The magnificent Mickey Newbury.
One of the greatest of all country singer songwriters.
Check out my other comments for biographical detail on him as well as other ramblings.
The guy on the cover art could be a salesman or perhaps a university professor. He certainly doesn't look like a country music star.
And, that is, perhaps, appropriate.
Newbury was always more about content than image.
He was thoughtful and insightful emotionally.
His songs often deal with relationships, things lost and memories.
No wonder he is a country musician and a country styled singer songwriter.
He is, I think, perhaps too straight looking and sounding for country music and too country sounding for the singer songwriter movement. He is somewhere in-between though he is undeniably both.
In that in-between place he has made himself one of the greatest exponents of the style.
It's his smarts, his skill to get a melody to amplify the lyrics, and his considered vocals that all work together to create music that is emotionally powerful.
I may sound portentous but his music has the ability to impact.
Sure you have to be in the right musical headspace to approach his music (as you do when you are approaching anything more than straight pop) but, just a sit, and a listen, should reveal Newbury's skill.
The tales are both heartbreaking and life affirming with a strong spray of melancholia.
Newbury (a Texan by birth) was 41 years old when he recorded this album but he could have been 70. He is not the first guy to "think old" (or feel old?) but he does it with style. And perhaps in 1980 when this was recorded 41 was older. Or, perhaps, in today's world of eternal youth where 50 is the new 40 and 60 is the new 50 he just sounds a lot older than his 41.
The album differs to its predecessor. "The Sailor" from 1979 which was a glossy, late night country lounge album (take that Lambchop). But it does return to the his early to mid 70s work with song suites, lush orchestrated melodies and a general deceptive MOR slickness.
It's like a country opera playing at an avant-garde dinner theatre.
I think he was always out of touch a little (his record sales suggest he was) because his music is too thoughtful, emotional and often looking back.
It is, perhaps, a reflection on (by what is unsaid), of the state of the world circa 1981. By looking back he is escaping or some would say retreating but I would say the answers for the future lie in the past.
This was his last album for seven years.
He died in 2002.
All songs written by Mickey Newbury (unless otherwise indicated). The album is produced by musician extraordinaire and Elvis offsider Norbert Putnam.
Tracks (best in italics)
- The Sailor – the title of his last album though the song didn't appear on it. The song has less to do with saining and more to do with mortality. It is powerful. This and the next two songs mesh into each other creating a 12 minute 3 song sequence.
- Song of Sorrow – very melancholy
- Let's Say Goodbye One More Time – very familiar country themes lyrically. The stings and whistling interlude work … it may be mush to some but I love it.
- That Was the Way It Was Then – a beautiful looking back song … here looking back to the 1950s.
- Country Boy Saturday Night – This has to the gentlest "Saturday night" song written The cowboy narrator is all cashed up and ready to go out but he isn't a hollering… wonderful.
Truly Blue –
MORcountry rock pop which is quite unusual by Newbury standards. Not too bad …and it would have been perfect for Elvis.
- Just as Long as That Someone Is You – a standard country love song though Mickey's voice is special.
- Over the Mountain – (Newbury, Joe Henry) – beautiful. Romantic love given expressed in real terms. Interesting, thematically, this resembles the start of Joan Didion's essay "John Wayne: A Love Song" written in 1965 and from her "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" (1968) collection of essays where she quotes John Wayne from his film "War of the Wildcats", where he talks about taking his woman away and building a house "at the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow".
Over the mountain I will build us a cabin
Over the mountain I will build us a home
- Catchers in the Rye – a great bouncy "rural" type of song.
- I Still Love You (After All These Years) – a tribute to a wife. Another one Elvis could have done. Sorry for the Elvis references but mid to late 70s Elvis would have covered these tunes in a heartbeat…. as it is Elvis only did one Newbury song, "An American trilogy")
Beautiful … I'm keeping it.
That Was the Way It Was Then
Country Boy Saturday Night
Just as Long as That Someone Is You
Over the Mountain
Catchers in the Rye
I Still Love You (After All These Years) –
- The album was recorded at producer Norbert Putnam's 1875 mansion, the Bennett House in Franklin, Tennessee. with crack personnel including Mickey Newbury on guitar and vocals, Norbet on guitar, Dave Loggins on guitar and vocals, Buddy Spicer on fiddle, David Hungate on bass, Shane Keister on piano and Steve Brantley – vocals, Bruce Dees – vocals, Steve Gibson – guitar, Jon Goin – guitar, Sheldon Kurland – strings, Mike Manna – piano, Terry McMillan – harmonica, Weldon Myrick – steel guitar, Bobby Ogdin – piano, Cindy Reynolds – harp, Buddy Spicher – fiddle, James Stroud – drums, Jack Williams – bass
- An example of the regard other musicians held for Newbury came in 1977 when Waylon Jennings released the #1 country smash "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)," (written by Bobby Emmons and Chips Moman) which contains the lines "Between Hank Williams' pain songs, Newbury's train songs…"
RIP: Chris Cornell 1964-2017