It's a Good Night for Singin'

It's a Good Night for Singin' Review by Thom Jurek

While It's a Good Night for Singin' is usually as highly regarded as Viva Terlingua, Ridin' High, or Jerry Jeff Walker, it is not only the equal of those recordings, but perhaps, in its own way, more consistent than all of them -- or therefore their superior. Released in 1976, it has the strongest opening side of any record in Walker's career. It includes a stomping cover of Tom Waits' "Lookin' for the Heart of Saturday Night," reinvented as a rock & roll song with B3s and Fender Rhodes pianos underneath a throbbing bassline (and replaces Waits' own version as definitive), and an urbanized honky tonk read of Butch Hancock's "Standin' at the Big Hotel" that blows away Joe Ely's and sounds a lot more like L.A. than Dallas -- which was the original intent of the song -- just to name two. In addition, Walker rounds out side one with the Gary P. Nunn/Karen Brooks classic "Couldn't Do Nothin' Right," a ballad of resignation and brokenness at leaving a lover who always expected more than there was to give; it also features Lee Clayton's greatest love song, "Won't You Give Me One More Chance," Bob Livingstone's "Head Full of Nothin'," and a stirring, good-timey take on Billy Joe Shaver's classic "Old Five and Dimers Like Me." What is most notable here is what a great interpreter Walker is on other writers' songs, rather than as a songwriter making them his own in the process. There is only one original on the set, and that's the immortal "Stoney," which proves Walker hadn't lost it, but was going for something else entirely. There are a couple of Keith Sykes' tunes on side two, including "Someday I'll Get out of These Bars" (which Walker hasn't yet, over 27 years later), Billy C. Farlow's "Leroy," and Bob Livingstone's title track, all of which prove, like the first side, that this was indeed an album for singing, not writing, and as such, it stands as one of Walker's water marks; it endures far better than some of his other material from the same period.