When Ed White quit his job as manager of the Holiday Inn near Nashville's Music Row, signed a deal with United Artists, and became country singer Johnny Darrell in the mid-1960s, he must have felt that he had finally gotten his big break. Gifted with a warm, expressive singing voice and a knack for recognizing great songs, it seemed like the sky was the limit for him. However, a number of factors prevented him from achieving the star status that he undoubtedly deserved. Lauded by many as one of the greatest country musicians to specialize in sad songs, Darrell unfortunately had to deal with his own misery caused by other singers having huge hits with material he had been the first to record.
As Long as the Winds Blow was an extremely promising debut and, in fact, is arguably Darrell's finest album, featuring a country-folk flavor that recalls other similar works such as Johnny Cash's Orange Blossom Special. The title track that opens the LP was the singer's debut single from 1965. A Curly Putnam composition, "As Long as the Winds Blow" has that forlorn quality to it that would mark nearly all of Darrell's greatest performances. (Regrettably, the version found on the excellent Raven comp, Singin' It Lonesome , has a muddy sound to it probably resulting from a poor remastering job, so be sure to get this great track here, and listen to it as it was meant to be heard.) The melancholy-infused "Love Me Till Then" and "Passin' Through" are notable for the former's anti-war sentiment (unheard of in country music at the time) and the latter's exceptionally sympathetic backing vocalists and musicians. The heart-wrenching "Don't Tell My Little Girl" is comparable in subject matter to Johnny Cash's "Give My Love to Rose" in that it deals with a narrator who comes across a dying man regretful for how his actions have adversely affected a loved one. Although the lyrics of "Little Girl" address the dying man's daughter instead of his wife, the emotional impact is no less potent. The simple but effective piano heard in the bridge perfectly complements the song's overall mood and is a really nice touch. "For Old Time Sake" and "Beggars Can't be Choosers" are two more weepers with Darrell's distinct lonesome sound.
The first and what is arguably the best version of "Green Green Grass of Home" (another Curly Putnam tune) inaugurates the second side of this LP. Although you may be familiar with Porter Wagoner's and/or Tom Jones' better known renditions, Darrell is able to tap into the pathos of the lyrics in a much more convincing fashion than either of his competitors. Despite its title, "Johnnie Lose it All" is not autobiographical, although it is a beautiful song whose subject matter concerns the price of fame. Of course, fame was something that Darrell never really achieved in spite of all the dues he had paid as an entertainer. Having to face the upcoming winter may be a challenge for us all, but at least it doesn't necessarily bring on a flood of sad memories as described in the exquisite "The Deepening Snow." Consider yourself fortunate. Jack Clement's humorous "The One on the Right is on the Left" provides some welcome comic relief and is probably the most lighthearted thing Darrell ever recorded. "A Habit I Can't Break" returns the singer to more familiar territory, while "These Boots are Made for Walkin'" provides him with the opportunity to turn in a fine cover of a Lee Hazelwood tune that is most closely associated with Nancy Sinatra.
For fans of Johnny Darrell and 1960s country music in general, this album is absolutely essential.
Get Why You Been Gone So Long here and Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town here.
1. As Long as the Winds Blow
2. Love Me Till Then
3. Passin' Through
4. Don't Tell My Little Girl
5. For Old Time Sake
6. Beggars Can't Be Choosers
7. Green Green Grass of Home
8. Johnnie Lose It All
9. The Deepening Snow
10. The One on the Right is on the Left
11. A Habit I Can't Break
12. These Boots are Made for Walkin'