The Soul & the Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck

The Soul & the Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck

by Johnny PaycheckJohnny Paycheck


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Johnny Paycheck, who unfortunately took his alignment with the '70s outlaw country movement a little too seriously, has nonetheless built up an amazing catalogue for himself. The Soul and the Edge is an apt title for this retrospective, because the man's defining songs reveal a sensitive, even reasonable side balancing out his jut-jawed hard-country manifestos. The workingman's call to arms "Take This Job and Shove It," is the perfect snap-to album opener, and in a nice bit of sequencing it's followed by a blues-rooted prisoner's musing, "11 Months and 29 Days," on which Paycheck, in a throaty vocal, expectantly advises, "Keep your hands off my woman/I ain't gonna be gone that long." "I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)," "Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets," "She's All I Got," and "Barstool Mountain" all limn classic country themes and are beautifully realized in every aspect, most especially in Billy Sherrill's lean, mean productions. But don't overlook the ballads, which offer the big payoff. The deep feeling Paycheck brings to the tea-jerking "My Part of Forever" and the devastating chronicle of utter loneliness, "The Feminine Touch," reveals a masterful singer who can invest a song with stirring humanity. The 23 cuts here are mostly from Paycheck's fertile 1977-80 chart run, including a rousing 1980 duet with George Jones on Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On," which underscores the debt Jones owes to Paycheck's style. Suffice it to say that country gets no better than this, in any era, and it certainly sounds right today.

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