Here's the rundown. Here's how you make a great
country music record in this day and age. First, and most importantly,
you recruit Kenny Vaughan to play guitar. Ask anyone who
knows guitar, and they'll tell you he's one of the best Nashville
has to offer. Hell, ask Marty Stuart- and he's no slouch
on that telecaster himself. Then you get a killer steel player,
like for instance, Lloyd Green. Then you write some catchy
songs that run the gamut from honky tonk to downbeat ballads (but
leave out the schmaltzy cross-platform "country" that
all the FM stations play), make plenty of room for Kenny's twanging
tele leads, and go, cat go!
That's just what Chris Richards has done on Tumblers
And Grit. He's assembled a brilliant cast of players, written
some downright amazing songs, and delivered them all in a rich,
smooth, silky baritone voice that ranks among one of the finest
ever recorded in Nashville. Think the best and deepest Conway
Twitty moments with a dash of George Jones thrown in,
but without the gravel. Well, anyway, with just one listen, you'll
get the idea. And, of course, Kenny Vaughan and Lloyd Green working
their amazing guit-fiddle magic just complete the package. From
the opening strains of "To Sing The Blues", Richards
displays his songwriting prowess in high style with smooth delivery
and lyrics like: " Do you remember when our love was new?/
Brown-eyed and broken and just out of school/ And I was a singer
just paying my dues/ You made me play you those happy songs/ Where
love's unending and nothing goes wrong/ And those were the only
kind that I knew/ Till you taught me how to sing the blues".
That's some heavy lyric to begin an album, and it doesn't slow
down from there. "Hard Livin'" features some of the
finest twangy guitar since Hillbilly Rock, rich with tone,
as well as some amazing honky tonk piano and weeping steel. Bringing
the spirit of John Cash back around, "Bells Of Odilia"
showcases the soul of the songwriter, with its dark country flavors
and softly tremeloed guitar work.
While I'm mentioning twangy guitars, let me draw your attention
to songs like "Jam The Breeze" with its crisp acoustic
guitars and delicately placed twang, and "Nashville Gas"
which is far from delicate
It's a song that would be right
at home next to any of the country greats, and would slide real
nicely next to Dale Watson's "Nashville Rash"
on any mix tape of real country songs. "Crazy Too" once
more showcases the darker, more Hank Williams side of Richards'
songwriting. "Honky Tonk Graveyard" is a more upbeat,
lighthearted song, full of innuendo and joy, and "The Ballad
Of The Analog Kid" wraps up the album nicely with its very
Marty Stuart attitude and message. A bit of the classic feel to
make it all come round.
The fact of the matter is that Tumblers And Grit is one
of the finest country albums to be made since the 1960's golden
age of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos And Merle, Johnny,
and Willie. And it is a REAL country album. And no one
seems to have the guts to make one of those very often anymore
(Marty Stuart being the exception). An amazing cast of musicians
backing an amazing collection of songs, sung soulfully by an amazing
voice makes for a pretty amazing record. You've got my word on
1. To Sing The Blues
2. Hard Livin'
3. Bells Of Odilia
4. Jam The Breeze
5. Crazy Too
6. Hang On To The Moon
7. Nashville Gas
8. Hearts Like These
9. One Foot
10. Honky Tonk Graveyard
11. The Ballad Of The Analog Kid
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