This 2016 program finds Jim Casey—a songwriter whose works have been recorded by Charley Pride, Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings, Richie Havens, and others—recounting halcyon days when country stars flocked to Kingston Springs, Tennessee, and he and fellow laid-back country picker Vince Matthews aligned forces with Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Cowboy Jack Clement, and Shel Silverstein to create “The Kingston Springs Suite,” one of the most unforgettably odd and oddly unforgettable albums in country music history.
Unfortunately, Matthews and Casey were more into creation than completion, and “The Kingston Springs Suite” went unreleased for forty years. The album, a musical encapsulation of hippy life in the bucolic Tennessee town, is notable for its endearing songs and for Matthews’s delightfully (to some, at least) off-key vocals. Mark Linn of the Delmore Recording Society grew fascinated with the “Suite,” and he released the album in 2016.
Casey is joined here by Chris Gantry (writer of the Glen Campbell hit “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife),” who was among Matthews’s closest friends, and by singer-songwriter Danny Flowers (“Tulsa Time,” “Back in My Younger Days,” “Before Believing”). Author Frye Gaillard, who wrote a memorable chapter about Matthews in his 1970s book “Watermelon Wine: The Spirit of Country Music,” provides commentary and reading, and Gantry also reads about Matthews from his memoir, “Gypsy Dreamers in the Alley.”
The Conversation winds its way to subjects including Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, Cowboy Jack Clement, a Kingston Springs blacksmith known as “Uncle Soul,” the time Matthews and Casey managed to derail a train, and Matthews’s unique appeal. “I didn’t want to be out there that far, but I didn’t mind being around someone who was out there that far,” Casey says.
The program is augmented by audio from the album, rare photographs and videos, and clips of Matthews on ABC-TV’s “Johnny Cash Show.” At show’s end, Gantry sings his song “Vince,” and Casey and Flowers deliver “Floatin’,” from the “Suite.”
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