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Ray Charles - Modern Sounds in Country and Western (Concord Records)

1 May 2019

If the late, great Ray Charles had attempted a study of modern sounds in country and western music in 2019, do you think he’d have touched Florida Georgia Line with a ten-foot pole? More likely, he’d have gone straight back to many of the classics from the middle-20th century represented within this influential 1962 release. It’s difficult to understate the influence that Modern Sounds in Country and Western had upon its initial release during the Civil Rights Movement. With its commercial success, the album sent Charles’ R&B fans seeking the original, rustic country music tracks even as it drew country fans to hear Charles’ imaginative arrangements. Hits from the album included an orchestral reinvention of Eddy Arnold’s melancholy “You Don’t Know Me.” Charles’ own “Careless Love” is a natural fit among the covers, adding a bit of New Orleans stroll and Big Easy horns to an old folk melody heightened by a plaintive Gospel moan. There’s very little twang here, although Charles maintains the swing of country heartbreakers like Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You” while recasting the song in this chart-topping version with soulful piano playing, brushed snare and vocal choir. Hank Williams’ upbeat countrypolitan single “Hey, Good Lookin’” jumps with its big band arrangement, as does the irrepressible jaunt through the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” featuring the Raelettes’ Andrews Sisters-inspired accompaniment. Charles dips into Williams’ well again for the tale of devotion to a faithless lover “You Win Again.” Concord Music has carefully remastered this first volume of Modern Sounds in Country and Western on heavyweight vinyl, while offering CD and digital versions of the combined Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vols. 1 & 2. This reissue welcomes fresh listening to an acknowledged treasure of American music. (concordrecords.com)

 

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