Personnel: Neil Diamond, Waylon Jennings, Buffy Lawson, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Rosemary Butler, Raul Malo (vocals); Hal Ketchum (vocals, acoustic guitar); Dan Dugmore (acoustic, electric & pedal steel guitars); Richard Bennett (acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, guitarophone); Gary Burr, Chet Atkins (acoustic guitar, background vocals); Doug Rhone (acoustic & electric guitars); Mark Casstevens, Gary Nicholson, Steve Gibson, Biff Watson, Paul Worley (acoustic guitar); Brent Mason, Brent Rowan, Chris Leuzinger, Dan Huff (electric guitar); Bruce Bouton (lap steel & pedal steel guitars); Sam Bush (mandolin, fiddle); Jonathan Yudkin, Andrea Zonn, Tammy Rogers, Mark O'Connor, Rob Hajacos (fiddle); Nashville String Machine (strings); Bob Gaudio (accordion, background vocals); Jo-El Sonnier (accordion); Matt Rollings, Dennis Burnside (piano, Hammond B-3 organ); Alan Lindgren (piano, Hammond B-3 organ, keyboards); Al Kooper (Hammond B-3 organ); David Hungate (acoustic bass, bass); Michael Rhodes, Reinie Press (bass); Dave Pomeroy (fretless bass); Ron Tutt, Paul Leim, Chester Thompson (drums); Lonnie Wilson (drums, percussion); Sam Bacco (percussion); John Wesley Ryles, Dennis Wilson, Curtis Wright, Curtis Young, Jana King, Stephanie Bentley, Harry Stinson, Debra Black, Kathy Burdick, Bill LaBounty, Melodie Crittenden, Beth Hooker (background vocals).
Producers: Don Cook, James Stroud, Richard Landis, Bob Gaudio, Paul Worley.
Engineers: Mike Bradley, Bernie Becker, Justin Niebank.
TENNESSEE MOON finds Neil Diamond duetting with Waylon Jennings, co-writing with Harlan Howard, and backed by the cream of modern country session musicians. It's his Nashville move, and it's bookended by two wonderful paeans to the country life. The album-opening title cut is a country-rocker that features some jangly electric guitar, pedal steel and fiddle, and a lyric about a songwriter leaving Hollywood behind and moving to Nashville in search of Hank Williams' spirit. "Blue Highway" is even better. Co-written by Diamond and Howard (author of "I Fall To Pieces," "Heartaches By The Number" and many other country standards), it rejects big-city life with the quiet authority of a cowboyish acoustic-guitar strum and a pledge to leave town via the side roads (because the interstate "represents all the things I hate").
As it happens, the sixteen cuts in between, written with various Nashville pros, leave Hollywood only half-behind. Diamond still possesses the cornball pop craft that's always served him well; love ballads like "Marry Me" or "Everybody" would work equally well in any city, in any genre, for better or worse. The best songs really do take Tennessee to heart. "Reminisce," co-written and sung with Raul Malo of The Mavericks, has the dramatic flair of a Roy Orbison rock ballad, and "No Limit" has the juiced-up, acoustic country-rock flavor of the early Everly Brothers. Both songs raise the memory of Diamond the cool young rock craftsman.
Q (4/96, p.106) - 3 Stars - Good - "...the sense of claustrophobia, aided by a distant steel guitar and the addition of Chet Atkins on `Blue Highway'...provide[s] the 18 tracks of TENNESSEE MOON an unexpected glow..."
New York Times (Publisher) (3/31/96, sec.2, p.32) - "...Diamond has made his move into country. It's a shrewd gesture that underscores his commercial strengths: his blunt tunefulness and blustery machismo..."