The San Francisco Chronicle:
Maybe it's a good thing Kacey Jones waited 26 years after meeting songwriter Mickey Newbury to record an album of his songs: Four years after his death, Jones, known for her comedy albums and hanging out with Garrison Keillor at Lake Wobegon, breaks your heart so many times on this exquisite disc, you have to think just a bit of her life experience adds to the genius. Country blues have never been bluer, or more eloquent, and Jones' seen-it-all voice is the perfect match for Newbury's poignant worldview. From the ache of "Ramblin' Blues" to the infectious bounce of "San Francisco Mabel Joy," Jones honors a singular talent as only another singular talent could. - Dave Wiegand
Though Mickey Newbury, who died in 2003, never achieved the renown of Kris Kristofferson or the legendary aura of Townes Van Zandt, his fans considered him as great a songwriter as any of his progressive country contemporaries. Kacey Jones has previously been known as a comic performer of funny songs, but there isn't a laugh to be found on this tribute to her musical mentor. On the contrary--the lush arrangements and new-age atmospherics of Jones's production, her dramatic phrasing that suggests an actress as much as a singer, and the selection of material steeped in melancholy all attest to the project's seriousness of purpose. While the cloying production of "Time Was" might be more suitable for a tribute to Rod McKuen, Jones knows to leave well enough alone with "San Francisco Mabel Joy." Newbury's signature story song was for him what "Pancho and Lefty" was for Van Zandt and "Me and Bobby McGee" is for Kristofferson. Any release that introduces listeners to Newbury's music is welcome, but as Jones would be the first to admit, nobody sings Newbury as well as Newbury did. --Don McLeese
Barnes & Noble:
To the general public the name Mickey Newbury may not ring much of a bell, but his songs do: Who hasn't heard Elvis Presley's powerful rendition of "American Trilogy"? Country fans certainly are aware of the wry, heartbreaking irony Jerry Lee Lewis delivered so effectively on "She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye," as well as Don Gibson's poignant rendering of "Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings," and the whacked-out psychedelia that launched Kenny Rogers's career, "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." On her tribute to this late, great American singer-songwriter, Kacey Jones dispenses with the slightly bawdy comedy she has built a career on (check out her hilarious live album, Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay or Dead) and relies on her husky alto. With her bluesy drawl, a swaggering attitude, and a tender texture, it's all the better to explore the multitude of shadings Newbury could work into a single song. A gospel choir, bursts of horn exclamations, a barrelhouse piano, and some stinging electric guitar turn "Apples Dipped in Candy" into a sultry, ecstatic experience, somewhere between the church and the juke joint. A simple, stark acoustic guitar figure and a droning cello set the ambience for her searching, restrained exploration of one of Newbury's most complex and moving lyrics, "Some Memories Are Better Left Alone." Jones's readings are note perfect, the rich arrangements are beautifully conceived, and the soul of Mickey Newbury lives again, vivid as ever in his timeless, literate songs. - David McGee
Country Standard Time:
With a voice that wavers with eternal beauty from a bygone era, Kacey Jones uses her powerful pipes to pay homage to her favorite songwriter, and one of America's greats: Mickey Newbury. While Jones is best known as a comedienne and has a gift for making people laugh, she also has a sensitive side. Her 15 renditions of Newbury's songs here are sure to make you cry with their sorrow. Newbury was a legendary Nashville songwriter, and Jones helps preserve the late songsmith's memory. The disc opens with the tender "Song of Sorrow" and from this blissful beginning Jones takes the listener on a journey of Newbury's poetic nuances as her delicate delivery gives one time to soak in each and every word of this gifted songwriter, while concurrently admiring Jones' vocals. Newbury's songs possess a soul that comes alive when the words are sung, and luckily for music lovers, Jones' tribute captures this soul and ensures it stays alive just a wee bit longer. From the tender "Lie to Me Darlin'" to the touching and dreamy "Goodnight," the passionate poems Newbury created are recreated by Jones with the same drips of soul to ensure they are not forgotten and remain an integral part of the American songbook. - David McPherson
Rambles - A Cultural Arts Magazine
Mickey Newbury -- born Milton Sim Newbury Jr., in Houston, May 19, 1940 -- never attained stardom. He was too idiosyncratic a composer and performer for that, and his artist's vision found expression in no readily definable genre. In the 1960s, following a stint in the Air Force, he moved to Nashville, however, and signed with Acuff-Rose Publications, which pitched his songs to country and pop acts. Several of his songs, covered by others, became hits.
