A Countrypolitan masterpiece, improved with a healthy dose of bonus material
One of the most underrated vocalists of all-time, Skeeter Davis helped blur the line between Country and Pop music at a time when such an act was still considered blasphemy, and in doing so, paved the way for everyone from Tanya Tucker to Taylor Swift and beyond. Playback Records, a reissue label based in Australia, has just put out Let Me Get Close to You, a classic album of hers from 1964, complete with a heaping bunch of bonus tracks.
Under the tutelage of Chet Atkins, Davis released a string of Country hits, many of which also became Pop crossovers, the biggest being the weepy “The End of the World” (included here as a bonus track). Davis possessed an angelic voice that was made more powerful by double-tracking, allowing the singer to harmonize with herself. Another trick Atkins utilized to great effect was Davis’ spoken word intervals – her drawl gave away her rural roots, and made her songs more relatable.
Let Me Get Close to You perfectly straddles the line between twang and rock, opening with the sad “Now I Lay Me Down to Weep” (co-penned by Davis), before shifting gears for the bouncy “Gonna Get Along Without You.”
Part of her charm is her every girl approach. She’s not looking for guy that’s “as handsome as Elvis Presley,” just be “My Sweet Loving Man,” while she reminisces about a boy who looked better in white Dungarees before he climbed the “Ladder of Success.”
Several songs were written by the legendary team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, including “Easy to Love (So Hard to Get),” which features a stinging lead break from Atkins, and the fantastic girl pop of “I Can’t Stay Mad at You,” which contains the classic “shoo be doo bop” backup vocals and glorious harmonies by Davis.
There’s plenty of country tearjerkers, like the standard, “My Happiness,” which is drenched in strings and pretty background vocals, and Dottie West’s “Didn’t I.”
Some of the best moments happen as the songs are ending. For instance, near the close of “Gonna Get Along Without You Now,” Davis affirms “yes I am,” or at the end of “I Can’t Stay Mad at You,” where she croons “you got me where you want me.”
The original, 12-song LP is augmented by a whopping 13 bonus tracks. Every Davis Hot 100 solo single from 1962-65 is included here, with many making their debut on CD. Some of the surprises are the pop perfection of the Mann/Weil collaboration “I Don’t Want to Love You,” the Bill Anderson nugget, “Sunglasses,” and a previously unheard track, “La La La.”
Because Davis was always backed by the cream of the Nashville session men, the music is impeccable, but it’s Davis’ soaring, multi-layered voice that pulls you in. A solid listen from start to finish, Let Me Get Close to You is one of the finest examples of 1960’s country pop, and an excellent introduction into the great music of Skeeter Davis. —Tony Peters