Dedicated To You

Big Sandy

Hightone Records, 1998

http://www.bigsandy.net

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/06/1998

It wasn't that long ago that I reviewed the first solo album from the Fly-Rite Boys, who normally perform with Robert "Big Sandy" Williams. Now, fresh on the heels of the Fly-Rite Boys's effort comes the first solo disc from Big Sandy himself, Dedicated To You.

While it is noble that some artists have made it their lives to preserve the sound and feel of music form the early days of rock and roll, this disc does prove that too much of a good thing can be bad.

Big Sandy employs the assistance of legendary '50s doo-wop artists The Calvanes and pianists Dewey Terry (who also contributes a guitar solo and vocal), Skip Edwards and Carl Sonny Leyland to help flesh out the sound of the band - and their influence is clearly felt throughout the disc. If you are a Baby Boomer (or, like me, you're the child of one and have grown up listening to the oldies station with them), you might often find yourself doing a double-take when listening to Big Sandy. With more than a touch of Elvis Presley in his voice, you might find it difficult to believe you're listening to a product from 1998, and not 1955.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And there's no doubting that Big Sandy and his backing group tackle this collection of 15 covers of older doo-wop songs (and one original snuck in) with the resolve of bringing joy to those who listen to it. Songs like "Lonely Guy," "Pretty Girls Everywhere" and "I'm Leavin' It All Up To You" (featuring a vocal from Dewey Terry, who sang on the original version as well) all send chills of pleasure down the listener's spine.

What Big Sandy doesn't recognize on Dedicated To You is that this style of music is tolerable for a limited amount of time. When you start grabbing songs like "Death Of An Angel," the true-to-form of the original really grates on you. The crying in the background almost made me think I was listening to Johnnie Ray (the original was done by Donald Woods). I don't remember any of the teen-death songs of that era actually featuring weeping in the background. (For that matter, I haven't heard any song featuring crying that I've liked - ever.)

And while many of the selections featured here are songs that Big Sandy grew up listening to, odds are that even some Baby Boomers might have a difficult time recognizing some of these songs from the days of their youth. (I have yet to test this disc on my father, who listened to the oldies so much that he got me interested in them. My dad likes to say that I know the oldies and the artists better than he does.)

Dedicated To You is still a fun album to listen to, but it's not one that's easily dealt with in one sitting. Had Big Sandy chosen a few different cuts than almost all obscure numbers, this might have been a more approachable disc. Still, there's room for a lot of smiles.

Rating: C+

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hightone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.