I'm very pleased with the new 2-CD set, "Jim Reeves: The New Recordings" that was recently released in Europe by H&H/Once In A Blue Moon Records, LLC and that is based on my book, "Jim Reeves: His Untold Story." Narrated by Dan Hurst, this 144-minute documentary contains over 42 songs by Jim, including 11 overdubs previously released on VoiceMasters CDs (some of which have been out of print and thus unavailable in the U.S. for several years), as well as 20 NEW overdubs of RCA masters. Plus there are NEW interviews with Jim, NEW live performances by Jim from Rosa's Western Club in Ft. Worth, Texas, some advertising jingles Jim sings that have never been commercially released, an excerpt from the audio diary he recorded on his bus (also NEW), plus miscellaneous other surprises. And of course, a compelling narrative that traces Jim's life story from east Texas to international stardom. I provide my commentary as well.

We were thrilled by the fact that "Jim Reeves: The New Recordings" rose to #11 on AMAZON'S TOP 20 BEST SELLER COUNTRY CHART only four days after being posted on Amazon -- an astonishing achievement! And this occurred without any publicity beyond our Jim Reeves Way website at that point.

One of the studios we used.
Whenever I work on a Jim Reeves CD project, I have so much fun. First and foremost, it should be obvious from my having spent so many years writing a book about this artist, that I am a BIG fan of Jim's. I think he had the best voice of any male singer I've ever heard. I have never once done a CD just to make money. It's for the love of his music that I have wanted to bring his sound up to date so he gets more radio airplay and more fans around the world are exposed to his incredible music.

I have been very careful in how I have treated Jim's recordings, not wanting to do anything that would detract from his great artistry. These projects take years, not months, to complete, from the inception of the idea to finally getting something released.

I once again turned to my good friend David Lawrence to help me with audio restoration. He has worked on all my CDs over the years, and is an expert at handling these old recordings. I resolved early on to only work from analog sources — tapes, transcriptions and vinyl — and this latest CD set is no exception. In other words, none of the music you'll hear was taken off CDs. Among the reasons I have avoided doing this is that too much of what I've heard on Jim has been badly mishandled by other labels, such that his voice is over processed and sounds raspy or too "compressed." Jim's natural sound was pearl-shaped tones, and we have preserved this on our releases. I personally did all the EQing or "equalization" on Jim's voice (which is a very tedious and multi-step process). I've had emails and comments from pro singers and musicians around the world telling me they can't understand how I got such a great sound on Jim's voice. I find these comments to be very gratifying as I believe a singer as great as Reeves deserves to be presented in the best way possible. If you are familiar with the original versions of these songs, and compare them with this new release, I think you will be surprised how much better they now sound!

The most exciting part of this wonderful project for me was the opportunity to work with such a talented group of professional musicians, singers, arrangers and engineers — a team I assembled from around the globe. (I have never used amateurs). I only wanted to use the best pros I could find. So I tapped people in Nashville, Atlanta, the Carolinas and Europe.

Previously, all my overdubs were strictly from non-RCA sources, like demos that Jim had cut on his own, or performances from the armed forces radio shows. This time, however, I was able to use RCA studio masters, but that doesn't mean they were any easier to work with.

Surprisingly, there were various imperfections on some of the originals — such as an out-of-tune piano, or Floyd Cramer playing prematurely off the beat, or the Jordanaires hitting some sour notes, or Hank Garland failing to make a chord change. On one master there was apparent tape warp, which resulted in a distorted sound we had to correct.

(Click on images to enlarge them).

The multi-talented David Johnson.
On one song — “Precious Memories” — Jim speeded up on the chorus. But that's the nature of live music as it was recorded back in the 1950s, without the benefit of a “click track,” which is what musicians commonly now use — a sort of electronic metronome that helps all the players keep in sync with the right tempo. When I got the idea to turn Jim's rather sedate original version of this song into something that would be more lively, I asked David Johnson, an alumnus of my earlier overdub releases, to assist. I hated the original guitar accompaniment and also realized it would interfere with our new treatment, so I got rid of that, plus the intro. But the guitar was on the same track as the Anita Kerr singers, so I needed to mix them back in. Fortunately, the "bad" guitar wasn't playing when they were singing!

I got rid of the original intro and David built a new walk-up into the song so it wouldn't start so abruptly. I specified I wanted mandolin, electric/acoustic/steel guitars, bass and fiddle to play behind Jim, and that's what David delivered. The song now has sort of a bluegrass feel. (Mr. Johnson also played on four other tracks on this set).

