David Allan Coe

Tattoo

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Tattoo was David Allan Coe's fifth Columbia album and displayed a return to form after the disappointing Rides Again. (There was also a return to plantation for an album called Texas Moon that's long been out of print and was most notable for its cover of Billy Joe Shaver's "Ride Me Down Easy.") Issued in 1977, it shows Coe sticking hard and fast to his traditional country roots just as the music began to mutate into urban cowboy-ism. Ron Bledsoe and Coe chose ten tunes, eight of which Coe either composed or co-wrote, as well as a cover of Mickey Newbury's classic "Frisco Mabel Joy." This is one of Coe's finest recordings -- it's full of love songs, divorce tunes, cheating songs, and rootsy, gutsy honky tonk playing by a stellar cast of musicians. Opening with the stomping honky tonk love paean "Just to Prove My Love for You," with echoes of Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley haunting the fringes, and "Face to Face," one would be hard-pressed to find two tougher love songs stacked back to back on any country album. But he even moves toward the cheating breakup tune with a gorgeous Johnny Gimble-styled fiddle on "You'll Always Live Inside of Me." "Maria Is a Mystery" features some of the most haunting imagery in any Coe song, and he follows it with the amazing "Just in Time to Watch Love Die," before a deeply moving read of "Frisco Mabel Joy." The album closes with "Hey Gypsy," a dramatic, fully orchestrated plea for wanderers to return to a place of solace. It sounds like Coe is so haunted by these songs that he's looking directly into the depths of the mirror of his own soul. He probably was. This is easily one of the finest country records issued in the 1970s.

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