Tammy Wynette happened upon a rewarding formula for her music: songs about womanhood, the trials and tribulations of being a wife and a mother, and the emotional pain and investment involved that those duties required. Of course, at the point in her life when she released the two albums offered here, Another Lonely Song and Woman To Woman, the source of her pain and heartbreak was her husband, the legendary singer (and infamous alcoholic wild-man) George Jones.
These two albums, released in 1974, are very much of a piece. Produced by Billy Sherrill, both albums are filled with songs of heartbreak, loss, and sadness, with the occasional glimmers of hope and a positive outlook for the future. Sherrill was a masterful arranger, and Wynette was the sort of musician who couldn’t sing a bad song even if she tried. Yet these two albums are so ensconced in the melodrama and heartbreak of romance and love gone wrong, listening to them can be a bit of an emotional chore. That’s perhaps the greatest criticism to be had of Wynette’s otherwise prolific Seventies is that her offerings were variations of the same themes, and it often felt as if she and her production team tried to find songs that were more depressing and heartbreaking than the ones that came before it.
Not that there aren’t highlights, though. The title tracks “Another Lonely Song” and “Woman To Woman,” were modest chart hits, and rightly so; they’re country weepies, but they’re powerful numbers in Wynette’s hands—and Sherrill’s arrangements are lush and sophisticated. “Woman to Woman” is a potent warning to another woman about her man’s rambling, wandering way; by song’s end, one starts to realize that Wynette is warning the devoted wife/girlfriend that she is the one after the no-good man. Other highlights include her take on Jeanne Pruett’s then-contemporary hit version of “Satin Sheets,” while her version of “Help Me Make It Through The Night” is tender and heartbreaking. Though less familiar, “Please Come To Boston” is a song about the hope and heartbreak and disappointment found in a new love, while “Oh How I Miss Him” and “For The Kids” shine, even though they’re utterly depressing. But then there’s the hopeful optimism of “What’s A Little Rain?” and “Keep Me In Mind,” mournful in arrangement but surprisingly not as depressing as you might think, and the orchestral bombast of “One Final Stand” is one of her finest recordings, period.
We’re never going to give Ms. Wynette a bad review, simply because her voice was so perfect and her arrangements were equally so, but we’re not going to deny that some of her releases could prove to be difficult slogs through pure pain, heartbreak, and emotion. Another Lonely Song and Woman To Woman were indeed sad and emotionally taxing listens—and we wouldn’t not listen to these albums because of that, as that’s all part and parcel for the fantastic and often beautiful world of Wynette.
Another Lonely Song/Woman To Woman is out now on Morello Records/Cherry Red.
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