Billie Jo Spears

Mr. Walker, It's All Over!

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The title track of Billie Jo Spears's 1969 LP Mr. Walker, It's All Over was a big country hit, and it guaranteed a big audience in the small towns that form much of the backbone of the country listenership with its sassy put down of the New York lifestyle. The rest of the album is by no means filler. It's a quite strong set of material, hewing to the gutsier side of late-'60s country-pop, with Spears proving herself as one of the tougher, harder-edged, commercial country singers of the era. Merle Haggard, Jack Rhodes, Dallas Frazier, and Ed Bruce were among the top country songwriters covered, and some of the songs, like "The Price I Pay to Stay," bristle with a lively assertive defiance. She's also a good interpreter of more sensitive material and laments, like on "Tips and Tables," though the spunky tunes are what stand out. It takes some real courage to cover "Stand By Your Man," so ingrained is Tammy Wynette's version on the public consciousness, but Spears does manage to make it her own; if you're bold enough to tackle it at all, you might as well belt out the chorus for all it's worth, which she certainly does with ear-tingling stridency here. Also surprisingly good is her cover of Johnny Nash's "Hold Me Tight," which convincingly makes his soul-pop-reggae hit over into an up-tempo, wistful, Latin-tinged country cut.

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