Charlie Feathers, Sun Recordings

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Here’s why they call country “the white man’s blues”

As even the demo to "Bottle to the Baby" shows, the mercurial Feathers was an exciting rockabilly stylist. But he came to Sun originally as a country singer, and his cutting vocals on the likes of "I've Been Deceived" and "Honky Tonk Kind" are also nothing short of extraordinary, combining the soaring phrasing of mountain singers like Bill Monroe with the hard edges of roadhouse rhythm men like Hank Williams; this is the kind of stuff that got country music dubbed "the white man's blues." Feathers co-wrote the country "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" for Elvis, who was reportedly planning to also record "We're Getting Closer to Being Apart" for his last Sun single. Had Charlie kept chasing the ghost of Hank Williams, as he did on "Runnin 'Around" and "So Ashamed," he might have become one of those mid-'50s guys who helped country hold off the challenge of rockabilly. Instead, he became one of the challengers, writing little gems like "Bottle to the Baby" and putting his singular stamp on massive overhauls of old blues like "Corrina, Corrina" and especially "Frankie and Johnny." Either way, though, he wound up seeing only modest success, and had to settle, beginning in the '70s, for being one of the more colorful and enduring cult artists of American music.