“Beneath Still Waters”
Written by Dallas Frazier
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
April 25, 1980
#1 (1 week)
May 10, 1980
Emmylou Harris entered the eighties as a Grammy Award-winning artist with a string of hit singles and gold albums under her belt. Her first No. 1 of the decade came from her 1979 album Blue Kentucky Girl, which had already produced a top five hit with a countrified “Save the Last Dance For Me” and a top ten hit with the title track, which had first been released by Loretta Lynn.
While other artists were topping the charts with songs they learned from Emmylou Harris albums, Harris herself was mining the catalogs of veteran artists for her own material, and she replaced George Jones at No. 1 with a gorgeous cover of his own album track from 1968, “Beneath Still Waters.” Diana Trask had grazed the top forty with her own version in 1970, but due to complications with Jones’ Musicor catalog, the song was largely unknown when Harris resurrected it.
Jones’ original recording is a masterpiece in its own right, and Harris’ version is simply exquisite. The thesis of Blue Kentucky Girl was that Harris could make a completely traditional country album, and it’s only the cleaner production standards that distinguish it as a record from the late seventies. Her lonesome wail is tailor made for the lyric, which captures the feeling of impending doom, even while everything still seems fine on the surface.
Harris went on to win the CMA Female Vocalist Award in 1980 on the strength of “Blue Kentucky Girl” and “Wayfaring Stranger,” the latter being the top ten lead single from her bluegrass album, Roses in the Snow. A top fifteen cover of “The Boxer” followed from that album, which kept her gold streak going strong. Her 1981 album Evangeline produced a top five hit with “Mr. Sandman,” but the second single, “I Don’t Have to Crawl,” became her first to miss the top forty since the original release of “Too Far Gone” in 1975.
Harris bounced back with the lead single from her album Cimarron, which we’ll cover in the fall of 1981.
“Beneath Still Waters” gets an A.
Previous: George Jones & Tammy Wynette, “Two Story House” |