Of the dozens of pop hits Ray Charles had during his remarkable career, his biggest was a soulful take on Don Gibson’s country classic “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” which logged five weeks at Number One. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 1, the 1962 album featuring that now legendary performance, will be reissued early in 2019, along with the second volume of the Georgia-born musician’s takes on country standards, and will be available for the first time on streaming platforms beginning February 22nd.
“I’m not a country singer. I’m a singer who sings country songs,” Charles once said. But his ability to interpret country tunes with a voice that radiated blues and soul exposed such songs as Hank Williams’ “Hey, Good Lookin’,” Cindy Walker’s “You Don’t Know Me,” and Floyd Tillman’s “I Love You So Much It Hurts” to his African-American fan base while greatly expanding his white audience during the turbulent civil rights movement.
A second collection of country songs, including “You Are My Sunshine,” “Oh, Lonesome Me” and “Your Cheating Heart,” followed just months after the first, with Charles having considered more than 250 songs for the two LPs, which were among the best-selling country records of their time and have since been recognized by the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In the Eighties, Charles would return to country music, recording the duets LP Friendship, which included the Willie Nelson collaboration “Seven Spanish Angels.” In October, Grand Ole Opry member Darius Rucker hosted “An Opry Salute to Ray Charles,” with performances by Chris Young, Boyz II Men, Brett Eldredge, Cam, Travis Tritt and Lukas Nelson, among others.
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Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vols. 1 & 2 are being reissued via Concord Records February 22nd, 2019, and will be released digitally and on CD, as well as on vinyl, with a 180-gram deluxe edition containing both albums also available.