Boy, what a treat this is. Two traditional country performers who just happen to be man and wife sharing one record. Who rekindle the art of duet performances better than most of the originals. Fans of older country music will feel they have died and passed through St. Peter’s Gates once they hear the opening bars of this album and be like Oliver when it is finished hunger for more!
From the opening note and chord played the couple drop into a priceless groove. Loaded with fiddle (Reggie Rueffer), steel guitar (Doug Jones) plus sensitive percussion (Bubba Crumpler), lead and bass guitar (Luke Warmwater) wrapped ‘round the voices of two singers country through and through this the business. If that wasn’t enough, they are both excellent songwriters. ‘It was our mission to once and for all, define ‘our sound’ by merging sounds of the historic Bakersfield fame and the timeless feel of the Texas shuffle, but when it was complete, we ended up with a self-portrait of sorts. Lyrically, we shared a lot of ourselves’, quotes Bob on the liner notes. As for Kimberly, she speaks of how they were both raised in the Pentecostal Church, and how both their mothers were huge Buck Owens fans. With her music firmly entrenched in that of the Texas Dancehalls and Bob’s West Coast Country they experimented and came up with this modern day (vintage sounding) classic.
With not a hint of weakness on any one track it makes it difficult to select any genuine standouts because they are all top quality as one classic barroom tune follows another, the fiddle doused ‘Lovin’ In Three Quarter Time’ that takes the listener up through Kentucky too (lyrically and via mandolin, instrumentally). Once Manning kicks it away the couple seem to be joined at the hip regards combining styles, as they work seamlessly through the 12 tracks plus a bonus piece, ‘Devil Makes No Change’. Hold on to your britches as lead and steel pop their straps on the instrumental ‘Bunkhouse Breakdown’, it also has some fine tinkling piano thrown in.
‘Loves Me Right’ with the cameo phone call played out has Bob lean on Conway Twitty’s hit ‘Hello Darlin’. ‘When I’m Drunk’ has Kimberly speak of waking on a morning after a few too many lying beside someone she thought looked better looking the night before. The age old theme comes over brilliantly as a duet. To close Manning takes a trip down to the Mississippi Delta for the bluesy country ode (a tribute to Robert Johnson) ‘Devil Makes No Change’. Written by Manning with lead guitarist Jim Denno it is a fine song, a little swampy on featuring Rhodes organ (Blake Padilla) and different from Bob and Kimberly’s usual work. With Manning and Murray providing superb, evocative lyrics images ranging from small diners, barrooms, early morning cups of coffee after a heavy night are conjured as motel rooms and road houses and more come to mind as ‘Blame This Mess On You’, ‘From Where I Came’ and the slow, painstaking fiddle warmed ‘Three Chords Away’ ease on by.
When it comes to country duet acts, the 1960s – 1970s threw up a bunch with of course Conway and Loretta, George and Tammy and Porter and Dolly the big ones plus, in the 1980s we had David Frizzell (Bob's vocal style leans heavily on that of the Frizzell heritage, especially David's older brother Lefty Frizzell) but they weren’t as consistent as Manning and Murray. Despite enjoying a number of country hits! With both acts having released five-star solo albums in the past few and now this, they are going to have busy schedule over the next few months plus be under great pressure to make another duet album.
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