Album Reviews

Various Artists

A Tribute to John D. Loudermilk

Artist:     Varrious Artists

Album:     A Tribute to John D. Loudermilk

Label:     Vector Recordings

Release Date:     09.15.2017



But when we grow up, Some day I’ll show up, Just to prove I was tellin’ the truth, I’ll kiss you too then I’ll hand to you, This rose and a Baby Ruth. Those closing lines of the teenage romance ballad, written over 60 years ago, was Johnny Dee’s first big hit, and gave a glimpse of what was to come in the far from ordinary, take-no-prisoners, love-and-life song catalog of John D. Loudermilk, one of the most unorthodox yet highly successful tunesmiths to ever come down the pike.

Artists who cut John’s tunes through the decades reveal that his creations knew no boundaries. George Hamilton IV, the Allman Brothers, Johnny Winter, Nashville Teens, Glen Campbell, Nina Simone, Jefferson Airplane, Chet Atkins, Linda Rondstadt, the Animals, Lou Rawls, James Brown, Perry Como, George Jones, Norah Jones, Doc Watson, Solomon Burke, Connie Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mose Allison, Waylon Jennings, Everly Brothers, Jerry Reed, Willie Nelson, Jay Z, Kanye West and at least 30 or more major recording artists of every style. And then there were his farther-out songs that Loudermilk cut himself on albums with titles like “Songs From An Open Mind”

The late Shel Silverstein wrote a very truthful tune called, “Nashville’s Hard On The Living, But Sure Speaks Well Of The Dead,” recorded by the country supergroup Old Dogs (Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Jerry Reed. Every once in a blue moon the Nashville music community gets it right and gives tributes and honors to those who can fully appreciate them. That is just what they did in March 2016, just a few days shy of Loudermilk’s 82nd birthday, as he watched and listened to an all-star cast of both recording artists and session players roll out a wide range of not only his many hits, but take deep swan dives into his catalog.

Where sometimes an assemblage of this many artists can get lost on the road of good intentions, all the performers consistently selected songs that were an excellent fit for them. Buddy Greene, who was a member of Jerry Reed’s band, burns down the house, with that wild Reed rhythm on “Big Daddy’s Alabama Bound.” With two acoustic guitar monster instrumentalists on the bill, Tommy Emmanuel and Loudermilk’s son Mike, either one of them could have performed “Windy and Warm,” Loudermilk’s signature instrumental that Chet Atkins turned into a standard. Emmanuel got to do it, while Mike Loudermilk does the more serene sing-along favorite “Abilene,” but introduced it with some high-octane instrumental chops. He later returns with Norro Wilson on the very novel “The Great Snowman.” Emmylou Harris is perfect for the mysterious haunting “Where Have They Gone?” and Rodney Crowell recreates a spot on trip down “Tobacco Road.” Roseanne Cash and John Leventhal do an intimate version of “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” Ricky Skaggs and The Whites shine bright on several tunes including “Waterloo.” Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver hit speeds you think would derail the “Blue Train” as they bring it into the station ahead of schedule. Beth Hooker floored me with her pipes on “Turn Me On” John Cowan performs “I Wanna Live” as strong a closer as Harry Stinson’s opener, “Everybody Knows.”

John Jorgenson did a real hat trick job as musical director assembling the house band of Charlie Morgan, Mark Fain, Herb Pederson while wearing of many other hats here, including taking all for a ride on “The Midnight Bus.” The overall result is a listening experience that captures the feel of actually being there. With two dozen cuts, there are many more highlights for you to enjoy. You like “Sad Movies”? You got em. There is also a concert film that will be forthcoming on PBS that I am looking forward to.

I’m giving this a 100, but I am puzzled with the great house band available, why legendary hall of fame songwriter, Bobby Braddock chose to perform “Break My Mind” solo, with the exception of the audience jumping in to clap along. Probably every one of that song’s 53 covers has always been a real rocker. I also would have loved to have heard someone like George Hamilton V do “A Rose And A Baby Ruth”—besides being the tune that set his Dad and John D down the road to Nashville, it’s the very first song I ever sang at a high school dance.

John D. Loudermilk passed away a few months after this show. I reached out to his wife Susan to ask about comments I know he would make. She said, “Of course he had lots of musings about it all, but the one thing that sticks out was, his saying what inspired him to write everything, both happy and sad: “Love Is Everything.” To which I say, this CD captures a theatre full of it, that wonderful evening of March 24,2016

—Ken Spooner

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