FRANK JAMES – All Over Again
(2005 True Heart)
Written by Andy Ziehli
Frank “Lefty” James has been playing music since he was seven and has been a professional country picker since the 1960s. He spent considerable time in Nashville writing for the Fandango TV show, making connections and hanging out at the Grand Ol’ Opry. James returned to Madison in the mid eighties and he and his wife Sherry owned the very popular Country Corners bar where his band, the Honkytonk Cowboys, served as the house band.
To James there are only two kinds of music: country and western. All Over Again is a testament to this philiosophy and is filled with great, original, hardcore country, Cajun, honky-tonk and country blues. This CD rocks – that is, 2-steps – with authority. James is backed by some of the greatest A-team studio players from Nashville on this disc: Pig Robbins on keys, Pete Wade on guitars, Hoot Hestor on fiddle and background vocals, John Wesley Riles on background vocals, and Mike Leech on bass. The performances are nearly flawless.
All Over Again was produced by Pete Wade who has played with Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Johnny Bush, the Everly Brothers and countless others. Wade’s past production work and rich history within the country music arena made him a great choice for this project. Recording was done at Hill Top Studios in Nashville and at Randy’s Recording Studio in Cottage Grove. Both studios did an outstanding job capturing James doing what he does best.
The CD starts out with the Marty Robbins-influenced song, “When the Cowboys are Gone.” The Spanish guitar work by Pete Wade sounds just like Grady Martin’s work on the classic El Paso. James’ near-perfect Robbins vocal imitation adds to the flavor of this tune and the harmonies by Riles and Hestor are dead on.
Another standout cut is “The Ballad of Shirley D.” This song about Shirley Dawson and her husband Jim “the Dixie Drifter” Dawson will bring a smile to the faces of those who remember these two Madison country music pioneers. The Dixie Drifter was a DJ at WMAD the first time it was country and Shirley did the weather. Some of you youngsters may even remember Shirley from her days at Q-106.
The Cajun-flavored “I Can Get Down” is a hilarious tribute to old guys trying to party in the new millennium. If you don’t tap your foot to this song, your rhythm bone is broken. James’s humor comes through on many of the songs such as “What’s a Girl Like You (Doing in a Nice Place Like This).”
The other songs are a mixture of 2-steps, a Hank Jr.-style waltz, honky-tonk and straight-ahead country rock. James’s deep baritone voice is the common element, true and strong.
Lefty has hit a homerun with this CD and it’s good to know that there is still some real country music being made around Madison. All Over Again, and other CDs and merchandise, are available at James’ website. He also performs monthly at the VFW in Cottage Grove. Check the website for details.