Stuart Hamblen

I Gotta Feeling

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In the '40s, Stuart Hamblen reached a major turning point in his life. Plagued by alcoholism, the country star turned to Christianity after attending one of Billy Graham's revival meetings. He realized that -- to borrow a phrase from Merle Haggard -- the bottle was letting him down. So Hamblen gave up alcohol and he gave up secular country as well. Hamblen was still a great country singer, but he made country gospel his focus and used music to promote Christianity. This two-CD collection, which Allegro assembled for its Roots of Country label in 2001, spotlights both sides of Hamblen's artistry: his secular work and the country gospel that he embraced after turning to Christianity. Many of the 28 songs on I Gotta Feeling are excellent; Hamblen's singing is expressive and heartfelt on country gospel gems like "This Ship of Mine" and "Blood on Your Hands," and he is equally charismatic on the secular traditional country of "I Won't Go Huntin' With You, Jake," "My Mary," and "Whistling My Love to You" (all of which preceded his conversion to Christianity). While I Gotta Feeling has a lot of strong points, it isn't without its shortcomings. Collectors will be infuriated to learn that Roots of Country fails to list either recording dates or personnel, which is incredibly frustrating. And many of Hamblen's essential songs are missing, including "Texas Plains" and "This Ole House." So those who are looking for an introductory overview of Hamblen's career need to know that I Gotta Feeling is far from ideal. But for those who want to dig a bit deeper and hear more than just Hamblen's most essential stuff, it isn't a bad double CD to have in one's collection -- imperfections and all.

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