THE BEST MUSIC OF TODAY IS THE MUSIC OF YESTERDAY
If you don't know who Ray Price is, you should. If you don't know who Vince Gill is, come on. And legendary steel guitarist Paul Franklin has played on recordings by...well, everybody (and not just country artists).
So let's talk about the new album, "Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price and The Cherokee Cowboys". This isn't a tribute album; not really. I don't dislike tribute albums, but they tend to include a diverse group of artists performing a legend's best-known hits. The plus is that these remakes feature updated sound; the minus is that if one really wants to hear the best version of a particular track, why not just click on (or "play", if you are one of those old-fashioned LP/CD collectors) the original?
What co-producers Gill and Franklin did was choose some of Ray Price's lesser-known songs, and in that way they sound like fresh music while remaining stone country. I am a Ray Price aficionado, and thus I recognized seven of the eleven tracks, but why quibble? The general consensus is that these will be new to most listeners, and they surely will be. My familiarity did not detract from my sheer enjoyment of this album, and if you know me, I am not a patient listener. However, I've streamed this album twice in a row, and am about to do it a third time. That's rare. Props to the producers for this -- this album flows. The overall sound is consistent and Gill's voice is no worse for wear after all these decades. On Spotify I keep clicking the little 💓 next to additional tracks, because I keep finding more that I think, "Wow, I really like this!"
Paul Franklin's steel playing is so outstanding, he could make any song sound great, even a crappy one penned by an amateur like me (I wonder if he could stop by?) His runs are original -- it would be hard to confuse his playing with any of the other greats.
Regarding the album tracks, of the eleven there's really only one I am not fond of, and I'm rather curious about it, because it is completely off-brand with either Ray Price's earlier recordings or his later more schmaltzy hits. That said, ten out of eleven great songs? Lord!
As an aside, some of the writers of these hits are probably folks you've never heard of, such as Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Bobby Bare, and Ray himself. Apparently back then, writers could actually pen a song all by themselves! Unheard of!
My favorites? Walkin' Slow (And Thinkin' 'Bout Her), The Same Two Lips, Sweet Memories, Your Old Love Letters, Healing Hands Of Time...oh, why even start? Just listen. You'll be clicking those hearts, too.
Stream the entire album here.
And just in case you're interested in hearing the original legend (and you should be), here's Mister Ray Price himself:
"Sweet Memories" is going to be awfully hard (okay, impossible) to beat as my 2023 country album of the year.