Country Style

by: Dean Martin

Dean Martin, the Italian-American pride of Steubenville, OH, was always more versatile than most of his tuxedo-clad brethren in the ranks of traditional pop singers. Tony Bennett, nine years Martin's junior, may have sung Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart" reluctantly in 1951, but it would be hard to imagine Martin's peers like Frank Sinatra doing much with country material. Even Perry Como, who was relatively indiscriminate in choosing his repertoire (or allowing his A&R people to choose it for him), tended to steer clear of Nashville. But Martin, who had no trouble tying on a six-shooter to co-star in Rio Bravo with John Wayne in 1959, was equally willing to don a cowboy hat and appear on the cover of his third Reprise album as Dean "Tex" Martin in early 1963. Some of the selections skirted pop crossover, especially the covers of countrypolitans like Eddy Arnold ("Any Time") and Marty Robbins ("Singing the Blues"), and Bobby Darin's Top Five hit "Things" was a pop, not a country, song. But there were also real country numbers by Williams, Don Gibson, and even Johnny Cash (a relaxed version of "I Walk the Line"). The arrangements by Don Costa certainly weren't hardcore country, but there were guitars twanging away and Martin simply rolled over the top with his usual ease of delivery. The result was surprisingly pleasurable, and Country Style even spent several weeks in the charts. ~ William Ruhlmann

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