My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Randy Albright

Album Review: The McCarters – ‘The Gift’

The McCarters were three young sisters from near Dolly Parton’s neck of the woods. The Gift, released in 1988 was truly a revelation resembling nothing else being played on the radio at that time. One critic described the album as the sequel to the Trio album that Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt had not gotten around to making yet.

High praise indeed and based on this album, the McCarters seemed to have a bright future ahead. The shimmering sibling harmonies and brilliant acoustic settings made this album something special and unique. I should note that this is NOT a bluegrass album, although I would not be surprised to hear the songs on bluegrass radio. With the exception of the piano and presence of drums, all of the instruments on the album are acoustic, played by such aces as Mark O’Connor (fiddle, viola, mandolin, mandola), Carl Jackson (acoustic guitar) and John Jorgenson (acoustic guitar, mandolin, mandocello). Jennifer McCarter was the lead singer on all songs, with younger twin sisters Lisa and Teresa providing the vocal harmonies.

The album opens up with “I Give You Music” a story ballad written by Dennis Adkins. This was the third single released from the album. It charted at a disappointing #28 (#16 in Canada).

Next up is “Timeless and True Love”, the debut single released in late 1987. Written by Austin Roberts, Charlie Black & Buzz Cason, the song soared to #5. The song is a very nice ballad featuring Mark O’Connor’s fiddle through the arrangement:

For mine is a timeless and true love
An endless river rollin’ on and on
Forever and ever for you love
Oh mine is a timeless and true love

Just look at how the mountains reach up to the sky
So strong against the hard winds as the years go by
My love is no less tender born of fire and steel
And the world could never change the way I feel

This is followed by a Bill Graham-Carl Jackson-Buddy Landon collaboration “Flower In The Desert”, a mid-tempo ballad with some excellent fiddling by Mark O’Connor. The song is album track with strong Appalachian overtones.

Lola Jean Dillon was a successful songwriter who wrote several of Loretta Lynn’s big hits and co-wrote with L. E. White the funny Conway Twitty / Loretta Lynn duet “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly”; “Where Would That Leave Us” is not a humorous but a fine ballad about a relationship that seems to be the salvation of the singer.

“I Know Love” comes from the pens of Randy Albright, Mark D Sanders and Lisa Silver. The song is a another slow ballad, nicely sung, but I do not think the song is anything special; however the next track “The Gift” by Nancy Montgomery is indeed something special .

Darling let me tell you the way I truly feel
A simple explanation from a heart so real
I have been the whole world over and sailed a thousand seas
And still come back to you

[Chorus}
Now I believe that gold is not so precious or so real
For I Have Seen The Miracle of Love As It’s Revealed
And When You Hear This Song I Hope That You Will See
The gift I give to you, my love forever true

“The Gift” would be the biggest hit reaching #4 (#2 in Canada). After that it would be downhill, as it would be for the rest of this album, four more songs that fit nicely in context with the album.

The Gift appeared at one of those brief moments in history when something as retro sounding as this album could break through, if only momentarily. In 1989 the ‘New Traditionalist’ movement (in reality the new honky-tonk traditionalist movement) would have its leading avatars appear thus wiping out the market for The McCarters’ music. In fact after the first two singles, the market had already turned away from the McCarters. A second album would follow and then it was over.

I would give this album an A+, but as much as I enjoyed the album at the time it was released, I realized that it was an outlier and unlikely to be repeated.

Album Review: The Forester Sisters – ‘Perfume, Ribbon & Pearls’

The girls’ second album was released in 1986, recorded at Muscle Shoals with Terry Skinner and J L Wallace producing. It was not quite as successful as their debut, with only one hit single, but it is a strong effort overall.

The sole single, ‘Lonely Alone’, is a nice regretful ballad written by J D Martin and John Jarrard with a pretty melody, featuring Kim Forester on lead vocals and her sisters relegated to the chorus. The production now sounds a bit dated with synthesizer and strings, but it did well at the time, peaking at #2.

Kim also took the lead on three other songs, including ‘Heartache Headed My Way’, the mid-paced song which provides the album’s title. Written by Bob and Barbara Morrison, this should have been a single as it has an intriguing mix of youthful confidence and the willingness to take a few risks rather than mom’s good advice:

Mama get out those shiny black shoes and the dress you cut too low
Get out the perfume and ribbons and pearls and tell this girl what she should know
I’ m tired of wasting my youth and my time
On men going nowhere fast
The ones with neatly combed hair and striped ties
Their future’s as dull as their past

Yes, I’m looking for a hard time of romance and fun
And I’m hoping to find it tonight with someone
I’m looking for trouble and blues on the run
And a heartache’s headed my way
I’ll say
A heartache’s headed my way

I know I’ve got years yet to settle for less
For a home and a dog and a white picket fence
Roast in the oven and clothes on the line
And a life that’s full of good common sense
Forget everything you advised me to do
I need some excitement not a lesson or two
After it’s over I’ll listen to you
Mama please listen to me

‘Somebody’s Breakin’ A Heart’, written by the album’s producers, is well sung by Kim and has an interesting lyric about overhearing a couple breaking up, but the heavy beat of the arrangement makes it sound like filler. The up-tempo ‘Drawn To The Fire’ was written by a pre-fame Pam Tillis and Stan Webb; Pam actually released the song herself as the B-side of several of her Warner Bros singles in 1986-7.

