Tuesday, August 4, 2020

We Pause For This Commercial Break

I'm anxious to get back to blogging about music, but I am currently immersed in the next April Tompkins novel. The good news is, I've picked up where I left off many many months ago. The bad news is, I've only written a little over 23,000 words. I was worried that this manuscript was too long!

Clearly I have work ahead of me.

Don't despair -- I'll need a break before long and I will be back with more music.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Bill Mack

Around the time I finished eighth grade in May of 1969, life at home spiraled into chaos. For two years I'd dealt with my dad's blackout drunks and my parents' fighting over it, to the point of fingernail slashes and pummeling fists. I was a wreck; but loathe to let it show (a prime characteristic of a child of alcoholism). I have pushed many of those days from my mind -- all the days tended to melt into one anyway; but my pre-high school summer was not one of fun and frolic.

Mom's doctor prescribed tranquilizer, Miltowns, to help her cope; thus, she slept a lot and wasn't especially coherent when she was out of bed. My two older sisters lived with their families in Fort Worth and through second-hand feedback, became alarmed about the situation. Thus, my sister Rosie and her husband flew up to assess. Somehow, I don't know if I ever learned "how", it was determined that my seven-year-old sister and I would return with them to Fort Worth to "stay a while". Why my eight-year-old brother wasn't included, I cannot explain. Of course, I was ignorant of the entire plan until it was sprung on me, so I wasn't privy to those conversations.

The four of us took the train from Bismarck to Fort Worth, with lots of little adventures along the way; some odd; but all of them fun for a newly-minted teenager who'd never ridden a train in her life. My other sister Carole had four boys and a husband, so we bunked with Rosie and her husband in their apartment and slept on a fold-out couch in their living room. I had no inkling how long this experiment would last; all I knew was that I needed to get back in time for the start of school in the fall. In the meantime, I had fun...especially without that ninety-pound weight of dread crushing my chest.

The two couples loved the night, maybe because it allowed them to escape the oppressive Texas heat. Thus the gaggle of us attended a lot of drive-in movies and otherwise stayed up late and played board games; my sisters drinking Dr. Pepper and their husbands chugging Dr. Pepper plus...something. In the background always was the radio, tuned to the hottest country station in the south, WBAP.

That's when I first heard the voice of Bill Mack. I'm not sure if it was circumstances; being lonely for home, yet afraid to go there, or my tiny mixed-up emotions, but Bill Mack's voice was a comfort to me. He just talked. Disc jockeys today, if any remain, love to fake it. Big booming radio voices; super-jazzed all the time over virtually nothing, even partly cloudy skies! Bill liked to have a conversation, albeit one way, with his listeners. He also liked to spin good country music. Bill didn't play much Glen Campbell; he did play Faron Young and Johnny Bush. Night after night, above the laughter and ribbing, we all listened to Bill Mack talk to us.

Summer's end closed in and sure enough, my little sister and I were sent home. Tears commenced. We flew this time, Mom or Dad having sent a check to cover our flight. Miraculously, everything at home was different! No, actually nothing was different. Life went on; I started my new life as a high schooler. My little brother and sister skipped on to their next grades. That may have been around the time that Dad entered rehab for his second shot at it, and I think Mom kicked her pill habit. I never believed any changes would last for long, and I was right.

On nights when I didn't have to kick back early, however, I tuned my portable radio to try to capture either WHO or WBAP, and I lay awake long past midnight just listening. On an occasional lucky night, through the static, I got to hear Bill Mack talk to me.


I would be derelict in my duties as an unknown blogger if I didn't talk a bit about Bill Mack the songwriter. I honestly had no idea that this giant radio voice could also write songs until I bought a Connie Smith album and perused the liner notes. In parenthesis beneath the song title, Clinging To A Saving Hand, I read "Bill Mack". The Bill Mack? What the hell?

In 1968, Cal Smith recorded and reached number thirty-five on the charts with "Drinkin' Champagne". And here you thought it was an original George Strait track (silly!) Of course we don't get to "see" Cal performing the song:

Nor do we get to see George sing it:

We do, however, get to watch Dean Martin's version. Not many country songs lend themselves so readily to easy listening (I guess you'd call it). This one does. I'll take the country stylings, even though I like Dino a bunch. Drinkin' Champagne is apparently just a versatile as Yesterday, only a better song.

