CD Reviews for 12/23/05 – Assorted C&W reissues from Koch Nashville

Compact Capsules for 12/23/05
by Dan Ferguson

Here at Compact Capsules Central, we have a hard time ignoring the endless number of reissues that flood the CD market. Whereas we typically home in on those of the country variety, this week, while still leaning heavy in a country direction, we catch up on a true potpourri of reissue releases. Let’s get to it.

Miss Harper Valley P.T.A.

It was the 1968 smash hit “Harper Valley P.T.A.” that cemented Jeannie C. Riley’s place in country music. Whereas she never scaled such heights again, she continued to record and have chart success. Before the Harper Valley success, Riley had recorded a number of demos for Little Darlin’ Records. Hoping to capitalize on Riley’s newfound chart success, Little Darlin’ Records released the album The Songs of Jeannie C. Riley in 1968, not long after “Harper Valley P.T.A.” hit big. The Little Darlin’ Sound of Jeannie C. Riley (Koch KOC-CD-9830) is a reissue of that 1968 album and is trademark Riley singing like the girl next door. While not her best work and clearly more country than her later work for Plantation Records, it is a reissue that fans of Ms. Riley are sure to enjoy.

Paycheck Gospel

Here’s thinking that anybody who could sing a honky tonk song with as much hurt as Johnny Paycheck must also be capable of singing the gospel with as much passion and compassion. Paycheck proved just that recording a number of well-tooled gospel sides for Little Darlin’ Records, his label home in the 1960s. The newly released compilation The Little Darlin’ Sound of Johnny Paycheck: The Gospel Truth (Koch KOC-CD-9849) gathers 23 tracks of inspirational and church-leaning tunage from Mr. “Take -this-Job-and-Shove-It”. The material comes from two albums made for Little Darlin’ by Paycheck, the 1967 release Gospel Time and a later recording from the late ’70s. Despite a reputation as a hard livin’, rough and rowdy type, The Gospel Truth is clear proof that Paycheck was equally at home on the spiritual side of country music. The bottom line after listening to the songs of The Gospel Truth is that Johnny Paycheck was one of country music’s finest singers.

Country Songwriter Emeritus

What with being the writer behind such hit songs as “I Fall to Pieces”, “She’s Got You”, “Make the World Go Away”, “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurtin’ Me”, and “A Way to Survive”, Hank Cochran can easily be classified as country songwriter emeritus. Several of those were written within Cochran’s first five years in Nashville after moving there in 1960. As far as his work with the pen goes, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Whereas first and foremost songwriting was Cochran’s calling card in Music City, he also had his own recording career falling under the category of country writer-artist. At least that was how Monument Records chief Fred Foster classified he and others of his ilk. Foster took it as far in the late 1960s to put out an entire series of recordings on his Monument label focusing on the country writer-artist with releases from such songwriting icons as Harlan Howard, Boudleaux Bryant and Cindy Walker. The Cochran entry, rightly titled The Heart of Hank, saw release in 1968. Thanks to the good folks at Koch-Nashville, this album is now available for the first time on CD. The Heart of Hank: The Monument Sessions (Koch KOC-CD-9846) brings together the dozen tracks comprising the original Monument LP with three non-LP singles Cochran recorded for the affiliated Gaylord record label in the early 1960s. It features a terrific mix of ballads and hard core honky tonkers. While an adequate vocalist, as far as the song quality of the 15 tracks comprising The Heart of Hank is concerned, they’re all top notch. Add to that studio accompaniment from a Nashville “A” team featuring Lloyd Green with his signature pedal steel work, guitarists Grady Martin, Ray Edenton and Wayne Moss, Bob Moore and Roy Huskey on the bass, Buddy Harman on drums, and Hargus Pig Robbins on piano and the sum total is a most welcome reissue of classic 1960s country music.

Great Country Duos

Classic, hardcore honky tonk from the 1960s from a couple of the best male-female pairings the decade had to offer is what you’ll encounter on the collection Best of Carl & Pearl Butler & Johnny & Jonie Mosby: A Family Affair (Koch KOC-CD-9839). What with 14 of the collection’s 19 tracks featuring Carl and wife Pearl, it certainly weighs heavy in a Butler direction. Popularity wise, it makes good sense as the duo was one of country music’s most popular husband-wife pairings. It would be difficult to start a record with a better one-two punch than “Honky Tonkitis” and “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” which is exactly what Family Affair does. As a matter of fact, each of the 14 sides from the Butler’s included on this collection, all originally released for Columbia Records, placed high on the country charts. Ballads, shuffles, and hard country romps, Carl Butler was at home regardless of style. Singing in his distinctively clear, keening voice, he was one of the finest singers of this period in country music. Pearl was a fine counterpart singing in a frills-free style much like Kitty Wells. While not nearly as popular nor successful, Johnny and Jonie Mosby were a respectable, but rather unsung duo. Taken from their brief term with Columbia Records, the four Mosby sides found on Family Affair are among their best work and solid stuff by 1960s C&W standards. As a whole, Family Affair comes highly recommended for connoisseurs of C&W of that era.

Folk-Pop Don Williams

Before he headed in a C&W direction, singer Don Williams was a founding member of the folk-pop trio the Pozo Seco Singers. That was the mid-1960s and the group charted six pop singles before disbanding in 1969. The most popular of the bunch from the band was the song “Time” which reached number 47 on the charts in 1966. Unfortunately, that song is nowhere to be found on the 12-song reissue of the album Spend Some Time With Me from Pozo Seco. Originally released on the Certron label, The Little Darlin’ Sound of Don Williams: Spend Some Time With Me (Koch KOC-CD-9841) is a snapshot of the other side of the Williams music persona. Frankly, I like the country Don a whole lot better. Label this one for Williams completists only.

Fiddle Fire

Rounding things out is the reissue of the 1998 release from the Charlie Daniels Band Fiddle Fire (Koch KOC-CD-9855). Celebrating 25 years in the business by Daniels, it features new recordings (1998 vintage, mind you) of such Daniels classics as “The South’s Gonna Do It”, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, and “Orange Blossom Special”.

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)