Saturday, October 19, 2019

Anatomy Of A Great Country Song


I'm not a stickler for profundity in music. In fact, to me the message is beside the point. That's why it's called music; not poetry. It's such a simple concept, I am befuddled why so many "experts" miss it. The message is in how the song makes you feel in the pit of your gut. Really, the words are superfluous. If a good singer with a good band sang, "bah bah bahhhhh" with just the right chord progression and change-ups, I'd proclaim that it deeply touched my heart. And I'd be right.

Granted, a meaningful message paired with soulful singing and the right melody is an added plus. That's country's aspiration. And that's what also makes a great country song gossamer.

There are a ton of country songs that people consider classics, but the majority of them make you feel the words but not that punch. Sometimes it's soaring violins that do it ~ think "He Stopped Loving Her Today". Or the duh-duh-duh-DUM of the steel guitar in "Stand By Your Man". Or the searing harmonies in "Sing Me Back Home".

There are no step-by-step guidelines for creating a classic country song. If there were, we'd be gulping water in a roiling sea of perfection; and then what would we have to compare? It's not even the truly bad songs that allow us to recognize a great one; it's the banal ones. A thousand different artists went into the studio and recorded songs that they thought were, "Hey, pretty good!" Except they weren't. Those are the songs we hear, but don't really hear, on the radio. They're static at best.

The worst conceit is a song the artist wrote him/herself. There's nothing worse than a self-absorbed songwriter (take it from one who knows). Songwriters equate the sweat that went into creating a song to its relative quality. Not many can carry that off ~ Kristofferson can; Yoakam can. Haggard could.

When I was writing my retrospective of country in the nineties as a companion (or counterpoint) to Ken Burns' documentary series, I re-found "Sticks and Stones", and remembered how much I'd loved it. Silly me; I'd always thought Tracy Lawrence had written the song. That's wrong, wrong. The songwriters were Elbert West and Roger Dillon.

Maybe it's just me; maybe it's not. I categorize Sticks and Stones as a classic country song. It's not static. And it provides that gut-punch that a great country song requires.



You can take the house and everything in it
Keep the diamond ring 'cause that's how I meant it
Sticks and stones are all they ever were to me
This material life with all it's value
Don't mean a thing to me without you
The love that we once had is all I need
 
So take everything we have if it makes you happy
But darling let me say before I leave
These sticks and stones ain't all that makes a home
They don't have arms to hold you when love goes wrong
Now you say we are through
Those sticks and stones may break me
But the words you said just tore my heart in two
 
Remember when we didn't have a dime between us
You took my hand and said we don't need much
Just as long as we're together we would be fine
Now we've acquired all I thought would please you
I gave everything you know that I could
And still you're telling me you're not satisfied
 
So take everything we have if it makes you happy
But darling let me say before I leave
These sticks and stones ain't all that makes a home
They don't have arms to hold you when love goes wrong
Now you say we are through
Those sticks and stones may break me
But the words you said just tore my heart in two
 
These sticks and stones may break me
But the words you said just tore my heart in two

Tracy Lawrence became one of those "disposables", when Nashville again decided that real country was passe. "Bro country, man! That's where it's at!", said the fifty-year-old label exec whose Wranglers were a bit too snug when he tried to pull them on for an industry event. You will be pleased to know that Tracy is still out there and recording music. He doesn't have a label, of course, like Mark Chesnutt doesn't have a label, and Clay Walker doesn't have a label. Apparently all the classic artists have transcended labels.

The nineteen nineties was the last time that country music was country music. Country is mostly gone now; a tyrannosaurus rex in a world that subsists on EDM and synthesizers. Static in the extreme.

But that's why I'm here ~ to memorialize true country before everyone forgets.




Friday, October 18, 2019

Sixties Country Album Recommendations ~ For The Uninitiated

 If non-country viewers of Ken Burns' "Country Music" are still with me after my previous post highlighting country album recommendations, congrats! You're ready to take the next step!

It's not necessarily that country music became more refined in the decades that followed the sixties, but recording techniques evolved and the music wasn't as "crunchy". That may or may not be a good thing, but to me it made all the difference between seeing a great bar band and dropping an opaque curtain to separate the audience from the artist.

Country albums in the nineteen sixties were a dull lot. Nashville decreed that the rundown of an album was, two hits (tops) and nine cover tracks. Female artists' albums were the most predictable. I got to hear "You Ain't Woman Enough" rendered by at least three vocalists other than Loretta Lynn. Tammy covered Loretta's songs and Loretta covered Tammy's. Lynn Anderson covered both. I bought a lot of greatest hits albums then, because anything else was a waste of scarce dollars.

