Tuesday, April 2, 2013

CD Review – Marty Raybon - The Back Forty

Image635037685302833881Marty Raybon’s voice puts me into a comfort zone……. you know, like a nice warm snifter of something smooth after supper sittin’ by the fire. Or, slippin’ into your favorite flannel shirt after you’ve come in cold and wet from workin’ outside.

Maybe that comfortable feeling of mine is because that voice has been around so long, and I’ve never heard Marty sound anything but GOOD!

I knew goin’ in that I was going to like this CD, but, I didn’t know I was going to like it this much! WOW! What a recording this one is!

Marty produced this one himself, recording the instrumental tracks at Mojo Recording Studio, in Greenback, TN., with Josh Molen and Lewell Molen doing the engineering, mixing and mastering. For all of his lead vocal recordings, Marty went to Wishbone Studios, in Muscle Shoals, AL. He must have known exactly what he wanted, and where to go to get it, because, from a technical side, everything, instruments and vocals, all sound crystal clear, warm and rich. I love it when the microphone is up close and personal, like it is here, and you can hear the singer breathe. If you have headphones on, it’s almost like the artist is singing just to you…… Marty has that natural ability to convey his emotions in the most genuine way, and when his singing is matched by top quality equipment and technicians really listening for that magic in his voice, THIS recording is the result. I’ve never heard Image635005109446934783Marty’s voice sound better. Marty Lewis and Mike McGuire were the engineers waving their magic wands over these vocal tracks, and they did a wonderful job! Mike McGuire is Marty’s old friend and was the drummer for “Shenandoah.”

It’s not just Marty’s vocals that shine so well on this CD. It should be noted that Marty’s brother, Tim Raybon, handled all the harmony vocals. Tim and Marty sing together with an affinity for each other that is marvelous to hear. That “brotherly” intuitiveness shows up again! Listen to how they sound on “Only You, Only You,” and you’ll be as impressed as I am. The ending of the song has the voices moving with a powerful, almost gospel, movement that is simply beautiful to hear. For singers to sing like this, it takes years and years of working on breath control, diaphragm strength, vocal technique and ears listening to the nuances of each other….. OR….. just growin‘ up brothers singin‘ together will get the job done! Either way, Tim and Marty’s harmonies are exquisite!

Of the ten songs on this CD, Marty co-wrote five of them….. three of them with John Fountain. The afore mentioned “Only You, Only You,” which I do believe is my favorite song, the very first tune on the CD, “That Janie Baker,” and “A Little More Sawdust On The Floor.” Every one of them is a winnerImage635005113068051899 and qualify as single material. Marty and John definitely need to write together more, and as often as possible! “Janie Baker” is solid, wide open, full steam ahead bluegrass guaranteed to catch your interest. “Sawdust,” has a country, bar room feel that will have you lookin’ for a dance partner. The arrangement is pure bluegrass instrumentation, but the feel would fit just about any honky tonk juke box sittin’ right next to the dance floor. All three songs are lyrically picturesque and melodically catchy and memorable. I haven’t been able to stop humming “Only You” for about a week now! “The Big Burnsville Jail,” co-written with Thom Case and Michael Bonagura is as good an outlaw tale as I’ve heard in years. The defendant in question had more hutzpah, self-assured escape plans, AND self-indulgent ways to spend his ill gotten gains than Butch and Sundance ever thought of. Great lyrical story …… and maybe even a video! Lots of imagery to go with a fun song.

The last co-write for Marty is “Mountain Love,” which he wrote with Jerry Salley. He ends the CD with it, and it will leave the listener wanting to let the whole record play through just one more time! Everyone of the co-writes is a good one, not a clinker in the bunch. I really do believe that if Marty had set his mind to it, he could have filled this entire CD with original songs. We all know just how good a singer he is, the testimonials to his voice are legend, and from the sound of this recording, Marty has earned his Producer wings and can pull the best out of session players and studio techs. I’ll bet he had more originals up his sleeve….. and I would have loved to have heard more of Marty Raybon, hit songwriter.

Marty reached way back in the country archives and pulled two old gems out of retirement. Charlie Pride had the original, John Schweers written hit, “She’s Just An Old Love Turned Memory,” and Marty turned it from a ¾ time ballad into an up tempo 2/4 bluegrass goody! “Slowly (I’m Falling),” a big hit for Webb Pierce, (remember Webb’s guitar shaped swimming pool in Nashville?), takes on a whole new life also, and both songs fit right into the Marty Raybon record making machine.

The final three songs Marty selected are just as top shelf as the rest. For some high lonesome moanin’, “The Late Night Cry Of The Whippoorwill,” by Paul Craft, Randall Hylton, Brenda Harrington and Kermit Teague shines as a perfect example of what bluegrass music is all about. Killer harmonies and this classic acoustic presentation would make Bill Monroe smile down from bluegrass heaven. “Hurt Me All The Time” is NOT an ode to masochism, it’s just a very clever bit of word play that will keep you listening ’til the very last note. Writer’s Raymond Maynard, Nelson Terry Skinner and Lee Larry Wallace brought a clever sense of humor to the CD with this one.

The most meaningful and touching song included is “Look For Me (I Will Be There Too)”, written by Charles (Rusty) Goodman. Marty must have felt it’s power and sincerity, because his finest vocal performance of the project is on this song, he puts his whole heart, soul and faith into the lyrics. An extremely well written jewel, and Marty sings it tenderly.

Image634938367010025187To have your CD considered for review, contact: W.J. Hallock for specific submission and mailing instructions.

The musicianship on “The Back Forty,” is simply as good as it gets. Tim Crouch plays all the fiddle tracks, and his playing is the backbone of the arrangements. He never overplays, he just adds little dabs of spice in all the right places. He has a way of sliding up to a note (for all the classically trained folks in the house, a Glissando) in a bluesy kind of way that is sensational, and what I love most is when he’ll over dub a second track for a twin fiddle section and those little slides (Glissandi?) are perfectly in sync, and perfectly in tune. Just another reason he’s one of the A-List session men working today. He’s a pure pleasure to listen to.

Marty surrounded himself with marvelous players at every position. Daniel Grindstaff and Chris Wade played all the banjo tracks. Three different mandolin men contributed their talents…… Scott Napier, Tim Laughlin and Zach Rambo. John Bradley and Aaron Ramsey laid down the bass tracks, and Marty and brother Tim took care of the guitar playing. What is really noticeable is that every song feels full, deep and rhythmically solid and tight. With every member of “Team Raybon” giving it 110%, it’s no wonder this CD is a winner!

Marty, and “Team Raybon,” have joined forces and come up with an exceedingly entertaining CD full of great songs, hot licks and vocal beauty that only adds to Marty’s catalog of instantly recognizable hits. YEP….. This recording needs to be in your collection.

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