My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Teddy Wilburn

Album Review: Josh Turner – ‘I Serve A Savior’

Josh Turner’s deep religious faith has underpinned his career, from his astonishing debut single ‘Long Black Train’. It comes as no surprise that he has now recorded a gospel album – or indeed that ‘Long Black Train’ makes another appearance.

Josh wrote the title track with Mark Narmore. It is quite a nice song set to a gentle melody in which he sets out the story of salvation and affirms his own commitment. It is one of only two new songs on the album, although some choices are less familiar than others. The other is actually the album’s one misstep. ‘The River (Of Happiness)’ was written by Josh’s wife Jennifer and son Hampton, and the whole family sings along live (apart from Josh himself). The song itself is not bad. Unfortunately the children can’t all sing In tune.

My favorite track is a measured, deeply sincere, reading of the Hank Williams classic ‘I Saw The Light’, backed by the sweet harmonies of Sonya Isaacs. I also loved the less well known ‘I Pray My Way Out Of Trouble’, a charming song written by Loretta Lynn and Teddy Wilburn. It was recorded by the Osborne Brothers in the 1960s, and Bobby Osborne contributes harmonies to this version.

There is a solid version of spiritual ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ which allows Josh to showcase the furthest reaches of his deep voice. ‘Without Him’ Is from the Southern Gospel tradition and has an emotional soulful vocal.

Classic hymns ‘Great Is Your Faithfulness’, ‘How Great Thou Art’ and (the best of the three) ‘Amazing Grace’ are all performed with reverence to tasteful arrangements. A more unusual inclusion is the short (very short if you’re thinking of it as a song, at only 42 seconds) ‘Doxology’ composed In the 17th century by Bishop Ken. Josh sings this quite simply and completely acappella. Really, this ought to close the set, but a retread of the sunny ‘Me And God’ (from Your Man) follows it.

Impeccably sung, arranged and produced, if not very original, this is a fine record with appeal for fans of Josh Turner or Christian country music.

Grade: A-

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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 – ‘Fist City’

fist cityThe lead single of Loretta’s 1968 album Fist City, ‘What Kind Of Girl (Do You Think I Am)?’, a plaintive tune written by Loretta with Teddy Wilburn, was a top 5 single in 1967. It’s a nice song, but not one which is remembered today – perhaps because its subject matter now seems old fashioned, with the demure protagonist reproving her sweetheart for wanting to anticipate their wedding vows:

You want me to prove my love for you
I’m surprised that’s the way you’re askin’ me to
You’ve known me so long I can’t understand
What kind of a girl do you think I am?

What kind of a girl do you want for a wife?
Do you want a girl who knows that much about life?
Well, if that’s what you want
Take me out of your plan
What kind of a girl do you think I am?

What kind of a girl would do the things
You’re askin’ me to, without wedding rings
Is it what you must do to prove you’re a man?
What kind of a girl do you think I am?

It was also soon overshadowed by the title track, which became the record’s second single, and is one of Loretta’s classic self-penned hits. Positively aggressive in its takedown of a real life romantic rival who apparently had eyes for Loretta’s husband Doolittle, it typifies the sassy attitude and self-confidence which Loretta had previously exhibited on ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)’:

You’ve been makin’ your brags around town that you’ve been a lovin’ my man
But the man I love when he picks up trash, he puts it in a garbage can
And that’s what you look like to me and what I see’s a pity
You’d better close your face and stay out of my way
If you don’t wanta go to Fist City

If you don’t wanna go to Fist City you’d better detour round my town
Cause I’ll grab you by the hair of the head and I’ll lift you off of the ground
I’m not a sayin’ my baby’s a saint cause he ain’t
And that he won’t cat around with a kitty
I’m here to tell you gal to lay off of my man if you don’t wanna go to Fist City

Come on and tell me what you told my friends if you think you’re brave enough
And I’ll show you what a real woman is since you think you’re hot stuff
You’ll bite off more than you can chew if you get too cute or witty
You better move your feet if you don’t wanna eat a meal that’s called Fist City

Loretta’s vocal has an almost playful quality to it which belies the violence, and makes the song highly enjoyable.

‘I’m Shootin’ For Tomorrow’, another Lynn composition, is a vivacious mid-tempo number about writing off an old relationship:

Well I used to think you was the only man
But I’ve found out you’re not
So I’m a shootin’ for tomorrow
‘Cause today’s already shot
I used to keep the home fires burnin’
But I let ’em all go out

No song on this album is longer than three minutes; this one is under two minutes, as is ‘You Didn’t Like My Lovin’, written by Loretta with Teddy Wilburn and Joe “Red” Hayes. This one’s protagonist has happily moved on to someone new and sends her ex away with a flea in his ear. Loretta also covers Hayes’ country gospel classic a Satisfied Mind.

