Songwriters often don’t get the credit they deserve, given that the person that’s singing their songs naturally shines in the spotlight. Nevertheless, Don Schlitz has managed to receive the accolades he so well deserves, having contributed some of the most celebrated songs in the whole of the contemporary country music spectrum. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to scan the radio dial and not hear one of his classic compositions, a repertoire that includes such hits as The Gambler, On the Other Hand, Forever and Ever, Amen, He Thinks He’ll Keep Her, The Greatest, and When You Say Nothing At All — songs made famous by any number of luminaries, among them Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, The Judds, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tanya Tucker, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keith Whitley, Alison Krauss, and many others.
So too, it’s little wonder that he’s reaped unanimous acclaim, having been the recipient of three CMA Song of the Year awards, two Academy of Country Music Song of the Year prizes, two Grammy Awards, and membership in both the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Now it’s time for the IBMA to take note, given the fact that his new album Mountaintop finds Schlitz aiming even higher via an album that fully basks in bluegrass. While it’s a marked change in his trajectory, it’s a natural move nevertheless. Of course, it would seem obvious that he would include at least one well-known gem from his catalog, and, replete with banjo, fiddle and mandolin, The Gambler allows for an easy transition. On the other hand, the steady strum of Bad Decisions, the shared rumination of He Almost Told Her, the mellow meandering of Red Satin Dress, and gentle rambling but instantly catchy Suffer a Fool, and all but ensure the authenticity.
On the other hand, a touching duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter on Not Too Much To Ask makes it clear that compact categories needn’t always be of prime importance.
As if to underscore the craft and credibility shared here, Schlitz summoned a notable group of supporting musicians to ensure the crossover would be successful, among them Pat McGrath, Glen Duncan, Ronnie McCoury, Rob Ickes, Aubrie Haynie, Dennis Crouch, and Dave Roe.
It’s no exaggeration to single out Mountaintop as one of the high points of an illustrious career. There’s no denying that adds up to quite an accomplishment especially in light of all that came before.