Singer Jan Howard was a major Nashville star of the 1960s, notably as Bill Anderson's duet partner, and as a notable solo artist. She originally broke into the West Coast country scene, traveling to California with her then-husband, songwriter Harlan Howard, where she recorded a few song demos before being noticed by West Coast star Wynn Stewart, who she sang with in the late 1950s and 'early '60s. Howard hit the big time in 1966 with her single, "Evil On Your Mind" and was hired by Bill Anderson to perform on his television show - their partnership lasted through 1972, and in 1971 she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, where she has performed for over four decades. Here's a quick look at her work...
Jan Howard "Stars Of The Grand Ole Opry: Jan Howard" (First Generation, 1988)
(Produced by Pete Drake)
It's pretty amazing that Jan Howard, who had a pretty good run on the country charts during the 1960s and early '70s, was for years only represented on CD by this humble collection of recordings from the '80s, when her star had pretty well fallen. Pete Drake and the fellows at his studio did their best to back Howard up, but by this point she's dragging a bit, and this is a rather sluggish record. The wry "Life Of A Country Girl Singer" is cute, but also not top-notch. Admittedly, Howard was never a very dynamic singer, but it's still pretty sad that for anyone wanting to hear old hits like "Bad Seed" and "The One You Slip Around With," this set of mediocre re-recordings is their only option.
Jan Howard & Wynn Stewart "The Very Best Of" (Varese Sarabande, 2004)
This much-welcome reissue gathers several smokin' 1958-61 singles, originally out on the Challenge and Jackpot labels. Although it overlaps a few tracks on other recent Wynn Stewart retrospectives, its crowning glory is a look at the formative work of Jan Howard, an artist whose core work -- her late-'60s sides on the Decca label -- remains out of print, despite several big hits in the '60s and early '70s. Howard was generally a mid-tempo ballad singer, so these rollicking early recordings may come as a real eye-opener for fans of classic country and the Nashville Sound... She had some real fire in her! Too bad they couldn't also sandwich in some stuff from her brief stint on Capitol (around '63), but I think fans will be grateful nonetheless to hear these great old tunes in fine, bright, digital sound. Recommended!
Jan Howard & Wynn Stewart "Sweethearts Of Country Music" (Challenge, 1961) (LP)
Jan Howard "Jan Howard" (Wrangler, 1962) (LP)
Some overlap with the Sweethearts album above, but with more of her solo work...
Jan Howard "Sweet And Sentimental" (Capitol, 1962) (LP)
Jan Howard "Evil On Your Mind" (Decca, 1966) (LP)
Jan Howard "Bad Seed" (Decca, 1966) (LP)
Jan Howard "This Is Jan Howard Country" (Decca, 1967) (LP)
Jan Howard & Bill Anderson "For Loving You" (Decca, 1967) (LP)
Jan Howard "Lonely Country" (Tower, 1967) (LP)
Jan Howard "The Real Me" (Tower, 1968) (LP)
Jan Howard "Count Your Blessings, Woman" (Decca, 1968) (LP)
Jan Howard "Jan Howard" (Decca, 1969) (LP)
Jan Howard "For God And Country" (Decca, 1970) (LP)
Jan Howard "Rock Me Back To Little Rock" (Decca, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)
The album title sounds so gosh-darn vigorous, but in actuality this is one of Howard's sleepier records. It seems mostly influenced by the folk-country fad of a couple of years earlier, though I suppose her partnership with 'politan crooner Bill Anderson probably had something to do with it as well. She covers a couple of his songs, but her versions of "Let It Be" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" -- which close out Side One and Side Two, respectively -- that probably tell you most of what you need to know about this record. There's a little bit of gal-power at work here, too: the title song was written by Lola Jean Dillon, and three songs are credited to Howard herself, including "I Never Once Stopped Loving You," which she co-wrote with Anderson. Mostly, this is probably an album most folks can skip, but if you're a fan of the Nashville Sound (or of Jan Howard!) you might wanna give it a spin.
Jan Howard & Bill Anderson "If It's All The Same To You" (Decca, 1970) (LP)
Jan Howard "Love Is Like A Spinning Wheel" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
Jan Howard & Bill Anderson "Bill And Jan Or Jan And Bill" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
Jan Howard & Bill Anderson "Singing His Praise" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
An all-gospel set...
Jan Howard "Sincerely, Jan Howard" (GRT, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Butler)
This late-vintage album finds Howard comfortable with the smooth, relaxed stylings of the modern, mid-'70s countrypolitan sound, though not quite distinguishing herself within its confines. Most of the songs are typically innocuous and unmemorable, with her cover of David Allan Coe's "Would You Lay With Me" making a nod towards the Tanya Tucker hit. A couple of songs stand out: her female perspective gives Bobby Russell's "1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero" a slightly different view of its suburban hubby protagonist, while the album's closer, "Too Much Of A Man (To Be Tied Down)," has a pretty retro message, despite the racy-sounding title: in the final verses she simpers about how lucky she is to be able to have sex with the aloof, untameable alpha-male of her dreams. Maybe, if she's really lucky and plays her cards right, he'll settle down after all. Bleah. But mostly this is par for the course -- a mediocre set of slick, soft country pop, okay if you're into the genre, or a big Jan Howard fan, though I'd stick with her old stuff instead.
Jan Howard "The Life Of A Country Girl Singer" (Phonorama, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Drake)
Jan Howard "Tainted Love" (AVI, 1983) (LP)
Jan Howard "Jan Howard" (MCA-Dot, 1985) (LP)
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