One was the lamely psychedelic but bubblegum-catchy "Just Dropped in," Kenny Rogers's first chart success (technically, under his band's First Edition rubric) and unlike any other song Newbury would write afterwards. Eddy Arnold had a hit on both country and pop charts with "Here Comes the Rain, Baby." Newbury didn't exactly write the Elvis hit "An American Trilogy" -- it consists of scraps of "Dixie," "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the spiritual "All My Trials" laid end to end -- but he claimed arranger's credit, and it's become something of a standard.
Newbury -- who died Sept. 29, 2002, in Springfield, Oregon -- influenced other, more famous Nashville songwriters, Kris Kristofferson most of all. He has been name-checked in various songs, for example the dopey 1977 Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson hit "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)," whose chorus hails "Newbury's train songs" -- no doubt to the incomprehension of all but scattered listeners. Over the years, almost till the time of his death, Newbury was recording albums of his own for a small but nearly worshipful band of admirers.
Nashville-based comedian Kacey Jones seems an unlikely individual to record an album's worth of Newbury's gloomy material. Newbury had one major theme: doomed romanticism, defined as much in the broadly philosophical sense as in the specifically erotic. In Newbury land, the skies are cloudy all day, and many are the discouraging words. Call him Leonard Cohen minus the drollness or mordant social commentary. Or you can think of Newbury as something of a 20th-century Stephen Foster, at least Foster the "serious" (i.e., parlor) composer. As far as his contemporaries go, Newbury surely most closely resembles Jimmy Webb.
Like Webb's, his compositions feel as if they should be country or folk songs, but mostly they aren't exactly, any more than they are precisely pop tunes (they certainly owe nothing to rock, a genre in which Newbury the songwriter, except for the above-mentioned "Just Dropped in," had no discernible interest). It's hard to imagine a song titled "Ramblin' Blues" that doesn't owe a debt to Hank Williams or Woody Guthrie, but Newbury's -- which Jones renders movingly -- is very much on its own. Actually, one suspects that Frank Sinatra could have sung the hell out of it; yet it's not really a Sinatra-style tune, either.
Jones, who produced the recording with intelligence and grace, puts the songs into modestly orchestrated arrangements, with guitars, pianos, horns and strings employed to conjure up near-visual representations of the world in which these vividly told stories are played out. Jones's vocals deliver the material in restrained but commanding style, so effectively that unless you're in an irritable or impatient frame of mind, you won't complain that the songs are overwhelmingly slow to mid-tempo and, well, mostly depressing. Only the overwrought "San Francisco Mabel Joy" crosses over the top.
I don't know how you'd improve on a tribute album so sensitively conceived and executed as this one. Jones' riveting interpretations lift these gorgeous, heartbreaking songs to a kind of tragic glory.
- Jerome Clark
Kacey Jones has until now been best known as a musician with a comical, observational bent, a perspective that’s often skewed towards the absurd. However, her latest effort finds her striking a more serious pose, an all out homage to a songwriter who was ranked by many as one of America’s finest. The late Mickey Newbury never achieved the popular acclaim accorded, say, Kris Kristofferson, but as Kristofferson himself points out in the liner notes, he had a profound effect on all those who knew him and his work. Jones does an admirable job of interpreting his tunes and this effort, produced in cooperation with Newbury’s widow Susan, brings out the heartfelt emotion and the pathos that were always so instilled in Newbury’s material. Indeed, there’s a lingering feeling of sadness ingrained in these melodies, as revealed by song titles such as “Song Of Sorrow,” “Some Memories Are Better Left Alone” and “What Will I Do.” Jones relays this downcast demeanor more than effectively, but it’s the country sway of “Lie To Me Darlin’” and the easy, breezy feel of “Blue Sky Shining” and “You’ve Always Got The Blues” that add the much needed lilt to these proceedings. Likewise, her take on Newbury’s best-known effort, “San Francisco Mabel Joy,” is a total revelation, a beautiful narrative that’s absolutely inspired. Newbury was Jones’ mentor in the last years of his life and no doubt she felt Newbury’s spirit while she was recording. It certainly sounds that way. One would be hard put to find a more touching tribute. -----Lee Zimmerman
All Music Guide:
Singer and songwriter Kacey Jones has built a strong reputation as a musical comedian, first as a member of the group Ethel & the Shameless Hussies and more recently as a solo act, recording albums of ditties such as Never Wear Panties to a Party and Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay or Dead. However, Jones offers a look at the more serious side of her musical personality with Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newbury, in which she covers 15 songs by the legendary Nashville songwriter.
