The sixth and final volume of Bear Family's David Allan Coe two-fer series ends on a high note with his final albums for Columbia, the gorgeous Invictus Means Unconquered and the gutsy, rootsy Tennessee Whiskey. Both of these records represent a return to form for Coe, who had hit a career and creative low with his first attempt at a commercial album, I've Got Something to Say, complete with "special guests." No one was really paying attention to Coe when he recorded Invictus; he and producer Billy Sherrill had nothing to lose, so they put together a collection of ten very strong songs that are, for the very first time, comprised entirely of either co-writes or covers. The covers include Gary P. Nunn's "London Home Sick Blues," "Stand by Your Man," and Bobby David and Ray Kennedy's "The Purple Heart," among others. Among the co-writes are two by Coe and Guy and Susanna Clark, "Ain't It Funny the Way Love'll Do Ya" and "I Love Robbing Banks," and the Coe/Shel Silverstein classic "If You Ever Think of Me at All." The album flows from beginning to end and never slacks, even for a moment. It is Coe's most criminally ignored record and may be his very best. Tennessee Whiskey, by contrast, is a record that seeks to expand on the vision created with Invictus. Sherrill's influence in helping to choose material is evident in the title track, Larry Kingston's "Bright Morning Light," and the Shel Silverstein/Fred Koller nugget "Juanita," among others. The rest features new Coe material, songs that are tight, hooky, and downright country -- which might have been a problem in 1981 when Karen Brooks, Janie Fricke, David Frizzell, Eddie Rabbit, Rosanne Cash, and Lacy J. Dalton were topping the charts. The huge surprise is Coe's odd, funky, but very credible reading of "Dock of the Bay." The singing on both of these records is amazing; Coe was never in better voice. Anyone interested in finding out about Coe's work apart from his myth would do well to actually begin with these records.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek