Tina Turner's first solo album after a successful run with her then-husband in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue followed the lead of Ray Charles and The Supremes, but not in a way you might expect.
Tina Turns the Country On (1974) mirrors prior country-flavored and covers-heavy albums by African American acts: Charles' Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962) and The Supremes Sing Country, Western and Pop (1965). Like its predecessors, Turner's debut solo album gained no traction on the country charts despite it being an earnest, well-crafted homage to some of the genre's best songwriters.
The United Artists release introduces two fresh cuts: P.J. Morse's "Bayou Song" and Fred and Marsha Karlin's "The Love That Lights Our Way." Beyond those two selections, the track list consists of Turner's renditions of contemporary country and folk songs. Nashville nods include an album-defining cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night," plus hat-tips to Dolly Parton ("There'll Always Be Music") and Hank Snow ("I'm Movin' On"). From the folk end of the spectrum comes Turner's versions of James Taylor ("Don't Talk Now") and Bob Dylan ("He Belongs to Me," "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You") songs.
Turner recorded the album at Bolic Sound Studio in Inglewood, Cal. with future Glen Campbell producer Tom Thacker. Her backing band represents West Tennessee's influence on country music and includes rockabilly guitarist James Burton and Elvis Presley and Emmylou Harris collaborator Glen Hardin.
Turner pivoted from country music after just one album, with the covers-heavy A-side of Acid Queen (1975) featuring her interpretations of The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones' classic rock hits. However, there was plenty more country material from the archives of Bolic Sound, as heard on budget CD compilations Tina Turner Sings Country, Soul Deep, Country My Way, Good Hearted Woman, Country In My Soul, Stand By Your Man, Country Classics, You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man and The Country Side of Tina Turner.
Although it seems like a side note in history when compared to the sustained influence of Ike duet "Proud Mary" and the future success of "What's Love Got To Do With It" and "Private Dancer," Turner picked up a Grammy nomination (Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female) for her brief detour into folk and country music.
This article was originally published in October of 2020.