The two tracks that have thus far drawn the most speculation are the new "duets." Everyone wants to know who the female singer is who sings with Jim! As many of you are aware, Mary Reeves used Debra Allen years ago to create some posthumous duets, and several singles were released that made the Top Ten. However, a lot of fans, (myself included), did not think Ms. Allen's voice was well-suited to Jim's, so I was determined not to make that mistake.

It was only after I heard Barbi Franklin — one of my background vocalists — sing a solo part on the song "Someday" that I realized that here was a woman whose voice would blend beautifully with the velvet stylings of Mr. Reeves.

Barbi Franklin singing on a Jim Reeves track.
I almost didn't overdub "Making Believe" because I've never particularly cared for the Kitty Wells song, nor Emmylou Harris' version. But when I started to think of it in terms of a dialog between a man and a woman, I realized it would lend itself to a duet treatment. So I wrote out the lyrics, color coded them, and indented them, telling Barbi where I wanted her to place her voice in relation to Jim's. She did it to perfection. We used the same sort of Neumann-style mic that Reeves had been singing on at RCA, and were even able to electronically measure the degree of reverb or echo on his voice so that we could apply the same to Barbi's and make it sound like they were both in the studio singing at the same time. She instinctively got up close to the microphone (perhaps not even realizing that this is how Jim himself approached his recordings). The result was pure magic!  

Thrilled by how well this turned out, I then decided to ask Barbi to sing with Jim on "How's the World Treating You" -- an old Chet Atkins/Boudleaux Bryant song. I had heard the Alison Kraus/James Taylor version and wanted to use Jim's vocal to create something similar. The first time we cut this, Barbi sang it in a lower key throughout. The trouble was, some of the lowest female notes sounded too low. In discussing this with Barbi's talented husband Terry Franklin, who is also a singer (and former member of the Gaither Vocal Band), we thought that if we had her sing it higher, the spread between the melody and the upper harmony would be too great. That sort of spread usually only works if the melody is on top. But we went ahead the next day and had Barbi do a version singing high throughout.

That presented it's own dilemma because I loved that version as well. Yet I didn't want to sacrifice having fans hear Barbi's lower (not lowest) register. So then I proposed we have her sing higher every place in the song where she otherwise would have to sing the lowest notes. Do you follow all this? Well anyway, give a listen to the song and you'll see that this all worked out well.

By the way, the Franklins have traveled to 37 countries around the world as part of their Christian ministry, and have performed in Communist countries and Third World nations. They have serenaded the native populations in impromptu gatherings along the roadside in remote villages as well as appeared in big concert halls backed by huge choruses and symphonies. You can see a beautiful example of this wonderfully talented family in this YouTube video, which features Terry's singing and Barbi's violin playing (she also helped arrange strings on my overdubs). Their two sons, Tyler and Travis, joined them in this concert. You will be impressed. (Incidentally, Barbi's duets with Jim Reeves on the new 2-CD set are getting heavy airplay in Europe and there are magazine articles slated between now and the end of the year. I'll keep you posted).

I also wanted to get rid of the bad background vocals (BGVs) which spoiled Jim's powerful rendition of "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You," and Terry Franklin is responsible for replacing them with a much better new male choral backing to finally do justice to this song. You may find it interesting that this tune was composed by my fellow Iowan, Meredith Wilson, for actress Tallulah Bankhead to use on her Sunday night NBC radio show, beginning in 1950. She sang it each week and always invited her Hollywood guest stars (among them Ethel Merman, Danny Thomas, Frankie Lane, Jane Powell, Groucho Marks, Fanny Brice, Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, Phil Silvers, Bob Cummings, Fred Allen, Jimmy Durante and many more) to sing a verse with her.

After witnessing Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell do a concert in Branson, Missouri a few years ago consisting entirely of Jim Reeves songs, which he sang to the accompaniment of a sizable orchestra playing some first-class arrangements, I realized how great Reeves' music could sound if given this sort of big-league treatment. 

Danny Crawford, orchestrator.
One of the best songs on "Jim Reeves: The New Recordings" is the new version of the classic, "Scarlet Ribbons." For some reason, everybody who records this thinks they need to just sing it with guitar (which is the way Jim did it originally). However, after hearing the Lennon Sisters do a pretty rendition of it with the Lawrence Welk orchestra a long time ago, I resolved to give the Reeves track an orchestral sound as well. Since the song has an Irish connection, I wanted to add flute and strings, and turned to Danny Crawford who — besides being one of the best piano players who has played on the CDs of many artists — is also a very skilled arranger. He wrote the charts for this overdub and the new version is ethereal. I know it will touch your heart.

