Country Side of Bluegrass
New Music Deals
2 stars (out of 5)
By Larry Stephens
I’ve always liked Janie Fricke’s music, her duets and background vocals a little more than her solo career. If you’ve followed her career through the years then there will be no surprises when you hear this CD because it’s really a greatest hits CD with a Dobro instead of a steel guitar. Therein lies the problem.
I’m flying into the wind here. Daryl Addison (GAC) likes it. Jim Moulton says, “Now she is singing an excellent bluegrass style …” and one site’s headline says, “Country star Janie Fricke discusses her new Country Side of Bluegrass CD.” On her website it says, “Country singer Janie Fricke’s new album was just released on Tuesday, but it’s already earned rave advance notices from critics.” Still another site says, “Now, decades after her last big hits, Fricke has moved into bluegrass territory, rearranging some of her best-known music on the album Country Side of Bluegrass. She’s still singing hits like ‘Down to My Broken Heart,’ but now there’s fiddle and banjo behind it.”
But this isn’t a new album. Oh, it has a new name and new art, but check out CD Universe. Yes, folks, it’s the same CD, only called The Bluegrass Sessions then. Pop it in a player that shows album details and you’ll see the imbedded album name wasn’t even changed and it still shows the original cover art. Someplace out on the Internet is the review I wrote back then and I didn’t like it any better in 2004 than I do now – as a bluegrass album. So why are all these people talking about her “new” CD? I don’t think a new wrapper on an old package makes it new.
Another issue I have is putting “bluegrass” in the title. I’m not a purist and there are many songs that bounce between country artists and bluegrass artists that fit either style because they are styled to fit. So she changed the style of the songs a little, but having heard them all as country songs, now hearing a banjo riff behind “Goodbye Broken Heart,” and a flattop instead of an electic guitar, I just don’t hear bluegrass.
It seems opportunistic. To be sure, the music business is one of opportunity but this re-branding effort just doesn’t sit well with me. The first Marty Raybon bluegrass CD sounded muchthe same, a bunch of Shenandoah songs with acoustic instruments. But Marty went on to break new ground in his bluegrass career. He’s made the rounds at the festivals. See him in person and you’ll know he loves bluegrass music. He doesn’t re-package old albums with new art.
Included here is “Faithless Love,” a JD Souther composition that may be the prettiest song on the CD. “You Don’t Know Love,” “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy,” “He’s A Heartache,” and “Tell Me A Lie” are remakes from 1983′s It Ain’t Easy album. “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me Baby” and “Do Me With Love” first appeared on 1982′s Sleeping With Your Memory album. “She’s Single Again” was out in 1985 (Somebody Else’s Fire) while “Down To My Last Broken Heart” dates to 1980 and “I’ll Need Someone To Hold Me When I Cry” to 1981 (I’ll Need Someone To Hold Me When I Cry). Even the old Hank Locklin (1960) standard, “Please Help Me I’m Falling,” is a re-release from 1978 (Singer of Songs). “Ring of Fire,” one of Johnny Cash’s signature songs, was released by her in 2003 (Tributes To My Heroes), the album that included “Faithless Love” (a 1974 song from Linda Ronstadt that also included a banjo) and “Goodbye Broken Heart.” Old material, new instruments: they are not bad listening, just not a lot of ‘grass there when she’s singing.
Take out the vocals and you can appreciate some excellent instrumental work. Mark Fain, Randy Kohrs, Luke Bulla, Andy Leftwich and Glen Duncan are some of the fine musicians on this CD.
Mark it down as good listening but disappointing because there’s nothing new, it has a bluegrass label only because there are banjo and Dobro tracks, it’s a reissue of an old CD in the guise of a new one. Did I mention there’s nothing new?