The first concept album I recall discovering was "Let Me Tell You About A Song", by Merle Haggard. Naturally it took someone outside of Nashville to shatter the mold.

Some people like live albums; others despise them. Today a live album is filler, a contract satisfier. In the sixties, though, a live album was an event. It takes a deft touch for a producer to deliver a superior live product and capture the thrill of a once-in-a-lifetime happening.

Capitol Records' Ken Nelson achieved the ultimate in recording Buck Owens and The Buckaroos performing live at Carnegie Hall. In his AllMusic review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote:




Buck Owens and the Buckaroos' 1966 concert at Carnegie Hall was a landmark not only for the band, but for country music: It signaled that it had firmly integrated itself not only into America's popular music mainstream, but also urban centers like New York. Buck and the Buckaroos had to deliver a stellar performance, and they did -- the group sounded like dynamite, tearing through a selection of their classic hits with vigor. Several decades removed from the performance itself, what really comes through is how musical and gifted the Buckaroos were, particularly Don Rich. For dedicated fans, it's a necessary addition to their collection.


When I was eleven, I didn't read reviews, had there actually been any. I just knew what I liked. I like, however, that the reviewer gives Don Rich his due. The true leader of the band, Don Rich was the glue. That's not to negate the pure perfection of Tom Brumley on steel and Doyle Holly's bass and stage presence. Willie Cantu was the Buckaroos' drummer on the album; the band's glue.







Don Rich, ladies and gentlemen:



Live "bar band" music:



Merle Haggard, not to be outdone, in 1970 recorded a live album at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Officially titled, "The Fightin' Side Of Me", I will always know it as "Live In Philadelphia". I'd seen Merle with Bonnie and the Strangers live in 1968, a life-altering experience in many, many ways; but this album captured the experience of sitting in the first row of a Haggard concert, only flashier. Merle was on top of the world in '70, and rightfully so.

"The Fightin' Side Of Me" was recorded on Valentine's Day, and has been derided by music critics -- which affirms my opinion of critics. To them every single solitary song ever recorded must have profound meaning, which is beside the point of music. It's as if reviewers are mathematicians ~ dry and humorless...and a bore to be around. As the saying goes (in my interpretation), if you can't do, nitpick. Any critic who misses the sheer joy in this album is missing the point of music.



Before I offer a few tasty selections from the album, I want to give props to The Strangers, the best country band outside of the Buckaroos. Roy Nichols (who Merle judiciously stole away from The Maddox Brothers and Rose and Wynn Stewart, as Ken Burns' documentary series told us) was a singular lead guitarist. As Merle said, Nichols, (along with legendary guitarist Chet Atkins) "were the two most influential guitar players in [the last] century. Because of Roy, my career commenced, He was the stylist that set the pace of the records I recorded in my high period."

Norman (Norm) Hamlet, aside from Pete Drake and Lloyd Green, and let me add, Sonny Garrish, is the creme de la creme of steel players.

On this album, Biff Adams kept the beat, Dennis Hromek played bass, and Bobby Wayne played rhythm and sang harmony. Combined, these five guys created a country band pinnacle.

And then there was Bonnie Owens. One may not know that Bonnie was the ex-wife of Buck Owens. Relationships were unnaturally close in Bakersfield, I guess. That's neither here nor there. It's about time that Bonnie gets her due. Bonnie's contribution to Merle's success cannot be underestimated. When one hears Merle, they're subconsciously hearing Bonnie's spot-on harmonies. As a soloist, Bonnie wasn't strong; her forte was adding harmonic touches that shot a song into the stratosphere.







Bonnie (so she forgot the words?):



The Strangers (by the way, their solo album was superb):



The most oft-remembered segment of this performance is Merle's impersonations. In hindsight, the impressions were middling, but we loved them:



Everybody obsesses over this song ~ it was just a song; get over it. But it is the "official" title of the album, so here you go:




Country albums in the late sixties/early seventies didn't offer much. These two are different. They capture the sheer joy of live music. One can't go wrong buying these (if you can get your hands on them). Luckily, I have the originally-pressed LP's; not to brag.

These are two that sum up the decade for me.














Friday, October 11, 2019

Country Album Recommendations For The Uninitiated

Ken Burns' "Country Music" series has apparently sparked unprecedented interest among casual music dabblers. I don't picture regular PBS viewers as popular music connoisseurs; which is unfair, because I watch PBS. I will (with confidence), however, assume that the average public television watcher is unfamiliar with country music; or was, until Ken Burns came along.

