Between 2012 and 2014, Ace issued three volumes of Where Country Meets Soul. All three volumes featured many of the greatest soul singers of all time tackling country-and-western repertoire. Now, the label has revisited the country-soul territory – in reverse! Out of Left Field: Where Soul Meets Country presents 24 sizzling R&B songs as sung by country’s greatest performers, and most are surprisingly comfortable fits.
Stax thought it was onto something when it ushered Daaron Lee into the studio to re-record one of the label’s own hits, Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love,” in twangy fashion for its Hip imprint. The song didn’t strike gold twice, but this never-reissued rarity kicks off and sets the tone for Ace’s potpourri of R&B, country-style.
Jeannie C. Riley successfully blended pop and country on her smash hit “Harper Valley PTA,” so why not country and soul on Bettye LaVette’s hit “He Made a Woman Out of Me”? Jeanne isn’t the only country siren here. With her 1966 recording, Anita Carter (daughter of Mother Maybelle and brother-in-law to Johnny Cash) made Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” sound as if it was written for her; Barbara Mandrell (another artist truly worthy of inclusion here) also had a hit with the song. Skeeter Davis made an even more unusual match when she brought Philly soul to Nashville via her version of Jerry Butler, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s immortal “Only the Strong Survive.” Likely inspired by Elvis Presley’s recording, Skeeter is game, though the square background vocals keep the track from catching too much fire. Tanya Tucker is heard with her pretty, low-key recording of Van McCoy’s “Baby I’m Yours.” Linda Martell didn’t have a very long career, but she accomplished a great deal including becoming the first African-American female to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Her reinvention of The Winstons’ “Color Him Father” is a highlight here.
Another groundbreaking artist, O.B. McClinton, is heard here with his interpretation of William Bell’s Stax classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” After several failed attempts, Stax finally launched a C&W star with McClinton, who remains the second most successful African-American country singer of all time, after Charley Pride. Superstar Ronnie Milsap actually got his start as an R&B singer, recording for Huey Meaux a.k.a. “The Crazy Cajun.” (Meaux is here, too, as producer of Freddy Fender’s 1976 revival of Barbara Lynn’s “You’ll Lose a Good Thing,” also originally helmed by Meaux.) Where Soul Meets Country includes Milsap’s smooth, chart-topping 1982 version of Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard’s “Any Day Now.” Three years earlier, Don Gibson had scored a minor hit with his own cover of “Any Day Now.” That’s not here, of course, but his fine performance of “Prince” Philip Mitchell’s “Starting All Over Again” is, from 1978.
A number of country artists associated with the “outlaw” movement gravitated to R&B classics. Hank Williams, Jr. recorded Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “Out of Left Field” in 1993; it gives this collection its title track. (Penn and Oldham are also represented by Jerry Reed’s Rick Hall-produced take on “It Tears Me Up,” while two more Dan Penn classics – “The Dark End of the Street” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” are featured by The Kendalls and Billie Jo Spears, respectively.) You’ll hear a spare, affecting duet between Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings on “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” and a languid “He Will Break Your Heart” from David Allan Coe. Fellow outlaw Johnny Paycheck, who had his biggest hit with Coe’s “Take This Job and Shove It,” serves up the Swamp Dogg song “She’s All I Got” in a countrypolitan Billy Sherrill production. Johnny Cash rounds out Ace’s compilation – hopefully the first in a series – with his 1975 “Look at Them Beans (Papa’s Dream),” penned by Joe Tex.
Out of Left Field – Where Soul Meets Country has been produced and annotated by Tony Rounce, and includes a 16-page full-color booklet. Duncan Cowell has remastered. You can order this collection exploring the intersection of country and soul at the links below!
- Who’s Making Love – Daaron Lee (Hip 8008, 1969) (*)
- He Made a Woman Out of Me – Jeannie C. Riley (Plantation LP PLP 11, 1970)
- Out of Left Field – Hank Williams, Jr. (Capricorn/WB/Curb CD 9 45225-2, 1993)
- (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (RCA 13319, 1982)
- I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) – Anita Carter (RCA Victor 47-8809, 1966) (*)
- Find Out What’s Happening – Bobby Bare (RCA 47-9450, 1968)
- Only the Strong Survive – Skeeter Davis (RCA LP LSP 4200, 1969)
- It Tears Me Up – Jerry Reed (RCA LP AHL1-4315, 1982)
- Color Him Father – Linda Martell (Plantation 24, 1969)
- When Something is Wrong with My Baby – Sonny James (Columbia 10335, 1976)
- Starting All Over Again – Don Gibson (Hickory 54024, 1978)
- She’s All I Got – Johnny Paycheck (Epic 10783, 1971)
- You Don’t Miss Your Water – O.B. McClinton (Enterprise 9079, 1973)
- You’ll Lose a Good Thing – Freddy Fender (ABC/Dot 17607, 1976)
- Warm and Tender Love – Archie Campbell and Lorene Mann (RCA 47-9615, 1968)
- Any Day Now – Ronnie Milsap (RCA 13216, 1982)
- Baby I’m Yours – Tanya Tucker (Arista LP AL 9596, 1982)
- I’ve Found Someone of My Own – Mel Street (Metromedia Country LP 5001, 1972)
- Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries – Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty (Decca LP DL 75251, 1970)
- The Dark End of the Street – The Kendalls (Mercury LP M1-812779, 1983)
- Scratch My Back (And Whisper in My Ear) – Razzy Bailey (RCA 12268, 1981)
- Do Right Woman, Do Right Man – Billie Jo Spears (United Artists LP UA 608, 1976)
- He Will Break Your Heart – David Allan Coe (Columbia LP FC 38926, 1983)
- Look at Them Beans (Papa’s Dream) – Johnny Cash (Columbia 3-10177, 1975)
All tracks stereo other than (*) mono