"Lulled By The Moonlight", originally released in 1996, was Mickey Newbury's first album containing new materiel for 15 years. He dedicated it to Stephen Foster, the 19th century father of American songwriters, who is still revered 150 years after his death through such enduring songs as "Beautiful Dreamer", "Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair" and "Oh! Susannah". If Mickey Newbury ever aspired to be the equal of Foster his dreams were surely realised because in 1980 he was the youngest songwriter ever to be inducted into The Nashville Songwriters' Hall Of Fame. This accolade was in recognition of his exquisitely crafted songs recorded by a host of performers from Elvis Presley, ("American Trilogy") to Tom Jones, ("Funny, Familiar. Forgotten Feeling") and Andy Williams, ("Sweet Memories").
And so, it is not surprising that Mickey Newbury is better known as a songwriter than as a recording artist and, in a sense, that is sad because the Newbury canon is replete with the most magnificent albums. It is a tragedy that their critical acclaim was not matched by any commercial success.
By the time Mickey recorded "Lulled By The Moonlight" he had already been diagnosed with the emphysema that would eventually claim his life six years later at the age of 62. But this superb album does not bear any witness to the ravages of the disease as his haunting tenor suffuses the songs with alternate shades of elegance, tenderness, joy, sadness and grace in this work of contrasts.
From the ethereal beauty of "Blue Sky Shining", the easy ballad style of "East Kentucky", the wistful and enigmatic remembrance of things past in "Shades Of '63" and the dramatic rocking of "Freight Train Howling", this album celebrates the diversity of a singer and songwriter who refused to be categorised.
To hear the powerful "What Will I Do" is to marvel at the most beautifully explicit description of the agony of love, once known, and now lost for ever:
"You would cry out my name as we were drawn into the flames
What will I do now, now that you're gone?"
"Captured In Blue" might be the most perfect evocation of the rites of marriage conceived in a song and the quintessential beauty of melody and lyrics is given an extra poignancy by Newbury's haunting tenor and a stunning saxophone solo by Bryan Cummings:
"All the years and the miles will never erase my love for you,
Etched in my heart, circled in gold, captured in blue.
Born in a fire that will never grow cold,
Circle of love, joining two souls".
When Mickey Newbury recorded this album he had already established a legacy of which any songwriter would have been proud. But he never stopped exploring the possibilities of musical and lyrical structure and the development of his own unique musical style until almost the day he died. A Beautiful Dreamer, indeed.Read more ›
Re-released a short time ago. Seemed a competitive price for 'new' release. I hadn't heard much from the album and rate Mickey Newbury very highly. Delighted I purchased this album. Strong lyrics as always and delivered with a sensitivity as always. Gone but not forgotten. Buy it.