Saturday, April 6, 2024

Oh, The Controversy

Granted, Beyonce's rendition of Jolene is awful, but people seem to forget that Dolly Parton's original is no gem, either. I hated the track when it was released in 1973; thus, it was played constantly on radio. All the worst ones are. Don't get me wrong; the original lyrics are fine, but that melody! Not only banal, but depressing. (Don't tell me, well, it's a depressing message. A good song isn't just lyrics. That would be a poem.) Dolly is a decent enough songwriter, but melody is not her strong suit (see: Coat of Many Colors; To Daddy)

I've seen a lot of commentary this week about Beyonce's version. She took the only adequate component of the song, the lyrics, and changed them completely! And need I say that those changes reek? A commentator I admire said it best. "Now the song doesn't mean anything." I agree that it presents no message other than, "I'm gonna whup your ass". Okie-dokie. And really, no one can convey that message quite like Toby Keith. It's not even a contest.

I suppose what annoys me about the commentary, though it really shouldn't, is that these people are suddenly country music experts. I don't doubt that they've heard the original version of Jolene. It's probably the only country song they've ever heard, yet each of them is quick to pronounce their "fondness" for country music. "I like Brad Paisley," said one. I'm surprised no one said, "I shore could use me some of that Hank Williams." It's okay, guys; everyone is not required to like it. 

I freely admit that I'm not a fan of current R&B, or whatever it is that Beyonce does. I'm also not a fan of her voice. It seems to me that she used to at least stretch her vocal cords a bit, but on this album she's singing in a dreary alto.

And why is there any debate over whether Cowboy Carter is a country album? The answer is: It is not a country album. Plain and simple. It's not. There can't possibly be any argument over that. And by the way, why is it so important for her fans to try to label it one? Big George Strait fans or something? Honestly.

What's almost worse are the songwriters/original artists who've praised her cover versions. Sincerity seems lost nowadays. Dolly and Paul McCartney certainly have good musical taste. They can't possibly think these lifeless dirges are "awesome". Was she really tired when she recorded them?

I suppose, like Taylor Swift, Beyonce is a pop culture star; mediocre but with a ton of flash. Flash is what matters. Beyonce's new album has zero impact on my life, so people can call it whatever makes them happy.



Tuesday, March 26, 2024

2024 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees

Rarely does the Country Music Hall of Fame announcement pass by without my comment. I've been a bit distracted by other projects, but that doesn't mean I didn't notice. Truly, though, last week's announcement was neither surprising nor particularly interesting. 

As you no doubt know, three individuals (or duos, groups) are inducted into the HOF each year, based on the following categories:

Modern Era ~ an artist is eligible twenty years after they first achieved national prominence. 

Veteran Era ~ an artist is eligible forty years after they first achieved national prominence. 

The third is a rotating category, consisting of either a recording and/or touring musician, a songwriter, or a "non-performer" (generally a music executive). Since a songwriter was inducted in 2023 (Bob McDill), this year was a musician's turn.

The problems with these arcane rules are obvious. First of all, the "electors" are completely anonymous. This naturally leads to suspicion about campaigning. And campaigning absolutely happens. It's widely known that Keith Whitley was chosen a few years back because his widow, Lorrie Morgan, campaigned hard for him to be elected. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does things differently. It creates a list of nominees based on "historians'" recommendations. Again, we don't know who these people are and what exactly qualifies them as historians. Shoot, I could be a historian ~ you don't know that I'm not. Then the winners are voted on by "an international body of some 500 rock experts". However, fans are now also able to vote for up to seven artists from this list. This comprises the "fans' ballot", although it's unknown how much weight those votes are given. 

Generally, anywhere from six to a dozen artists are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame each year, compared to three (one a non-artist) for the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Three. Know how much of a backlog this creates?

The CMHOF claims that this keeps the process "exclusive". Oh, it does. It excludes an artist who has died (and there have been many) from celebrating their eventual induction. It's shameful. Jerry Lee Lewis was lucky, I guess. He was finally inducted at the age of eighty-eight and died only a few months later. I'm dubious that any of the rock and roll inductees refused their award because it wasn't "exclusive". Yet, despite numerous calls for the process to be revised, the cabal remains recalcitrant. It seems that they are the ones who want to remain exclusive.

