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Generations in Song by Hank Locklin

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Hank Locklin was one of the big early popular countrypolitan artists in the 50s and 60s, adding the string sections and smooth sounds to commercialize country music. Floyd Cramer and his piano sound came to prominence notably in Locklin hits such as the tv album staple “Please Help Me I’m Falling.”

Locklin put out a new album last year, Generations in Song. It’s not particularly the album of the year, but it’s actually surprisingly good. I say “surprisingly” good partly because I’ve never paid much attention to Hank Locklin. I’ve never paid much attention to Locklin partly perhaps because I tend to have a low opinion of the idea of countrypolitan.

I also say “surprisingly” good because the guy’s 82 years old. Even Sinatra wasn’t sounding like much at 60. Apparently, however, Mr. Locklin has been living right, cause his singing is surprisingly strong. He’s still a totally credible professional singer. He even looks good on the album cover. In fact, he looks like he could still get a date — and might even be able to do her some good.

Some of the songs are covers of country standards, about half sung as duets — notably a remake of his own “Send Me the Pillow You Dream On” with Dolly Parton.

I don’t know how many are new songs, but I recognized four, which makes two thirds of them new to me at least.

The best recording, the one with the most emotional impact is “Grow Old Beside Me,” performed as a duet with Jeanne Pruett. As it happens, this is a Locklin original. It makes sense that this growing old together kind of commitment seems to mean more to him at this point in life than some barroom cheating song.

Just on this one song, he sounded old. In context, it sounds like a purposeful effect, rather than just being old. I take it for skill.

This would be a good record for an old country music loving Dad or Grandpa for Father’s Day. It’s pretty good, a smooth, classic style Locklin record. It’s the kind of thing to provide encouragement to the old geezers. Hey, he’s still going and still credible. I could see it being kind of re-assuring.

If you like this kind of stuff, you’ll probably be pleased with this.

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