Johnny Paycheck

On His Way

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The title of Koch's second collection of Johnny Paycheck's Little Darlin' recordings explains it all: this captures the period when Johnny was hitting his stride, when he was On His Way. If the first volume chronicled The Beginning, when Paycheck was finding his identity as he dabbled in Western swing and country staples, this collection -- consisting of material recorded in the mid-'60s (exact dates are nowhere to be found in the liner notes, regrettably) -- finds him settling into his classic honky tonk style, alternating between lively two-steps and heartbreaking ballads. While Paycheck and his producer/songwriting partner Aubrey Mayhew penned only two of the 15 songs here -- the very funny "Help Me Hank, I'm Falling," a plea to Hank Cochran to write another song so Johnny can have another hit as big as he had with Cochran's "A-11," and the lean honky tonk raver "The Meanest Jukebox" -- the songs are uniformly excellent and are delivered so convincingly, it's hard to imagine anybody else singing them. Most of the tunes aren't familiar -- they were released only as 45s, collected later on an independent album, and one, "The Wheels Fell off the Wagon," was previously unreleased prior to this collection -- but they more than hold their own with the two hit singles: the aforementioned "A-11" and the deliriously infectious "The Lovin' Machine," Paycheck's first Top Ten hit and biggest single of the '60s. These two sides bookend On His Way, and in between them lays a series of songs that may not have made the charts at the time, but they stand as one of the strongest sets of pure, straight-ahead country recorded in the '60s, and thanks to Koch, they're finally back in print, which is where they belong.

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