Earl’s trek from Foxworth, Mississippi to Austin, Texas via Houston, California and Tennessee is the stuff of a true musical journeyman’s life story. From local bands he eventually ended up recording with the likes of Gram Parsons and The Byrds among others. After filling in on a session for Johnny Cash when his regular piano player didn’t show up, Johnny told his guitar player to ask Earl if he would like to tour with Cash’s band. He agreed and was Johnny’s piano player for twenty years. Along the way he soaked up the country, rockabilly and honky-tonk vibes which flavor his music, whether it be an original or cover song. On this his first album, he features his own songs along with covers by Johnny Cash and others. The covers are from a live show, which adds to the honky-tonk atmosphere.
“Standing At The Edge Of The World” introduces Earl’s weathered and warm voice via this catchy little ditty that features Jodi Adair nicely whistling the melody. The tasty country guitar of Casper Rawls graces this track as he does on much of the rest of this recording. Guitar wiz Cindy Cashdollar contributes her steel guitar skills to up the country-vibe ante. The title tune recounts Earl’s life journey. In another life it could of been a hit for Glen Campbell. The story song is enhanced by a memorable piano hook and Cindy’s dobro work. Julianne Banks duets with Earl on the sprightly country tune “Say You Love Me” to good effect. A melancholy country feel inflects “One Of Those Old Things(We All Go Through)”. This time Jay Dee Maness contributes his pedal steel guitar skills. The subject of our mortality is taken at an upbeat pace on “Something’s Gonna Get Us All”.
The second portion of the CD was recorded at The Johnny Cash Bash at Emo’s in Austin, Texas in February 2010. He leans right into “Big River” with his jaunty piano playing and Casper Rawls’ ever present magic fingers on the guitar. The listener gets their rockabilly fix on a rockin’ version of Roy Orbison’s “Down The Line”. Earl shines as he unleashes some Jerry Lee Lewis style piano magic. Lisa Mills helps out Earl with her soulful voice on the Carter Family classic “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”. The live set closes out with a rollicking take on “Mean Woman Blues”.
Two early recordings close out the album. “Second And San Antone” recorded in 1967 reveals a strong hipster vibe. “Flowers On Papa’s Grave” is a 1977 Nashville demo that is drenched in the southern gospel tradition.
What we are given should appeal to traditional country fans as well as to any music fan. The tunes move along quite nicely and fun is over before you realize it. It took him a while to record his first album, but what he has achieved something that he can surely be proud of. All the pieces gel, from the musicianship right down to the production values. The long years of touring and session work have paid off.