Johnny Paycheck

The Little Darlin' Sound of Johnny Paycheck: The Gospel Truth

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In May of 1966, Johnny Paycheck recorded a session of gospel music with the regular Little Darlin' house band, 14 songs of which were released in 1967 as the Gospel Time in My Fashion LP. Twelve years later, Little Darlin' owner and producer Aubrey Mayhew reissued most of this album, along with one outtake, just as Paycheck's star was rising during the salad days of outlaw country, but this new record, which was blessed with the wonderful title Jesus and the Outlaw, didn't have the original, unadorned masters. Mayhew had Buddy Spicher write new string arrangements and brought in the Jordanaires to add backing vocals, and these overdubbed masters appeared on the wonderfully titled LP Jesus and the Outlaw. When it came time to release these gospel sessions in their Little Darlin' Sound series, Koch, Mayhew, and compilation producer Tom Kittypaw opted for a single 23-track disc that contained the entirety of Gospel Time and Jesus and the Outlaw, adding "According to the Bible" -- a B-side that appeared on a Christmas single called "The Old Year Is Gone" (which is available on the 2004 CD Little Darlin' Christmas, proving that there is a Little Darlin' disc for every occasion) -- which was recorded during these sessions. Jesus and the Outlaw ran just eight tracks, seven of which were on Gospel Time, so there's heavy repetition on this set (however, "The Day Is Almost Over," which appears on Jesus, but not Gospel Time, is not present in its original undubbed master, even if there was plenty of room for it here on this 60-minute disc), but since the overdubbed versions are so treacly, so different than the lean undubbed masters, they nearly feel like a completely different album. In either case, the music is good, straight-ahead country, closer to honky tonk than conventional country gospel -- in other words, it sounds like a standard Johnny Paycheck session from the mid-'60s -- not much of a departure. And while it's certainly good music, it's not as compelling as his other Little Darlin' records -- at its core, it's an interesting tangent, not a revelation, one that's worthwhile listening for Paycheck diehards, even if it's not a collection that will be played all that often. One final note: The Gospel Truth appears to be taken from vinyl, not tapes, since there is recurring surface noise -- snaps, crackles, and pops -- throughout the disc. It's quite possible that the original tapes have been lost -- and the fidelity, while not stellar, is perfectly acceptable -- so it's easier to forgive this sound than the sloppy copyediting on the back cover where the same song is once listed as "Every Minute I Want Jesus" and then "Every Minute I Want Jesus by My Side." The original LPs may have had these different titles, but on this CD, it doesn't look accurate, it looks shoddy.

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