All that said, my quibble with the 2024 inductees is not with who was elected, but with who wasn't.

Modern Era

An artist is not eligible for election within one year of his or her death. As it happened, Toby Keith was voted in before his untimely death in February. No one can say he's not deserving. He scored a total of twenty number one hits and several top tens. Pretty good career.

Though his music mostly wasn't to my taste, millions upon millions of fans loved him. And, as I wrote before, he was by all accounts a good man.

Which other artists were eligible? Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Tracy Lawrence, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Lorrie Morgan, Steve Wariner, Trisha Yearwood, among many others.

Clearly, the one overlooked (again) is Dwight Yoakam. I don't know any artists that the others on the list may have influenced, but there is no denying that Dwight influenced a bunch. He is uniquely Dwight. The open secret about the HOF, however, is that it is very Nashville-centric. It's a wonder that Merle Haggard and Buck Owens got in. My prediction is that Yoakam will never be elected, unless the process is radically changed. The cabal simply doesn't want him.

Veteran Era

I like John Anderson; love a couple of his hits. When he was still being played on radio, no one had to hear a song and wonder, "Who's singing that?" Anderson's voice is unmistakable. That said, he only had five number ones. It wasn't so much the quantity, but their ubiquitousness. Who in God's name hasn't heard "Swingin'"? I bought exactly one John Anderson album, just as I purchased one Toby Keith album. That shouldn't be confused with dislike. 

The veteran era category is the one most backlogged ~ criminally backlogged. Many, many deserving artists will never be inducted. This era encompasses decades, from the nineteen forties and forward. And let's face it; artists get forgotten.

The list is far too long to enumerate, but here are a few of the eligible artists:

Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Horton, Eddie Rabbitt, Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers, Lynn Anderson, Gene Watson, Rosanne Cash, Johnny Rodriguez, Gary Stewart, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

As I said, artists (and apparently history) can be forgotten. From the late sixties to the mid-seventies, there were three female artists who dominated country: Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Lynn Anderson. Look it up. I don't know why Lynn has been overlooked (not saying it's because she began her career in California. Not not saying it's because of this.) Nevertheless, it's tragic that the HOF has swatted her away. 

Like Dwight, I don't believe that Lynn Anderson will ever be elected. I can't put my finger on exactly why. I was semi-kidding about the California bit. It certainly can't be that toward the end of her chart-making days, she had veered into pop-country. Plenty of other artists with similar repertoires have made it in. Perhaps if some current star scores a hit with a remake of Rose Garden, similar to how Luke Combs resuscitated Tracy Chapman's legacy, the HOF deciders' memories would be jogged.

Recording/Touring Musician, Songwriter, Non-Performer

(They really need to come up with a better moniker.)

When I hear the name James Burton, I think, "Oh, the Elvis guy." Sure, he was a member of Rick(y) Nelson's, Emmylou Harris's, and John Denver's bands, but other than Emmylou, the others aren't (weren't) exactly bastions of country music.


Hmm, who's that fat off-key singer behind him? 

I like this one better:

Again, what will it take to get Don Rich into the hall of fame? As Saving Country Music wrote: "There was arguably never a side player more important to a superstar than Don Rich was to Buck Owens."

Face it, Buck Owens wasn't exactly a powerhouse. He had goofy mannerisms and he claimed credit for songs he didn't write. Still, he was huge, and in large part that was due to Don Rich. Not only a virtuoso guitarist, but an accomplished fiddler, and a harmony singer beyond measure. Does the cabal hold Rich's home base of Bakersfield against him? Hmmm...

Another musician will not be eligible until 2027. I hate to say it, but the inductee won't be Don Rich.

I suppose these announcements hold some modicum of interest. I do at least know who the artists are, as opposed to today. But seriously, hall of fame, you guys need to get your act together.



Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Eric Carmen


There was a time when having a strong, distinctive voice made a singer a star. It took more than that, of course. Emotion. A powerful singer made you feel the song. That was Eric Carmen.

Obviously, thousands upon thousands of hit songs have been written on guitar, but Eric was a classically-trained pianist, and there's something more melodic about songs composed on piano. Too, Eric taught himself guitar, and the guitar's dominance is evident in his band's, The Raspberries, million-selling 1972 hit:



But really, Eric Carmen's legacy rests largely on the decade of the eighties. Self-styling himself solely as a songwriter, sorry, but the following songs would not have impacted us the way they did without Eric's soaring tenor.


