Country’s strange truths and unresolved mysteries still make it compelling music. Could George have actually kidnapped Tammy? Would you believe Crystal Gayle comes from the same genetic pool as Loretta Lynn? The latter, at least, we know to be true.
If you’ve ever listened to her music, the curiosity is obvious: Gayle sounds more like the offspring of a lit professor than daughter of a coalminer. Still, big sister Loretta renamed Brenda Gail Webb after the popular southern hamburger chain Krystal. And frankly, some may think her music resembled the hamburgers after which she was named: square. But if it’s your thing, Crystal’s latest hits collection includes some of the best recordings the pop side of country music has to offer, circa 1970-83.
It serves as a determined reminder. You can count sixteen #1 songs and twelve crossover hits among the 23 tracks here, all of which charted, and charted at a time when radio was, let’s say, more responsive to real listeners.
The songs are strong, the first of the collection penned by prolific Loretta herself (“I’ve Cried The Blue Right Out Of My Eyes”, sweetly produced by Owen Bradley). Following are hit after hit from some of Nashville’s cornerstone songwriters including Richard Leigh (“I’ll Get Over You”, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”) and the man who would become Crystal’s longtime producer, Allen Reynolds (“Somebody Loves You”, “Wrong Road Again”). Though this is certainly not the hip side of country music, it doesn’t try to be, and if you claim you can listen to these crafty pop creations without singing along, you better check and make sure your pants aren’t on fire.
The production is tasteful, save for a few moments of somewhat rigorous string orchestrations. Perhaps most appealing to the ear here is the sincerity in Crystal’s voice. I have to say it caught me a bit off-guard. She is totally believable and her delivery is as soft and shiny as her three-foot brown hair.
If your country music collection runs deep enough to have a guilty pleasures section, file this between John Denver and Ronnie Milsap. Crystal Gayle may have had a springboard toward success, given her access to the business, but her body of work boldly stands on its own. Listening to that sweet unadulterated voice sail effortlessly over undeniable melodies, her success is really no mystery at all.