Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
On Dec. 16, 2013, Ray Price, succumbed to pancreatic cancer, and the world lost yet another great musician who during his career had helped change the face of country music. In the 1950s, the Cherokee Cowboy (he formed the Cherokee Cowboys in 1953, and Roger Miller, Buddy Emmons, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck, and Buddy Spicher, among others, were members of the band) developed the sound that became known as the "Ray Price shuffle," which most famously can be heard on his hit "Crazy Arms" (1956).
In the 1960s, he experimented with lavish string arrangements of slow ballads, heard in his hit "For the Good Times" (1970), a style that became known as the "Nashville sound." He revealed to the world in November 2012 that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but during that year he called his friend and producer Fred Foster and told Foster: "I think I have one album left in me, and I want you to do it with me."
"Beauty Is..." features Price at the top of his voice, in spite of the ravages that his illness had inflicted upon it. This album is all we've come to expect from Price, and more. These songs feature lush string arrangements and the shuffle sound he developed, but what stands out here are Price's reflective mood, his impeccable turn of a vocal phrase, the depth of tone and character that he brings to the notes, and the loving and soulful feeling with which he imbues every song. "I Wish I was 18 Again" touches every heart as the singer looks back with nostalgia, regret, and a kind of "wish-I-had known-then-what-I-know-now" wistfulness. Martina McBride joins Price on "An Affair to Remember," and the pair captures the longing and celebratory desire of the two lovers in the song. Price brings an exquisite pensiveness to the Stephen Foster classic, "Beautiful Dreamer," while Vince Gill lends his harmonies and guitar to the shuffle "Until Then," a seize-our-love-now ballad replete with aching pedal steel, and the gorgeous opening track, "Beauty Lies in the Eyes of the Beholder." The album closes with Price's almost perfect rendition of the standard Ray Price, "Beauty Is..."
The songs on this album easily complete the title's elliptical statement: Beauty is Ray Price.