Like his friend and colleague Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury brought an intelligence, lyricism, and depth to Nashville songwriting that still held firm ties to the warmth and direct emotion of the best country music when he first appeared in the mid-'60s; Newbury also befriended Kacey Jones early in her career, and these performances reveal a deep love for Newbury's writing, and a keen appreciation of the emotional stakes of these songs. For someone best known for delivering musical punch-lines, Jones fares well on this set; her rich voice suggests an artist with a firm grasp of jazz vocal stylings as well as country-styled material, and she finds a degree of musical sophistication in the melodies that honors Newbury's material.
Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newbury presents 15 great songs from a man who knew how to write them, sung by a woman with a clear appreciation of their musical importance and heart-tugging power -- which is to say this album accomplishes what it sets out to do.
~ Mark Deming
The name seeped into the country music mainstream courtesy of Waylon Jennings' "Luckenbach, Texas" - "Newbury's train songs." This was who Waylon was singing about - a songwriter so diverse he defies description. His songs rise above genre categorization; he's penned hits for blues, country, rock, and pop artists; in fact, he's had a different song in each category on the charts at the same time. Now Kacey Jones turns a voice to Newbury's songs. The result is striking.
"They call me a fool and a dreamer/ Tell me I'm wasting my time/ How I will search for the rest of my life/ For a rainbow I never will find." These are the words that open this disc, a masterful melody with exquisite lyrics sung by a voice that captured me almost instantly, a powerful, dusky, sultry voice (somewhat reminiscent of Judy Garland, actually and that was all I needed to get me completely hooked on this disc. Jones handles the subtleties, the complexities, of Newbury's melodies with magnificent style and grace, bringing the power of the tunes out with a raw strength that's a simple joy to hear. Jones, better known for funny work ("Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay, or Dead") and producing (Kinky Friedman's "Pearls in the Snow"), demonstrates here that she is also a deft hand at the serious (although no matter what people may think, it's always far easier for a comedian to be serious than for the dramatic to turn a hand at comedy). Woven together under Jones' own skillful production, with gentle rain effects between some tracks (as though we were sitting in a warm room on a rainy day listening to music), the entire album is a work of art. For the most part, she chooses Newbury's less-known songs (with the exception of "San Francisco Mabel Joy"), leaving more iconic tunes where they are, such as the many-times recorded "An American Trilogy," "Funny, Familiar Forgotten Feelings," and "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." Instead, she opts for beauties like the bluesy "Apples Dipped In Candy," the sweetly beautiful "Song of Sorrow," surprisingly elegant love song "Lie to Me, Darlin'," and canny "You've Always Got the Blues." With the wealth of selections available to her, Jones has chosen songs eminently suited to her that work together beautifully as a whole, a real album of music in every sense of the word. The arrangements are spare and attractive, a dramatic setting for the rich elegance of Jones' voice. The beauty of Newbury's tunes don't really need a lot of words other than their own to recommend them. Kacey Jones does a grand job of demonstrating why. - Kathy Coleman
Country Line Magazine - Austin, TX:
Kacey Jones is somewhat of an anomaly. On the one hand, there is the funny Kacey, releasing albums with songs like “Never Wear Panties To A Party” and “Down To My Christmas Underwear” while entertaining the whole world on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio show several times in the last few years with her bawdy, man killing humor. Then, there is the serious, thoughtful and brilliant songwriting side of miss Jones that is sometimes overlooked and seldom discussed. The latter is what will be covered in this story.To understand this album you first must understand who Mickey Newbury was. One of the most gifted and talented singer songwriters on the planet earth is what he was, completey innovative and creative in a way that was years ahead of his time. Penning songs like “American Trilogy,” “San Fancisco Mabel Joy,” “Why You Been Gone So Long,” and “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye,” classics that will be around forever. Intricate melodies and deep beautiful lyrics became his trademark and he was admired and appreciated by fellow songwriters Kris Kristofferson, Larry Gatlin and others. Blessed with a four - octave range that was captivating and filled with emotion, it was hard to listen to a Mickey Newbury song without being moved to the point of tears.Kacey Jones first met Newbury 26 years ago when a friend asked if she would like to meet him after a