By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
There are several reasons Atmore resident and country singer Ricky Crook is excited about his newest single, which dropped on all major online music platforms less than two weeks ago.
First, the new release, “How Can I Believe in You (When You’ll Be Leaving Me),” was co-written and first recorded by country legend Vern Gosdin, one of Crook’s musical heroes. Second, it’s the first song the local singer has released since fulfilling his contract with Nashville’s Mc1 record label.
“I’m really excited about this one because it’s a song written by the late great Vern Gosdin and Buddy Cannon,” Crook said. “Just getting the permission to record this song was a highlight of my career, since I’m such a huge fan of Vern Gosdin and his music. Also, I’m excited to have complete creative and promotional control of this release. We are back on our prior record label, Sherrick-Nashville, after completing a two-year, three-song contract with Mc1 Nashville.”
Although he lost, to some degree, control of his career, Crook admitted that the Mc1 experience helped widen the audience for his songs.
“I’m proud of what we accomplished on the last releases and our other cuts,” he said. “They have done very well. They were played and are still being played on country radio around the U.S. and the world. The online sales and streams are doing well and continue to grow.”
“How Can I Believe in You” starts and ends with wailing steel guitar and prominent piano riffs. It’s pure country music, a style from which most Nashville record labels are shying away, although Crook’s success has helped prove that a market still exists for it.
“One of the things I really look forward to is not hearing the words ‘it’s too country’ for radio airplay and the market, which is spoken a lot by some Nashville labels these days,” he said. “We proved that statement wasn’t correct with ‘You Can’t Wrap Your Arms Around A Memory,’ the country ballad I recorded and released on the ‘Better Man Than Me’ EP in 2019. The song was written by Marty Brown, who wrote Tracy Byrd’s mega-hit, ‘I’m From the Country,’ and many other chart-topping songs.”
The success of “Can’t Wrap Your Arms …” was one of the main reasons Crook tried so hard to gain licensing permission for the Gosdin song.
“It was never released as a single but became one of my most-played and downloaded songs, along with my last single, ‘One More Beer,’ which was released in 2020,” he pointed out. “That is one of the reasons I chose this song for the new release. People still want to hear the classic country style and it’s become very apparent with the amount of attention we are seeing with these more classic country releases.”
Crook’s new song was produced by Kevin Key of Key Productions in Nashville, who also produced his Mc1 songs and who played guitar and bass on the single. The backing musicians are also familiar names, as Eddie Lange’s steel guitar drives the song; Travis Mobley (formerly of Shenandoah) provides piano and keyboard work, and drummer Gregg Lohman provides the backbeat.
“These guys play with and have toured with some of the most talented and biggest names in country music,” the Atmore-based singer said.” I’m thankful for the opportunity to have them on basically all my recordings and to call them friends.”
Although his stage show runs the gamut of genres, including covers of songs by the Commodores and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Crook said he would always lean toward his favorite type of music.
“I cover a lot of genres and styles in my shows because that’s part of my job as a singer and entertainer,” he said. “I will continue to record somewhat more modern songs as well, from time to time, but I won’t shy away from my roots and love for the real classic country style.”
The new single is available for download at 99 cents on all major online music platforms. Crook thanked his producer, his band and his fan base for their support.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for all the support that allows me to continue to do what I love,” he said.