Sweet Dreams: Where Country Meets Soul, Ace's second dip into the country-soul well, is every bit as good as its 2012 predecessor. Basically, it's cut from the same cloth as the first volume, concentrating on recordings from the late '60s but stretching deep into the '70s (Millie Jackson's "Sweet Music Man" dates from 1977), with Ted Taylor's 1962 "I'll Release You" and Orquestra Was' 1996 "Forever's a Long, Long Time Ago" functioning as de facto ringers. "Forever's a Long, Long Time Ago" may fit aesthetically but certainly not sonically, as it's a crisp digital blast on a collection devoted to warm, lush, analog soul.
If the release of Cold Cold Heart proves anything, it's that Where Country Meets Soul is one of Ace Records' most popular series of the 2010s. If this third volume proves anything else, it's that the well of country-soul has hardly been tapped dry by compiler Tony Rounce and the label. Apart from a handful of tracks cut in the early '60s right in the wake of Ray Charles' groundbreaking Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music plus a few sides cut in the disco era or later, Cold Cold Heart is firmly grounded in the late-'60s heyday of soul music.
Not a set of country-styled soul music – as you might guess from the title – and instead a package that shows the undeniable influence that soul music songs had on the sound of country music in the 60s and 70s! The flipside of the scene has been well-documented on collections of western-tinged soul music we've stocked in the past – but this great set is the first we've ever heard to show the way that country singers were able to easily pick up hit soul songs of the time, then recraft them completely with a whole new sort of style!
It may open up with Aaron Neville's 1993 rendition of George Jones' classic "The Grand Tour," but Ace's 2012 compilation Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul focuses on the golden age of country soul – the late '60s and early '70s, the age when the borders between these two strands of southern American music became decidedly blurring. And many of the 23 cuts on Behind Closed Doors are firmly within the Southern soul tradition – slow, smoky, gritty, and soulful, anchored by languid stride piano and buttressed by muscular horns.