My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: R B Greaves

Album Review: Sammy Kershaw – ‘I Won’t Back Down’

81qQyIJ7gjL._SX522_One of the greatest challenges facing veteran artists past their commercial peaks is gaining access to top-notch material. Last month’s I Won’t Back Down shows that even the great Sammy Kershaw is not immune from the problem. Although he didn’t receive as many accolades as his 90s contemporaries, he was one of that era’s best artists, as well as one of the most sincere in his love for country music. He resisted, for the most part, the pressure to go for big crossover hits, which makes some of his song choices for his latest album all the more puzzling; he seems to be trying to strke a balance between traditional and contemporary country, and I’m not quite sure why. This album isn’t going to get any attention from radio and as independent release, it’s unlikely that there any label “suits” trying to make a case for more pop-sounding material. As a result, I Won’t Back Down is less traditional than most of Kershaw’s catalog and definitely less interesting.

The album opens with a cover of R.B. Greaves’ 1969 pop and soul hit “Take a Letter, Maria” in which he has his secretary send a letter of separation to his unfaithful wife. Though such a concept may have worked 46 years ago, it is extremely dated in the modern era when few people have secretaries and correspondences are more typically done via text or social media. That being said, it’s one of the better songs on the album.

“Lay Back Down” is an attempt at a steamy love ballad that sounds like something that is competing for mainstream airplay. Country instrumentation is downplayed and it just doesn’t sound like something we’d expect to hear from Sammy Kershaw. “Don’t Move” is another contemporary number that is an ill fit for Kershaw. “Griffin’ and Chillin'” and “Fixer Upper” are at least more country sounding, but the lyrics are cliche-ridden and neither song ever rises above the level of filler. “Groove” has an annoying “hick hock” arrangement.

It isn’t all bad news; however, as there are a handful of decent tracks on the album. “I Had To Give That Up Too” is a traditional number reminiscent of George Jones’ “A Thousand Times a Day” and “I Can’t Wait To Waste a Little Time” sounds like something Sammy might have included on one of his major label albums. “Let’s Lay Here Forever”, one of Sammy’s original compositions, is very nice ballad that is the best song on the album.

Bottom line: I Won’t Back Down contains a few pretty good songs as well as a few pretty bad ones. The overall effect is an album that is bland. I hope that Sammy uses the time between now and his next project to seek out some stronger material.

Grade: B-

Album Review – Doug Stone – ‘Make Up In Love’

DougmakeupIn the aftermath of his 1994 Greatest Hits, Volume One Doug Stone’s career began to slow as his neo-traditional style was out of favor with the changing tides in mainstream country music. Following Faith In Me, Faith In You he suffered both a heart attack and mild stroke that resulted in a three-year break from recording and touring. Stone finally resurfaced in the fall of 1999 with Make Up In Love, his first and only project on Atlantic Records.

Under the direction of Wally Wilson Make Up In Love was far poppier then Stone was known for, which isn’t surprising in the Shania Twain dominated climate of the era. The mid-tempo fiddle and drum led title track was the lead single, peaking at #19. It’s an above average song, not exceptional, yet not horrible (I love the strong use of fiddle). I remember the DJ on our local country station playing the song and commenting how great it was to have him back on the airwaves.

A cover of R.B. Greaves’ “Take A Letter Maria,” released next, stalled at #45. Stone does an adequate job on the track, which retains a contemporary country feel, but the horns only accentuate the cheese factor of the overall track. The similarly produced “Surprise,” a forgettable piece of fluff, was the third and final single, peaking at #64.

Written by Wilson, Tom Shapiro, and Sharon Vaughn, “Oh Moon” is a pleasant mid-tempo rocker that exists as nothing more then filler, just like “One Saturday,” written by Neil Thrasher and Ed Berghoff. Steel ballad “Not Me” is closer to Stone’s trademark sound, although the production is a bit vanilla.

From there Make Up In Love does get better. “Room Without A View” has a lovely dose of dobro weaved through the forlorn tale of a man looking to run away from his mistakes and “Deeper Than That” sounds like it could’ve been on one of Stone’s early albums, only with a far stronger chorus. “The Heart Holds On” is a duet with Lesley Satcher that’s just okay, her voice comes off like a less polished Faith Hill and the combination of the two makes for interesting results to say the least. Bobby Braddock wrote the album’s closing number “The Difference Between A Woman and A Man,” and it’s far and away the strongest track on the whole project thanks to Braddock’s keen talent and Wilson’s tasteful yet traditional projection.

While there’s no doubting how good it was to see Stone recording again, Make Up In Love is an effort aimed squarely at country radio and it shows. The songs are mostly forgettable with diluted arrangements that strip the album of anything remotely interesting. But this isn’t a terrible album, just a below average attempt from an artist who’s shown what he can do with far stronger material.

Grade: B- 

Favorite country songs of the 1970s: Part 3

The 1970s were not my favorite decade for country music but it was the decade in which I did my largest amount of listening to country radio, having the good fortune to have such country giants as WSUN AM- 620 in St. Petersburg, FL, WHOO AM-1090 in Orlando and WCMS AM-1050 in Norfolk, VA for my listening pleasure, plus I could tune in WSM AM – 650 in Nashville at night. I did a lot of shift-work during this decade so my radio was on constantly.

    

This list is meant neither to be a comprehensive list of great country songs from the 1970s, nor any sort of ranking of records. It’s just a list of some songs that I liked and remember. See if you recall any of these records

Silver Wings” – Jim & Jon Hager (1970)

Since Hag issued the song as a B side (“Workin’ Man Blues” was the A side), this version is the only charting version of Hag’s classic. The Hager Twins do a nice job with the song, although it only reached #59 on the charts . Fans of Hee Haw will remember this duo well.

I Can’t Be Myself” – Merle Haggard (1970)

My all-time favorite Merle Haggard recording, this song went to #1 on Cashbox. Frankly, picking an all-time favorite Hag song is a hopeless proposition as he is the most consistently great artist of all time. Hag wrote about fifty #1 songs, the most of any songwriter. The flip side of this record “Sidewalks of Chicago” also received a lot of airplay and likely would be in my top ten favorite Haggard recordings.   Read more of this post