by Bruce Sylvester
So welcome to Goldmine’s American Back Roads blog. I’ll primarily – but not exclusively – deal with American roots music, especially my musings on recent CDs and DVDs, both new material and (due to my retro leanings) reissues.
Right now I’m digging into Patsy Cline’s 50-track Sweet Dreams: The Complete Decca Studio Masters 1960-1963 (Hip-O Select/Geffen/Universal). She was so confident as a singer that it was always clear that she was in total control of a song. The two-CD chronological box opens with “I Fall to Pieces,” and then moves through country and pop standards (“San Antonio Rose,” “South of the Border”) plus plenty of covers of ‘40s and ‘50s hits (“Wayward Wind,” “True Love”) and her own hits (“Crazy,” “She’s Got You”). The final session (Feb. 7, 1963) preceded by only four weeks the small plane crash that also took Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, and her manager/lover (say the notes) Randy Hughes.
Patsy’s poise and perfect pitch are incredible. As for the arrangements, her long-time producer Owen Bradley knew how to move a country singer uptown by putting a supper-club polish on her, foreshadowing the countrypolitan movement without falling into its dross (though occasionally the instrumentation seems like hanging cheap jewelry on a sculpture). Bradley used similar savoir fair in developing Brenda Lee’s artistry.
Actually, Patsy’s 1956 versions of her breakthrough hit, “Walkin’ after Midnight,” and its flip, “A Poor Man’s Roses,” were grittier and had more punch than her 1961 rerecordings of them here. Serious Patsy scholars may wonder why her four-song Jan. 27, 1960, session isn’t included since the box’s title says it’s her complete ‘60s studio sessions, but those people probably already have her authoritative four-CD The Patsy Cline Collection (which contains every track in this two-CD box). Aside from that, the box is awfully strong, and the photos are great as we watch a country singer move from cowgirl garb to furs.