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Music Review - 'Then and One More Day` by Westley Dennis (jh)

Westley Dennis -  Then and One More Day (click on image to watch video)

19 June 2021 

 

Every so often we get the refreshing sound of traditional country giving us reassurance that there are still a handful of artists making the kind of music that drew us in years ago that has since been replaced by the trite, overly produced, vacuous commercial variety that passes for “country.”  Wesley Dennis was once a big label act too, having signed with Mercury Nashville Records in the mid-90s. Somehow, despite the mentorship of Alan Jackson, Dennis never really caught on as a mainstream act. Listening to Then and One More Day makes this rather puzzling. He’s got the vocal chops, the sensibilities, and even the pen of real deal country artist. It’s in his blood and he’s stayed devoted to this music despite never reaching the stardom he so deserved.

Commenting on the perfect country & western song, David Alan Coe sang in Steve Goodman’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name”- “Because he hadn't said anything at all about mama

Or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting' drunk.” Dennis doesn’t hit all these proverbial touchstones either but does more than enough justice to ‘prison’ and indirectly to ‘getting drunk.’ ‘Cheating’ should have probably been included in that litany. We don’t hear those kinds of songs much anymore, but Dennis laments the loose women he used to hang out with in “Where Are All The Girls I Used to Cheat With,” featuring Caleb Daugherty. The theme of prison appears in his original “Alabama Dreams,” sung from the perspective of an inmate dreaming about freedom. Then, another highlight, “All My Friends Are Beyond Bars” (featuring Chris Keefe) details a long list of friends in that predicament. 

Of course, common themes of love, heartbreak, and blue collar struggles are found here too along with a genuine twangy sound filled with pedal steel, fiddles, honky tonk piano, and just the right amount of telecaster.  Some of it, however, becomes inevitably repetitive and predictable such that the middle of the album except for the Merle Haggard-like title track doesn’t hold up as well as the beginning and the end. Speaking of the latter, “Hey Pretty Baby” is an upbeat tune while “Little Things” is a tune that can vie with the best country ballads, as Dennis sings about how small acts and gestures can lead to a strong marriage. It’s sappy but in his hands, it still comes across genuinely. 

There are a couple of missteps though. He may have been better off keeping “This Song’s For You” as a tribute to unsung heroes and military vets rather than also saluting women that choose not to have abortions. The political stance seems misplaced on this kind of album.  The cover tune “If I Had Any Pride Left at All,” lacks the punch of John Berry’s original and is an unnecessary addition to an album that features mostly Dennis’ own material.  Those are minor quibbles though as this a fine classic country album and one worthy of plenty of airplay, which Dennis will sadly likely receive only from judicious hosts on non-commercial stations.  At the same time, Dennis deserves to be played alongside a few of the more straightforward country artists left in the mainstream such as Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Jamey Johnson.

 

 

Jim Hynes

 

 

Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here

 

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