Florida-born Hank Locklin (1918-2009) was one of the great soft crooners of the Nashville Sound era of countrypolitan pop... Like many of his contemporaries he had more rural roots, playing melodic honkytonk in his youth, but veering towards a more "sophisticated" sound in the late 1960s. And, like fellow crooners such as Eddy Arnold and Ray Price, he struggled to stay relevant from the early '70s onward. Locklin had a distinctive voice, a plaintive, fragile tenor that went over big in Ireland, and gave him a unique sound in the classic country pantheon. Here's a quick look at his work...
Hank Locklin "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On" (Bear Family, 1996)
The title track of this fab 3-CD set is probably Locklin's best-known song (along with "Candy Kisses" and "Geisha Girl"...) What's great about this collection, though, is how thoroughly it mines Locklin's career before he struck paydirt with those late '50s gems. These early tracks, originally made for tiny independent labels such Four Star and Royalty Records, show a slightly rawer and more nervous performer than the Locklin who settled into the Nashville firmament and increasingly slid into a comfortable pop crossover cheesiness. Dating back to 1948, these songs are sweet, romantic, and remote -- part of the wealth of "unknown" country oldies that are such a delight to discover. Highly recommended!
Hank Locklin "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" (Bear Family, 1995)
And if the other Bear Family box above wasn't enough to whet your appetite, here's four discs more, that delve deeper into his RCA glory years. A lot of it's really corny, but some of it is great... and longtime Locklin fans will be in hillbilly heaven with a collection like this to devote themselves to. Recommended.
Hank Locklin "RCA Country Legends" (RCA, 2003)
This is, amazingly, Locklin's only standard-issue American best-of in the CD era... A modest but eclectic collection, it includes the biggest hits -- "Geisha Girl," "Please Help Me, I'm Falling," "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On" -- but also dips into early hillbilly hits and sticks more to upbeat numbers and mostly skips his most syrupy ballads. Like the other discs in this series, this includes some unusual selections, among them an old fave of mine from some scratchy Camden LP I had, "Followed Closely By My Teardrops," which has a catchy guitar riff that I dig. A fun selection of Locklin's work -- not necessarily representative of his cornier side, but pretty fun to listen to.
Hank Locklin "The Best Of Hank Locklin" (RCA Victor, 1965) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Foreign Love" (RCA Victor, 1958) (LP)
Hank Locklin "The Best Of Hank Locklin" (King, 1959) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" (RCA Victor, 1960) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Encores" (King, 1961) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Happy Journey" (RCA Victor, 1962) (LP)
(Produced by Chet Atkins)
The opening tracks are just awful, that kind of blithe, careless "crooning" that Nashville thought was sufficient for fans of the Nashville Sound. A bit more vigor enters into it as the album goes along, though not by a lot. The arrangements are minimal and bland -- light drums, plinky piano, a vocal chorus and strings, with Locklin doing the bare minimum to put the songs across. But fiddle and steel guitar? Not so much. You can get into it if you try, but overall I find Locklin and Atkins' approach to be so lackadaisical, it's hard to get worked up about it. If they didn't care that much about these sessions, why should I? Well, actually there are a couple of songs that are okay, such as "Jealous Heart" and "The Keeper Of The Keys," but mostly this exemplifies the kind of lazy, flaccid factory-produced music that turned twangfans off from Nashville back in the early '60s. Standard-issue Hank Locklin, I suppose.
Hank Locklin "A Tribute To Roy Acuff, King Of Country Music" (RCA Victor, 1962) (LP)
Hank Locklin "The Ways Of Life" (RCA Victor, 1963) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Irish Songs, Country Style" (RCA Victor, 1964) (LP)
Hank Locklin "...Sings Hank Williams" (RCA Victor, 1964) (LP)
Hank Locklin "...Sings Eddy Arnold" (RCA Victor, 1965) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Once Over Lightly" (RCA Victor, 1965) (LP)
Hank Locklin "The Girls Get Prettier" (RCA Victor, 1966) (LP)
Hank Locklin "The Gloryland Way" (RCA Victor, 1966) (LP)
(Produced by Chet Atkins)
Hank Locklin "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On" (RCA Victor, 1967) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Nashville Women" (RCA Victor, 1967) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Country Hall Of Fame" (RCA Victor, 1968) (LP)
Hank Locklin "My Love Song For You" (RCA Victor, 1968) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Softly" (RCA Victor, 1969) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Lookin' Back" (RCA Victor, 1969) (LP)
Hank Locklin & Danny Davis "...And The Nashville Brass" (RCA Victor, 1970) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Bless Her Heart... I Love Her" (RCA Victor, 1970) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Mayor Of McLellan, Florida" (RCA Victor, 1972) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Hank Locklin" (MGM, 1975) (LP)
Hank Locklin "Golden Hits" (Plantation, 1976)
Hank Locklin "There Never Was A Time" (Plantation, 1977)
Hank Locklin "Country Hall Of Fame" (Top Spin, 1977)
Hank Locklin "Generations In Song" (Coldwater, 2004)
Hank Locklin "By The Grace Of God -- The Gospel Album" (Yell Records, 2006)
Hick Music Index