This cover of the Merle Haggard song comes from Bill Kirchen’s recent retrospective release ‘The Proper Years’. It’s an album that recognises the three albums that the co-founder of Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen recorded on Proper Records, and the many household names that he played with on those albums. Take this very song for example, whose tale Bill Kirchen has unravelled.
“I met Nick Lowe briefly at London’s Dingwalls Club in the early 70s when he was in Brinsley Schwartz. We reconnected when Austin de Lone snagged him to produce our second Moonlighters album, which was released on his esteemed manager Jake Riviera’s Demon Records imprint. Not only a soulful singer, songwriter, bass and guitar player, Nick is a formidable and fascinating theoretician concerning all matters musical. I’ve played on three of his albums and toured the world with him as his guitarist. That is one of the few jobs on this planet I find as enjoyable as my usual gig, travelling and playing with my own crew. We re-assembled his 1993-4 recording and touring band The Impossible Birds (Nick, Robert Treherne, Geraint Watkins, Paul Riley and myself) plus Austin de Lone for my previous Proper album – ‘Hammer Of The Honky-Tonk Gods’. Nick and Paul Carrack tell me they had Merle Haggard’s ‘Shelly’s Winter Love’ by the Osbourne Brothers on a tape while touring the USA and would sing it together on the bus. Why reinvent the wheel, I thought? I just let ‘em at it and tried not to get in the way.
I met Paul Carrack through Nick Lowe and consider him one of the finest singers I have ever heard. I played with him when either he or I sat in with the other. He’s sung on more hits with more bands than anyone I can think of, from ‘How Long’ with Ace, through ‘Tempted’ with Squeeze and ‘The Living Years’ with Mike and The Mechanics. Nick and Paul were a deadly combination as the alternated fronting Nick Lowe’s Cowboy Outfit. This reading of ‘Shelly’s Winter Love’ may be the only time someone has sung a Haggard tune where I liked the vocal better than the original. ”