Various Artists, “Feel Like Going Home — The Songs of Charlie Rich” (Memphis International Records)
Charlie Rich had hits and was called a “musician’s musician,” but his career never sustained the heights his superior songwriting, dexterous piano playing and honest singing deserved.
“Feel Like Going Home” is a fond tribute centering on his early repertoire on a subsidiary of Sam Philips’ Sun Records, when his jazz-fueled excellence across genres from rockabilly to country was already on display.
Will Kimbrough delves into the honky-tonk depths of “Sittin’ and Thinkin'” — a drinking man’s repentant call from jail — with an ever-so-slightly slurred mix of despondency and expectation, while “Lonely Weekends” gets a muscular makeover from the mighty fine Jim Lauderdale.
“Don’t Put No Headstone On My Grave” is given a rusty blues reading by Johnny Hoy and Keith Sykes steps into the shoes of an all-time loser on “Everything I Do Is Wrong.”
The pompadoured Malpass Brothers put some twang into “Caught in the Middle” and Anita Suhanin adds sultriness to “Midnight Blues.” Charlie Rich Jr. covers his dad’s “Break Up” and Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon, leads the organ-driven “Rebound.”
Kevin Connolly’s guitar-based arrangement of the closing title track offers a brighter tone than the original’s weary, nearly broken piano backing. Rich demoed his greatest song — an inch from the edge and yearning for redemption — in 1973, as he finally reached the top of the charts with the glossy “The Most Beautiful Girl.”
Recorded with producer Michael Dinallo, with input from Phillips’ family and in the Memphis studio used by Rich nearly 60 years ago, “Feel Like Going Home” knows where its heart is.