I'd like to think this sudden interest isn't as fleeting as the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack fad was in 2000; when it was suddenly considered hip to embrace Appalachian music. I'm not optimistic.

But for those uninitiated curiosity-seekers who may actually want to click an album download or two on Amazon, welcome! My recommendations won't be too country, because I understand that country music is an acquired taste.

If you liked "O Brother, Where Art Thou", you'll like Marty Stuart's "The Pilgrim" even more. Today The Pilgrim is regarded as a classic, even though it performed poorly on the charts when it was released in 1999. A concept album, it features the likes of George Jones, Earl Scruggs, Johnny Cash, and Emmylou Harris, among others ~ all names familiar to Ken Burns' viewing audience. Marty will be reissuing the album this year on its twentieth anniversary.






 My favorite:



"Buenos Noches From A Lonely Room". Dwight Yoakam has released too many albums to count, and most of them offer delicacies. This album, though, is perhaps my favorite. This was Dwight's third release, and I was just getting to know him when it came out. For country, Yoakam was definitely unconventional ~ in a good way. At least eight of the eleven tracks on this LP are keepers. That so rarely happens.





Don't ever forget that Dwight can rock:



Folks who watched "Country Music" may think that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was only about the circle being unbroken. Au contraire! In the nineteen eighties, there was no better country band than NGDB. "More Great Dirt" is a so-called greatest hits album, but let's be frank: most of us had never heard these songs before the LP came along.





I'm happy to report that I got to see NGDB in concert in their heyday. What began as a country-rock outfit happily came to embrace country in its entirety. This is a band to get to know! The album, released in 1989, boasts, by my count, seven out of ten superb tracks.

I regret that I can't find any live performances of the songs I like best from the album, but please enjoy:





Yep, these are all male artists (shoot me). But remember, I devoted a whole post to Emmylou Harris.

I do have more recommendations, but be forewarned: they're country.

Those will wait until we meet again.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

A Country Album Primer

The word is that Ken Burns' "Country Music" series has sparked a sudden surge in country album sales. Folks who heretofore disdained country music are suddenly interested because it was featured on PBS. But where to start? Hank Williams? His songs, while superbly written, have that old-timey, antiquated sound. Johnny Cash? Download one track ~ they all sound the same. Don't waste precious dollars on a whole album until you understand what you're getting into. Nothing too twangy ~ the neighbors might be appalled. That eliminates Dwight Yoakam. Patsy Cline is pretty safe; her songs were "pretty" and featured lots of strings.

My advice:  Start with 1975. Emmylou Harris's second album, Elite Hotel, was a revelation to a jaded country fan like me. There is little good to say about country music in the nineteen seventies ~ it had lackadaisically bumped up against the doldrums. However, every decade of music has at least one breakout star, and Emmylou Harris was that. I don't recall, but I think I first heard a single by Emmylou, "If I Could Only Win Your Love", on my car radio. I had no idea who the singer was, and if I didn't catch the DJ's patter at the right time, I wouldn't find out until the next time the track was played. She was definitely country, updated; with the voice of an angel. Elite Hotel, featuring songs written by the likes of Buck Owens, newcomer Rodney Crowell, Gram Parsons, Hank Williams, Don Gibson, and even Lennon/McCartney; the album combined old and new and still sounded "old". Or perhaps "classic" is a better term. Emmylou was a vocalist who didn't dismiss country or try to change it. She simply improved upon it.

For the country novice, what could be better? It combines Hank and Patsy and Buck; it introduces a soon-to-be classic songwriter; it harks back to the sixties country-rock sound of bands like The Byrds.

To wit, here is a country primer for the newly-converted:

"Amarillo" ~ co-written by Emmylou and Rodney Crowell:



"Together Again" ~ Buck Owens:



"Feelin' Single, Seein' Double" ~ the awesome Wayne Kemp:



"Sin City" ~ Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman:



"One Of These Days" ~ Earl Montgomery:



"Till I Gain Control Again" ~ Rodney Crowell (again):



"Here, There and Everywhere" ~ some guys named John and Paul:



"Ooh, Las Vegas" ~ Gram Parsons and Ric Grech:



"Sweet Dreams" ~ Don Gibson:



"Jambalaya" ~ Hank Williams:



"Satan's Jewel Crown" ~ Edgar L. Eden:



"Wheels" ~ Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons:



My favorite? For sheer beauty, it's "Together Again". For reminiscence, "One Of These Days". But I think I like "Wheels" the best.

