My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Rayburn Anthony

Album Review: Vern Gosdin – ‘Time Stood Still’

Vern’s final studio album for Compleat was released in 1985. Produced by Vern with Robert John Jones, a songwriter probably best known for the Kendalls’ big hit ‘Thank God For The Radio’, the sound is more subtle and less dated than his previous albums. There are still some string arrangements, but far less prominent than before, while Vince Gill and Beverly Gosdin (who was, I believe, Vern’s wife at the time) provide backing vocals.

Sadly, Time Stood Still was not nearly as successful as its predecessors. The lead single, an emotive and completely convincing cover of the heartbreak honky tonk classic ‘Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)’ with great harmonies and piercing fiddle, peaked at a disappointing #20. Country radio was just beginning to be more receptive to traditional sounds than it had been in the past few years, but this record may have come just a little too soon.

The mid-tempo ‘I Know The Way To You By Heart’ was the record’s only other top 40 hit. It is a drifter’s wistful reminiscence and decision to go home (possibly addressed to mother rather than lover), and is a good song if not in Vern’s trademark style:

I’ve slept in some cars and I’ve slept in some bars
And I’ve slept in the arms of some fast falling stars
But there ain’t been one dream that’s come true
Since I left home, since I left you

In the cold just one memory is warm
And in the dark just one light comes on
Though I’m lost there’s one thing I’ve found
I know the way to you
I know the way to you by heart

I know what I’m feeling for you is real
Like the palm of my hand on this old steering wheel
And I’m still on the road I’ve come down
But thanks to you I’m homeward bound

While it wasn’t a big hit, the single did make Billboard writer Edward Morris’s list of the ten best of that year.

The three last singles all performed dismally and well below their deserts, perhaps because Vern was about to jump ship and the label to fold. The simple but beautifully interpreted ballad ‘It’s Only Love Again’ is something of a hidden gem, written by Tim Krekel. ‘Was It Just The Wine’ has Vern anxiously questioning whether his new love was just a drunken fling or rebound, and is another superb vocal on an excellent song, written by Vern with Buddy Cannon.

Was it just a memory of someone before you telling me we’re through?
Did I hold your body close to mine?
Did we make promises till the end of time?
Did we fall in love?
Or was it just the wine?

Finally, the absolutely lovely title track (penned by co-producer Jones) has an understated vocal and perfectly judged phrasing about the complete devastation of true love turned to heartbreak:

You made my heart complete
Then broke it at my feet
Time stood still
When you said goodbye

And now the seasons don’t change
The days have no names
Today’s like yesterday
I lean on the wine
But your memory, like time,
Baby, won’t slip away

To get you off my mind
Just takes a little time
Baby, time stood still
When you said goodbye

Beverly comes in effectively echoing Vern in the last chorus in the same style as Janie Fricke’s work with him. This is a stunning performance which stands up well against Vern’s classics and really didn’t deserve to be ignored by country radio.

‘For A Minute There’ is another excellent song with a melancholic feel song along the same lines as his later ‘Alone’, if not quite as intense. Written by Max D Barnes with Beverly, it has the protagonist briefly imagining losing a lover, with a beautifully measured, precise vocal:

For a minute there I thought my world was ending
For a minute there I thought you said goodbye

‘What A Price I’ve Paid’ is even better, a mournful, steel-laced lost love ballad written by Vern and Max D Barnes which stands comparison with Vern’s best work. A lovelorn Vern just can’t take his friends’ advice to move on:

If time does the healing
It ain’t done a thing for me yet
They say that love is life
And I guess they’re right this time
I nearly lost my mind when I lost you
And I was so afraid I’d never find my way
God, what a price I’ve paid to love you

‘Rainbows And Roses’ is a pretty sounding but lyrically unremarkable and slightly old fashioned love song, written by Max D Barnes and Rayburn Anthony. The mid-tempo ‘Two Lonely Hearts (Out Of Hand)’, written by Vern with Buddy Cannon and producer Robert John Jones, is about a couple falling in love with a girl met in a bar room, dancing to the jukebox, and Vern has a bit of a growl adding bite.

The hymn ‘Jesus Hold My Hand was repeated from If Jesus Comes Tomorrow ( What Then)?, Vern’s Christian album released on Compleat in 1984. It’s not as good as the title track of the latter, and feels a bit out of place here, but is a pleasant enough listening experience with solid piano-led backing and churchy backing vocals.

Vern’s relative lack of commercial success at this time was countered by the respect of his peers and the industry. He may have been in his fifties and have enjoyed a relatively low-level career to date, but he was soon to get a new opportunity with Columbia. Time Stood Still has been overlooked as it produced no big hits, and is overshadowed by its successor, which was to bring Vern an unexpected late career boost and some of the finest country music ever recorded. However, on its own merits there is some great stuff here. It was re-released on American Harvest and later on Vern’s own VGM Records in 1998, so is easy to find.