recording session in Nashville. At the time, she was unfamiliar with him and his work so it was quite an awakening when she made her way into the Acuff/Rose Studios where Newbury was recording some solo tracks. "He would sail into those high notes so effortlessly, and the songs... I sat there and listened to him, mesmorized, for more than an hour". After the session, Newbury heard Jones talking about her shortcomings as a songwriter brought about by being blown away by what Newbury was doing. He took her aside and spent two more hours talking about songwriting with her. It was an incredible time and she still remembers every word he said to this day. After that, they didn't speak again until 1997 when Jones was producing “Pearls In The Snow” a tribute to Kinky Friedman featuring Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam and others. She thought of inviting Newbury, who was living in Oregon at the time, to record on the album but his health had begun to detoriate and he was unable to attend the sessions. “I could tell, even then, that he was hoarse and somewhat short of breath. I will always regret that I didn't suggest that I fly out and record him there.” It was their last conversation. Newbury passed away in 2002 of pulmonary fibrosis.Kacey Jones was driven to record a tribute album to Mickey Newbury by the man himself. She believes she has been guided along the way by unseen forces, voices in the wind, her own emotions, and a love for the art of songwriting and those who do it. The album itself is an amazing work of art, a masterpiece of production with ethereal effects like train whistles, thunder and rain, a parade band marching by and little snippets of the man himself, discreetly put in for a haunting, gripping session. Laura Shayne Newbury, his 20 year old daughter, is featured on “Some Memories Are Better Left Alone” in which she whistles at the end of the song until her Father takes over and fades the song out with his own whistling. Kacey Jones may very well be staring a Grammy nomination in the face at the end of the year, this album is that powerful and it would be a fitting tribute to both artists, the giant in the world of songwriters and the gifted, loving singer who cared enough to say thanks. - Greg Roberts
* * * * ½
One of the loveliest and quite beautiful tribute albums I have heard. I am sure Mickey Newbury would have been very proud of this album.
In 1980 Kacey Jones was still trying to make her way in Nashville as a singer-songwriter, when a meeting with the legendary Mickey Newbury helped change her life. Not knowing who he was, and also getting disenchanted with not getting any work, she went along to the Acuff/Rose Studios and was immediately taken with his wonderful four-octave range voice. When Mickey heard that she was thinking about packing it all in and moving back to the Bay Area for a job in retail, he then spent another couple of hours talking to her about songwriting, thus changing her life forever. Anyone who knows Kacey’s music will know that his talk worked, and she contacted Mickey again in 1997 to see if he would come to Nashville from Oregon to sing on a tribute album to Kinky Friedman, but he declined due to bad health, and sadly passed away in 2002 from pulmonary fibrosis. From that moment Kacey had this project in mind as a kind of thank-you to Mickey for how he helped her career right at the beginning. Since finishing the album Kacey has had nothing but good comments from all who have heard it, one such favourable quote coming from Kris Kristofferson ‘It’s nice to see an artist who understands and appreciates the soul of Mickey’s songs, honouring him like this.’ Kacey has chosen fifteen wonderful Newbury songs, and the album opens with the absolutely gorgeous Song Of Sorrow, in which she treats it with all the respect it deserves, giving it a wonderfully pure and tender telling, an extra special touch to the song is the whistling at the end by Laura Shayne Newbury, one of Mickey’s five children. More enchanting ballads follow, such as the glorious Some Memories Are Better Left Alone, the resplendent Lie To Me Darlin’, the dreamy Blue Sky Shining and the engaging Lovers to name just a few. Other stand-out tracks on an album of memorable songs are the excellent New Orleans jazz styled Apples Dipped In Candy with some wonderful trumpet playing from Brent Moyer, the superb story-song San Francisco Mabel Joy and the bewitching You’ve Always Got The Blues. I’m not sure if the track-listings were planned this way, but the last three song titles just seem right for the sentiments of this tribute, they are Remember The Good, followed by Amen For Old Friends, and ending with Goodnight which includes the chorus ‘Goodnight, my love, goodnight. May all your dreams come true. And may God be with you. Goodnight, my love, goodnight.’ If you are a fan of Mickey Newbury then you must get this album, and even if you are not sure if you know any of his songs I would still recommend you to buy this top-class tribute to one of the music worlds best songwriters, may his music live on forever. I will finish with a lovely quote from Brenda Lee ‘one of the most prolific songwriters ever, his music will continue to touch the emotions of generations to come.’ Amen to that! - Dave Knowles