Elite Hotel combines everything a country lover or country novice could ask for in a classic album. For a forty-four year-old album, that's damn good.

I would start here.






Saturday, October 5, 2019

"Country Music" ~ What Ken Missed


At the outset, Ken determined that the focus of his country music series would be Johnny Cash. I don't know why, but I can guess. As a non-country fan who probably is a subscriber to Rolling Stone Magazine, Cash took on a sheen; became a sort of demigod in Burns' eyes. Ken needed someone to wrap his episodes around, and who better? Cash led a melodramatic life. He had it all ~ family tragedy, rockabilly roots, substance abuse, infidelity; plus he sired a hugely successful daughter. The continuum.

The commenters on the one country music site I frequent invariably mentioned their dismay with Burns' absorption with Johnny Cash, to the exclusion of many deserving artists. It's a shame, really. A lost opportunity.

I've already talked about the complete disrespect shown to George Strait, but there are others.

Here, to me, are the most glaring omissions:

Jerry Lee Lewis ~ Ken spent a lot of time, quizzically on Elvis Presley. Not once was there a time when Elvis was even remotely country. His label-mate on Sun Records, however, not only is one of the most phenomenal artists of all time, but Jerry Lee Lewis actually had a successful country career. Nowhere in this eight-part series did Jerry Lee get a single mention. And, unlike Elvis, Jerry Lee actually loves music, country or otherwise. Jerry Lee is not a caricature.



Ray Price ~ We caught a glimpse of Ray Price somewhere within episode five or six, or something. I don't remember, but it was in the context of talking about some other artist. Had Ken been at all curious, he would have found that Ray Price was the country singer of the fifties and early sixties. No, not Hank Snow or Roy Acuff ~ Ray Price. And since Ken seems to have a fascination with Nudie suits, who better? But let's be frank:  Willie can thank his lucky stars that Ray Price recorded Night Life, and Roger Miller would not have had a career at all without Invitation To The Blues. Bill Anderson? How about City Lights? I could go on, but Ray can speak for himself:



 

Don Gibson ~ I'm not a fan of Don's singing, but that's not what made him iconic. He wrote many of the songs that were heavily featured (by other artists) in the series: I Can't Stop Loving You (Ray Charles), Sweet Dreams (Patsy Cline); as well as (I'd Be A) Legend In My Time (Ronnie Milsap) and Just One Time (Connie Smith), and many others. To feature those artists and not include the man who wrote the songs is inexcusable.



Don Rich ~ I've heard Buck Owens' recording of Together Again when he sang harmony with himself. Trust me, Don Rich hit that song out of the park. There wasn't enough focus on iconic bands overall in this series. The Strangers (and Bonnie Owens' contribution to Merle's sound) received no mention. The declaration that Roy Nichols was in someone else's band when Merle snatched him up went mostly unnoticed.

Don Rich was the heart of the Buckaroos, and if Buck was still alive, he'd say the same. Everything changed after Don died. He was the bandleader, he was the Telecaster master, he was the harmony singer extraordinaire.



Gene Watson ~ Country music was soooo in the doldrums in 1975. We had Tanya Tucker and...well, that's about it. I was working a menial job that allowed me to carry my portable radio around with me when I heard Love In The Hot Afternoon, and I was transfixed. This guy could sing, and he hadn't even yet shown off his best stuff:



Glen Campbell ~ Glen wasn't just some guy who had a network television show, but that's what one would glean from Ken Burns' dismissive reference to him. In the late sixties, one could not flip on their radio without hearing a Campbell song, ad nauseum, I would add. But damn ~ he deserved some love in this series, and he got zero.



Marty Robbins ~ come on! I know Ken is not a country aficionado, but Marty Robbins? Did Ken at least watch Breaking Bad?



Tanya Tucker ~ She was thirteen and I was seventeen and hotly jealous when my radio started playing Delta Dawn. Ken talked about Brenda Lee (who I love), but no reference to this phenom? Ken, Ken.



There are other niggling points, but these are the standouts to me; in addition to George, of course, who deserved far better. I could forgive a few, but it seems so obvious to me that country icons, regardless of whether they did or didn't sing about prisons, shouldn't have been ignored.

A couple less seconds about Johnny's Rick Rubin recordings and a few more about artists that country fans revere could have sent this series into the stratosphere.