‘Somebody’s Back In Town’ was a hit for the Wilburn Brothers in 1959, although for some reason iTunes credits Loretta as their co-writer (I believe it was really Don Helms). This is an excellent song I know from Chris Hillman’s 1980s cover, and Loretta does the pained ballad justice with an emotional reading.

The best-known cover, Tammy Wynette’s recent #1 hit ‘I Don’t Wanna Play House’, is also sung very believably; if Loretta had got the song first I am sure she could have ahd a hit with it herself. Tammy and Norma Jean both had contemporary cuts of ‘Jackson Ain’t A Very Big Town’, a ballad about a newly wed in a small town where the dating pool is small and rumours fly.

Loretta’s brother Jay Lee Webb contributed ‘You Never Were Mine’, a nice resigned ballad about a breakup.

‘I’ve Got Texas In My Heart’ is a Western style tune which doesn’t really suit Loretta, and ‘How Long Will It Takes’ is s filler with dated backing vocals.

Overall, though, this is an excellent album from Loretta at her peak.

Grade: A

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Singin’ With Feelin”

Loretta+Lynn+Singin+With+Feelin+506836Loretta’s 1967 output included three albums: Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind) released in February, a duet album with Ernest Tubb released in June, and a second solo collection, Singin’ With Feelin’, released in October. It consists of the Top 10 single “If You’re Not Gone Too Long”, three songs written or co-written by Loretta, and the usual remakes of other artists’ hits.

Written by Wanda Ballman, “If You’re Not Gone Too Long” is an upbeat honky-tonker in which Loretta bits adieu to a lover who is about to embark on a journey. She tells him that she will try to remain faithful to him while he’s away, but she isn’t making any promises. The single had been released the previous May and reached #7 on the Billboard country singles chart. Equally good is Loretta’s original number “Bargain Basement Dress” that opens the album. This is yet another round in the battle of the sexes, a theme she would revisit several times and one that would always serve her well. Once again she’s hopping mad when her drunken husband comes crawling in the wee hours of the morning. This time he’s at least had the foresight to come bearing a gift, but Loretta wants no part of the peace offering. The song is very much in the same vein as “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” which is likely why Decca chose not to release it as a single so soon after that mega-hit. “Slowly Killing Me”, another Loretta original, finds her coming to terms with her husband’s philandering but in a less confrontational manner than we’ve come to expect from her. “I’ll Sure Come a Long Way Down”, which she co-wrote with Maggie Vaughan, finds her Loretta in a similar situation that Tammy Wynette faced in “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”. Had it not been for the similarities to Tammy’s song, which was released earlier the same year, this might have been a good single for Loretta.

As stated earlier, the album contains a number of remakes that had been hits for others. “Dark Moon” had been a huge crossover hit for country singer Bonnie Guitar in 1957. It was also covered by actress and pop singer Gale Storm that same year. Although Loretta sings it well, it doesn’t seem to be quite the right kind of song for her and it’s one of my least favorites on the album. She does much better with “Secret Love”, a 1953 hit for Doris Day, which Loretta also remade for her current album Full Circle. Also included are very nice versions of George Jones’ “Walk Through This World With Me” and Wynn Stewart’s “It’s Such A Pretty World Today”. Loretta’s managers Teddy and Doyle Wilburn are also represented: Teddy wrote “Wanted Woman”, a somewhat plodding ballad about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who ends up killing the object of her unrequited love, and Doyle wrote the filler track “A Place To Hide and Cry” that closes the album. Also falling into the filler category is “What Now”, which is not particularly memorable but noteworthy because it was co-written by a very young Becky Hobbs.

Overall, Singin’ With Feelin’ is a very good but not great album that doesn’t quite reach the high marks set by Blue Kentucky Girl and Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind). It is out of print but completists can find used vinyl copies online.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Hymns’

51xEM2vs-xL._SS280I find it difficult to evaluate albums of religious music, for the usual criteria really don’t apply. To start with, not all country music fans/listeners are necessarily Christian or even theistic, although a majority of country music listeners (and an even larger majority of bluegrass fans) are Christian. There simply will be a percentage of fans for who this music will be of no interest whatsoever.

Moreover, the concept of whether or not a song would make a good single for the artist is a really mundane consideration. I don’t that Loretta had any great expectations about commercial success when she recorded this album. Country artists of this era simply recorded religious music because their fans expected it of them and because they felt an inner need to record the songs of praise and salvation. The fact that some of these albums charted was a bonus, and this album reached #10 on the country charts.

This was Loretta’s first Gospel album of her career, although it would not be her last. The album was a mixture of a dozen Gospel and Inspirational music songs that had enjoyed sustained popularity over the years and few newer songs written by Lynn or other Nashville writers.

Hymns catches Loretta Lynn at the absolute peak of her vocal prowess. Her clear bell-like voice was ideally suited for these songs and the ‘Nashville Sound’ trappings do not detract from the songs. My copy of this album is on a cassette, so the song order as I have it may differ from the vinyl or CD versions of the album.

