Over the years, songwriter Hank Cochran (1935-2010) recorded a handful of records for a number of labels, none of which -- amazingly -- have stayed in print for any appreciable length of time. It's too bad, because in addition to being one of the most successful songwriters in Nashville during the early 1960s, Cochran was a mighty fine singer, too. For most country fans, Hank Cochran will be known through the hit versions of his biggest songs -- Eddy Arnold crooning "Make The World Go Away," Patsy Cline belting out "I Fall To Pieces" and "She's Got You," Burl Ives chortling his way through "Little Bitty Tear" -- but Cochran's own interpretations deserve recognition as well... Here's a quick look at his recorded work...
Hank Cochran "The Heart Of Hank: The Monument Sessions" (Koch, 2005)
This disc collects Cochran's work on the Monument label, recorded between 1962-66, with all the tracks from his Heart Of Hank Cochran LP, along with several earlier recordings made for a Nashville indie in 1963. It's one sweet set of old-school country music, as soulful and satisfying as it (occasionally) is imitative of the stars of the day... Cochran sounds like Roger Miller, a bit like Waylon Jennings (in his folkish mode of the mid-'60s) and even has a touch of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard in there as well... (He covers one of Merle's early songs, as well as several Harlan Howard oldies...) Of course, these chameleon nods towards popular styles are more excusable for a super-successful songwriter than for your average Joe... After all, who knows? Waylon or Merle just might record one of his tunes, too -- you never know! It'd be a shame to see this album simply as a set of old songwriter demos, though: Cochran was the real deal, and listening back to these early recordings, you can easily see why so many Nashville singers were on the Hank Cochran bandwagon... Recommended!
Hank Cochran "Hits From The Heart" (RCA Victor, 1965) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Ferguson)
Although he'd been kicking around Nashville since the start of the decade, Cochran didn't record his first album until '65, when he was already established as a major songwriter. This disc didn't make a dent in the charts, but it does contain his own versions of several of his big early hits, which are often quite illuminating. The album opens on a weak note, with Cochran overreaching vocally on "I'd Fight The World," but quickly settles into a more soulful, resonant feel with vintage tearjerkers "Just For The Record," "Same Old Hurt" and "Make The World Go Away." His interpretation of "Little Bitty Tear" is an eye-opener: where the Burl Ives hit took it as a novelty, Cochran spins it into pure pathos, a sad vignette of masculine emotional constriction. Also illuminating are his versions of songs that Patsy Cline made hits -- "He's Got You," "Why Can't She Be You" and a particularly tremulous "I Fall To Pieces" -- where the emotions of these architypically "female" standards are transposed into the masculine voice. There are also glimmers of Cochran trying to develop a "sound," with "Funny Way Of Laughin' " and "Tears Broke Out On Me" lifting the theme and the melody, respectively, of "Little Bitty Tear." All in all, this is a fine country album, though, with songs -- and vocals -- that reach into the heart. Worth tracking down!
Hank Cochran "Going In Training" (RCA Victor, 1966)
(Produced by Chet Atkins & Bob Ferguson)
This album is, well, maybe less than inspired, at least in comparison to the records that surround it. It includes a remake of Cochran's closest thing to a hit record, "Sally Was A Good Old Girl," a jolly novelty song about a prostitute that hit #20 on the charts, back in 1962. It's not a great song, but it's still a highlight of this album, which has an overly workmanlike feel to it, akin to Dallas Frazier's solo work, with a dose of Roger Miller-style "wackiness" thrown in for good measure. Naturally there are still some great tracks -- "Jeannie's Waiting for Me," "Not That I Care" and "What Any Fool Would Do" are three heartbreak tunes that'll stick to your ribs. This is a marginal record, but it's still worth picking up
Hank Cochran "The Heart Of Hank Cochran" (Monument, 1968) (LP)
(Produced by Fred Foster)
Hank Cochran "With A Little Help From My Friends" (Capitol, 1978)
Hank Cochran "Make My World Go Away" (Elektra, 1980) (LP)
Hank Cochran & Billy Don Burns "Desperate Men: The Legend And The Outlaw" (Small Dog A Barkin', 1997)
Hank Cochran "Livin' For A Song" (Gifted Few, 2002)
Lea Anne Creswell "Lea Anne Sings Hank Cochran And..." (2008)
Norma Jean "Norma Jean Sings" (RCA, 1971) (LP)
A great Hank Cochran tribute album, with such venerable hits as "Make The World Go Away" and "Little Bitty Tear", as well as several awesome weepers such as "Don't Touch Me" (which George Jones covered in 1999 to devastating effect...) This is a remarkably straightforward country album for being recorded at the height of the "countrypolitan" era: testimony to both Cochran's strength as a songwriter, and her's as a dyed-in-the-wool hick performer. Recommended!
Jamey Johnson "Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran" (Mercury Nashville, 2012)
Jeannie Seely "Thanks Hank" (Monument, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Fred Foster)
A mellow, easygoing tribute to songwriter Hank Cochran who, not coincidentally, was Seely's husband at the time. This is a nice album -- much like his records, this is not dazzling, but it gets the point across. Also, much like his records, there was no chart action, though country fans can take comfort in the fine, low-key performances. (Reissued as Make The World Go Away, on Columbia's Harmony imprint; the Harmony reissue is missing three songs: "These Memories," "I Want To Go With You," and "Someone's Waiting.")
Hick Music Index