Ken Burns "Country Music" ~ Episode 8 ~ "Sorry, We Don't Have Time For You"

Some Guy


"George Strait racked up sixty number one hits, more than any artist in any genre, so here's a thirty-second clip about him."

I don't want to let my disappointment with Episode 8 of Ken Burns' "Country Music" sour me on the entire series. The documentary truly was a relevatory event. However, aside from the sixties, this was the episode I was anticipating the most, and....well, wow.

I'll do a summation of the series in a subsequent post, but for now, let's address the time period of 1984 to 1996.

The good:  Dwight Yoakam. 'Bout time, is all I can say. Dwight has been snubbed by the Nashville community for...well, forever; inexplicably. I thought the industry liked hits, and Dwight certainly racked up those. Yoakam, however, was "different", and we can't have that. Unlike some of the obscure artists and songwriters Burns spent too much time chronicling, Dwight Yoakam has bona fides.

Kathy Mattea: Although Ken didn't feature any of Mattea's best tracks, I was still heartened that she was included. In a previous post, I noted a few of the female artists from the era; and Burns could have highlighted any of them ~ Pam Tillis, Paulette Carlson ~ at least he picked one of the good ones.

Vince Gill:  Vince's music resides in a special chamber of my heart. It's all tied up in memory, naturally, as music is; and "Look At Us" is the last song on a special 50th wedding anniversary cassette I created for my mom and dad (I still have that cassette somewhere.)

The bad?

Ken Burns is a country music neophyte. However, as a documentarian, he was obligated to do his research, and he either didn't or he had predetermined agenda.

How impactful was George Strait in country music? I came back to country in the mid-eighties, and if George Strait hadn't existed, I probably would have stayed, but my eighteen CD's (and one box set) attest that he deserved more than an obligatory nod. Much more.

I was so disturbed by George's diss, I couldn't drive it from my mind. I contemplated adding a comment to Burn's "Country Music" site, but what was the point? What was done was done. Ken wasn't about to undertake a do-over.

Randy Travis ~ Burns seemed more interested in Randy's hard-luck early life than the fact that he created the neo-traditionalist movement. Back of the hand, Randy! On to Garth!

Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Mark Chesnutt, Travis Tritt ~ ppsshhh ~ mere footnotes.

I like The Judds; I like Reba to an extent; I'm not a big Garth fan, but okay ~  I'll give him his due. But we can quarrel 'til the end of time over which artist had the biggest impact on country music in the eighties and nineties; and if you want to argue that it wasn't George Strait, you lose.

One major component Burns missed was that, while he was so focused on songs with "deep meaning", that's not all that country music is. Sometimes music is FUN. In fact, MOSTLY music should be fun. I don't want my musical life to be a job. While "Go Rest High On That Mountain" is a stirring song, you can't exactly dance to it. And maybe that was Ken's innate bias and downfall. He thinks country music fans are sitting at home, soberly contemplating the cryptic message in every song. Maybe that's why he dismissed George Strait in favor of Cash's prison laments.

Sad songs can be fun, too. Not fun in the sense that listeners are dancing on a grave, but stunning in the searing pain that punches them in the gut. That's what Burns, as a non-country chronicler, didn't grasp.

I've read that Ken might do an "addendum" to his series. I say, too late. "Oh, there was George Strait and Randy Travis, too." No thanks. George, Randy, Alan, Clint, Mark, et al, aren't after-thoughts.

If you don't know country music and are relying on Ken Burns to provide you with the essence, let me offer another perspective:





 





 

Oh, gosh. This track doesn't say one word about prisons...or trains. It doesn't talk about a hardscrabble life. It's just fun, and we can't allow that.



 

Ken, you tried. Mostly you did well. I don't want to come across as a stern school marm, but frankly, for this episode you didn't do your homework. I'll get over it, truly. I won't ever watch Episode 8 again, but I'm pretty okay with the others. And let me say that no one else would ever do it, would ever even try. You did it.

This series in many ways was the highlight of my year. I know that if I had the resources to create a series about country music, a bunch of people would be mad at me, too; for too much focus on somebody and not enough on somebody else. But really, Ken? You don't get George Strait?











 







Saturday, September 28, 2019

Ken Burns "Country Music" ~ Episode 6 ~ "Non-Country Country"


My guess is that Ken didn't find the period 1968 - 1972 very interesting, country-wise. In between clips of the Viet Nam War, we got to learn a lot about non-country artists traveling to Nashville to record.

