It’s age-old advice: sometimes you have to stop fighting to finally win the war. That’s as true of an adage for Jeff Bates as anyone, who, after years of waging a losing battle with critics who incessantly harped on his vocal similarities to the late Conway Twitty, decided to release an album, Me and Conway, on which half of the songs are Twitty covers — allowing listeners to decide for themselves just how striking the likenesses are (or aren’t). Surrendering to the comparisons came with one special gift: one of Twitty’s most legendary duet partners, Loretta Lynn, who joined Bates on a version of 1971’s “After the Fire Is Gone.” (Hear it below.)
“The very first vinyl record I ever heard was Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn singing ‘After the Fire Is Gone,'” Bates says. “To get to sing this same song with Ms. Loretta is an honor above all honors and a lifelong dream come true for me.”
Premiering exclusively on Rolling Stone Country, the song is a rich update that swings just a touch faster than the original, with Bates’ vocals hitting a little deeper and raspier than Twitty’s. Paired with Lynn in smooth harmonies to a kicked up pedal-steel beat, it gives a slightly less somber tone to the song that once appeared on Lynn and Twitty’s duet album We Only Make Believe. It’s since become a country mainstay — Willie Nelson with Tina Rose and George Jones with Tammy Wynette are just a few of the pairings that have tackled the wistful track, written by L.E. White, that spent two weeks on top of the charts.
Until now, Lynn had resisted re-recording the song altogether, but became convinced when she heard Bates perform at the annual Conway Twitty Weekend at her Hurricane Mills Tennessee Ranch. She later invited him back to capture their version at her home studio.
On Me And Conway, out November 11, Bates offers several other Twitty classics —from the sweet ode to fatherhood on “That’s My Job” to the between-the-sheets Eighties hit “I’d Love to Lay You Down.” This is his first full-length LP since 2008’s Jeff Bates.