Mickey Newbury

The Sailor

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Who would have thought that Mickey Newbury would issue a 100%, crackling fresh country-pop record in 1979? Produced by Ronnie Gant with (massive) string arrangements by Alan Moore at Cowboy Jack Clement's studio, The Sail reveals that Newbury knew what it took all the time, but by the time he let his muse follow him down the commercial country rabbit hole, it was too late. The first track, "Blue Sky Shinin'," is a country love song arranged and exquisitely performed as if written for Patsy Cline. Next, "Let's Have a Party" is perhaps Newbury's anthem, not because of its title, but because it's one of the most beautiful confessional songs he's ever written. The production by Gant is straightforward and Newbury's voice is clearly in the foreground. The sound effects are replaced with layers of instrumentation and backing vocals. Newbury's relaxed delivery offers the listener a way to see just how sincere these songs are. While there are no weak cuts, the aforementioned stand out. So does "Let It Go," done in 2/4 time, beginning as a country song and ending by transforming itself inside out into a gospel shouter. The Sailor, once again, refused to sell, perhaps because it was too late, perhaps because it was too early -- Merle Haggard and George Jones made records that sounded exactly like this only three years later and scored big. As great as this record is, and as good as Newbury knew it was, it was the same old story. Nashville's radio machine wasn't having it, and therefore the public never got the chance to make up its mind. In fact, the way Newbury's entire career was handled by Nashville is evidence enough to raze the entire town and start over.

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