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REGAL 3268; MAY 1950



They say when you hit rock bottom the only place to go is up, but while that may be true it begs the question… If you start at the top, is it then inevitable that the only place to go is down?

For the last year and a half Chubby Newsome has been struggling to prove that’s not the case but the further away she gets from her debut hit, the odds that she’ll reverse course and resume an upward trajectory with her career are becoming ever more slim.


Looking For A Home
A year and a half might not seem like a long time in the big scheme of things, but when you’ve gone that long without a hit time seems to drag on forever and it was becoming obvious to all involved that Chubby Newsome (who recently re-affixed the last “e” on her surname) was in need of a boost in commercial returns to keep Regal Records satisfied.

This isn’t quite it, although a lot of this record is close to being really good but it’s held back by a very pedestrian arrangement that doesn’t try to be anything more than modestly serviceable.

You wouldn’t think that they’d be going through the motions in the studio but maybe with Newsome’s recent commercial downturn – and a new studio band led by pianist Howard Biggs – they were just missing the spark of creativity when it came to these sides because by the sound of Poor Dog you almost get the feeling they had their eye on the clock rather than on the song.

I suppose it’s inevitable that the trumpets that open this up are going to be behind the curve stylistically and yet you can understand how they felt it was an appropriate shortcut to frame the song quickly. With its despondent theme it needs to have a musical pall cast over it in a way that sets the proper mood, yet considering the mid-tempo strut in Chubby’s voice it also needs a little pep and trumpets conceivably can handle both requirements… their tone is often sorrowful and yet they’re still spry enough to convey some energy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s altogether an alluring sound when the needle drops and so you’re left hanging in the breech until you get some other sign as to whether this will be an unexpected surprise or a disappointment.

With little to offer in the way of instrumental flourishes the track is left without an engine to drive it. The guitar is the best aspect of it, throwing in little licks that are nice to admire for a moment, but the bank of horns are merely playing fills that are all too standard for anyone to really notice.

Worse yet is during the chorus the horns are heading in opposite directions – trumpet doing one thing, sax doing another – no cohesiveness, no vitality, no identity. It’s a blob of sound, indistinct and irrelevant at best, distracting at worst, giving off the impression that none of them much cared what the final results sounded like, whether it bolstered Newsome’s singing or the song itself. Although nobody is intentionally sabotaging it, if they had done so you could argue that at least then it’d have sounded more unique than this by-the-numbers blandness.

I Do Real Nice
There’s little question that Chubby Newsome herself is the best thing about this record. She wrote it herself, completely changing up the perspective of the material she was accustomed to by not focusing on the allure of her own womanly charms and as usual sings with plenty of personality to breathe life into the lyrics. Her sparse stop-time delivery is a little too similar to her previous repertory maybe, but this is a very solid composition thematically with some excellent lines along the way to make it really stand out… provided the producers had simply smoothed over the few bumps found in the road.

Newsome takes on the persona of someone who’d been up and is now down (mirroring her career fortunes making you wonder if that wasn’t on her mind when writing it), casting herself as the Poor Dog seeking some comfort along with a measure of revenge in the bargain. Those two perspectives might sound at odds with one another but not the way she highlights the details.

It’s clear at one point she was essentially being used for her warm body, though she never quite refers to it directly, but she DOES address the changing attitude she gets from her one time beau in a scathing line that’s dripping with scorn:

Now you said you that you loved me
And I believed that trash
But when I want some lovin’
You said “Go and get some cash”

Her vitriol is evident and within that lies the key to the story. When you ARE down you resent it immensely yet you still need some sympathy and a helping hand to get you back on your feet, which explains why during the choruses she’s begging for help, imploring those around her to “Please throw this poor dog a bone”.

Where she slips up however isn’t in the lyrics themselves, but rather her delivery of them as she adds redundant words (Poor OL’ dog” for example) which ruins the scansion and causing it to come across as clumsy and out of step with the faint musical backing. Even her vow of future vengeance crams too many words into too short a line and while it’s funnier there because she’s almost spraying bullets with her mouth it still isn’t all it could be had they edited it slightly.

Therein lies the problem, records are a communal effort with each participant required to contribute something to make the end results worth buying. That takes time however, as well as a sense of personal investment in the outcome, and while Newsome herself is up to the task nobody else seems to care much, choosing instead to just go through the motions and cash their paycheck, imbuing the song with a double meaning that would be laughably ironic if it weren’t so cruel.

Someday I’m Going To Be Free
At this point, with her career on the wane commercially (though thanks to her looks and stage presence she was still a great secondary draw on the road), Chubby Newsome couldn’t afford any subpar productions.

If the songs she was coming up with were bad then that would be her own fault as a writer… or the label’s fault if they were drafting outside writers who gave her subpar material… but in the case of Poor Dog she delivered a good song that fit her persona without relying on the exact same perspective that had driven her best work.

A few tweaks… another run-through… a more focused and sympathetic bandleader could’ve turned what wound up being a mediocre record into a winner, instead “mediocre” seemed to be all the company was aiming for.

Now you now why she was begging someone to throw her a bone… with friends like these, who needs enemies.


(Visit the Artist page of Chubby Newsom for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)