Music Row Magazine:
Kacey’s upcoming CD is a tribute to the songwriting of the late Mickey Newbury. Its advance track is my favorite song by Mickey, a story song about an innocent Georgia farm boy who winds up in L.A. in the arms of a prostitute. He kills a Marine he finds with her, winds up in prison and dies on her doorstep from the bullet he takes escaping. She’s not there, he’s told. She’s gone looking for some Georgia farm boy. And all of this in the space of a country song.
Gone Country Magazine:
Kacey Jones, who is more widely recognized for her comedic work released some of her deeper feelings in a more dramatic sense on her tribute to fallen friend and songwriter, Mickey Newbury. While her voice isn't really my thing (think raspy similar to Janis Joplin) you can hear a sadness and at the same time a certain amount of relief Jones feels by covering some of Newbury's catalog. This album has an overall sad and sorrow filled feeling resulting in slower paced songs, but as far as a tribute album goes you have to give credit where credit is due. Kacey Jones does an excellent job with Newbury's music and makes the songs her own with her voice while staying true to the originals. This type of album shows the depth of a performer like Kacey Jones, but if you are looking for what you know from her past then you may be taken by surprise. - Jeffrey Kurtis
Nashville City Paper:
Kacey Jones’ previous releases have spotlighted her quick, biting wit and satirical prowess, most notably Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay or Dead. But she not only plays it straight on this Mickey Newbury tribute project, she expertly and accurately communicates on each song his narrative skills and versatility in crafting and developing multiple moods and settings.Jones explores the colorful (“Ramblin’ Blues,” “Apples Dipped in Candy”) and painful (“You’ve Always Got The Blues,” “Some Memories Are Better Left Alone”) with equal flair, never exaggerating or adding anything unnecessary in her treatments, yet always taking you completely inside Newbury’s arrangements and revealing the depth and quality of his writing.Mickey Newbury isn’t nearly as famous as he should be, but Kacey Jones’ treatments of his songs will inspire those who hear them to delve deeper into his rich and overlooked catalog. - Ron Wynn
Midwest Record Recap:
I love Kacey Jones even if she has forgotten to send me her last few solo albums. She’s one of roots music’s players most worthy of wider recognition. After tackling the works of one great American several years ago, producing a Kinky Friedman all-star tribute, she's moved on to the works of another great American, Mickey Newbury.I’ve always felt that Newbury’s works were wise beyond their years and they were songs that had to be grown into which is why he was a cult act that knew how to pop out the hits for others. On this set, Jones has surely matured into giving Newbury the interpretation he deserves, avoiding some of the obvious choices to really put the spotlight on the songs. All roots fans need to check this out if they really are genre fans. Hot stuff. - Chris Specter
Kacey Jones is seasoned in a business that devours many only to disappear in a brief flash unable to pay the required dues. Hard work and a gift for making people happy keep her going as she entertains with considerable talent. She’s not like anybody else. It’s rare. Kacey recorded a CD at the legendary Bluebird Cafe’ in Nashville plaintively entitled: Every Man I Love is Either Married, Gay, or Dead (IGO-2005). Yes, she’s a very funny lady but, the difference between laughter and sadness may well be the length of a tear. There’s a good chance the ghost of Mickey Newbury was still hanging around the Bluebird...chain smoking unfiltered Camels, because he loved to laugh and, when he couldn’t laugh, that’s when he wrote his miraculous songs...miraculous in the power they have to move people.Mickey was very ill in the last years of his life and never stopped writing until his death in September of 2002. Although he released a few CDs toward the end, he frequently said, "I wish I had the time and resources to do these the way I really want to." Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newbury would please him and may be her answer to that wish. To songwriters, their songs are like their children and what you're about to hear are those children clothed in their finest. They shine and resound in new attire but they’re still the ones you've always loved.Mickey Newbury mostly wrote songs of release...there are those and others here. They’re sung by a woman who is a favorite of Garrison Keillor and all who love to be thoroughly entertained. She’s somewhere between Billie Holiday and Bette Midler with a touch of Joplin...both Scott and Janis. She also produced Kinky Friedman’s cult favorite Pearls in the Snow. Let the music wrap itself around you and listen from the inside as, Kacey Jones sings Mickey Newbury.
