CD Review: Chuck Cusimano – Under The Influence of Merle
by Ritchie Ritchison for Country Music News International
- Another Chapter in the Working Man’s Blues
- Meat and Potatoes Man
- Why Did I Wait So Long
- Small Town Blues
- Radio Days
- Call of the Wild
- Flowers for Momma
- Old Fashioned Way
- I Watched You Destroy a Dream
- When it All is Said and Done
- As Far As I Can
- Spendin’ Time and Money
- Home Wasn’t Built in a Day
- Lifetime on the Road
- Merle – Ghost track
Usually when you see an album title Under the Influence, one generally thinks you are going to get an album full of covers of some hero…in this case Merle Haggard. But with Chuck Cusimano getting the usual isn’t likely. This is a 17 song original album in the style of Ol Hag.
Chuck certainly delivers the goods when it comes to the trademarks of Hag’s sound. The spirits of Norm Hamlet, Roy Nichols and the rest of the Strangers, even some convincing Bonnie Owens style backing vocals, haunt the tracks with all the classic licks and feel of Hag’s Best Capitol recordings.
Chuck voice is in fine form and even delivers a few very Hag like performances without trying to do an imitation of the legend.
Unfortunately too much of a good thing can be bad. In this case it is the number of tracks on this disc. I love Chuck’s writing and look forward to anyone releasing a Cusimano penned tune, bu the wiring on this disc falls flat of Chuck’s usually high standards.
Don’t get me wrong! There are some great tracks here. Some of my favorites are I Watched You Destroy A Dream and As Far As I Can, Old Fashioned Way but if I wasn’t reviewing this album I might never have gotten to them. The first few songs fall flat in the writing category. They are simply not up to Chuck’s standards.
The album picks up in the middle of the disc and deliver some solid songs and some that may end up in my everyday playlists. If I was producing this album I would have whittled it down to 10 or maybe even 9 songs and it would have been a much stronger disc.
If you like music in the style of the late great Merle Haggard you will enjoy this disc.
If you haven’t been spoiled by hearing the very best that Chuck Cusimano has written you may well enjoy every song here.
But for me I wasn’t nearly as inspired by this disc as much as Chuck was inspired by the Hag.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars