Personnel: David Allan Coe (bass voice, guitar, vibraphone); Edward "Eddie" "Ed" Adcock (guitar, background vocals); Pete Bordonali, Warren Haynes, Billy Sanford (guitar); Pete Drake (steel guitar); John McEuen (banjo, mandolin); Terry McMillan (harmonica); Roger Bissell, Denis Solee (horns); Hargus "Pig" Robbins (piano); Bobby Wood (Fender Rhodes piano); Jeff Hale, Kenny Malone (drums); Doug Clements, Lori Westerman Brooks, Phil Forrest, Martha Adcock, James Ferguson, Louis Dean Nunley, Wendy Suits (background vocals).
Recording information: Eleven-Eleven Sound Studio.
Illustrator: R.A. Andreas.
Photographer: R.A. Andreas.
Germany's Bear Family Records hits the second from last leg of its David Allan Coe two-fer reissue program with this pair of albums released in 1984 and '85, respectively, when Coe was edging toward "legend" status -- meaning he was about to be kicked off the radio charts altogether to make room for Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, and the next generation of Nashville hitmakers. Both recordings were produced by Billy Sherrill. Just Divorced features one of Coe's greatest vocal performances in his reading of Johnny Cunningham's "Mona Lisa's Lost Her Smile," which proved to be a bona fide hit. The layered strings and organ work are slick but they add such warmth and depth in contrast to Coe's voice that it works to devastating effect. Coe wrote over half the record, and his own tunes work best on the rest -- "He's Taking It Hard (She's Taking It Easy)," "Sweet Angeline," the stunning third part to "For Lovers Only," and "Thief in My Bedroom" round out the "downside" of the disc. Coe's "Just Divorced" and "It's Great to Be Single Again" sound a little disingenuous coming form the emotional weight of the first half, but they're fine songs nonetheless. The album closes with a soul tune -- believe it or not -- Jerry Butler's fantastic "For Your Precious Love" is carried off convincingly as a country song -- complete with first person confessional as an intro.
Darlin' Darlin' is one of the strangest records in Coe's catalog. For starters, Coe wrote only two songs on the set, a spiritual song called "Mary Go Round the Birth of Jesus," and the fourth and last part of "For Lovers Only," which closes the album. Musically, this is a big production number -- even for Sherrill. There are keyboards winding through everything, big backing vocals, and layered pedal steel and electric guitars. Some of the covers are curious choices as well: Smokey Robinson's "My Girl," a soul holdover from Just Divorced, and J.J. Cale's "Call Me the Breeze." The rest were written by the then-current crop of Nashville songwriters, like the spooky minor key "She Used to Love Me A Lot," and Sherrill's brilliant "My Elusive Dreams." There is also a duet on the disc: "Don't Cry Darlin'" puts Coe in the company of George "The Possum" Jones and unfortunately, it's one of Darlin' Darlin''s low points. For the most part, the set showcases Coe as one of the great country singers, wrapping his throaty baritone around love songs, pop songs, and rock tunes. And as a singer's recording, as odd as some of the material choices are, it works, and works well -- check Sharon Rice's "Too Close to Home," with keyboard and saxophone solos, but it's Coe's voice that carries the day. This is not the best place for the curious to begin with D.A.C., but for those who are die-hard fans, this is an essential recording. There are four bonus cuts on this CD -- all rejects taken from the original sessions, and they include "Cocaine Carolina" and the stunning "Drinking to Forget." ~ Thom Jurek