Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Hoodooin' Of Miss Fanny DeBerry - Alex Harvey

Dear Alex,
There is a sadness in your new album that I like, for I have always found beauty in sadness, like the first smell of fall in late summer or the first sound of peepers in early spring.
Your album has peepers in it and the smell of fall, hounds trailing on the mountain and a lonesome freight train singing low across the valley.
Once I told you then you couldn't sing until you found out who you were. You sang soft and that didn't work. You sang hard. Ditto. So you went back to Nashville and you sang like you had a mouthful of coon with polka dotted vocal cords and I was your best man again. And your daddy died.
I'll never forget how you loved your daddy and how once he whipped you and just as you hated him for it he handed you his belt and took of his shirt , said, "Here. You whip me if you think I whipped you wrong."
Your little Lex was growing up and so were you. You were singing closer to the real you. You'd spit out some of the coon till the words were clearer, but soulful and flavored.
We lost you to the coast after you composed "Reuben James" and "Tell It All Brothers" and Kenny started giving you his producing time and talent. The musicians gave you some fine licks. (Which made me feel bad for all I ever gave you was hell.)
What did you give back?
You gave us an album full of peepers and people a voice closer to the real Alex than I've yet heard. (Except where you sound like a hillbilly imitating a hillbilly, which you are and which you don't have to do!) It is a voice that life and joy and hurt and loving gave you. Once you reached down to your toenails to produce. I won't ask for more. Right now.
Billy Edd Wheeler

The letter above was written from one long forgotten songwriter to another. You might not know Billy Edd Wheeler, but you'll recognize his songs like the Carter/Cash classic "Jackson", or the Kenny Rogers fan favorite "Coward of The County". Billy Edd's intimate review is included on the back cover of Alex Harvey's self-titled 1971 masterpiece.
What makes this record so noteworthy? It was the debuting of timeless tracks such as "Delta Dawn" and "Tulsa Turnaround", for starters. There's also the touching "To Make My Life Beautiful" and the fire and brimstone funk of "Jesus Man". However, it's the swampy southern gothic tale "Hoodooin' of Miss Fanny DeBerry", and the revisited "Ritual of Miss Fanny DeBerry" that's done gone bewitched my turntable.

 The Hoodooin' Of Miss Fanny DeBerry

Kenny Rogers churned up the disco grooves when he included it on his signature album, The Gambler. 

"To Make My Life Beautiful" was the leading album track on side A.

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