PERFORMER: RAY CHARLES (with Willie Nelson)



COMMENTS: In theory, Ray Charles is among other things a renowned country singer, based on the best selling and country charting 1962 album "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" and a couple of follow ups.  Seeing Ray live is as close as I'll likely come to being in the presence of God and I want to give him credit for everything he's got coming which is a lot.  I'll be happy to list him as a great country singer.

The problem is that he was not performing them as country music.  You wouldn't have known that "Your Cheating Heart" WAS a country song from hearing Ray's big band arrangements.  It is all well and good to reinvent the songs - that is one of the best reasons for doing covers, it just ain't particularly country.

Twenty odd years later, he slid one in over the plate that more or less sounded like actual country music, or more particularly Western music. He was handed an "El Paso" type frontier story about a pair of doomed Mexican lovers making their last stand.

Billy Sherill, the country schlock producer extraordinaire, of all people got the straightest country sound of Ray's career, though it represents probably  more an authentic movie western sound than it does anything ever actually played by any actual mariachi or Spanish troubador.  He got the nice dramatic Spanish guitar, and just a good sharp taste of those "Ring of Fire" trumpets, and a little support from Willie Nelson on the second verse doing his best cowboy thing.

Anyway, it was close enough to recognizable commercial country formatting that Willie and a great dramatic ballad made a real country radio and jukebox hit, Ray's most recent.

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