Let’s get this out in the open; my knowledge of country prior to 1990 is sketchy, and prior to 1980 it is pretty terrible. This is one of the reasons for the reflection pieces in the first place. Ever since I heard “Gold All Over the Ground,” I wanted to dig through the catalogue of Johnny Cash, and then, coincidentally, I was sent the recommendation “On the Evening Train” by my boyfriend Rob–that comes from a much later album, so I started working my way through that, and then I heard “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” also coincidentally, which led me to Silver. I’ve been expressly informed that this isn’t the “most accurate representation of Johnny Cash,” and I’m sure that’s correct because I don’t have much of an idea, but I really enjoyed this one, so I thought I’d share it with you all.
Release Date: 1979
Style: some traditional country, some blues, Apple Music mentions it being more mainstream which is probably why it might not be the most accurate representation of Cash
Who Might Like This Album: Johnny Cash fans, fans of country influenced with soul and blues, fans of story songs and imagery
Standout Tracks: “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” “Cocaine Blues,” “West Canterbury subdivision Blues,” “Muddy Waters,” “I’ll Say It’s True,” “I’m Gonna Sit on the Porch and Pick on my Old Guitar”
Reflections: Well, this is the first album that I have discovered doing this, as opposed to revisiting one and greeting songs like old friends. This was a new kind of experience, like listening to a new album, but in a different way, as if I’d found something that had been lost. As I say, there is a lot of bluesy influence in these songs, and I really enjoyed that style. The imagery is great, especially in “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” and “West Canterbury subdivision blues,” where the narrator sings about leaving his “queen” behind in their “castle” too much, “and that was no way to leave her.” Eventually, another man came along and “plucked my grapes from the vine.” I love the metaphors in this one, and listening to songs from this era really paints a picture of how far the quality of mainstream songwriting has slipped. There are some more traditional tracks too, like the humorous “I’ll Say It’s True,” with George Jones, and the closer, “I’m Gonna Sit on the Porch and Pick on my Old Guitar.” It’s a nice mix of styles, and overall, this album was just a really enjoyable listen that I know I will keep coming back to.
Vince Gill has had one of the most successful careers in country music history, earning numerous awards, as well as inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Grand Ole Opry. Unlike other artists his age, he is aging gracefully. He isn’t pulling an Alabama and releasing a “Southern Drawl” in misguided hopes for radio play. He is still making the records he wants to make, and his signature tenor voice has been unaffected–if anything, it has only grown stronger on this record. Even if you don’t like Vince Gill’s discography, you probably like Vince Gill himself; he seems to be one of the most respected and well-liked people in the business. In fact, it took me some time to review this record because I am an unashamed Vince Gill fan. But I have finally hit on the problem with this album–it’s not a bad album by any stretch, and there are a few songs you will keep coming back to, which I will point out. If you aren’t a Vince Gill fan, you may really enjoy this album–but if you are familiar with his work, this will mostly just make you want to listen to better Vince Gill material.
As I said earlier, Vince is making the albums he wants to make; he has a songwriting credit on every track and was a producer. It is for this reason that I can’t immediately dismiss the production on this record, but I do want to address it now, lest I should have to on every song–the production is heavily influenced by r&b, although not the trend-chasing r&b of Thomas Rhett, more like an age-appropriate version. I might call this 80’s R&b country, and since this was obviously Vince’s decision, I won’t critique it, except where it especially helps or hinders certain songs.
“Reasons for the Tears I Cry,” the album’s opener, is a heartbreak song. Vince Gill’s voice is as strong as ever as he sings, “I got reasons, reasons for the tears I cry.” This immediately introduces the adult comtemporary/r&b country production which sets the stage for much of the record. This production works really well for the title track, another heartbreak song in which Vince says that he gave up smoking and drinking and his old friends for a woman–all the things she’d left him for. But, “the one thing that I’ll always be addicted to, oh I’m down to my last bad habit, you.” This is one of the standout songs that works because of its slow-burning, bluesy production. “Me and my Girl” is more country-influenced, and is just an easygoing love song that is pleasant to listen to; this one gets better with more listens and is another one you will find yourself taking away from the album.
“Like my Daddy Did” is a song about a man asking a woman to marry him–but she’s afraid that he will walk out on her like her father did. This is one case where I love Vince’s voice and the songwriting, but I think it would have made a great country song; it makes a pretty good adult contemporary song. “Make You Feel Real Good” is one of the fun, upbeat songs signature of Vince Gill; this one is about a man attempting to seduce a woman. “Baby doll, you know I would make you feel real good.” This one is more country and just suits Vince Gill; it’s just fun. “I Can’t Do This” is a beautifully written song about a man watching his ex with another man; Vince’s voice delivers the emotion wonderfully, but it’s another moment where I wish for more country production. We’re all aware of what kind of emotion Vince Gill can evoke in a guitar, but this song features piano. Songs like this make a review difficult, because there’s nothing wrong with it–it’s just not what Vince Gill is capable of.
“My Favorite Movie” is one of the weaker love songs, this one about a love that is real but it is better than anything on Hollywood screens. It’s easier to dismiss a song like this than “I Can’t Do This,” because here the lyrics aren’t great either. “One More Mistake I Made” is the most adult contemporary of the bunch, even featuring a trumpet. If this entire album hadn’t been such a sonic shift for Gill, this song might have been an interesting experiment–as it is, it’s a piece of great songwriting that is made completely bland by production. “Take Me Down” features Little Big Town and is about a woman who can “take me down every time you come around and make me surrender for you.” The driving production fits this perfectly; this song reminds me of something Fleetwood Mac might have recorded. Good to see Little Big Town contributing to something worthwhile, after their wasted collaboration with Miranda Lambert on “Smokin’ and Drinkin’.” This is what they should be doing.
Next is another collaboration, this one with Cam on a song called “I’ll be Waiting For You.” This is another standout of the record; their voices blend flawlessly, and a song like this reminds you of Vince Gill’s skill at love songs. This one is also very country. Definitely listen to this song. I am pleased that both of the collaborations were highlights of this record. “When it’s Love” is a solid song about, well, knowing when it is love–“When it’s love, it’s like a wild raging river, when it’s love, feel like you’ve been delivered. You might as well just surrender when it’s love.” This song could have been helped by different production, but it’s still solid. Then the album closes with the stunning “I Feel a Sad One Comin’ On (a Song for George Jones),” and here is the Vince Gill I’ve been waiting for. Here is his guitar crying, and the sadness of “Go Rest High on That Mountain” and “I Call Your Name.”
It’s this song at the end that ultimately brings down the record; there were great songs on it, but now they pale in comparison when you hear the potential of Vince Gill. And as a Vince Gill fan, every time I get to this point, all the goodwill I felt toward this record is replaced by desire to listen to other Vince Gill work. However, as a reviewer, I cannot deny that this album is actually quite good in and of itself. Regardless of the r&b influence, it features excellent vocals throughout and great songwriting throughout a good portion of it. The collaborations are standouts, as is the title track. It’s almost unfortunate the Jones tribute is at the end, cheapening the rest of the album–but that’s exactly what it does. Give these songs a listen. As a collection of songs, they ar quite good. But as an album, Vince Gill can deliver much better.