No tags :(

Share it




In every man’s life the years go by far too quickly. One minute you’re a kid playing in the dirt without a care in the world, the next you’re an old geezer counting the days until they throw dirt on your coffin.

In music time goes by even more rapidly it seems, because an artist’s prime is incredibly short… maybe a decade in the best case scenarios, a few years for the top acts of their time and in some cases, like Smilin’ Smokey Lynn, their peak might just be a single fleeting moment quickly forgotten.

When that time passes they’re not necessarily thrown into the ground in a box, but their records might just as well be for all the relevance they’ll have on the current scene.


I Don’t Know What You’re Puttin’ Down
It’s always difficult to accurately judge someone’s abilities when they make infrequent visits to the release rolls.

Artists need to remain active in the studio to develop their style, to keep up to date in the evolution of the genre and more than anything to essentially figure out through trial and error what works, what doesn’t and how they can capitalize on their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.

They – and their labels – need to invest the time in cutting records in order to have those records pay dividends in their careers. A part-time recording artist is hardly a recording artist at all.

Smilin’ Smokey Lynn burst onto the scene as the featured vocalist for trumpeter Don Johnson on Specialty way back in the spring of 1949 but since then hasn’t been afforded a consistent opportunity to develop from there. If anything he’s been forced to go backwards with his approach, as is the case with Leave My Girl Alone, his first release in nearly a year, though probably cut at the same time as his last single on Peacock in late 1950.

That delay in its release doesn’t help his cause any as there’s not a lot of year old records that are going to be completely up to date, but in this instance even if it had been released a day after it was laid down there’s little chance of it being widely embraced by a forward looking rock audience no matter what the date on the calendar read.


Please Gather ‘Round Me
With two names credited on the label – Smokey Lynn, the vocalist, and Bill Harvey, the sax playing bandleader – it’s a tossup who to blame more for how stale this sounds.

I suppose since the primary artist is Lynn he deserves the brunt of the criticism as he adopts a sort of laid back milquetoast vocal tone here that is conversational by nature and consequently hardly very engaging musically.

That’s a shame too because the song itself has a lot of potential if it was handled more forcefully.

As its title attests Lynn is warning to other men Leave My Girl Alone in no uncertain terms, alternately badmouthing romantic rivals and violently threatening to take their life if they mess with her.

Now granted sometimes a quiet threat is more menacing than one accompanied by a lot of bluster, for as we all know the louder someone is when trying to intimidate others the more scared they are of having their own toughness challenged and are simply trying to bluff their way into making someone concede. So from that standpoint maybe Lynn’s more docile voice is acceptable.

The problem is that his words themselves are designed to scare people off and he’s conveying them as if he were a librarian asking some whispering 6th graders to “keep it down”.

Had Lynn instead used the same approach he’d featured on State Street Boogie, this might very well have topped that record, or at least held serve with it, because it’s got enough juicy lyrical details to make quite an impression.

Of course even if Smokey Lynn HAD managed to sound a little tougher Bill Harvey’s band didn’t provide him with the requisite muscle to give him the confidence that his side would win out in the end. Their early horn charts are straight from 1947 while the solo manages to inch forward a couple of years at least but still haven’t quite made it into the 1950’s.

How else does this fall short… well, there’s no back beat, no insistent rhythm, no slashing guitars and the pianist sounds as if he’s warming up to a play a junior high dance. When the band members are enlisted to chant the title line they sound as if they’ll be left as wallflowers at that dance because no self-respecting girl would be caught dead letting these timid souls waltz around the floor with them.

If ever there was a case of a singer and band being badly matched with their material, this is it. What could’ve been a triumphant return winds up being a closing argument as to keeping Lynn on the shelf for good.


You’ll Go To The Graveyard And I’ll Go To Jail
We knew from the start that Smilin’ Smokey Lynn was never going to blossom into a star but we had every right to expect that with a few breaks along the way he might become one of those cult figures who was a welcome sight any time he wrangled a recording contract from a label even if his past releases hadn’t moved enough copies to pay for the printing costs.

Instead Lynn’s shown none of the emotional fire, none of the vocal urgency, none of the artistic competency to get us to think the first impression he made was anything other than a fluke.

As a composition Leave My Girl Alone has most of what we’re looking for in rock ‘n’ roll at this time and so while the accompanying score may be misleading for those who don’t do more than skim these reviews, we have to credit the record for that much. However when it comes to what the artist and the band bring to the table it’s not deserving of much credit at all.

If a more capable rock act over the next few years was frustrated with the substandard songs they were being requested to sing, this is exactly the kind of obscurity they should’ve dug out of mothballs and taken a whack at.

It may not be a potential hit with mass appeal but in the right hands it’d be a barn-burning track that would never fail to get people on their feet.

Unfortunately in Smilin’ Smokey Lynn’s hands it doesn’t radiate enough heat to melt an ice cube… which may in fact be entirely appropriate since his career now might as well be put on ice.


(Visit the Artist page of Smilin’ Smokey Lynn for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)