It’s been a while since we had a Country Catalyst, the special feature that spotlights a country song that might open the eyes (and ears) of mainstream music fans. Today’s example is a piece that could be classified as soft pop or folk music, but it certainly began life as a country song — even if it’s subject matter has nothing to do with honky-tonks or pickup trucks.
Sam Neely was a talented singer-songwriter from Texas who never really hit the charts in a big way – his top seller only reached #49 – but he did make several good records in the Seventies and Eighties. Among them was the debut of a piece written by Rafe Van Hoy that would eventually be a big hit — but for someone else.
Neely’s “Sail Away” reached only #84 on the charts in 1977, but when it was covered by the Oak Ridge Boys a couple of years later it shot up the charts and became a big hit. Their smooth harmonizing style was perfect for the piece and their fans loved it. It’s one of those songs that tugs at the heartstrings, but seems to stop just short of being overly sentimental. In any case, it’s message is irresistible.