No, I didn't forget. LeAnn Rimes had a nice little career going before she abandoned it, and it was all thanks to Bill Mack. By 1996 country music had long begun its subtle shift toward pap. Oh, there were stone country hits certainly, "Blue Clear Sky", anything Alan Jackson recorded; but too came the nauseating drivel of Tim McGraw, John Michael Montgomery, Faith Hill. When "Blue" came pouring out of the radio, out of nowhere, I wasn't sure what decade I was in. This was indisputably a sixties country song. In fact, Bill wrote the song in 1958, and no, he didn't write it for Patsy Cline, but that's a nice story.

Rest in peace, Bill Mack. Thanks for the conversations.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Oh, Good ~ Blogger Has Changed

I last created a post yesterday and ta-da! I find today that the Blogger interface has changed. I'm not saying everything should remain static forever, but I've been blogging since 2007 and I knew my way around.

I'm sure the tech guys worked hard on these changes, so kudos, I guess. And I'll get used to them. The reason I use Blogger and not WordPress is ease of use. WordPress is a quagmire...and ugly. I have a blog there that I created after Google ate my blog and sent me on a dizzying tangle of links that never once solved my issue. I created one post on WordPress and bit the bullet; created a completely new Blogger account and lost all my previous followers, alas. On the plus side, I'm now followed by approximately 73 bots. (Bots don't leave comments, by the way.)

From what I've ascertained so far, the updates are largely cosmetic; simply more confusing to find. And the addition of emojis is rather superfluous. What am I, five? 🙄(had to do it once)

I browsed Blogger's delineation of the changes and found statements like this:

A fresh Comments page helps you connect with readers more easily by surfacing areas that need your attention, like comment moderation. 

I was an educator in my previous life ~ don't talk like this! I'm guessing the writer consulted a thesaurus. I do it, too; but make sure the synonym makes sense in context.

The new change that rankles me is the inability to embed a video the old-fashioned way. Now I have to rely on a search within Blogger and hope that the video I want is listed as an option. Bad, Google! Major faux pas.**

**UPDATE: I found by opening the video search box and pasting in the address of the video, voila! (duh; sorry, Google.)

An enhancement I've longed for but still doesn't seem to exist, is a means to find other blogs in my areas of interest. If no one can find a blog, what is the reason for its existence? (I actually know someone who printed up business cards with his blog address ~ c'mon!) I obviously don't blog for followers, since I have no "real" ones, so I've given up on anyone finding me; but I would still like to read other music (or other) blogs. This is one area in which WordPress excels.

What's missing from Blogger is the human connection. Maybe the developers know this. Maybe they intuit that most of us are composing with the quixotic notion that somebody, somewhere will read it. Maybe blogging is dumb and antiquated. If it is, so be it. Rich Farmers has turned into my personal diary anyway; a means of preserving memories and milestones and musings.

To be fair to Google, the changes aren't really confusing. They're actually straightforward; just different.

But since this is a music blog, after all, I must go with a "confusing" song:

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Record Collections

Ever know someone who's a collector? These are guys (and trust me, they're always guys) who relish the hunt, not the plunder. Of their approximately 978 record albums, they probably play five, tops.

That's how it is with collections. I'm guilty. I've collected thousands of individual tracks and full CD's through the years, but I mostly surf over to SiriusXM to be surprised. I recently retrieved my personal PC after months of working on a loaned company computer (thanks, COVID), and today I decided to remind myself of all the tracks I'd ripped.

After hours of deleting duplicates (one of the joys of retirement is infinite time), I decided to bestow stars upon the songs I like best...today. The dilemma is choosing between three and four stars. "I really like this track, but does it deserve a superior ranking?"

Five stars can be intimidating as well. Do I go with songs that are classic or just honor my gut and choose the ones I love? I went with love.

The interesting outcome of this experiment is the number of really mediocre tracks I ripped. I think I just wanted to own them. In case. In case a nuclear incident transpired and all I was left with (remarkably) was my personal computer. In the ragged aftermath I might have a hankering to hear Barbara Fairchild.

I own hundreds of physical CD's, but if I ever chose to pop one into my disc drive, I would need to be suffering from one-song withdrawals.

Instead I rely on my uploads.

My Windows Media Player is a really fun app -- it no longer allows me to rip CD's, so if I don't have something on my computer I really really need, I am forced to purchase it from Amazon, even though it's here, sitting on my shelf. Microsoft rocks. Today, in fact, I purchased "Dreaming My Dreams" by Waylon. I have no cognizance of why I never ripped it when my WMP worked, but clearly I did not. However, it was vital that I added it to my collection, because it is a five-star single.

