Arthur Alexander's life ended on a note as bittersweet as his own country-soul songs of anguish and loss. After christening Muscle Shoals with his 1961 hit "You Better Move On," he found his songs covered by the Rolling Stones and Beatles. Superb singles and minor success followed with "Every Day I Have to Cry Some," but by the late '70s he'd left the music business to work with disadvantaged children. He might have remained in obscurity had Elektra executive Danny Kahn and artist and producer Ben Vaughn not tracked him down in the early '90s and convinced him to perform again.
With many of his original accompanists, Alexander waxed a dozen tracks in Nashville, mixing earlier chestnuts with new compositions. His performances were filled with the pathos of both his songwriting and the weathering of life, and his new songs, including the Drifters-styled "Johnny Heartbreak" and New Orleans-inflected "Genie in the Jug," were emotionally powerful. Vaughn stripped the remakes of the original's strings and backing vocals, liberating them from the early '60s by focusing on the essence of their Southern soul.
Tragically, Alexander's comeback was cut short by a heart attack three days after a triumphant Nashville concert. His final months provided reaffirmation with a rush of interviews and live performances, but this recorded exclamation point never gained the commercial success it deserved. Hacktone's reissue of the original 1993 LP adds interview and live tracks from NPR's Fresh Air, hotel room demos, and the 1992 live performance of "Anna" that originally inspired Kahn to track down Alexander. This is a fitting tribute and a worthy final chapter.
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