One of the most fertile grounds for country music continues to be the western plains and the lifestyle of a cowboy. While many might ascribe such musings to a romantic attraction to the past, a number of rugged individuals, like R.W. Hampton, continue to raise horses and cattle on western ranches. Always in My Heart finds Hampton plumbing the images of the plains on 14 songs, covering the ups and downs of love, western style. He's a fine writer, offering jewels like "When She Cries, 'Don't Go'" and "Back Home to Lisa," and has a good eye for covers like "Adobe Walls" and Marty Robbins' "Bend in the River." Hampton's baritone resonates deeply and fills out each lyric with a note of sincerity. The simple country & western accompaniment, highlighted by Gary Carpenter's steel guitar and Chris Booher's fiddle, flawlessly underline the material. All of this works together to create fresh versions of Merle Haggard's "Shelly's Winter Love" and "What Does She See," a duet with Ian Tyson. One also wouldn't want to miss a lovely take on "Whispering Pines" or the tasteful guitar fills on "Blue Spanish Eyes." After listening to Always in My Heart one might be tempted to make residing on a ranch in New Mexico a prerequisite to recording a country album. R.W. Hampton captures the dusty flavor of the West on his debut for Real West, offering a piece of the real thing to city slickers.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.