Ron Lyons spent most of his career as a San Francisco radio personality at legendary stations, KEWB, KNBR, and KCBS. He also wrote and produced the 2CD biography: Mickey Newbury, An American Treasure.
Kacey Jones has adopted the songs of Mickey Newbury and made them her own... and the results are amazing.
Newbury’s fabled lush lyrical talents lend themselves to Jones’ lush musical interpretations. I’m not calling either of them a lush--just a union made in heaven.
Anyone who pays tribute to the great Mickey Newbury is a friend of mine. One of the most prolific songwriters ever, his music will continue to touch the emotions of generations to come. Thank you, Kacey.
Mickey Newbury is one of the great American songwriters. Right up there with Stephen Foster. Of all the heroes and peers I admired and worked to emulate in my education as an artist, his music had the most profound and positive effect on my songwriting. We shared a mutual feeling for the sound of the language, the love of alliteration -- even when it broke the rules of normal sentence structure (e.g. "a merchant mad marine"). But the most significant thing I learned from Mickey was the importance of the melody in the attack on the emotions that is songwriting. It's a weapon poetry doesn't have and it goes straight to the heart. I can’t hear "What Will I Do" without tears coming to my eyes.I’m leery of tribute albums, but this is a good one. It’s nice to see an artist who understands and appreciates the soul of his songs honoring him like this. Thanks Kacey.
I picked up a copy of Mickey Newbury’s Looks Like Rain album in a used record shop in St. Louis one day many years ago, which is where my love for his music began. It only had seven songs on it, in a day when the typical LP contained 12. But each one was a haunting listening experience. Just as novel were those train and rain sounds woven into its sonic fabric.I’ve acquired many Newbury discs since then, and each seemed to be as achingly beautiful as the one before it. Eventually, I even got to know him a little. His death in 2002 saddened all of us who cherish songwriters and songwriting.Those records are all collector’s items now. And it remains a mystery to me why everybody in America isn’t a Mickey Newbury fan. Despite his 1980 election to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, far too many people don’t even know about this man and his extraordinary talent.And that’s why this record is so important. Even if you know “Sweet Memories,” “Just Dropped In,” “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye,” “An American Trilogy,” “Funny, Familiar, Forgotten Feelings” and the other hits that Mickey Newbury contributed to American music, Kacey Jones is here to remind you that there is so much more than them in his extraordinary catalog. Perhaps just as worthwhile, she gives these 15 songs all the heart and soul they deserve. And just for good measure, the sound effects are just as Mickey Newbury would have them.I think he’d like this tribute very much. I know I do.
Mickey Newbury was the wild card in the songwriter revolution in Nashville in the late 1960s and early 70s. Newbury always wrote the lyric you didn’t expect, the one that hit you straight in the heart, the one that stopped you dead in your tracks. I’m gratified that Kacey Jones is paying splendid tribute to some of Mickey’s best songs and keeping them alive and kicking.