Danny also worked on new arrangements for "What Would You Do" and "Poor Little Doll." I got the idea for the piano on the latter song from something Tony Wall sent me one time, that I always liked. Tony is a diehard Reeves fan in the UK as well as a good singer/musician. Incidentally, it is Mr. Crawford who is playing the instrumentals you hear on the 2-CD set. He's a very fine gentleman and great to work with.

Jim Frazier is an excellent guitarist and arranger.
When I hired Jim Frazier initially just to play guitar on "Making Believe," I didn't realize he had so many other skills. First of all, he played some steel string acoustic fills for me on that song and his treatment was just perfect. Along with the guitar pick-up on the intro, there were a few other spots where an original guitar was "ghosting" through even after I'd removed a second track, so Jim Frazier played something to mask this. Getting a good sound on the overdub meant using the right mic and correct amount of reverb that would mesh with Reeves' studio environment (and Barbi Franklin's new vocal). I was so impressed by Mr. Frazier's versatility, that I gave him more work. He brought a new feeling to "I Missed Me," and did the tasteful string arrangement on Jim Reeves' signature song, "He'll Have To Go." It would have been sacrilege to have messed that one up. But when you hear the new version, I know you'll be pleased. Mr. Frazier concurred with my view that it's just as important for musicians to know when not to play as it is for them to know when to play.

I added strings to several of the
new Jim Reeves overdubs.
I always thought that Jim's rendition of "Throw Another Log On the Fire" was a diamond in the rough, that held the potential for being very special, and so did Mary Reeves, because at one point she told me she was considering overdubbing it. But she never did. As a violinist myself, I was of the opinion that adding strings would make the song sound more complete. At first we just used four violins but I wanted to complement Jim's basso profundo with some lustrous lower tones. So we added a cello and viola. It may seem unusual to use a string sextet on a country music recording, but Jim did exactly the same thing on his Christmas recording session. Both Barbi Franklin and Jim Frazier worked on this fine string arrangement to achieve perfection.

Christopher Alpiar blowing his own horn.
A track that always intrigued me is "Mona Lisa" — the old Nat Cole hit. Most people sing it ballad-style, but Jim Reeves did it up-tempo. (I'd love to know why). While it was a fresh approach, I felt the arrangement was lacking something. In analyzing this song, I realized that the piano solo was sparse enough it would be possible to play a jazzy solo on sax such that the original tracks would feel like fills behind it. So I went in search of a good sax man, and found one in Christopher Alpiar, who not only is an extraordinarily well-educated musician but a composer of movie scores. After hearing Reeves for the first time, Mr. Alpiar commented, “he's got an amazing voice to be sure!” Christopher really got into the groove on this number. I asked him to play tenor saxophone to provide a nice contrast with Jim's deep voice, and he did some noodling underneath Jim on the melody. It was tricky to match the "room sound" of the original RCA monaural recording to the new horn. This necessitated mixing some of Jim into the "new studio," and vice versa. But thanks to the magic of the digital age — the right reverb, positioning and compression — it all sounds like it was recorded together.

Craig Swift's playing on "You Belong
To Me" was exceptional.
Another song I felt could benefit from a saxophone being added to it is the classic Jo Stafford hit, “You Belong To Me” — which Jim had been singing for years before he recorded it in 1957. (The new 2-CD set also contains an except of Jim singing this live at an east Texas nightclub). When Mary Reeves  overdubbed Jim's studio master with strings and released it posthumously, she got rid of the Jordanaires' vocal bridge. I restored it and had another excellent sax man — Nashville-based Craig Swift — play some new backing. Craig was a very enthusiastic participant in this project and marveled at the quality of Jim's voice and the control he had over it. I think Mr. Reeves would have similarly appreciated Craig's talent. By the way, I especially enjoyed working with this guy. He knows exactly what he's doing in every respect, not only as a musician but from an engineering standpoint, plus he's got a good sense of humor — which I think is an important attribute.

Another fellow whom I tremendously enjoyed working with on this Jim Reeves project was Norwegian singer Arne Benoni. Arne was a close personal friend of Jim Reeves' longtime lead guitarist, Leo Jackson, and that's how I became acquainted with him some years ago. One time when he was visiting Leo in Nashville, Arne picked up Jim Reeves' Martin guitar (which Leo owned), and played a song for me. It was thrilling to hear Arne play Jim's guitar live. Ironically, since Leo's passing, Arne and I have gotten to know each other better and he has shared with me some great songs he's cut that have not yet been released. I could hardly believe how good his musicians sounded on his tracks. When I began to produce this 2-CD set for H&H music in the UK, I approached Mr. Benoni to ask if he would help me on one track, because I knew he could get the job done — and was a perfectionist. Well, we both had so much fun, it ended up being six tracks! Leo always said that of all the singers whom he'd heard over the years who came the closest to sounding like Jim Reeves, Arne was at the top of the list. He also has a smooth, resonant baritone.

