January 1, 2015 at 7:25 pm Thom Jurek In 1987, the David Allan Coe/Billy Sherrill partnership was still running strong, as evidenced by A Matter of Life and Death. Like many of Coe’s recordings, this one is a concept record, full of “dedications and meditations.” The inspiration behind its making was the passing of Coe’s father, Donald Mahan Coe, the return home (on the day of his father’s funeral) of his 16-year-old daughter from living with her mother for the majority of her life, and the birth of his and Jody Lynn’s two children, Tyler and Tanya Montana. Coe and Sherrill are particularly suited to each other on recordings like this. They serve to curb each other’s excesses and rely on making sure the right songs come out of the mix, representing the emotional intention of the set rather than burying those songs under production or hyperbole. This set yielded some of the strongest Coe songs of the 1980s (and that’s saying something): “Jody Like a Melody,” “If Only Your Eyes Could Lie,” and “The Ten Commandments of Love.” And “Southern Star,” with its searing lyric and screaming guitar solos, is among his most under-recognized, poetic tomes worthy of being recorded by .38 Special or Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sherrill’s sequencing is brilliant, and each song seems to segue into another, creating a kind of impressionistic narrative. Interestingly, this record sounds so outside the new traditionalist mold dominating Nash Vegas at the time that it was quickly lost to oblivion — despite the fact that it’s a true traditional country record in the most strident use of the term. This is a fine if forgotten album. Coe may have had some hits, but it’s records like this that make one wonder if there wasn’t a conspiracy to marginalize him and make him fail. Coe is a brilliant songwriter well into the 21st century, and deserves to be lauded along with the likes of Nelson and Jennings and Kristofferson and Newbury — and even Cash.