Dobie Gray

Hey Dixie

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Hey Dixie (1974), Dobie Gray's (vocals) third (and final on MCA Records) LP -- left no mistake as to the direction his music was headed. As he had done on previous collections, Gray's blend of rural soul is injected with a sense of the Nashville scene that had been a part of both the Drift Away (1972) and Loving Arms albums. Joining Gray's core instrumental and songwriting constituency of Mentor Williams (producer), Mike Leech (bass), Reggie Young (guitar), Troy Seals (guitar), David Briggs (keyboards) and Kenny Malone (drums) are Lonnie Mack (guitar) and members of the Muscle Shoals house band -- especially the five-piece horn section of Harvey Thompson (sax), Ben Cauley (trumpet), Charles Rose (trombone), Harrison Calloway (trumpet) and Ronnie Eades (sax). The infusion of the top-shelf session talent with thoroughly excellent material resulted in Hey Dixie's slightly edgier and less rural-influenced sound. Mack's old-fashioned thumper "Watch Out for Lucy" is given a Southern rock treatment that isn't too far removed from the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "What's Your Name" or the rowdy honky-tonkin' "Gimmie Three Steps." The title track hearkens back to "Reachin' for the Feeling" from his previous platter with the steady and ultimately danceable rhythm lying between Nashville's upscale countrypolitan sound and MOR pop. "So High (Rock Me Baby and Roll Me Away)" -- which would be covered to great effect by Dave Mason -- has a freewheeling groove similar to that of Gray's 1972 hit "Drift Away." The distinct vocal harmonies during the opening bars of "Roll On Mississippi" immediately suggest comparisons to or influences by the Statler Brothers and the Oak Ridge Boys. Gray's own "The Music's Real" is a suitable tribute to his collaborator and producer Mentor Williams and is parenthetically monikered as "Mentor's Song." The somewhat forced "How Can You Live All Alone" is nice, if not arguably detached, leaving the reworking of Allen Toussaint's "Performance" as the unlikely contender for the most affective ballad on Hey Dixie.

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