Arne Benoni in his studio.
We worked and worked and worked on these tracks. Arne was seemingly inexhaustible, as were some of his musicians who drove great distances to come into the studio and do their parts. Arne is an underrated guitar player as well as being a good singer. A lot of the people who have heard the new 2-CD set have singled out "I Know One” as being superior to the original version. Arne got to sing harmony with Jim Reeves on this overdub, which — considering his admiration for this great artist — Mr. Benoni says was "the thrill of a lifetime."

Arne Vigeland from Norway,
who played steel for us.
On the classic “A Fool Such As I,” I got rid of some of the original accompaniment and wanted to add steel guitar. The first guy I hired to do the job — a Nashville-based steel player — started off by bragging on all the big league artists whom he has backed. I told him specifically what I wanted but he completely ignored my suggestions and turned in one of the most lifeless performances I've ever heard. (I learned my lesson a few years ago with a renegade engineer who thought he knew more about Reeves' voice than I and really messed up some of his tracks, which I later corrected). I guess you could ascribe all this to “artistic differences.” Despite his pedigree, I was not happy with the work this steel player did, so went in search of somebody else to play on the song. Arne Benoni came to the rescue and got his steel guy, Arne Vigeland, to handle the assignment. Mr. Vigeland also played on “I Know One.”Jim Reeves started out his career using steel guitar like all the other country artists of his era, but when he started doing more pop-flavored material, he got rid of the country instrumentation. Reeves even expressed the view that “all steel players suffer from brain damage.” As I report in my book, "Jim Reeves: His Untold Story." Jim even kicked Bobby Garrett's steel guitar down a flight of stairs one time because he was so upset. The only fellow whose work he admired — and would use on rare occasions on his RCA sessions — was Pete Drake. But I think Jim would like the restrained and tasteful way in which Mr. Vigeland played.

Thor Ribe proved to be
a versatile musician.
Another of Benoni's friends, Thor Einar Ribe, proved himself to be a versatile musician, who played piano, Wurlitzer, vibes and percussion on some of the tracks. This was far trickier than you might think. When getting rid of some of the background music on the original recordings, I still ended up with the faint sounds of Floyd Cramer's piano. It was too loud to ignore, yet not loud enough to leave on the final mix. The other problem was the sparse playing that Cramer had done on some of the originals, which left gaping holes. Thor had to play on top of Floyd's notes to strengthen them, and then add to them in other parts of the songs. Floyd tended to play a little ahead of the beat and this posed a few problems as well. However, I want to emphasize that Thor didn't just follow Floyd; on some songs he added his own country stylings and did a very nice job.

Dan Hurst narrated the Jim Reeves story.
I also want to acknowledge the enormous contribution that my pro announcer friend, Dan Hurst,  made to this project. He delivered the narrative on this documentary and did more than just read the script. He brought it to life, with just the right inflections to convey the emotions of the story. If you've heard this CD set, you know that Dan has an incredible, deep voice. He is at the top of his profession and does work for global clients like Disney, British Petroleum, KFC, Pizza Hut, John Deere, Telemundo International and Hallmark, among others. He grew up in Honduras and is fluent in both English and Spanish. He is also a Christian author, including of a new book called "Broken Dreams, Shattered Lives." You will enjoy listening to Dan on this new Jim Reeves release and I am so proud that he agreed to be part of this endeavor. The whole CD set sparkles from beginning to end.

As you can see, putting these 2 CDs together was a collaborative process involving a number of very talented individuals. We also chose a handful of previously released overdubs, which were worked on by musicians, arrangers and background singers whom I have already written about elsewhere on my blog.

I predict that you will derive many hours of pleasure listening and re-listening to the great Jim Reeves on the new 2-CD set, "Jim Reeves: The New Recordings" so I hope you order it today!

To listen to audio samples or order, go to:


  1. Great article on what it took to produce this amazing CD set. Any plans for future overdubs of other songs?

  2. I HAVE THIS NEW CD and must say it is WONDERFUL!It plays almost continuously on my player and i never seem to get tired of it. I have all of Jim's recordings , but the overdubs on these discs actually make them sound like Jim re-recorded them!It's nice to have him back....


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