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Tammy Wynette was one of the definitive Queens of Country. Having started her recording career in 1966 with the single Apartment No. 9, her personal life and professional life often proved challenging. It was not without real harrowing experiences that she was able to deliver emotionally charged storytelling that earned her the tile of The First Lady of Country. After battling numerous addictions to pain medications throughout her tumultuous life, she died aged just 55 in 1998 leaving behind her a legacy of 42 striking albums. This retrospective compilation of her 1985 release Sometimes When We Touch and 1987’s Higher Ground.
Although neither release were her highest charting, already 20 years into her recording career, both records warrant revisiting. As an artist who was constantly evolving and growing in her own sound, it is clear that both albums are distinctively Tammy Wynette but are also representative of the time they were recorded. As with many leading artists, the beauty of her releases reflected the social consciousness of the period, while not simply reflecting the present soundscape.
Perhaps best remembered for the title track duet with Mark Gray, Sometimes When We Touch is a tender ballad that still moves audiences as much today as it did upon it’s first release. However it is far from being the record’s sole memorable cut. While it may not boast the radio hit of D-I-V-O-R-C-E or Stand By Your Man, it is far from paint by numbers songwriting. While You Can Lead You Heart To Love (But You Can’t Make It Fall) lacks anything other than singalong appeal, the amazing Between Twenty Nine and Danger and moving Breaking Away ensure this is an unforgettable release. However it is the rawness of Every Time You Touch Her (Think Of Me) that shows just how perfect a talent Wynette was.
Charting slightly lower than it’s predecessor, 1987’s Higher Ground was a clear move by Wynette’s team to add relevent star power to a release to capitalise on her own success. Featuring Ricky Skaggs, The O’Kanes and Emmylou Harris as well as vocals by Vince Gill, Gene Watson, Vern Gosdin, The Gatlin Brothers, Rodney Crowell and Paul Overstreet, the release is a real snapshot of the industry at the time of it’s release.
While that may have added to it’s sales power at the time of it’s release, the album itself would have stood firmly on it’s own feet without their additions. Clearly baffled by her diminishing star status, the release leans heavily on the additional names but allows Wynette to shine centre stage. Lead single Your Love is once again the finest cut, but Higher Ground, Talkin’ To Myself Again and There’s No Heart So Strong come extremely close.
Sometimes When We Touch / Higher Ground may not represent the height of her success, but they certainly make more memorable listening.Share