the long-suffering wife of a husband who stays out all night leaving his wife lonely at home, with the attitude of the title track sadly wanting; the protagonist of this song is more of a doormat:

You brought me every misery that there is
But God gave me a heart to forgive

You hurt me as much as you can
Then you tell me that you’re just weak
Like any other man
Still you’re the only reason that I live
And God gave me a heart to forgive

Although it wasn’t written by Loretta, Bobby Harden’s ‘Tippy Toeing’ (about getting a restless baby to sleep) feels autobiographical for the mother-of-six, and has a bouncy singalong nursery rhythm perfectly suited to the subject matter.

An interesting inclusion is Loretta’s take on the then unknown Dolly Parton’s plea to a lover planning to leave, ‘Put It Off Until Tomorrow’, which is rather good, with Loretta’s voice taking on more vibrato than usual. This may be one of Dolly’s first cuts as a writer. Dolly’s own version of the song was released as a single in 1966 (and appeared on her debut album the following year), but failed to chart. Loretta’s ‘The Darkest Day’ is a less memorable look at a woman left by her man.

Another fine song with a classic feel is ‘Talking To The Wall’, about a woman who leaves the man she believes is not happy with her, and is trying not to admit she regrets it:

But I might as well be talking to the wall
When I tell myself I’m not missing you at all

It was customary for country artists to record covers of current and recent hits by other artists in the 1960s, and the songwriter Warner Mack had his own hit with the song in 1966 (#3 on Billboard). Loretta also chose to cover one of his older hits, the pained ‘Is It Wrong (For Loving You)’, which was a top 10 hit in 1957.

‘It’s Another World’ is a not very memorable perky love song, a cover of a hit for Loretta’s mentors the Wilburn Brothers (#5 in 1965), with double tracked vocals retaining the duo feel of the original. A much better Wilburn Brothers cover is their 1966 top 10 hit ‘Someone Before Me’, a classic style lovelorn ballad here given a gender switch in the lyrics so that it is about a woman loving a man still hung up on his ex, which is another one I like a lot. It was a top 10 hit for the Wilburn Brothers in 1966, but Loretta’s version is superior:

Someone before me still turns you inside out
When we’re together she’s all you talk about
You’re always wanting me to do the things she used to do
Someone before me sure left her mark on you

I’ve tried to get inside your heart but I don’t have a chance
Now I can see she’s still on your mind with every little glance
You’re living on old memories
My love can’t get through to you
Someone before me sure left her mark on you

The Osborne Brothers recorded a beautiful version the following year for their album Modern Sounds Of Bluegrass Music.

Loretta at her peak has the reputation of being more of a singles artist than an albums one, but this classic album is pretty solid throughout and one which I really enjoy. It has been re-released in its entirety on a budget CD and is also available digitally.

Grade: A-

Spotlight Artist: Loretta Lynn (Part 1)

Our look back at the legends of country music continues as we turn the spotlight on Loretta Lynn.

The story of her hardscrabble origin and subsequent rise to fame is well known. She was born in Van Lear, Kentucky, on April 14 in 1934 or 1935. (There is conflicting information about the year of her birth, but most evidence points to 1934 being the correct year). The second of eight children, she grew up in extreme poverty, “in a cabin on a hill” without electricity or running water. Her father was a coal miner. When she was only 13 years old, she married Oliver “Mooney” Lynn (always referred to as “Doolittle” or “Doo” by Loretta), and gave birth to four of her six children before she was 19.

A year after their marriage, in an effort to break away from poverty-stricken Kentucky, Mooney relocated his young family to Washington State, breaking a promise he’d made to Loretta’s father not to take her too far from home. Mooney’s shortcomings as a husband and father were considerable; however, it was he who recognized Loretta’s potential and practically forced her into the music business. He bought her a $17 guitar for her eighteenth birthday and told her to learn how to play it. She did, and soon was singing in honky-tonks on weekends for $5 a night. Eventually she earned a guest spot on Buck Owens’ television show, which originated from Tacoma, Washington. A wealthy Canadian businessman named Norm Burley saw the show and offered to finance Loretta’s career. He formed a label called Zero Records, and signed Loretta, promising to release her from her contract if she ever managed to secure a deal from a major label.

The Lynns traveled to Los Angeles for Loretta’s first recording session, where she recorded her own compositions “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl” and “Whispering Sea”, which became the A and B sides of her first single. The Lynns themselves mailed out 3,500 copies of the record to radio stations, and traveled by car down the west coast to promote it, visiting radio stations along the way. By July 1960, “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl” had reached #14 in Billboard, and Loretta Lynn was on her way to Nashville.