Not iconic, but still a nice top ten hit:

Though sung by Ann Wilson and Mike Reno in the movie Footloose, this, too, was written by Carmen:

Not a perfect comparison, but Eric Carmen's music was operatic much like Roy Orbison's. There is no disputing his killer songwriting skills, and there is no denying his uniquely superb voice.
Rest in peace, Eric Carmen. Thank you for those eighties memories. 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Toby Keith

There's much to be said for being a good man. By all accounts Toby Keith was a good man. Imagine an entertainer still being married to his first spouse! Imagine doing eleven overseas USO tours.

It seemed like Toby Keith was always around. His 1993 debut single, "Should've Been A Cowboy", shot straight to number one. All told, he scored 20 number ones and several top tens. 

For me, who considers the nineties the best decade in country music, Toby didn't resonate strongly. I thought several of his hits were "fine" and I even purchased his first CD. I preferred his more introspective tracks, like "Wish I Didn't Know Now", and found his bombastic tunes, well....funny. (There's something to be said for funny.) And c'mon, "put a boot in your ass" has gotta evoke a chuckle. I realize "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" was supposed to be serious, but that line...

I SO admire Toby for taking on those bitter wenches previously known as The Dixie Chicks. And he definitely could push their buttons. Androgynous Natalie Maines even wore a "FUTK" t-shirt to an awards show. I bet that really made Toby sob into his pillow. 

And the tall tale about Toby and Kris Kristofferson's little spat has since been debunked. Kristofferson is a master songwriter, but if this incident had actually occurred, sorry, I would be on Keith's side.

He also got knocked for playing at Trump's inaugural, as if that was the mortalist of mortal sins. Good on Toby! I bet he reveled in the criticism.

One thing Toby possessed was an ear for catchphrases. "How Do You Like Me Now", "I Wanna Talk About Me", "Who's Your Daddy?"

“I write about life, and I sing about life, and I don’t over-analyze things,” Keith told The Associated Press in 2001.

While there were many artists I would place above him, the fact remains that he was an original and most importantly, a decent guy.


I saw this on X a while back and found it sweet. (His Uber driver had a karaoke machine in his car.):

 Toby is going to be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Toby Keith.

Monday, December 4, 2023

My 2023 Spotify Wrapped

I love Spotify. Sure, it has its drawbacks, like any technology does, but those drawbacks are not Spotify's fault. Record labels, for some reason, don't release their entire catalogs, and some artists (I'm looking at you, Garth Brooks) refuse to allow their recordings to be streamed on the app (Amazon? Really, Garth? Who in the world streams their music on Amazon?)

It's rare that I don't find one of my treasured albums on Spotify. Of course, streaming doesn't compare to spinning the actual LP's, but I don't own a turntable; thus, the blips and pops are missing. Scoff if you will, but those little imperfections in an album are cherished by those who once spun it endlessly. 

Nevertheless, with Spotify I can actually hear that music once again. And it's rare that a particular track doesn't pop into my head that I can't locate on Spotify's app. Too, if I want to sample the new music that my favorite blog writes about, it's as simple as typing in a name. Obscure releases that probably only I like? They're there, too.

I am a big proponent of playlists. Whereas I was once at the mercy of radio, with my own curated playlists I can hear only the tracks I want to hear. And since mood dominates our music choices, I can have as many diverse playlists as I need, whether I'm feeling nostalgic or festive, or simply bored. If I 💓 a particular song, it drops to my playlist of "liked" songs, and wow, do I ever get an assortment!

At the end of every year, Spotify supplies each listener with his or her own yearly wrap-up (thus, "Wrapped"). It's fun, but almost unbelievable. If I was to create my own summary, I would have come up with completely different lists. As I scrolled through my Wrapped, I asked myself, what was I thinking? And more importantly, why? 

Here is my summary:

Top Artists:

George Strait

Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass

Vince Gill

Dwight Yoakam

Emmylou Harris


Now, to some degree, I understand it. Vince Gill, after all, released what I soon realized was the best country album of 2023. I became hooked on it immediately and streamed it over and over. George Strait is admittedly my favorite artist of all time, with Dwight a close second.

