Jimmie Dale Gilmore is the type of artist I could listen to all day, every day. There are few singer/songwriters who make better Texas country music than Gilmore. And I was initially excited to learn that he was releasing a new studio album. But then I read that this album, titled Come on Back, was to be a collection of old country standards. I was disappointed to say the least. The guy who wrote “After Awhile,” “Dallas” and “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown” is going to put down his pen and play other peoples’ songs? And look at the songs! I mean, these are the songs played every Saturday night by fiddle-less country bands in rural VFWs all across the Llano Estacado.
So with low expectations I cracked open the case and pulled the liner notes. I immediately noticed that fellow Flatlanders member and Texas music legend Joe Ely produced the record. So I looked some more hoping to find Butch Hancock’s name, but no luck there. As I’m looking around, I see the story behind the music, which was penned by Jimmie himself. These were his Jimmie’s dad Brian’s favorite songs. Jimmie recorded this album as a tribute to the memory of his father.
Isn’t it just amazing how having a little background information about something can totally turn your attitude around on things?
So now that I’ve forgiven Jimmie for his track selection, I thought I might take a listen. It’s really hard for me to describe how much I love this record. It easily makes my top five records of 2005 and is certainly the best country album released this year.
It’s rare that a record of cover songs, and especially ones as prolifically recorded as these, can feel so new. And it only took one listen to hook me. This album is greatness from front to back. There are no throwaways or B-side quality songs on this record.
Gilmore’s voice is the main reason for my lavish praise. His sweet and, at the same time, haunting tenor tones really give these old songs new life. Gilmore’s voice is so personal and full of emotion, he could make “Happy Birthday to You” sound beautiful.
Jimmie’s and his band’s (which includes Joe Ely) playing is exceptional. These guys really “act like they’ve been there before.” Ely’s arrangements are very clean and crisp. Instruments are used with purpose, and not just as a layering effect as is done on many modern country records. The mix is very clean, too, with just enough of everything at just the right levels.
I don’t know what else to say about Come on Back except that anyone with an interest in country music or Texas country music (yes, there is a difference) should own this record. It’s a personal collection that Jimmie chose to share with the world, and it deserves every bit of attention it gets.
Brian Gilmore would certainly be pleased.
1. “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down” by Harlan Howard
2. “Saginaw, Michigan” by Bill Anderson & Don Wayne
3. “Standin’ on the Corner (Blue Yodel No. 9)” by Jimmie Rodgers
4. “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” by Slim Willett
5. “Four Walls” by George Campbell & Marvin Moore
6. “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” by Fred Rose & Hank Williams
7. “Walking the Floor Over You” by Ernest Tubb
8. “I’m Movin’ On” by Hank Snow
9. “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” by Marty Robbins
10. “Train of Love” by Johnny Cash
11. “Jimmie Brown the Newsboy” by A.P. Carter
12. “Gotta Travel On” by Paul Clayton, Larry Ehrlich, David Lazar & Tom Six
13. “Peace in the Valley” by Thomas A. Dorsey