Showing posts with label alison krauss. Show all posts
Showing posts with label alison krauss. Show all posts

Saturday, December 3, 2016

CMA 50 - A Look Back - 1995

The thing about the early-to-mid-nineties in country music was that one simply couldn't go wrong. Turn on the radio and you would be smacked in the ears with one good song after another after another. Ahhh, that's when I loved music. If the music pouring from the speakers had any one common denominator, it was that it! Other genres that hadn't yet taken hold didn't seep into the steel guitar twang; didn't interrupt a twin fiddles solo with a sudden record scratch. Classic rock wasn't apparently classic enough yet for country acts to begin re-recording its hits. Country music had an identity. Sure, it was always looked down upon by self-styled hipsters, but country fans were used to that and we tended to mingle with our own kind. And sure, I lived in flyover country and we were "simple folk", but even the young kids coming up begrudgingly admitted that some of that "old-time music" wasn't horrific.

I lived in a relatively small town, even though it was the capital city of my state, and there weren't many distractions. If we wanted to have a summer get-together, it was easy to reserve a shelter in one of the city parks. Teenagers hung out at the sandbar on the Missouri River; adults traipsed the mall. At home after work, we turned on CMT and watched the hot acts perform live on Ralph Emery's Nashville Now. And there was the radio -- always the radio.

The CMA nominee roster in 1995 was ripe with shining stars. It must have been hell for the members to narrow down their picks. I didn't agree with all of the choices, but ask me tomorrow and I could go another way. I loved most of the artists nominated. What do they call it -- an embarrassment of riches? It was.

The nominees and winners:

Female Vocalist of the Year
Reba McEntire
Pam Tillis
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Alison Krauss
Patty Loveless

This is so hard, because I love (love!) three of the five nominees. Couldn't they have had a tie?

Here is the recording that won Alison the statuette:

Here are a couple of alternatives for your consideration:

(Apparently the closest Dwight Yoakam would get to being on the CMA stage until 2016.)

Male Vocalist of the Year
John Berry
Alan Jackson
John Michael Montgomery
George Strait
Vince Gill

People with little knowledge of the past don't understand how huge Vince Gill was in the nineties. Trust me; he was huge. Who on this list has stood the test of time? Well, you can judge for yourself. There was a joke going around about John Michael Montgomery singing live without auto-tune and the result was undesirable. John Berry? Trust me; I'm not trying to be mean, but I have absolutely no cognizance of this man. I'm sure he must have had a hit song.

But back to Vince:  One of my (self-appointed) assignments for my mom and dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary surprise party was to create a tape (yes, tape) of fifty years of music that meant something to them. I made several trips to the record store in order to fulfill that task, but I loved doing it. After Dad, then Mom passed away, I came into possession of those two tapes. I'm afraid to play them, though, for fear I will break down in sobs. I ended the compilation with this:

Now that I've had my cry, let's move on to peppier and sillier things.

Music Video of the Year
Any Man of Mine - Shania Twain
Baby Likes To Rock It - The Tractors
I Don't Even Know Your Name - Alan Jackson
The Red Strokes - Garth Brooks
When Love Finds You - Vince Gill

What else could possibly win Video of the Year? The Tractors never had another hit. They didn't need one.

I don't generally feature the Musician of the Year because the musician nominees usually don't have videos to showcase their talents. But in 1995 they did.

Musician of the Year
Eddie Bayers
Paul Franklin
Mark O'Connor
Brent Mason
Matt Rollings

The winner (as an added bonus, Steve Wariner!):

The Single of the Year was "When You Say Nothing At All" by Alison Krauss.

Song of the Year (award to the songwriter)
Gone Country - Bob McDill
Independence Day - Gretchen Peters
How Can I Help You Say Goodbye - Burton Banks-Collins and Karen Taylor-Good
Thinkin' Problem - David Ball, Allen Shamblin, and Stuart Ziff
Don't Take The Girl - Larry Johnson and Craig Martin


Brooks and Dunn won Vocal Duo of the Year and the Vocal Group of the Year was The Mavericks. 1995 wasn't Brooks and Dunn's best year (don't worry; I'll be featuring them; count on it). The Mavericks, boy, let's give 'em credit where it's due, and they were due in 1995:

The Horizon Award, given to best newcomer, went to Alison Krauss, but my heart will always be with David Ball. I loved this song because it was so blatantly country, so "in your face country". My kids hated when the song came on the radio and I would flip the volume up, so I tended to torture them with it, just for fun:

After everything that's come before, it's almost anti-climatic to talk about the Entertainer of the Year, but that's the big one, after all.

I saw Alan Jackson in concert -- he wasn't the most scintillating entertainer -- but for hit records alone, he deserved to grab this award. 

Of all the years I've featured in this CMA retrospective, 1995 has to be one of the greatest. I'm awed by the talent here. Awed and sentimental.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Singer-Songwriter Series ~ Episode 4

Just because a guy had his first hit song in 1958 doesn't mean that he's over the hill. Just because he happens to be 74 years old, that doesn't mean that there's still not great songs rattling around up there. Because apparently there are.

