Roy Head

Country Crooner

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Roy Head may have begun his career as a country singer in San Marcos, TX, but he made his mark as a rock & roll singer with "Treat Her Right." Head was a wild man in the Jerry Lee Lewis tradition for most of the 1960s and early '70s. The recordings on Country Crooner were made while Head was signed to ABC/Dot at the same time, and the musicians used on these sessions were also used on the records he cut for those labels in the same year, 1977. What's different is that the music here is not really about Head as rock & roll archetype, but as a country singer returning to his roots. From the opening track, a deeply moving version of "My Elusive Dreams" that eclipses the Glen Campbell/Bobbie Gentry read of the Curly Putman and Billy Sherrill composition, it's obvious that Head has dug deep into his countrypolitan roots. Following this is a gorgeous take on Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love" that takes a soul tune and makes it a country waltz. But there's the sinister here as well: Head takes the Swamp Fox's (Tony Joe White) "High Sheriff" and alternately croons and whispers its darkness to the listener. The range on these first three tracks is astonishing -- especially since Head is supposed to have been a has-been at this point. Honky tonk blues makes its appearance with Dean Parks' "Take Your Time," which features a whining pedal steel and a string section that is made up of fiddles rather than violins. "Ginger's Bread Man" is outlaw country in the Waylon Jennings tradition. The redone "Treat Her Right," as a Doug Sahm Tex-Mex tune with Cajun backing, was totally unnecessary. But four ballads wrap the record up, accenting Head's crooning ability again -- three of them by Gene Thomas -- and simply put a crown on a phenomenal achievement. Country Crooner is one of the -- if not the -- finest recordings Head ever released.

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