Rhonda Vincent & Daryle Singletary “AMERICAN GRANDSTAND” Album Review
“AMERICAN GRANDSTAND” Debuts at #1 In Bluegrass Charts.
Country music duets have a deep and long tradition going back to the origins of the genre, celebrating its heydays in the late 60s and 70s when Johnny recorded with June, Merle with Bonnie, Buck with Rose, Tammy with George, George also with Melba and Loretta first with Ernest and then Conway. True to all these recordings, now it’s Rhonda and Daryle’s time and with “AMERICAN GRANDSTAND,” a mixture of re-recordings of old classics and some new material, they deliver in high fashion; no wonder then, that the album debuted in the #1 spot on the Bluegrass Charts.
Daryle Singletary is one of the most underrated traditional country music singers. Coming from the same well of singers as Lefty Frizzell, George Jones, John Anderson, Keith Whitley and Randy Travis, he simply arrived in Nashville too late. The sounds had changed, the craftsmanship got lost and party-songs started to take over. It was actually Travis, who was able to get the young Georgian twenty-something a record deal with Giant Records, after hearing him sing a demo of a song Travis later recorded. Travis even helped produce the singer’s self-named debut album “DARYLE SINGLETARY” in 1995. After two more albums for Giant, he was out. But he keeps recording for independent labels, staying true to the tradition.
Throughout the years, he always used the help of Bluegrass singer Rhonda Vincent, either as a background singer on his debut album, while she was his labelmate or as a duet-partner on one of his independent releases.
Rhonda Vincent, according to the “Wall Street Journal,” the “New Queen of Bluegrass” always ventured into country music. When signed by Giant Records in the mid-90s, after already establishing herself in an over two-decade-long career in Bluegrass, her second album for Giant “TROUBLE FREE” was a pure delight. Similarly to other artists coming from Bluegrass into the country world, like Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley or Marty Stuart she was able to combine the rawer, more aggressive singing, with the lusher countrified arrangements.
“AMERICAN GRANDSTAND” opens with a salvo, the 57-year-old classic, Harlan Howard penned “Above And Beyond” ages well like a fine wine. For more about that song, see my preview of the album in my blog “Rhonda & Daryle go “Above And Beyond.” The interplay between fiddle, steel guitar and “honky tonk” piano is pretty magical.
Rhonda and Daryle’s current single “One” is one of two George Jones / Tammy Wynette duets remade, the other one being the classic Bobby Braddock, Rafe VanHoy composition “Golden Ring” a number-one-hit from 1976. “One,” written by Ed Bruce, Judith Bruce, and Ron Peterson, not only was a single but also an album title for the 1995 reunion album, George and Tammy recorded. I’m glad I saw that show in Gstaad, Switzerland that year, btw Rhonda will be traveling there later this summer. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above that single also came too late for the changing radio waves and was ignored by radio. I remember Ed Bruce being disappointed, I think it was in an episode of the George Jones show, where he said: “I waited 40 years for a George Jones cut, and now they won’t play it.”
I’m not sure, why they re-recorded “After The Fire Is Gone” as it already appeared on Daryle’s 2002 album THAT’S WHY I SING THIS WAY” in a duet version with Rhonda. Don’t get me wrong that 1971 L.E. White written cheating classic with its four famous lines, “Love is where you find it, When you find no love at home, And there’s nothin’ cold as ashes, After the fire is gone”, is still a monster song and they do again a great job on it. The other Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty hit, “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” which also went to number one two years later was written by Kapp recording artist Becki Bluefield and Jim Owen, who wrote several hits for Jim Ed Brown. Michael Rajos’ accordion giving the song a nice “Cajun” feel.
Daryle’s voice and its phrasing are better suited to sing Jones than Twitty, so it’s not that much of a surprise, that there are two more George Jones hits on this album. The first one actually goes back to 1963 and George’s partner in the recording, Melba Montgomery wrote the song “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds.” It was the first big hit for the then-25-year-old.George Richey (later to become Tammy Wynette’s husband) and Norro Wilson, who just passed away a month ago, penned “A Picture Of Me Without You.” It was a Top-Five-hit in 1972 for George, Lorrie Morgan also took her version into the charts.
In the clip below Daryle explains how they decided to come up with a duet version and how hard it was to actually get new material to record for “AMERICAN GRANDSTAND.” The Vern Gosdin recording he mentions in the clip was done in 2007 with Kimber Sparks, not Christy Lane.
1966, a year after Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens got hitched, Capitol Records released an album consisting of duet-singles, the couple had recorded previously for their own Tally label, co-owned by Haggard and songwriter Fuzzy Owen, Fuzzy was also the writer on “Slowly But Surely,” definitely a favorite of mine on the new Vincent/Singletary album.
Coming out of the Bluegrass corner is “Can’t Live Life” written by Edgar Loudermilk, a former member of Rhonda’s band, The Rage and of IIIrd Tyme Out and now fronting his own outfit, Edgar Loudermilk Band. He and Rhonda recorded “Can’t Live Life” for his album “ROADS TRAVELLED.” On “Up This Hill And Down” the steel guitar makes way for a reso-phonic guitar, marvelously played by “The Rage” member Brent Burke. Originally an Osborne Brothers hit in 1965, the Richard Staedtler composition, recently saw some new light, as Claire Lynch in 2007 and the Grascals in 2011 recorded it.
Billy Yates, the composer of the slow ballad “As We Kiss Our World Goodbye” is having a banner year, besides being featured here, he also produced and contributed two songs to Charley Pride’s new record “MUSIC IN MY HEART.” As strong as his song is the title track “American Grandstand,” Rhonda brought to the table, lamenting a relationship break-up and how far it has become a simple show, for others to enjoy and/or judge. These two songs alone are worth buying this silver disc, simply country music at its finest. In my honest opinion, it’s great that the album debuts at #1 on the Bluegrass charts, even though it is a traditional country music album. It really shows how stupid and meaningless country charts are these days.
Besides Rhonda & Daryle hitting all the vocal highs and lows in superior form, they were helped by a who’s who in the studio. There is current Hot Rize member Bryan Sutton on acoustic guitar, Stuart Duncan on fiddle comes courtesy of the Nashville Bluegrass Band. The electric guitar is shared by former Merle Haggard guitarist and now Austinite Redd Volkaert and Nashville session pro, James Mitchell. I haven’t seen Hargus “Pig” Robbins’ name in awhile, glad to hear him on some of the tracks, Michael Rojas tackles the keys on the others, he is also adding accordion and organ on one track each. And then there is steel guitar wiz Mike Johnson, who as you see in the clip below can play everything. Mike started out with the late Mel Street, occasionally tours with Reba these days and does a lot of TV work, like “Larry’s Country Diner”, a TV show on RFD-TV catering to their guests with home-cooked meals and to the viewers with traditional country music.
The clip features three songs from the album – “After The Fire Is Gone,” their current single “One” and the title track “American Grandstand.” The album is available through regular retailers, as a digital download from all the major sites, as well as directly from Rhonda Vincent and her label, Upper Managment Music.
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