7.4

Tammy Wynette: You And Me/Let's Get Together

Music Reviews Tammy Wynette
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Tammy Wynette: <i>You And Me</i>/<i>Let's Get Together</i>

The mid-’70s were a fruitful and difficult time for country star Tammy Wynette. Already 15 years into her hard fought career, she was still capable of healthy album sales and chart hits, but it often came at a steep price. Her biggest success of the three albums she released in 1976 was Golden Ring, an album of duets featuring George Jones, the fellow country artist with whom she’d divorced in loud and nasty fashion a year earlier. Their relationship already provided plenty of fuel for the gossip fire so that album, and the begrudging public appearances the pair made when two singles from the record went to #1 on the country charts, was analyzed for clues about the state of their affairs. It didn’t help matters that in the midst of all this, she married again, if only for 44 days.

Through it all, Wynette did her part to keep the Nashville machine and her career moving forward, steadily putting out albums (in the ‘60s and ‘70s, she had her name on 24 full-lengths between her solo work and the records she made with Jones), like the two put together on this new CD release: 1976’s You And Me and Let’s Get Together from 1977. And as with any artist providing grist for the country music mill, the quality varies considerably. That’s certainly the case with the albums brought together on this collection.

Wynette’s final release of the bicentennial year is one of her shakiest, mixing ballads that give her luminous voice a lot of room to shine (the title track and her take on Willie Nelson’s mournful waltz “Little Things” are particular highlights) with less-successful, but still charming choices like a version of “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” and the closing ode to “Dixieland.”

Let’s Get Together, on the other hand, is a remarkable piece of work that recalls Wynette’s finest work from the previous decade. Recorded with her longtime studio compatriot Billy Sherrill, the album flirts with the syrupy sound that was dominating the pop charts at the time, while keeping strongly rooted in the country tradition.

Wynette pours every bit of the ups and downs of the past year into her work here. There’s a bruised quality to the happier love songs, to the point that she almost seems to be singing to God more than any gent that has shared her bed. Those wounds only take on more depth and color when Wynette gets to the heartbroken “It’s Gonna Take A Long, Long Time” or “Cheatin’ Is,” a sharply written Rafe Van Hoy tune. The muscle memory of the past was clearly driving her performances and they are all the better for it.

Her ability to draw from her hard-fought past and the then-current struggles that made her such a sensation when she finally broke through in 1966 and carried through the rest of her life. You can even hear it in the one-off pop hit she had with The KLF in 1991. Even when she’s singing a casual number, her heart is fully in it.