Our UK correspondent, Richard F Thompson, shares this review of a CD he found to be especially worthy.
Charlie Sizemore recently released Good News, his debut album for Rounder Records (0591) and the first of any kind for five years. For a lot of people it is indeed very good news, even if the CD’s title is a bit convenient. But that’s not really important. What is important is the quality of the music found thereon.
It is exceedingly difficult to pick highlights, favourites, call them what you may, as this is a uniformly excellent album. The songs are all very strong, regardless of source. Sizemore and co-producer Buddy Cannon penned Alison’s Band, I Won’t Be Far From Here and The Less I Drink. The former expresses a wishful desire to play with you know who. Paul Craft wrote Mama Turns Aloosa My Soul and I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up, the driving opener that features some sparkling banjo from Wayne Fields. Both are top quality songs. The tempo changes with the two following songs, I Won’t Be Far From Here and Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart, both excellent observations of relationship issues, as is The Less I Drink.
Friends of Sizemore’s, and providers of the recording studio for the sessions which produced these recordings, Dixie and Tom T Hall, wrote Whiskey Willie, and the collaboration with Sizemore, Silver Bugle, a haunting account of another horrific episode in the War between the States. Barnes’s clawhammer banjo playing gives this story an additional atavistic touch.
Other songs are no less enjoyable; Blame It On Vern (co-written by Jeff Barbra and Steve G Jones) eulogizes Vern Gosdin. Doesn’t Sizemore’s singing sound so much like ‘The Voice’ in his prime? Yes, very much so! Upright bass player John Pennell co-wrote Devil On A Plow with Harley Allen, wherein a deceased farmer’s offspring speaks of a hard working existence and the possibilities in afterlife. Providing a little more variation, Matt DeSpain sings lead vocals on Hey Moon, a jaunty request for the moon to shine down on two lovers. DeSpain’s lighter tone is just right for this Ron Workman song.
I suspect that Cannon brought the country numbers Eddie Noack’s No News Is Good News and Hank Cochran’s My Dying Day to the studio. Irrespective of the source, these are very much in keeping with the rest of the package.
Some titles might suggest a low, even funereal, mood, but these are rendered in a matter of fact way with a large dose of dry humour, soul and sensitive consideration of the subject. Sizemore puts all of that into his singing and the listener is very aware of that throughout.
I have already mentioned Wayne Fields and John Pennell, but this album is noted as being by The Charlie Sizemore Band, and Sizemore has gathered together a worthy troupe with two others in Danny Barnes (mandolin, banjo and vocals) and Matt DeSpain (Dobro ¬Æ, Hawaiian guitar and vocals). They all combine to support the vocals and enhance Sizemore’s wonderfully expressive voice. The harmony vocals, whether two-part or a trio, admirably underscore Sizemore’s mellow tones.
This is a consistently top quality CD and Rounder Records did very well to pick it up and release it when it was on offer.