In October 1960, Loretta made her debut appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and was such a hit with the both the audience and the Opry management, she was invited back for 17 consecutive weekends. She would become an Opry member in 1962. She signed a songwriting and management contract with the Wilburn Brothers, who offered her a spot on their syndicated television show. They also took a demo recording of one her songs to Owen Bradley and secured a six-month contract with Decca Records. Bradley wasn’t initially interested in signing Loretta; he felt she sounded too much like Kitty Wells, who was already on the Decca roster. Bradley was interested in the song on the demo, but the Wilburns would not allow him to have it unless he offered Loretta a contract. Bradley relented and signed Loretta to Decca. The song on the demo, “Fool #1” went on to become a smash pop hit for Brenda Lee.

Loretta’s first release for Decca, “I Walked Away From The Wreck” did not chart, but her next release, Johnny Mullins’ “Success” reached #6. The vast majority of her subsequent releases reached the Top 20, and most of those reached the Top 10. She hit the #1 spot for the first of 16 times in 1966 with “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)”, which she co-wrote with her sister Peggy Sue Wells. The album of the same title became the first by a female country artist to earn gold certification from the RIAA.

In 1970, Loretta released the autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, which became her signature hit. Unlike anything she’d previously recorded, it told the story of her humble origins in Kentucky. It became her fourth #1 single and second gold album. Also that year she recorded a duet with Conway Twitty called “After The Fire Is Gone”, which also went to #1 and earned a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Her partnership with Twitty was one of the most successful, if not the most successful, duos in country music history.

Album Review: Easton Corbin – ‘Easton Corbin’

I’ve become somewhat jaded in the past few years and no longer expect to like new artists trying to break into mainstream country music. Country radio has gotten so bad, I haven’t listened to it in over two years. As a result, I’m not always up to date on the latest crop of new artists. I’d read a little bit about Easton Corbin on some of the other country blogs, but after hearing about his traditionalist leanings, I avoided reading too much about him until I could hear his music for myself and form my own opinion.

I initially cringed upon learning that Corbin’s debut single was titled “A Little More Country Than That”, expecting it to have come directly out of Jason Aldean’s playbook. It was a relief to learn that this wasn’t another redneck anthem. Instead of a defiant declaration of Southern pride and boasting about his tractor and pickup truck, Corbin makes use of the imagery of rural living while making a declaration of love (and possibly a proposal) to his sweetheart. In some respects, it is reminiscent of the Charley Pride classic “All I Have To Offer You Is Me”. Clearly tailor-made for radio, it’s a pleasant if somewhat fluffy song with slightly cliched lyrics. Written by Rory Lee Feek, Don Poythress, and Wynn Varble, it’s not a song that makes the listener stop in his or her tracks and listen, but it’s better than what is typically offered on country radio these days.

The album was produced by Carson Chamberlain, who has also produced Mark Wills and Billy Currington, but I won’t hold that against him since he has written some of my favorite Alan Jackson songs. Chamberlain had a hand in writing six of the album’s eleven songs, while Easton himself co-wrote four. The production choices are stellar; I can’t remember the last time I heard the pedal steel featured so prominently on a mainstream artist’s debut release. Corbin and Chamberlain don’t pander to radio’s current pop leanings and wisely avoids the production excesses that have marred so many contemporary country releases.

Corbin has been criticized for sounding too much like George Strait, and the similarities in their vocal styles is undeniable. Many of the songs, such as “Someday When I’m Old” and “Don’t Ask Me About A Woman” sound as if they came from the Strait catalog. “Someday When I’m Old”, written by Nashville tunesmiths Chris Lindsey, Aimee Mayo and Troy Verges is my favorite song on the album and “A Lot To Learn About Livin'” written by Liz Hengber, Sonny LeMaire and Clay Mills, is an example of a beach song done properly. Kenny Chesney, please take note. On the other hand “I Can’t Love You Back” doesn’t quite work. The lyrics are somewhat problematic and a bit confusing:

Girl, I love you crazy
It comes so easy, after all we had
I could love you with all my heart
But the hardest part is
I just can’t love you back

The first time I heard the chorus, it didn’t make sense to me. I thought why can’t he love her back, thinking that “love you back” meant “love you in return.” It wasn’t until the second verse that I finally realized that the protagonist’s love interest is gone, and Easton is lamenting that he can’t bring her back, which might have been a better way to phrase the sentiment.

Overall, the album is pleasant, but not particularly memorable. The material is mostly lightweight and the album would have benefited from the inclusion of one or two more substantial songs, as well as a little more variety in tempo. Corbin will also have to develop a more distinctive vocal style in order to avoid being dismissed as a George Strait wannabe. I have no doubt that he can do this; after all, Clint Black was mistaken for Merle Haggard when his first single hit the airwaves, and Owen Bradley was reluctant to sign Loretta Lynn because she sounded too much like Kitty Wells. That didn’t stop Black or Lynn from successfully developing their own styles. If Corbin can do the same, and can find some weightier material the next time around to build upon this solid debut, he has the potential to become a huge star in his own right.

Grade: B