My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Russ Reeder

Album Review: Gene Watson – ‘Old Loves Never Die’

oldlovesAlthough his name is rarely mentioned as one of the leaders of the New Traditionalist movement, Gene Watson was among the relatively small number of artists that stayed true to country music’s roots while the rest of the genre was deeply entrenched in Urban Cowboy pop. 1981’s Old Loves Never Die was about as out of touch with the mainstream trends of the day as it could get, and was as tradtional as the music that Ricky Skaggs and George Strait — two artists usually named as the era’s holdouts against the trend toward pop — were making at the time.

Co-produced by Gene with Russ Reeder, Old Loves Never Die wasn’t a huge seller — it peaked at #57 on the albums chart — but it has the distinction of producing two of his best remembered hits, “Speak Softly (You’re Talking To My Heart)” and “Fourteen Carat Mind”, his only chart-topper. The latter, which was written by the great Dallas Frazier with Larry Lee, was released in October and reached #1 in January 1982. It spent 19 weeks on the chart altogether. “Speak Softly” wasn’t quite as big a hit, but it still charted at a respectable #9.

In keeping with the standard practice of the time, only two singles were released from the album. “Fourteen Carat Mind” and “Speak Softly” are hands down the album’s two best songs, but I also quite liked the title track, which could easily have been another hit single, and “Nothing About Her Reminds Me of You”, which is sort of in the same vein as Merle Haggard’s “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)” — the protagonist has moved on to a new relationship and though his new partner may not be the love of his life, at least she isn’t breaking his heart the way his ex did.

Although I enjoyed all ten of the album’s songs, the production is a bit dated on some of its ballads. The vocal choruses are more restrained here than on some of Watson’s earlier projectes, but the keyboard arrangements on “Till Melinda Comes Around”, “Lonely Me” and “The Sun Never Comes Up” betray the album’s age.

Unfortunately, Old Loves Never Die has never been released on compact disc or as a digital download. Used vinyl copies are available, but most modern music fans probably won’t hear this album in its entirety until one of the European reissue labels decide to dust it off and give it another chance in the marketplace. If and when that happens, it’s worth picking up a copy.

Grade: A –

Album Review: Gene Watson – ‘Between This Time And The Next Time’

between this time and the next timeIn 1981 Gene moved from Capitol to MCA, but his debut album for the new label was broadly similar to his earlier work. Gene co-produced with Russ Reeder.

There is a honey-sweet vocal on the title track, a tenderly seductive and quite unrepentant cheating song, involving two lovers whose weekly meetings seem too far apart:

Let’s take what this moment has to offer
Let’s fill every need we feel inside
Reach out and turn the lights down low
Then reach me every way you know
Let’s make sure before we leave that we’re both satisfied

It’s a beautiful performance and was a top 20 single. The song was written by Canadian country singer Ray Griff, who also recorded it.

The second and last single ‘Maybe I Should Have Been Listening’ is a wonderful regretful fiddle-led ballad as a man is haunted by memories of his ex, lamenting

Here you are back on my mind where you stay quite a lot
Bringing back all the old memories I thought I’d forgot
I just keep finding you with me and I don’t know why

Now I know leaving means one goes and one stays behind
I can’t escape from you no matter how hard I try
Maybe I should have been listening when you said goodbye

This one didn’t quite make it into the top 20. Both singles are excellent songs and recordings, and deserved to do much better.

The sardonic mid-tempo ‘I’m Telling Me A Lie’ finds another protagonist struggling with his memories of an ex in the aftermath of a breakup, when drinking away the pain by day won’t let him sleep at night.

The wistful New York-set ‘Come Back Home’, written by Joe Allen and Dave Kirby, is beautifully sung but with a slightly intrusive string arrangement. Once again, Gene plays the part of the one left behind, as he pleads with her to return. ‘Down Here On My Knees’ is another lovely, delicately sung ballad, with Gene begging his discontented wife not to leave. The steel-laced ‘Even At Its Worst It’s Still The Best’ has another up-and-down relationship, but one that is still just about hanging together.

Written by Tom T. Hall, ‘Three’ is the story of a newly wed couple entering on parenthood only to meet with tragedy. The anxious father’s chain smoking as she endures a labor neither she nor the baby survives has perhaps dated a little, but the story’s emotion is timeless and heartwrenching, as the narrator is left “a lonely One who wanted to be Three’. Last month we mentioned several times that Tom T Hall was a better writer than singer, and this is the perfect combination of song and singer with Gene adding further levels of emotion through his vocal.

‘The Look In Baby’s Eyes’ is a sultry ballad with a slightly dated Nashville Sound production but a great vocal.

As usual with Gene, the ballads dominate (not a bad thing since he is so good at them). There are only a couple of more up-tempo numbers.

‘We Got A Bad Thing Goin’’ is about a hookup between Gene’s bad guy who ‘ain’t never had a job’ and plans on robbing the local bank and a wealthy woman. Written by Wayne Carson and Don Tankersley, it’s a bit out of character with Gene’s usual romantic ballads, and the backing vocals are dated, but it is quite entertaining.

The Wynn Stewart song ‘I’m Gonna Kill You’ raises the tempo with its murderous threat to a wife with “cheating bedroom eyes”, who he intends to “bury … in a box about half your size”. I love almost everything Gene Watson sings, but here he sounds a little too cheerful, where someone like Johnny Paycheck would have made it genuinely threatening.

This is a great album. Sadly, it has never been released digitally or on CD, but if you have access to other formats, it’s well worth getting hold of. Hopefully it will get a re-release as several of Watson’s other albums have done.

Grade: A

Album Review: Gene Watson – ‘Love in the Hot Afternoon’

hotafternoonGene Watson’s major label debut appeared in 1975. Produced by Russ Reeder, it gave him his first taste of commercial success when two of its singles, the title track and “Where Love Begins” reached the Top 5. Preceding these two hits was “Bad Water” a remake of a song he had previously recorded during his days as an indie artist. The re-recording for Capitol reached the lowe rungs of the chart, peaking at #87. It’s one of my least favorite tracks on the album, in no small part due to the instrusive vocal chorus that was typical of the era. This is a problem that is pervasive throughout the album, although not nearly to the extent as “Bad Water”.

Despite the choruses, Love in the Hot Afternoon is alot more rootsy than most country music at the time. There is plenty of fiddle and steel throughout, although some of the tracks sound like they were produced by Billy Sherrill; “Through The Eyes of Love” is a ballad that sounds like something David Houston might have recorded and the decidedly more country-sounding “Harvest Time” has a melody that is at times similar to Tanya Tucker’s “Old Dan Tucker’s Daughter.” Meanwhile, the excellent “Where Love Begins” sounds like something out of Conway Twitty’s catalog.

The album’s highlight is the title track, a steamy waltz about an illicit love affair on a hot New Orleans afternoon. I also particularly enjoyed “This Just Ain’t No Good Day For Leaving”, a Dallas Frazier and Sanger D. Shafer composition that deserved to be a single, and “This Is My Year For Mexico”, a tune about a couple that has grown apart but has stayed together out of habit.

Nearly forty years after its release, these songs hold up well for the most part. The production is admittedly a bit dated, and I’d like to hear these songs stripped of the choruses, a la Naked Willie. However, every album is a product of its time and that is something that needs to be kept in mind when listening to vintage recordings.

Love in the Hot Afternoon is available on a 2-for-1 CD along with Paper Rosie, courtesy of the British label Hux. Both albums are worth picking up.

Grade: A