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CD Review: AL HOOPER & RAY McGraw - Whiskey Bent And Crazy

AL HOOPER & RAY McGraw
Whiskey Bent And Crazy
Whiskey Bent And Crazy - She'll Never Know - Honky Tonk Woman and Blue Faded Jeans - Girl - Hey Bartender - The Angel In My Dreams - I Like to Boogie Woogie - You're Like An Angel To Me - When Will I Be Set Free - Getting Hooked On You - Paying For The Wrong You Have Done - What You Reap Is What You Sow - Kelly - There She Goes Once More - Will Your Love Be There

This is one of those remarkable recent country albums that are all original songs written by the two participants, who take turns singing lead, adding harmony, and I'm sure doing the arranging.  It's a great pity this 'country' music can't be shared by everyone who likes 'real' country music, especially what's coming out of Nashville today.  The backing is extremely well done, and country through and through, so I'd like to name them, especially since it's so very well done.  Al Hooper is on vocals and rhythm guitar; Ray McGraw is on vocals, rhythm guitar, and lead guitar; Carson Leighton is on steel guitar (and he's absolutely stunning) lead guitar, Dobro, and Banjo, each and every one of them masterfully played, and masterfully mixed.  Terry Martin on bass guitar (also mixed just right.  Doesn't drown the vocals like so much of today's music does); Billy Martin on drum (again not pounding so loud you can't hear the singers, excellently done); Eddie Gouchie on piano; Al Logan on keyboards; Mike Hanlon on lead guitar; Darren McGraw on backup vocals.  What an absolutely amazing backing group this is, that 'fits' the music of Hooper and McGraw so well.  Al Hooper is the best known and most successful of the two partners.  Hooper was incredibly popular during the 60's and 70's, recording more than 36 LP's for RCA and Columbia, and a number of lesser known labels, all the while functioning from New Brunswick, where he still makes his home, and still keeps 'real' country music alive in a nightclub he owns.  His voice and songwriting abilities on this CD are certainly a reflection of his own induction into Canada's Country Music Hall of Fame.  It's very easy to understand how well he sings on this CD, how well he certainly played a roll in the mix and who was going to play what.  That is an understatement of his abilities. Professionalism is his middle name.  He met Ray McGraw in 1991 in New Brunswick, and ever since they have collaborated in both songwriting, vocalizing, and recording.  This recording is an exceptional conclusion to that merging. I really like the way they worked the steel guitar in just about every song.  They modestly say on the insert of this CD "This album, with its unique blend of music and harmony will appeal to young and old alike."  I couldn't agree more.  Every single song is not only well written they are also played exceptionally well, and true country never had such a true champion than both of these men, Al Hooper and Ray McGraw.  Their album was forwarded to me by Michael T. Wall who spends a great deal of his time in Newfoundland.  To be inducted into America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame, you have to be nominated by someone already in it.  That being accomplished by Michael, I'd suggest to Al and Ray to pack a little suitcase and bring yourselves to the ceremonies.  You can pick any day, August 28 through Sept. 3rd (weekend is always bigger) to declare your intentions and be inducted into this long time Hall of Fame.
RECORD REVIEW BY BOB EVERHART, President of the National Traditional Country Music Association for Country Music News International

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