Calling the work “the highlight of my recording career,” Canadian singer Anne Murray says recording her new album, “Country Croonin’,” was “more fun than I’ve ever had in the studio. I knew all of the words to these songs when I came to sing them.”
The double-album set, which includes 30 lushly recorded country standards, was first released in Canada Aug. 27. After a two-month direct-response TV campaign with Time-Life, the album is being issued Oct. 22 in the U.S. by the Sparrow Label Group.
Co-produced by Murray and Tommy West, “Country Croonin'” spans five decades of country standards and includes “Always on My Mind,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Anytime,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “A Fool Such as I,” “Make the World Go Away,” “Oh Lonesome Me,” and “For the Good Times.” Murray also covers the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” and “Til I Kissed You,” and duets with Vince Gill on “Let It Be Me.”
“I loved the Everly Brothers better than anybody,” Murray says. “I remember performing some of these songs in my early stage show. I can see myself in the Monterey Lounge in Halifax in 1968 singing ‘Oh Lonesome Me.'”
With 32 albums, four Grammy Awards, three Country Music Association Awards, and 31 Juno Awards to her credit, Murray is no stranger to country fans. In her three-decade career she has scored country hits with “Snowbird,” “Danny’s Song,” “He Thinks I Still Care,” “You Needed Me,” “Shadows in the Moonlight,” “Broken Hearted Me,” and “Could I Have This Dance.” She was recently inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Still, Murray doesn’t regard herself as a true country singer. “I have done some country,” she says, adding, “I’m a country singer when I’m singing a country song. A good singer can sing anything.”
She notes that many of the country songs on “Country Croonin'” were first pop-crossover hits. “We didn’t have the Grand Ole Opry or country radio stations in Nova Scotia when I was growing up,” she recalls. “The country songs I heard were on [pop] radio stations. They were pop records to me. But I had heard of Kitty Wells and knew Hank Snow because he was from Nova Scotia. For ‘Singing the Blues,’ I knew the pop version by Guy Mitchell but not [by] Marty Robbins.”
“Country Croonin'” comes at a time when Murray’s long career is in an upswing due to her partnership with EMI Canada, Sparrow Label Group, and Time-Life. The resurgence began in 1999 with the album “What a Wonderful World,” which features a mix of inspiring contemporary material and well-known hymns. “What a Wonderful World” sustained a dual 70-week run on Billboard’s country and Christian album sales charts and became Murray’s first platinum album in the U.S. in 15 years.
Prior to a year-long sabbatical in 2000, Murray had thought about retiring, but the success of “What a Wonderful World” made her reconsider. In 2001 she released “What a Wonderful Christmas,” which pushed her retirement plans back further.
“I keep thinking, ‘I’ll go one more year.’ If I do, I’m not making a big announcement because I might not then be able to do it,” Murray says. “Last year, I did close to 90 dates. I want to continue touring to support this album.”
Murray’s tour schedule includes concerts in Nashville (Nov. 1-2), Houston (Nov. 9-10), Dallas (Nov. 5), Tulsa, Okla. (Nov. 6), and a week at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (Nov. 21-27). Plans are also under way for a 13-date Christmas concert tour scheduled to begin Dec. 3 in Cleveland.
Excerpted from the Oct. 19, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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