And yes, I found The Tijuana Brass's album, Going Places, on the app and I love, LOVE it. If anyone thinks it's cheesy or a relic of bygone days, too bad for them. The album is awesome.

Emmylou Harris in my top five is puzzling. Sure, I like her, but not enough to stream her music over and over. I think her placement simply means that I spun a lot of artists and she beat out the others by a hair. 


Top Songs:

Backside of Thirty

Zorba the Greek

Down on the Rio Grande

Down That Road Tonight

3rd Man Theme 


Well, Herb Alpert reared his wonderful head again, with two of my top five streamed songs. Those two tracks are simply feel-good music. Like them or deride them; I don't care.

Backside of Thirty surprised me. When John Conlee's single was released in 1978, I gave it little regard. True, I wasn't listening to country at the time, but I still had my finger to the wind of what was going on in that world. I may have rediscovered this track when I was listening to SiriusXM, and thought, hey! That's pretty good! It was almost new to me. In '78 I dismissed it, but aside from Rose Colored Glasses, it's easily Conlee's second-best release. 

Down on the Rio Grande is simply a smooth, pretty Johnny Rodriguez track. I loved Rodriguez back in his heyday ~ Pass Me By is probably one of the best country singles ever. It's hard to discern why a certain song catches one's imagination, but apparently Rio Grande did that for me.

As for NGDB (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), Down That Road Tonight is hands down my favorite of all their releases. It only charted at #6 in 1988, but my love for it was sealed when I endlessly spun the group's album, Workin' Man.


My Top Five Genres: 

Classic Country Pop


Classic Rock

Bubblegum Pop

Rock and Roll 


Classic Country Pop? What the hell is that? I hate country pop with a passion. I can only surmise that the country songs I streamed were somehow misclassified. Country pop, to me, screams Kenny Rogers and Tim McGraw. 

And as much as I despise country pop, classic rock is the fiery pits of hell. For many years when I was working I listened to a radio morning show that was mildly funny and mildly entertaining (graded on a curve). Unfortunately it was hosted on a classic rock station, so between the banter I was subjected to the likes of Aerosmith and The Who and Van Halen; and not only to the groups themselves, but essentially to the same four tracks over and over. And not even good tracks! The most non-melodic claptrap every laid down in a recording studio. I usually used those musical interludes to visit the rest room or the company cafeteria. So, again Spotify must be free with their music classifications.

Sure, I'll cop to bubblegum pop. Hey, listen to it ~ it's great! What better time in music than the nineteen sixties? (The Beatles, by the way, are probably classified as bubblegum pop, which is rather a misnomer. They definitely did start out that way, though.)

Country and "Rock and Roll"? You betcha. That's my wheelhouse, although I don't know what exactly Spotify terms rock and roll. But I'm not going to quibble. 


Other Stats:

Minutes Listened: 7,015 (my calculator tells me that's about 117 hours ~ ehh, pretty middling)

Genres Listened To: 36 (What?? There's 36 genres??)

Artists Listened To: 524 (I'm eclectic ~ yay!)

Songs Listened To: 1,296

I'm a top 4% Strait fan, with Baby's Gotten Good at Goodbye my top George track streamed (weird, because though I like it, it's really not one of my top favorites.)

Apparently, August 6 was a big listening day for me. (a Sunday, which makes sense.)

Some really astute discriminating music fan in St. John's Bay, Canada listened just like me. 

Spotify labels me a "collector", or an "anti-hero". Oh, absolutely. I both collect and anti-hero-ize. Define that made-up word however you like.


So, while I may quibble at some of these stats, I guess math doesn't lie (it is racist, however ~ but that's a discussion for another day.)

The Wrapped roundup is a fun little diversion.

But I gotta figure out a way to finesse those numbers in the coming year.




Saturday, November 25, 2023

Sorry Kids, But Most Christmas Songs Reek


I have a rule ~ I only stream Christmas music a couple of days before the holiday, because frankly that's about all I can stand. And I only stream it at all because of...I guess, tradition. When I do, I'm very choosy.

