Mickey Newbury grew up in Houston wanting to become a songwriter. In the event, he became one of the several talented songwriters who brought new life to country music in the late sixties and early seventies. Some such as Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall and Kris Kristofferson went on to successful performing careers of their own. Others such as Townes Van Zandt and Newbury also recorded their own work, but never had the breakthrough they deserved in their own right.
As Kurt Wolff writes in his Allmusic profile, Newbury infused his songs with haunting beauty and spiritual melancholy, creating an impressive collection of introspective, emotionally complex songs. Newbury worked the vein of lovelorn desolation repeatedly and deeply. His work reflects a love of folk and blues combined that gives it an extra dimension.
Newbury’s dislike of touring and his long break from the business contributed to his failure to break out as a performing artist. He nevertheless compiled a rich body of work early in his career, as can be heard on “Winter Winds.” He also roused himself to produce a latter-day classic on “A Long Road Home,” released in 2002 just before he died, way too young, at age 62.
I hadn’t thought about Newbury for a while when reader Tom Spaulding sent me a message with a YouTube video of one of Newbury’s lesser known songs. Tom reminded me that he had worked as a guitar tech for John Fogerty a while ago when we exchanged emails and I posted a few links to Tom’s site Caught Up in the Fable. Tom wrote: “I know you are a fan of great music. I thought I’d send you a link to one of the finest performances I’ve ever heard, Dawn Sears fronting The Time Jumpers, a semi-nebulous pick-up group of Nashville music stalwarts.”
The video is below, dedicated to the memory and music of the gentleman on the pedal steel guitar; he passed away in November 2007. I believe John and I saw him accompanying Vince Gill two or three times at the Minnesota State Fair. “Sweet memories,” indeed.
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