The album opens with a Loretta Lynn composition “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven”, a good song that Alison Krauss & the Cox Family covered nearly thirty years later. This is followed by a Mosie Lister song that has become a Gospel standard “Where No One Stands Alone” and the traditional “When They Ring Those Golden Bells”.
“Peace In The Valley” has been one of my favorite songs since I heard Red Foley sing it on network television back around 1959 or 1960. Loretta does a fine job with the song, although I would still recommend Red Foley’s version as the ultimate recording of the song.

Other tracks:

“If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again” (John Whitfield Vaughan)
“The Third Man” (Don Helms, Teddy Wilburn)
“How Great Thou Art” (Stuart Hine)
“Old Camp Meeting Time” (traditional)
“When I Hear My Children Pray” (Les Waldrop)
“In The Sweet Bye and Bye” (J.P. Webster, Sanfod Bennett)
“When I Learned To Pray” (Loretta Lynn)
“I’d Rather Have Jesus” (Traditional)

As you can tell by the song selections, Loretta breaks no new ground with this album. By Loretta Lynn standards Hymns is a rather sedate album, although well performed. It is nice to hear “How Great Thou Art” performed without it becoming an exercise in how long the final notes can be held without the singer collapsing from asphyxiation.

I am not going to give a letter grade to this album. If you are a believer and a fan of country music you should enjoy this album. If you are a non believer, you might not like this album, but then again, a non-believer Loretta Lynn fan might find this a worthwhile acquisition anyway.

Loretta Lynn would go on to record a number of other religious albums. These subsequent albums would be more rambunctious and exhibit more of Loretta’s personality. I would recommend listeners check out Who Says God Is Dead?

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Blue Kentucky Girl’

51i+XrdZe0L._SS280By 1965, with three consecutive Top 5 hits under her belt, Loretta Lynn was on a hot streak and well on her way towards becoming country music’s next big female star. “Blue Kentucky Girl”, which was written by Johnny Mullins, who had also penned her breakthrough hit “Success”, didn’t fare quite as well on the charts but still finished at a very respectable #7. It’s one of my favorites of Loretta’s early recordings and is interesting today for a couple of reasons, aside from just being a very good song: the use of the banjo was quite unusual for the era, when the lush Nashville Sound was at its peak. It’s also notable because we are still seeing Loretta in the role of the downtrodden woman, who is pining for her man who has been lured away — at least temporarily — by the bright lights of the city. She would continue in this vein for just a little while longer, but soon the public would get to see a more assertive side of Loretta, beginning with 1966’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” and continuing on with “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” and the following year’s “Fist City”.

She asserts herself just a little bit on “Night Girl”, a co-write with Teddy Wilburn, which is one of the album’s four Loretta-penned songs. This one casts her as girl from the wrong side of the tracks who has fallen for rich man, but not enough to sacrifice her pride. She knows he’s ashamed to be seen with her publicly and tells him on no uncertain terms that she’s not willing to partake in a clandestine relationship with him. The pair also wrote “Love’s Been Here and Gone”, a filler song about a dying relationship. Her solo composition “Farther to Go” is similarly unmemorable, although it contains some nice Hank Williams-ish steel guitar licks. The uptempo “Two Steps Forward”, another Loretta original, is quite good. This one finds her trying to work up the nerve — and not quite succeeding — in walking away from a bad relationship.

Like most country albums of the era, Blue Kentucky Girl relies heavily on remakes of other artists’ hits. Though some have been critical of this practice, it is important to remember why it was done. First and foremost, most major stars were releasing at least three albums a year. It would have been difficult to come up enough good original material to fill out that many albums. Covers had the advantage of being already familiar to record buyers, as well as the studio musicians, which meant that they had to spend little or no time learning the songs, which made them relatively inexpensive to record. Loretta does a beautiful job on Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” and Hank Locklin’s “Send Me The Pillow You Dream On”, both of which showcase her voice nicely. Harlan Howard’s “I Won’t Forget You” had been a monster hit for Jim Reeves the previous year, and shows that Loretta was more than capable of handling more polished material. She does an adequate job on George Jones’ “The Race Is On”, but doesn’t really leave her stamp on the song.

Barbara Mandrell once said in an interview that early in her career before she had enough of her own hits to fill out a show, she was advised only to perform hits sung by men, because audiences were bound to make too many comparisons of a woman singing another female artist’s song. Loretta’s cover of “Then and Only Then” illustrates this point nicely. Written by Bill Anderson, it was Connie Smith’s Top 5 follow-up to “Once a Day”. It’s not that Loretta’s version isn’t good – it is and if I’d never heard Connie Smith’s version it might actually be my favorite song on the album. But there is no escaping the fact that it doesn’t really sound much like a Loretta Lynn song and that it still sounds very much like a Connie Smith song, no matter who is singing it.

That being said, I’m not as opposed to covering other artists’ hits as many people are. I consider Blue Kentucky Girl to be Loretta’s strongest album up to that point and I highly recommend it.

Grade: A