CD Country/Bluegrass

Hank Locklin: a tenor of country music

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Title: Please Help Me I’m Falling & Happy Journey

Label: Jasmine

Sometimes unfairly forgotten but Locklin had one of the supreme tenor voices of country music. He had a real sense of clarity in his delivery. He was also a pioneer, being one of the earliest proponents of the concept album.  He really hit the heights on the RCA label, though, when he teamed up with, producer, Chet Atkins in 1955. Atkins leant Locklin more than his producer skills, though, often joining him on rhythm or lead guitar plus keyboard skills from Floyd Cramer. This CD features two of his earliest LPs.

Sonically, this CD is fascinating. With the title track, Please Help Me I’m Falling, the production sounds a little primitive. Rocklin’s voice is rather compressed, thin and hard in the midrange while the piano struggles to expand its dynamics and, although the sound stage is broad and spacious, the backing instruments struggle to make themselves heard. And this is a 1960 cut, which is all the more surprising. I can only imagine that the mastering engineer piled on the compression for radio play or his technical facilities were not too hot.

That’s a stereo cut. Later, when we get to It’s a Little More Like Heaven By Your Side, in glorious mono, things start to pick up in sonic terms. Locklin’s delivery is more controlled, more emotive in terms of his delivery and he sounds rather more relaxed…as if he’s really enjoying himself in the studio. His backing instruments, this time, have more time and space to do their thing and, thus, provide a rhythmic, musical performance. You end up tapping your foot on this track. It’s entirely possible – although this is purely conjecture – that the studio was used more to a mono set up and they had yet to fully grasp the stereo ‘gimmick’. The year of 1960 was pretty early for some studios in terms of transferring to stereo so the technology would have been tough to master in full.

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