Gene Watson

Because You Believed in Me/Beautiful Country

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Having previously combined Gene Watson's first and third albums (1975's Love in the Hot Afternoon and 1977's Paper Rosie) onto one CD, the Hux label paired the moderately popular honky tonk singer's second and fourth albums (1976's Because You Believe in Me and 1978's Beautiful Country) onto one disc for this release. Because You Believe in Me featured a Top 20 hit in the title track, and a considerably smaller one in "Her Body Couldn't Keep You Off My Mind," whose title is rather more memorable than its tune. These actually aren't the highlights of what's a pretty solid (if slightly laid-back) honky tonk record, with little in the way of slickness beyond the maudlin orchestration of "Because You Believed in Me" itself, and plenty in the way of heartfelt, straight-ahead vocal delivery. Larry Gatlin's "Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall" in particular is an overlooked cut, veering a little close to the kind of balladry more associated with Southern deep soul than country. There's lots of variety, however, from the peppy fiddle'n'steel-driven shuffle "When My World Left Town" and the barroom boogie-inflected "Sorry Willie" to "Hey Louella," which is as close as the material gets to honky tonk stomp. The less impressive Beautiful Country did feature some of Watson's most successful singles, including the Top Ten "I Don't Need a Thing at All" and two cuts that just missed the Top Ten, "Cowboys Don't Get Lucky All the Time" and "The Old Man and His Horn." However, while the album's not seriously flawed, it's not the best of his work either, presenting rather matter-of-factly written and arranged '70s country honky tonk, though Watson's vocals remain engaging. Most of the songs are low-energy sentimental pieces, though things perk up a little for the happy-go-lucky, down-on-my-luck tune "Hey Barnum and Bailey," while "I Knew We Could Never Love for Long" has a brighter, more pop-friendly melody than the other material.

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