7th November 1974
Circles of non-Nashville songwriters forming briefly in Music City have
been responsible for much of the best that Nashville has produced in the last decade -
starting with the Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings/Tompall Glaser cartel, and proceeding
through Kristofferson's era up to Guy Clark/David Allan Coe/Billy Joe Shaver. Such
interlocking rings have changed the face of country music, contributing subtle influences
of other kinds of music and ideas, developing - but working within - the country format.
The new adaptability of C&W as a result of these nuances has made possible the newest
circle, revolving around Mentor Williams, and including such talented young writers and
singers as Troy Seals, Don Goodman, Will Jennings, Donnie Fritts, Dobie Gray and Tom Jans.
Jans, a Phi Beta Kappa at the University of California, wrote "Loving Arms" for
Dobie Gray, proving that there is a place in the country music of the future for an
educated person. Jans's compositions are being recorded by everyone from Elvis Presley to
And with good reason. His first album (he previously recorded with Mimi Fariņa but the
album gave little indication of his talent) is the most impressive by a Nashville
writer/singer since David Allan Coe's entry.
Jans won't knock you over with his voice. It's a slight, pleasant enough voice somewhere
between Tom Rush and Dave Loggins, somewhere between dry and sweet. Perhaps the album
works so well because Jans is acutely aware of his limits, both lyrically and vocally, and
never strays beyond them. He will go to the edge with lines like "Said my dreams were
strong and shining/Never said they'd blind you like the sun" and then he carefully
backs away, resisting excess. That same caution is reflected in some of Lonnie Mack's
finest guitar work in years. Musical understatement (the mastery of the role that silent
spaces play) has seldom been as effective.
Additionally, there's some skillful writing here. "Green River" and "Tender
Memory" will probably get most of the attention but "Margarita" also
warrants a listen.
Country music, following its recent and rapid transitions, now has three identifiable
audiences: those who wear real hardhats and authentic Stetsons, those with toy cowboy hats
and imaginary hardhats and bareheaded folks. This last group is the one that Jans is
aiming at, broadening the country music audience (and his own) while he broadens the music