Back for Another Round
O'CONNOR DISC IS A HONKY-TONK LOVER'S DREAM editor for the telegraph newspaper: Gerry Taylor I've never had much of a taste for honky-tonk and bar music. So even though I've known Gene O'Connor since he was five, when he won a Hal Lone Pine talent contest standing on a chair to sing into the mike, it took me over a month to steel myself to play his new CD, Back For Another Round, which has a dozen such songs. I was right, all 12 tracks were bar songs, yet the quality of the recording, with Del Worden's musicianship and masterful arrangements backing Gene's voice, astounded me. Gene was a great performer as a boy and got even better as he matured (for a long time he was noted for his yodeling abilities). Del has long enjoyed an enviable reputation as a local recording icon and is himself a superb singer. Gene's songwriting (he wrote all of the tracks except for Playin' With My Heart, which is a Del co-write) and Del's interpretive instrumentation make this album of songs seem as varied as a chocolate-covered lacquer sampler. Country honky-tonk legend Hank Thompson may have died Nov. 6 in Fort Worth, Texas, at 82, but a new legend may live right here in New Brunswick if Gene's recording gets radio play in the Southern U.S. Gene did get word from SongVault, an Internet site that helps independent artists get fan and radio exposure, that in late November, three songs from his CD occupied top spots - including the No. 1 slot - on it's listings. While the site is still mostly unknown to the listening public, any publicity is good, and who knows whose ears it might reach. My favourites were Two Drinks of Vodka - the sound effects and amusing police siren fade-out are great - and, because of their Spanish guitar intros and riffs, You Can't Take This Dream From Me and Over And Over And Over Again. The grutchual bluesiness of Maybe Someday (You're Gonna Get The Blues) would impress stalwarts of the Canadian blues scene such as Jackie Washington, Ken Whiteley and Mose Scarlett. And for a unique refrain it would be hard to match I'm All Mixed Up and I'm Right Confused. Over the years, Gene has played various clubs in the Maritimes and Ontario, headed several bands and opened for such famous American acts as Charlie Pride, Ray Price, Brookes & Dunn, Pam Tillis, Waylon Jennings, Tanya Tucker and Ernie Ashford. Gene was inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of fame in 1998. His first CD, which included the yodeling song She Taught Me How To Yodel, sold well locally. In 1978 he signed with an international recording label and two singles were distributed across Canada that garnered him a Canadian Country Music Award nomination. For a number of years, Gene has run Saint John's only completely country music bar, the Grove Lounge on Golden Grove Road. Before that he ran the Urban Corral on Union Street. His voice has never sounded better than on this Del Worden-produced CD, recorded at LivingRoom Studio. Del is himself a musician, singer and part time aerobics instructor. Back For Another Round can be purchased at Grove Lounge, 87 Golden Grove Rd., or by calling 696-6384 or 696-5224.