Grade: A-

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Favorite country songs of the 1970s, Part 8

Here are some more songs that I like; one song per artist, not necessarily his or her biggest hit. As always, I consider myself free to comment on other songs by the artist.

Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” – Billy Joe “B.J.” Thomas (1975)
His biggest country hit reached #1 and also topped the pop charts. Despite his long-time appeal to country audiences this song was his first to chart country.

Next Time I Fall In Love (I Won’t)” – Hank Thompson (1971)
This song got to #15, Hank’s 59th chart hit. Hank never lost his vocal chops. Hank charted records from 1948 to 1983, a total of seventy-nine songs, including two top tens in “The Older The Violin, The Sweeter The Music” and “Who Left The Door To Heaven Open”. Hank Thompson was so highly regarded in his day that George Strait made one of his very few guest appearances on one of Hank’s albums.

Smooth Sailin’”/ “Last Cheater’s Waltz” – Sonny Throckmorton (1976)
Sonny wasn’t much of a singer and this record only reached #47. He was, however, one heck of a songwriter, and T. G. Sheppard took both of these songs into the top ten. His most famous copyright probably is “I Wish I Was Eighteen Again” which was a major hit for George Burns in 1980.

What Time of Day” – Billy ThunderKloud & The Chieftones (1975)
Billy and his group were native Indian musicians from Northwest British Columbia. This song reached #16, the biggest of their five chart hits.

“Midnight, Me and the Blues” – Mel Tillis (1974)
Just a song I happened to like, one of 24 top ten hits Mel would chart during the 70s. This song reached #2, one of twelve top ten hits on MGM. Mel had a long career in country music, with a recording career that saw chart records from 1958-1989, but he was never better than during his years with MGM.

It’s A Man’s World” – Diana Trask (1973)
Australian born singer, first charted in 1968 with “Lock Stock and Tear Drops.” This record reached #20, one of four top twenty hits.

“I’ve Got All The Heartaches I Can Handle” – Ernest Tubb (1973)
The last MCA/Decca chart hit for the legendary Texas Troubadour. This record only reached #93 for the then 59 year-old Tubb. His recording career was kaput by this time, but not his legacy. This wasn’t quite the end of his recording career as he charted several more songs on other labels, the most noteworthy being “Leave Them Boys Alone” (with Hank Williams, Jr. and Waylon Jennings) which reached #6 in 1983.

As long as there’s a honky-tonk, people will play “Set Up Two Glasses, Joe,” “Waltz Across Texas” and “Walking The Floor Over You.”

Delta Dawn” – Tanya Tucker (1972)
What else? Record World had this record reach #1 (Billboard #6/Cashbox #3). Tanya’s recordings through the end of 1974 are sometimes described as “American Gothic’s last stand.”

Sometimes” – Mary Lou Turner & Bill Anderson (1976)
This record reached #1 in early 1976, one of only two top ten records for Ms. Turner, both of them duets with “Whispering Bill” Anderson.

This Time I’ve Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me” – Conway Twitty (1976)
One of many #1 records Conway would enjoy during this decade. Yes, I know “Hello Darlin’“ was the biggie, but Conway had many records I liked better, including “I See The Want To In Your Eyes,” “I Can’t See Me Without You” and “How Much More Can She Stand.”

“Johnny One Time” – Kathy Twitty (1976)
This cover of a minor Willie Nelson hit works, but Kathy is not a compelling singer. The label on the 45 has her billed as ‘Jessica James.’ Kathy had three charting singles.

It’s a Heartache” – Bonnie Tyler (1978)
Raspy-voiced pop singer from Wales, this song reached #10 on the country charts, selling a million copies in the process.

Just When I Needed You Most” – Randy Vanwarmer (1979)
A few country stations gave this song some airplay, enabling it to reach #71 en route to selling a million copies.

“Until The End of Time” – Sharon Vaughn with Narvel Felts (1974)
Sharon isn’t a great singer and had much more success as a songwriter than as a performer. Narvel Felts, however, is a great singer and he salvages the record. This record was Sharon Vaughn’s only top 40 hit.

What Ain’t To Be Just Might Happen” – Porter Wagoner (1972)
Hard as it is to believe, this was Porter’s last solo top 10 recording, reaching #8 on Billboard and #6 on Cashbox. Another interesting record for Porter during this period is “The Rubber Room,” a record which Billboard failed to chart, but which spent seven weeks on Cashbox’s country chart (just missing the top 40).

When A Man Loves A Woman (The Way That I Love You)” – Billy Walker (1970)
Billy was never a dominant chart performer but he did have three consecutive singles reach #3 in 1970-71 and continued to have occasional top forty singles until 1975. In 1975, Billy signed with RCA–his short stint there produced “Word Games,” Billy’s last top ten single and one of my favorites.