But this morning my husband and I were breakfasting at a local restaurant and (naturally) we were seated just adjacent to the sound system speaker. I found myself growing more and more irritated. Finally I piped up, "Did someone try to curate the worst Christmas playlist ever?" 

There's some kind of itch that pop singers have, in which they need to jazz up a Christmas standard. Just f***in' sing it straight! Ooh, you're great with the glissandos and all, but I'm gonna need a few more mugs of eggnog before I can even tolerate your riffing. Here's the thing: If you (the singer) hate a song so much that you need to turn it unrecognizable, don't record it!

Over our booth, we got to hear some dude scatting White Christmas, then that awful jazz piano thing from the Peanuts Christmas special, then "My Favorite Things", which isn't even a freakin' Christmas song. It's from The Sound of Music! 

And people listen to this drivel starting the day after Halloween! What is with these freaks? At a prior workplace, they piped in music; very bland, inoffensive music. Normally, I would have simply ignored it, but no one was allowed to talk (seriously, it was an infraction), so that stuff came in LOUD and clear. If any country music wafted out of the speaker, it was that pseudo-country that nobody, pop fan nor country fan, could stomach. I heard Steve Wariner's "The Weekend" about 5,268 times. But Christmas season was the worst. Even a "good" holiday song makes a person want to beat her head against the wall after the two thousandth airing. I couldn't even speak up and bitch to my neighbor about how much I hated it.

There was a particular Andy Williams track that, if I ever hear it again, violence will ensue. I don't know the name of it, but it was jazzy to the point of air-sickness. Lots of scatting and be-bopping. Ahhh, Merry Christmas! I actually searched it out on Andy's Christmas album list, just to refresh my memory, but it appears even he was too embarrassed to include it in his repertoire. Of course my office was a gun-free zone, so I couldn't whip out a 45 and shoot that speaker dead.

And that's what we're supposed to listen to for essentially two months? Nope.

There are a couple of rules when it comes to my Christmas playlist:

1. Classics

By that I don't necessarily mean 1940's classics, but definitely Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" and Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock", and Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad".

2. Old Classics

If anyone is going to sing "White Christmas", it had better be Bing Crosby. Nat King Cole had better be warbling "The Christmas Song". 

3. Anne Murray

If you're a good singer, you don't need to change songs. Just sing 'em.

4. Marshmallow World

This is a must, people! I'm serious!

I've got 36 songs on my Spotify Christmas playlist, but that's only because I felt a need to flesh it out. I could honestly eliminate half of them.

So, businesses, if you see me alighting your premises, shove the volume down on your holiday glop. I like Christmas as much as the next guy, but a sane person can only take so much.


Friday, November 10, 2023

80's Radio


I certainly wasn't a kid in the eighties, but radio made me feel like one. I'd left country at the right time and discovered rock at the exact right time. My kids were still pre-teens, meaning they'd still agree to go places with me ~ drives to the mall, maybe a jaunt to pick up a pizza. And all the while our companion was rock radio. I foisted my musical tastes on them, swirling up the radio volume anytime a song I really liked kicked off. When "We Are The World" became a big radio hit, I patiently explained to them which singer was singing which part. My oldest really glommed onto Corey Hart's "Sunglasses At Night", a song I hated ("so I I can..."), but I can never hear that song today without being reminded of that seven-year-old kid. On one of our yearly sojourns to South Dakota's Black Hills, Van Halen's "Jump" was the hot hit of the day. That organ-sounding guitar solo blasted out of the car radio's speakers approximately every seven minutes, to the point where I wasn't sure if I was experiencing car sickness or David Lee Roth-sickness. But my kids liked the song.

The eighties were the era of one-hit-band wonders, mostly British it seemed, but those tracks remain some of my favorite eighties songs to this day. The Dream Academy with "Life In A Northern Town", The Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy". And who could forget (or ever would be allowed to forget) Rick Astley?


Music snobs tend to denigrate eighties music, but I bet if they got a gander at my Spotify playlist they'd soon be dancing around their living rooms, or if they were male, at least tapping their foot. One thing about eighties music, it was joyous, not morose ~ not navel-contemplation. All that introspection is overrated. I like songs like this:


Yes, I am country at heart, but I wouldn't give up my eighties rock for the world. It speaks to me in ways that little other does.