TRACE ADKINS – SONGS ABOUT ME – May 14, 2006 – Three Stars

I like Adkins’ voice and his previous CDs have been pretty good. This one, however, is a very mixed bag. The title song, “Songs About Me” has a good lyric and made a good single. “Arlington” is a good song that some will dislike because of their own political prejudices, but an objective listen to the song, sung from the perspective of a slain soldier, (“I’m proud to be on this peaceful piece of property … I can rest in peace, I’m one of the chosen ones, I made it to Arlington”) reveals a terrific lyric.

“Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”, a big hit, made for an amusing video but it isn’t much of a song for listening purposes. I don’t know if it will be released as a single, but “I Wish It Was You” is probably the best song on the CD. The rest of the songs fall into the category of decent filler – nothing terrible but nothing special, either. This CD will neither alienate Trace’s fan base, nor expand it much.

If allowed fractional ratings, I’d give this album 3 & 1/2 stars

THE ESSENTIAL GEORGE JONES – May 8, 2006 – Five Stars

This two disc set of 40 songs on the Epic / Legacy Label is an excellent introduction to the career of George Jones. Of course, when you’ve charted over 160 singles over the course of 50 years, any 40 song set can only scratch at the totality of his career. While I can think of additional songs that I’d like to add to this collection, I can’t think of any that are on the set that I’d be willing to delete.

Since this set comes to us from Epic, it naturally focuses most heavily on George’s 20 years or so with the label. It does, however, delve into the early catalog of Starday and Mercury recordings, including three songs (“No Money In This Deal”, “I’m Ragged But I’m Right” and “Why Baby Why”) that date back to the earliest sessions in 1955.

Disc One includes such classics from the Mercury and United Artists years as “White Lightning”, “Tender Years”,”A Girl I Used To Know”, “You’re Still On My Mind”, The Race Is On”, “She Thinks I Still Care” and “Window Up Above” plus duets with Melba Montgomery (“We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds”) and Tammy Wynette (“Take Me”). The Musicor years are conspicuously missing, probably due to licensing difficulties. The last three songs on Disc One are from the Epic years as are 19 of the 20 songs on Disc Two.

Disc Two can be best described as the best of the Epic years with such classics as “The Grand Tour”, “The Door”, “Still Doin’ Time”, “I Always Get Lucky With You”, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)”. The post-Epic period is represented only by the Billy Yates-penned classic “Choices”, but the end of George Jones as a hit singles artist essentially coincided with his departure from Epic.

Sound quality is excellent

My suspicion is that any listener buying this set as their first George Jones collection, will be pursuing many more George Jones recordings. If so, this is a good place to start the journey


This collection represents an effort by Pete Drake to make Tubb’s hits available, after MCA/Decca had lost interest in Tubb and let almost his entire catalogue slide out of print. Tubb’s voice is weathered and aged, and the band isn’t as good as Tubb’s mid 60s unit. That said, Ernest Tubb was never Caruso anyway. Tubb’s strength was his warm personality and the character in his voice, both of which continued to shine through in his vocals. This is a worthwhile collection that any Tubb fan will want to own. If some of the recordings sound excessively familiar,it is because many of these recordings were overdubbed with guest stars for an Ernest Tubb tribute album. Almost all the classic songs are here, and Tubb fans will be singing along with the CD player


I was a bit surprised to read that Sony Legacy was issuing a Greatest Hits CD for Phil Vassar because I didn’t think he had all that many hits. Then again, I don’t listen to that much country radio these days so it is possible that some of his hits slipped past me. Phil’s piano playing reminds me of Jim Brickman or George Winston; in other words, good but not very country. The rest of the backing, however, is sufficiently country to justify Vassar as being a country artist. He does sing well, although his voice is not very distinctive.

Turns out I was right in one sense and wrong in another. Vassar hasn’t had all that many hit recordings of his own but he has written a lot of songs that were very successful for other singers, so in that sense these are “his” hits. On this collection you’ll find “My Next Thirty Years” and “For A Little While” (Tim McGraw hits), “Bye Bye” and “I’m Alright” (Jo Dee Messina hits) and “Little Red Rodeo” (a smash for Colin Raye). These songs were deservedly hits for the artists that covered them; Phil’s takes on these songs are interesting, although I doubt that Phil would have had as much chart success with these particular songs (particularly the Jo Dee Messina covers).

This CD contains 15 songs. Three are new songs which may or may not become hits. This leaves 7 bonafide hits Phil Vasser hits. My favorite of his hits are “Carlene”, “Six Pack Summer” and “Just Another Day In Paradise” but all of the songs are good. The liner notes, Phil’s recollections about writing the songs, are very informative and interesting

I suspect that in the long run, Vassar may be better remembered for his songwriting than for his singing but he deserves to be remembered for both


This is the best album from Clint Black in a quite a while, although it is not up to the standard of his first albums. It does represent a return to the traditional country music that first brought him into prominance, although there are traces of the Adult Contemporary focus of recent years.

The album opens with the title track, an uptempo song that pays homage to country’s past. “Heartaches,” the second track, is a nice honky tonk song. After that comes “Code of the West”, a rather cliche-ridden number that fails to interest.

