One of those improbable, goofy-voiced singers that you marvel had a chart-making career, Arkansas native Narvel Felts was an ex-rockabilly rebel who moved into country music in the 1960s and finally struck gold with his mellow version of "Drift Away," which cracked the Top Ten in '73, and was followed by a string of hits that lasted 'til the end of the decade. Here's a quick look at his work...
Narvel Felts "Drift Away: The Best Of Narvel Felts" (Bear Family, 1996)
A strong collection which includes his hits, "Drift Away" and "Reconsider Me," along with many others. Like many commercial country singers of the '70s and '80s, Felts started to tilt towards soul-tinged R&B covers, recording songs like "To Love Somebody," Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," and even Paul Simon's "Love Me Like A Rock" and a disco-y rendition of "Everlasting Love." While this soul stuff doesn't do as much for me as his more twangy material, I still gotta check Felts off as an oddball artist that I have a soft spot for. He's also one of the success stories of country music's last gasp of indie label hitmaking: "Drift Away" came out on the independent Cinnamon label, where he stayed for a few years before signing with ABC-Dot... The material on this collection comes from those three labels.
Narvel Felts "Memphis Days" (Bear Family, 1999)
Narvel Felts "The Hi Records Era: 1959-1973" (Hi Records-UK, 2001)
Narvel Felts "The Very Best Of Narvel Felts" (Gusto, 2005)
Like many former chart-toppers, Felts later had to re-record his classic material for a faux-greatest hits collection (or two) and while some fans see this kind of a record as an act of betrayal or fraud, I've learned to appreciate them for what they are -- a chance to catch up with an old favorite, and see how they sounded in their later years. If you want the original hit versions, they're still out there, but this record is okay, if you know ahead of time what you're really getting.
Narvel Felts "Greatest Hits Vol. 1" (ABC-Dot, 1975) (LP)
Narvel Felts "Drift Away" (Cinnamon, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Farah Productions, Ken Keene, Lewis Willis & Joe Gibson)
This is the album that put Narvel Felts on the map, at least as far as Nashville was concerned. Although his version of "Drift Away" didn't have the same magical sparkle and evocative tone as the much-bigger Dobie Gray pop hit, it's still a nice song, and made it into the Country Top 10 and set Felts up for a very successful decade. The rest of the record has a similar feel -- a little sedate, but in keeping with the more subdued sensibilities of the countrypolitan era. There are a couple of "rockers" and some mildly bluesy R&B riffs on here as well, gentle reminders of his more lively rock'n'rock past, most mostly this is a pretty mature-sounding set of soft-country ballads. Worth a spin, but a little on the sleepy side.
Narvel Felts "When Your Good Love Was Mine" (Cinnamon, 1974) (LP)
Narvel Felts "Narvel Felts" (ABC-Dot, 1975) (LP)
Narvel Felts "Narvel The Marvel" (ABC-Dot, 1976) (LP)
Narvel Felts "Doin' What I Feel" (ABC-Dot, 1976) (LP)
Narvel Felts "The Touch Of Felts" (ABC-Dot, 1977) (LP)
Narvel Felts "Narvel" (ABC-Dot, 1977) (LP)
Narvel Felts "Inside Love" (ABC, 1978) (LP)
Narvel Felts "One Run For The Roses" (ABC, 1979) (LP)
Hick Music Index