Burns did begin strong, with the stories of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. We see Loretta Lynn remarking that when she first heard Tammy on the radio, she said, "Boy, I've got me some competition", and she was so right. In the silly games of "either or" we all play, I was definitely team Tammy, rather than Team Loretta. Loretta was gritty; Tammy was soul. Jeannie Seely remarked, rather cattily, that while Tammy was singing about standing by her man, she was on her third marriage, while Loretta, who was penning feisty odes about her man doing her wrong stuck with Doolittle throughout their fifty-year union. Catty, but you kinda gotta admit, it was true. Nevertheless, songs are not required to be autobiographical.

While I'll probably never spin a George Jones record, I see, through the eyes of the session musicians and his fellow artists why his voice is so revered. Every fan has her preferences, and while Jones' voice doesn't resonate with me, I do feel the emotion in his singing and understand why some consider him the best country singer of all time. I also saw the innate sadness in him, much like that of Hank Williams.

The storytellers glossed over the parts of George and Tammy's early story that weren't exactly PG-13, but I happened to witness their budding relationship from the front row of a concert in (I believe) 1968. Tammy was the girl singer on the roster, and she was performing with her then husband, Don Chapel on guitar and Don's daughter singing harmony. George, of course, was the headliner, and in the middle of his set, when he called Tammy out on stage to sing with him, it was sort of awkward (for Don ~ I imagine). Even through my thirteen-year-old eyes, the chemistry between Tammy and George was evident....and there was Don standing behind them strumming his guitar. It wasn't long after that my local DJ mentioned that Tammy was divorcing her husband and hooking up with George Jones. Shocked! Not.

Kris Kristofferson garnered a large chunk of story time, and rightfully so. There was no better lyricist in country music; poetic yet accessible. Kristofferson's songs paint a scene that the listener can slip inside. Turns out that after Kris abandoned a promising military career to become a janitor at Columbia Studios in Nashville, his mother disowned him via a letter. Country music was too embarrassing for the Kristofferson family to be associated with. I wonder if all Kris's royalty money was, too. 

Merle Haggard got a brief mention for the controversy over "Okie From Muskogee", which I had heard was written as a joke, but according to Merle (when he was interviewed for the series), it was an homage to small-town life. I'm not sure what I believe, but boy, I guess his fellow artists were really pissed at him over the song. It's a song, people! See: Tammy Wynette above.

I did a double-take when Bobby Bare showed up on screen! What?? Of course, he was talking about Shel Silverstein and novelty songs, but still. And of course the Silverstein story directly related to...guess who? Why, Johnny Cash! I will say that to his credit, Johnny had a network television show at this time, when no other country artist could have landed one. It wasn't the greatest show ever, but I did like the weekly gospel finale with the Statlers and the Carters and Carl Perkins.

An artist who pretty much dominated the charts in the late sixties got a teeny tiny mention ~ Glen Campbell. Oh, I hated his pop, heavily-stringed songs back then; don't get me wrong, but to overlook his reign during this era is plain unfair. (For the record, I grew to like Glen Campbell, although the only Webb song I like is Wichita Lineman).

The Byrds, of which Gram Parsons was a member, went to Nashville to record Sweetheart of the Rodeo and apparently when they appeared on the Opry, the audience didn't feel the love. Maybe they were ahead of their time. Their songs from the album sound totally country to my ears, especially Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere". And speaking of Dylan, well, I guess this episode should have been titled, "The Saga of Cash and Dylan". My husband liked it, naturally, but when exactly did Bob Dylan make his mark in country music?

Hee Haw got its own little segment. There was a time in the late sixties when CBS loved to laugh at ignorant country rubes, and they developed a whole block of programming to capture that hilarity. The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres with its star, Arnold the Pig, and Hee Haw. I really hated Hee Haw, but you can bet I watched it every week, because the opportunity to see a country performance on TV was rare to non-existent. So I gagged through the corn pone jokes until the featured artist of the week got to do his or her numbers. The hosts, Buck Owens and Roy Clark were vastly different from one another. Buck couldn't pull off the lines with any authenticity, so he awkwardly mugged through them. Roy, on the other hand, was good at being silly, so he just went with it. It was an odd pairing and a bad show, but oh, those performances.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's album, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" was heavily featured at the end of the episode. Here's the deal ~ this album is a loser. I don't know who, except seventy-year-old "hipsters" would put it on their retro turntable and listen to it. I understand that Burns is no authority on country music, but he could have sought advice from someone who is.

I read somewhere that this was the weakest episode of the series. I haven't gotten through all of them yet, but I would say this person is correct.


















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