Odds And Ends (Bits And Pieces)” – Charlie Walker (1974)
By 1974, it had been seven years since Charlie had a top 20 single. This was Charlie’s last charting song, dying at #66. The song and performance are quite effective, a remake of a Warren Smith hit from 1961 but by this time his recording career was completely dead.

If You Leave Me Tonight I’ll Cry” – Jerry Wallace (1972)
Jerry Wallace was more of a pop singer than a country singer. He had several huge pop/easy listening hits during the 1960s, but then hit lean times causing Jerry to re-launch his career as a country singer. This song got to #1 on all of the country charts, fueled by exposure on an episode of the popular television show Night Gallery.

Big Blue Diamond” – Jacky Ward (1972)
Recorded on the Target label, this song only got to #39 although it was really huge in some markets. This song landed him at Mercury where he had some bigger hits. The original version of this song has not been available for many years and none of the remakes have the sizzle of the original.

I’m Already Taken” – Steve Wariner (1978)
An early version of a song Wariner had more success with fifteen years later. This charted at #63, the first of many chart hits for Steve Wariner.

“Bottle of Wine” – Doc & Merle Watson (1973)
Legendary blind guitarist Doc Watson only charted twice, both times accompanied by his equally talented son Merle (1949-85). Anyone who has not heard Doc Watson truly has a gaping hole in their musical education. Fortunately, many of his fine albums remain in print.

The Old Man and His Horn” – Gene Watson (1977)
This is absolutely my favorite Gene Watson song, although it’s close between this song and 75 others. Gene was never quite the chart presence a singer of his enormous talent deserved, but he had a pretty strong run of top 10 records from 1975 to 1984, with four records making it to #1 on Billboard, Cashbox or Record World. This wasn’t one of the bigger hits, reaching #11 on both Billboard and Cashbox, but its strong New Orleans feel makes it perhaps Gene’s most distinctive hit record. My recommendation for those who want to delve deeper into Gene’s music is … buy everything!

I’ll Still Love You” – Jim Weatherly (1975)
Much better known as a songwriter; Ray Price recorded one album of nothing but Jim Weatherly songs and another album of mostly Jim Weatherly songs. Jim’s most famous song was “Midnight Train To Georgia,” which was a huge hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips. This was Jim’s only top 10 hit.

“The Happiness of Having You” – Jay Lee Webb (1971)
This was the last of three chart records for Loretta Lynn’s brother. Charley Pride would have a much bigger hit with this in 1976.

Dueling Banjos” – Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell (1973)
Featured in the movie Deliverance, this song was written by Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith during the mid 1950s. There is an interesting back story arising out of the movie, as the producers of the movie tried to use the song without paying Smith any royalties. Smith sued (after first trying to negotiate and being stonewalled) – Weissberg testified at trial that he originally learned the song from a record his grandfather had of Don Reno and Arthur Smith playing the tune!

“Ballad of A Hillbilly Singer” – Freddy Weller (1972)
Freddy Weller was part of Paul Revere and The Raiders from 1967-71. He launched his country career in 1969 with a #1 Cashbox hit in “Games People Play” and continued to have top 10 country success for the next four years. A very successful songwriter with songs such as “Jam Up Jelly Tight” and “Dizzy” both being big pop hits for Tommy Roe. His biggest country copyright was “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers” which was a big hit for both Bob Luman and Steve Wariner. John Michael Montgomery, Reba McEntire, George Jones and countless others have recorded his songs.

This song was somewhat of an insider joke, containing instrumental signatures of artists such as Roy Acuff, David Houston, Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb and Marty Robbins. Consequently it only reached #26, but I love the song. I would also commend “Perfect Stranger” to anyone who wants to check out Freddy Weller.

“Wild Side of Life” – Kitty Wells and Rayburn Anthony (1979)
Kitty Wells had no top forty hits during the 1970s. This was Kitty’s last charting record, her 81st chart hit. This record reached #60, and found Kitty interjecting answer verses into Rayburn’s recording of the old Hank Thompson hit. By the time this record hit, Kitty was 60 years old. In a few months she will turn 93. She still is the Queen of Country Music.

Country Sunshine” – Dottie West (1973)
Record World had this record reach #1, Cashbox and Billboard both had it at #2. If I recall correctly, this song was inspired by a Coca Cola commercial. Dottie was lost in the shuffle at RCA and later signed with United Artists where she had some huge hits on some of the most contrived material I’ve ever heard.

Una Paloma Blanca” – Slim Whitman (1977)
A cover of an international pop hit by the Dutch band George Baker Selection, Slim’s version did not chart, but it certainly showed off his vocal prowess.