The results of my star ratings? Well, there are approximately three Beatle tracks that merit five stars, although not the ones anyone but me would pick. Elton, too, represents. California Girls shows up as first on the list. Otherwise, I'm stone country.  George Strait has at least three; Gene Watson is a treasure. Then it's an eclectic mix, demonstrating my superior musical taste. Jerry Lee, Gordon Lightfoot, Johnny Bush, Highway 101, Mark Chesnutt, Marty Robbins, Ray Price. Roy Orbison.

Face it, it doesn't get much better than this:

I'm feeling good that I chose wisely.

New And Pretty

I like this piece for a few reasons: it was fast to complete, it has clean lines, and it doesn't require a hard-to-find frame!

This went together in a couple of weeks, so I didn't have a chance to grow tired of it.

I gotta find me some more like this!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

New Masterpiece

The names are a bit faint in the photo, but this is my new "family" project. In keeping with the "smaller is better" theme, this is only 5 x 7, perfect for both my patience and my wall.

While Josie is no longer with us, it was vital for me to include her because she is my heart.

Here's to you, baby.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Part 3 ~ Fake Outrage


In Part 3 of my "new country" screed, let's discuss fake outrage and grasping for relevancy.

Part 1 was an excruciating listen and on-the-spot review of July's top ten tracks.

Part 2 discussed the sad cookie cutter state of today's music.

This installment returns me to artists I'm at least a bit familiar with, albeit they've changed, by God! Just watch! They're woke!

The Dixie Chicks are back after a fourteen year recording drought. There was a time, okay a really brief time, when the group formerly known as The Dixie Chicks were hot. That time was 1998 to 1999 and comprised two albums, Wide Open Spaces and Fly. They also released Home in 2002, but the album produced no hits, nor did Taking The Long Way, which dropped in 2006.

Thus, two hit LP's.

2006 was approximately the time that Natalie Maines shot off her mouth about the president, which is neither here nor there (and seems quaint in retrospect). The group milked the ensuing publicity, but the fact was, by that time they were already living off seven-year-old hits and no one really cared.

Fourteen years later, the Dixie Chicks are back with a shortened name; and no offense, but they're really no longer "chicks". The word Dixie obviously is now forbidden. Always adept at garnering press, they've been bestowed with a glowing New York Times article. And they're still nursing grievances, new and ancient.

Let's face it; other artists from their era aren't getting written up in The Times. I haven't caught a feature about Diamond Rio or Lee Ann Womack. No, The Dixie Chicks are news because they're "sassy". Or at least Natalie is. We don't really hear much from Martie and Emily.

Natalie is what we benevolently call a drama queen. It seems she's recently divorced and has some scores to settle. And this is what the single "Gaslighter" is apparently about. I surfed on over to YouTube to check out the track. It's not terrible. Not great, but it doesn't reek, either. The harmonies by the unspoken other members of the group help...a lot.

Unfortunately, what stands out for me is Natalie's severe butch haircut. I'm sure that's another statement, but all it states for me is Angela Kinsey from The Office. And here's a clue, New York Times and Dixie Chicks: women have other emotions beside "defiant". It must be draining to live one's life in a perpetual state of fury.

In other "woke" news, Lady Antebellum has changed their name to "Lady A". Firstly, I don't know how the two guys in the band feel about being referred to as ladies, but I guess they must be okay with it after all these years. Second, they might have wanted to conduct a Google search to find out if anyone else was using the moniker "Lady A". Sure enough there was, and she wants ten million dollars in compensation (a Google search, by the way, costs zero dollars). Now the band Lady Antebellum A is suing the original Lady A (Anita White, who, by the way, is African-American) because the band trademarked the name in 2011 but never used it. Good job, woke musicians! You've endeared yourselves to countless downtrodden minorities!

All I know about Lady Antebellum A is that their biggest, and basically only,  hit was a rip-off of an Alan Parsons Project single, Eye In The Sky.

At least Lady Antebellum A ripped off a white artist that time.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave....

So, essentially Lady Antebellum A are neither ladies nor original. And they hate African-Americans. Great job! Now if Hillary Scott dons a severe hairdo, she'll have completed the trifecta.

Thanks for your wokeness, ladies (and token males).

I prefer not to thrust my finger to the winds.

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