Robert Rex Waller Jr.
See The Big Man Cry
BFD/Have Harmony Will Travel.
A Treasure Trove of Songs Reimagined in the Americana and Country Traditions
This is I See Hawks in LA frontman Robert Rex Waller’s second solo album, and in connection with Carla Olson who also produced it is a fascinating collection of Americana and Ye Olde Country songs of a certain vintage, some I knew and quite a few I didn’t.
Without having read the accompanying bio or even scanning the back of the CD, I was taken aback when I heard the instantly recognisable opening few bars of The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore;a favourite of mine via Scott Walker’s legendary version and while Robert Rex Waller doesn’t change the arrangement very much, his singing is certainly punchier and the swooping strings in the background owe more to the Opry than the New York Met.
Interesting …. very, very interesting.
Second song in Girl of My Dreams sounds like a Springsteen circa The River track that I don’t recognise; but after a little research the original was by Punk/New Wave stalwart Bram Tchaikovsky !! Seriously!
Now, a week later I love and am impressed by Waller (and Olson’s) eclectic taste, which may not mirror my own; but it certainly impresses me when he can drop in the gently beautiful Easy Loving(Freddie Hart in 1971?) then follow it with a sleazily rearranged Springsteen’s Tougher Than The Rest then a slow and trembling heartbreaker called A Woman’s Touch written and originally sung by James Intveld, who I’ve never heard of, yet all three blend into each other like a Marguerita on a Saturday night.
There are obviously surprises around every corner here; none more so than Let Her Go Downwhich I would have sworn was a Gordon Lightfoot Country-Folk song; but it turns out to be from Steeleye Span …. yes; the most quintessentially English Folk band; but the way Waller and Olson have arranged it makes it sound 100% Americana at heart.
While I was aware of the name I doubt I’ve actually heard anything by Bobby Rydell before, but hearing Robert Rex Waller passionately purr I’ll Never Dance Again here has made me research him via YouTube and it looks like I’ve missed a treat.
While the notes say that the LP is split into two disparate ‘sides’ – one Americana and one Country; I’m afraid I can’t always see or hear the difference; and that’s not a complaint; as the way Waller sings and arranges these songs makes for an album of songs that straddle both categories with consummate ease.
Waller and fellow Hawk From LA Paul Marshall also drop in a song of their own, My Favourite Loneliness and as I didn’t recognise a lot of songs here I just presumed it was a Classic from the 70’s that had passed me by … but it wasn’t and just might be one of their very best songs from their own pens; especially as it’s followed by a song always associated with Charlie Louvin, the title song See The Big Man Cry and the pair sound like they are kith and kin Country songs, while one topped the charts and the other is brand new.
As is my won’t I’ve tried to ‘forget’ that I recognised some of these songs and treat it as what it is, a new album from Robert Rex Waller, and that made choosing a Favourite Song as hard as ever; but I’ve narrowed it down to two, Gene Clark’s brittle Gypsy Rider gets a new lick of paint and a sympathetic arrangement that will take your breath away; while earlier There’s No Living Without Your Loving sounded familiar but I couldn’t think who I knew it by; eventually asking Google and could have slapped myself when I saw the original hit was by Gene Pitney (with assorted versions by Manfred Mann, Peter & Gordon and Mink Deville!) … so I knew it from a 99p Hallmark Gene Pitney LP I bought my Mother and here it is back in my life 50 years later, so I’m tipping my hat there as my Favourite.
While all of the entries here are done in Waller’s very own inimitable ‘style;’ it’s been a fabulous learning curve as I sat in the passenger seat on a smoothly adventurous tour through the backroads and badlands of the USA.
Released October 20th 2023
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