June and Christy got one lead vocal each. June sings ‘Heartless Night’, a fine song by Craig Bickhardt and Michael Brook which was later covered by Baillie & The Boys. Christy takes on the Supremes’ Motown classic ‘Back In My Arms Again’; it is pleasant enough filler although with little country about it.

The sisters’ strongest vocalist, Kathy, took lead on the remaining four tracks, including the best track. ‘That’s Easy For You To Say’ is a beautiful measured ballad written by Bob McDill and Paul Harrison, a gentle reproach to the man breaking her heart:

You say “sit down” and you reach for my hand
You’re trying your best to be kind
You say “it’s goodbye but it’s all for the best
These things just happen sometimes”
You tell me that life will go on
And we’ll both forget before long

Well that’s easy for you to say
With the lonely nights that I’m gonna face
It’s so hard to see it that way
You tell me that we’ll both be okay
That’s easy for you to say

‘Blame It On The Moon’ is quite nice and opener ‘100 % Chance Of Blue’ is okay. The Randy Albright song ‘You Were The One’ is pretty sounding with a pointed message to an ex.

The album as a whole makes for very pleasant listening.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Alan Jackson – ‘The Bluegrass Album’

the bluegrass albumDisappointingly, it seems as though Alan Jackson may be at the end of his hitmaking career, with the poor performance of the singles from his fine last album. But unlike many fading stars, Alan has not tried trimming his music to fit the latest trends, rather he is taking the opportunity to experiment with some deliberately less commercial forms of country music, with a religious album earlier this year, and now his long-awaited bluegrass album. His collaboration with Alison Krauss some years ago was a disappointment because it wasn’t bluegrass (or very interesting); this one is very definitely the real thing – pure bluegrass, with some excellent songs from one of the most reliable artists around.

Sensitively produced by longtime producer Keith Stegall and Alan’s songwriter nephew Adam Wright, with most of the songs written by Alan in traditional bluegrass style, the result is the delight I had hoped for when I first heard of the project. A solid bluegrass band, including star names Sammy Shelor on banjo, Rob Ickes on dobro and Adam Steffey on mandolin, plays beautifully throughout, with Don Rigsby and Ronnie Bowman providing harmonies and backing vocals. The tempo is generally slow to medium with no real barn-burning numbers, which is the only slight disappointment – but the music we do get is all so good we can’t really complain.

Most of the songs were specially written for this album, and show Alan has lost none of his creativity. He revives one of his older songs. ‘Let’s Get Back To Me And You’; this seemed like a throwaway in 1994 (on Who I Am), but the acoustic arrangement gives it new life and I much prefer it to the uninspired-sounding original.

I really like the reflective opener ‘Long Hard Road’, in which a man considers his mistakes and sins. This road is metaphorical, but in ‘Blacktop’ Alan recalls childhood on an old dirt road, and his pleasure when it was replaced with a modern surface.

‘Mary’ is a touching love song to a beloved wife with a warm vocal; it sounds very like something Don Williams would have recorded in his heyday, and Alan sounds rather like Don vocally here, too. ‘Tie Me Down’ offers the voice of a rambler persuaded to settled down when he meets that one special girl, and is another nice song.

The slow inspirational ‘Blue Side Of Heaven’ is written from the viewpoint of a dying man addressing his loved one, and has a very pretty melody and tender vocal. ‘Blue Ridge Mountain Song’ is a touching story song about true love, discovered young, and sustained alone forever by the bereaved husband after her death far too soon.

‘Appalachian Mountain Girl’ picks up the tempo, and lyrically sounds as though it could be a long-lost traditional number rather than one of Alan’s newly penned contributions.

Adam Wright composed another song sounding like an authentic old song in the rhythmic and ironic ‘Ain’t Got Trouble Now’, which is highly enjoyable. Adam and wife Shannon wrote the resigned but thoughtful ‘Knew All Along’ about coming to terms with the death of a parent.

‘Way Beyond The Blue’ is a bluesy number written by Mark D Sanders, Randy Albright and Lisa Silver. A cover of the Dillards’ ‘There Is A Time’ (from the iconic Andy Griffith Show) is one of the more up-tempo tracks, and while pleasant and a nice change of pace, is actually one of the less memorable moments for me. A plaintive ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’ is taken at the original waltz-time tempo, and unexpectedly interrupted by a rundown of Alan’s thanks to the musicians and others involved with making the record.

An unusual but very welcome choice of cover is an intimate version of John Scott Sherril’s ‘Wild And Blue’, best known from John Anderson’s hit version from the early 80s. Alan’s version is far tamer, sounding almost cosy compared to Anderson’s raw intensity, but the lovely acoustic arrangement and Alan’s kindly vocal (nicely backed by the harmony singers) emphasize the safe harbour the protagonist offers his troubled lover, where Anderson’s edgier vocal interpretation gave the woman’s desperation a more central role.

Releasing the record on Alan’s own ACR Records with distribution by EMI has allowed Alan free reign artistically, which is excellent news for the discerning listener. The artwork, however, while quite stylish, comes across as cheap, with no photographs apart from one tiny one of the entire team in the recording studio on the back page of the booklet in which no one is actually identifiable – you can only guess which Alan in by the hat, and good luck with anyone else. Luckily, it’s the music that matters, and this is an excellent, timeless album which offers solace for those fleeing in horror from today’s commercial mainstream. It is an essential purchase.

Grade: A