Written by Jason Hillenburg, posted by blog admin
Though the 1980’s will prove to be a challenge on a multitude of fronts for David Allan Coe, he ends the 1970’s with two strong studio releases. 1979’s Compass Point, the first of two albums released that year is produced by legendary Nashville booth wizard Billy Sherrill and has a thoroughly modern sound for its time. It finds Coe mining the same traditional/”outlaw” vein of bluesy country music he is renowned for during the album's first half. The ten song collection isn’t uniformly excellent, but concludes Coe’s arguably peak years on a generally consistent note and reaffirms his position as one of his generation’s finest vocalists and an occasionally inspired songwriter.
“Heads or Tails” may leave you torn. On one hand, you will likely enjoy the bluesy mid-tempo pace, the gritty harmonica, and on point guitar work. There isn’t a hint of self indulgence weighing the song or performance down, but there is a cookie cutter quality to the songwriting, a sense of Coe hitting his marks and nothing more. It sounds like a cut aimed for radio and, as such, it dampens the track’s potential. It’s a solid, if unremarkable, opener. “3 Time Loser”, another Coe penned number, is much better in every respect. The satisfying vocal melody has enough uplift to mitigate Coe’s serious subject matter and it’s further to his songwriting credit that Coe refrains from leaning too heavily on clichés. The song’s personal turn makes it a more compelling listen.
Harmonica returns for “Gone (Like)”, the closest thing to a classic country ballad thus far on Compass Point, and mixes nicely with some haunting pedal steel fills. Coe’s songwriting, once again, focuses on affairs of the heart with a sensitive, rueful eye. It’s clearly considered as one of Compass Point’s major songs with a six minute plus running time and proves worth each second. “Honey Don’t” is a kick out the footlights barnburner with lightning quick harmonica salvos spiking the track with bluesy flavor, but it’s ultimately a throwaway number not offering anything particularly new. Coe opens “Lost” like he’s about to take another whack at traditional country balladry, but the song unfortunately bandwagon jumps and cops a quasi-Jimmy Buffet feel with the remainder. He lived in the Key West area for a time and publicly feuded with Buffett but, ultimately, who cares? It isn’t excruciating, but ill-advised.