These first three songs set the pattern for the CD, two pretty good songs for every one mediocre or indifferent song. I’m not sure which is my favorite track, perhaps the very western swing influenced “I Don’t Want To Tell You” with it’s great fiddle backing, but clearly “Undercover Cowboy” is the biggest stinker of the set – a song about a cowboy Don Juan whose sole mission is to get “under the covers” with “undercover” cowgirls. Perhaps I am being generous in giving this album four stars, but the best tracks are very good indeed and the worst tracks (except “Undercover Cowboy”) are at least listenable

TOBY KEITH – WHITE TRASH WITH MONEY – May 1, 2006 – Three Stars

I very much like Toby Keith’s music but this is not one of his better efforts, mixing good and poor material. “Get Drunk And Be Somebody” is nothing especially original but it has a good hook and a fine sing-along quality to it. On the other hand, “Runnin’ Block” is redneck nonsense and borderline offensive. “Can’t Buy You Money” is a reverse slant on a familiar theme. Among the better songs are “Crash Here Tonight” and “A Little Too Late”, the latter song suggesting that Toby has been listening to old “Nashville Sound” recordings such as those produced by Billy Sherrill/Owen Bradley/Chet Atkins. What you think of “Ain’t No Right Way” and one or two of the other songs is likely to be colored by your political philosophy and general attitudes on life.

Toby’s voice is in good form and the recordings are full of the usual Toby Keith energy

I would give this CD 3.5 stars if allowed fractional ratings

THE WONDERFUL WILBURN BROTHERS – April 29, 2006 – Four Stars

These recordings come from the Wilburn Brothers early days, when they were featured on the Louisiana Hayride and before they signed with Decca. None of these songs were national hits although some of them were regional successes and some of them such as “Goose Pimples” received considerably airplay over the years. It should be noted that Billboard’s charts only charted 10 to 15 songs during this period. Sound quality is okay, nothing outstanding but certainly listenable.

The Wilburn Brothers hit days began through their association with Webb Pierce and there first hit, the #4 “Sparkling Brown Eyes” was a duet with Webb Pierce. After that good things began to happen for them.

As I said before, none of these songs were big hits but they as worth being heard. Some of the songs, such as Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Anticipation Blue’s and Hank Williams’ “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”, were covers of other’s hits. Songs include:

Heart Please Be Still
Are You Lonely Too?
Way Down Under Blues
Put Me In Your Pocket
Down In Dixie
Bugle Call From Heaven
Goose Pimples
Give A Little Take
Anticipation Blues

Because You Care
The Long Gone Lonesome Blues
Will You Be Ready (To Wear A Golden Crown)

I’d rate this 3.5 stars


At the time this CD was issued (1999) there was no domestically available CD of their classic Decca material (although there was an excellent collection, TROUBLE’S BACK IN TOWN – THE HITS OF THE WILBURN BROTHERS, on the British EDSEL label), so this CD of late 1970s recording filled a definite need. Not a hits collection, it does cover four of their hits plus some other songs. While lacking the sparkle of the Decca recordings these are good journeyman recordings. Recordings include:

I Know A Goodbye When I See One (not a charted hit)
If I Can’t Have All Of You (not a charted hit)
I’ve Never Outgrown My Move For You (not a charted hit)
Hands (not a charted hit)
Roll Muddy River (#4 – 1963)
Making Plans (not a charted hit)
Trouble’s Back In Town (#4 – 1962)
Knoxville Girl (#18 – 1959)
What I Had With You (not a charted hit)
I’m Gonna Tie One On Tonight (#19 -1965)

If you don’t have either the Edsel disc referenced above or 2005’s GREATEST HITS released domestically by Varese Sarabande – get one of them first. This CD would make a good second acquisition

BUCK OWENS IN LONDON – December 21, 2005 – Five Stars

Buck Owens issued a lot of live albums (some of them released only in the country where recorded such as live albums in Stockholm, Australia and a second live album in Japan). This is the best of the live albums and not only because I happened to be in the audience that March 9, 1969, (with my Dad – my present to him on his 44th birthday). While the previously released live albums recorded at Carnegie Hall and in Tokyo are indeed excellent, by the time this album was released, Owens had adopted a faster and more swinging tempo for hits such as “Act Naturally” and “Sam’s Place”. Indeed, his take on Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” (his then-#1 single) is easily the equal of the Chuck Berry original and smokes most of the other cover versions of the song. This version of the Buckaroos included Jerry Wiggins on drums and Jay D. Maness on steel guitar, both as good as the musicians they replaced (Willie Cantu and Tom Brumley). By the time this album was recorded, Owens had such a long list of hits that he had to resort to medleys to get some of them worked into the show (“Love’s Gonna Live Here”/”Cryin’ Time” /”I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail”/”Open Up Your Heart” and “Act Naturally”/”Together Again” are two of the medleys). To mark the occasion Buck had penned an up-tempo instrumental tune “A Happening In London Town”

This CD (on Sundazed) is an expanded version of the 1969 Capitol album with four additional songs “I’ve Got You On My Mind Again” and “That’s All Right with Me (If It’s All Right with You)” both from his I’VE GOT YOU ON MY MIND AGAIN album (the title cut went to #1), “Wham Bam” (sung by Don Rich) and a short version of the instrumental “Buckaroo”

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