Again, I am....well, I was going to say "aghast", but that doesn't really fit, does it? I the prolificacy of the great songwriters.

Bill Anderson has been around for my whole life (obviously), and when I first became aware of him, it was through his syndicated TV show, which my channel always broadcast on Saturday afternoons, which they apparently considered the "dead" time slot, but not for me! I think it was Porter Wagoner's show and then Bill Anderson's show, and probably the Wilburn Brothers' show, or somebody's. I only actually remember Porter's and Bill's.

The show looked something like this:

Let's just say at the outset that Bill (whom I'm sure would be the first to tell you) is not the world's greatest singer.

As a matter of fact, he's really kind of a bad singer. Which is probably why he always did those sappy recitations. Which were awful! In fact, many performers through the years have parodied those recitations, and who can blame them? It's almost too easy.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Be that as it may, I don't think Bill really set out to be a singer anyway. I'm not sure how or why it happened, but somebody somewhere said, "Hey Bill ~ LOVE your voice! Did you ever think about recording?"

And Bill said, "Huh? Is this a joke? That's kind of cruel."

But none of us can sing, really. Unless you're LeAnn Rimes, and you've made yet another crappy cover album (even if it was produced by Vince Gill), in which you've slowed down all the songs that were meant to be up-tempo, just so you could put your "stamp" on them. And you've ruined them; just ruined them.

I digress (Don't I? But I still managed to make my point.)

But back to Bill Anderson.

The year was 1958. That year of Bill's first hit song. And it was a good one. I remember listening to this song (not in 1958!) and thinking, that's a really well-written song. And it didn't hurt that Ray Price was singing it:

Bill, as you know, or maybe don't know, was in essence responsible for Connie Smith's career. I bought Connie's first album, and I think every song on it was written by Bill Anderson (There might have been one or two that weren't, but I'm not going to dig through my closet to find the album to prove myself right or wrong).

Here's Connie's first big, big hit:

Here's another one, introduced by Bill himself. "Cute and Country" Connie Smith (aww, isn't that sweet?)

One more, a bit more recently performed:

But Bill wasn't just about Connie Smith and Ray Price, and well, himself. No. Do you remember this one? I wanna say 1963, but I'm really just guessing, to be honest. The only hit song that Roy Clark ever really had, and he managed to parlay that into a pretty lengthy career (Thanks again, Bill! Says Roy.)

Yet, Bill moved into the almost-twenty-first century, with songs like this one, recorded by Steve Wariner (I think Steve deserves a post all his own, really.)

And, you know, this one, of course:

And yes, here we go again, with this video that I really dislike, but I really, really like the song:

That's a damn long good career! Bill Anderson is someone who can get up in the morning and honestly say, "I'm going to write a hit song today. Or at least I know I can write a hit song today."

To be honest,and not satirical, Bill Anderson is a songwriter who has been able to adapt to the times.

If you listen to the songs he wrote in the late fifties, early sixties, they were different from the songs he writes now. Not lyrically, so much, although perhaps his lyrics are a bit more frank now than they were back then. That's a sign of the times, no doubt.

There was a formula in those days. It was basically, verse chorus, verse chorus. Simple? Well, not so simple that you or I could write a great one. Deceptively simple, maybe.

Times and tastes change, though. And Bill's writing has changed, too. He co-writes a lot now. Maybe that's what keeps him current. I'm not a fan of co-writing, but if it works, and it makes Bill big bucks, then, hey! I think a lot of those young co-writers can thank their lucky stars that someone of the caliber of Bill Anderson has agreed to write a song with them.

As the saying goes (MY saying, because I have repeated it so much that I've now laid claim to it), either you've got it or you don't.

And I guess, if you had it in 1958, and you still have it more than 50 years later, then you've GOT IT.

You don't have to wonder. Fifty years is the cutoff point for wondering.

I only started writing in 2002, so it would not be until the year 2052 that I would know for sure. I would then be 97-freakin' years old. I ain't living that long. So I guess I'll never know. But I'm pretty sure; I don't got it.

But that's okay. I can still admire those who do.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Sad Ones

Since I'm in a pretty decent mood tonight, I thought, why not make good on my earlier promise, and feature some sad songs?

See, one doesn't want to listen to sad songs when they're actually sad, because that might just push one over the edge, you know? I'm not saying I haven't had those moments in my life, when I cried in my beer, listening to the saddest songs I could find in my playlist. Because I have. Hasn't everyone?

And, just for the record, I don't think crying is a bad thing. Of course, I'm a female, and females understand that. Crying is actually cathartic. Men need to learn that.

Anyway, the weird thing to me about so-called "sad" songs is, they don't make me feel sad. They make me feel, which is completely different.

Trying to post sad songs is like trying to find three songs to download for free from your local library (And thanks, by the way. Nice feature). The choices are daunting.

Every songwriter or would-be songwriter (like me!) writes sad songs. They're easy! Who's happy all the time? Only the insane.

And sad is relative, I'll say.

Some of the songs I post here may be considered more "inspirational" than sad. I don't know. You be the judge. They seem sad, or at least wistful, to me.

So, relying on my tiny memory cells and what I can find on YouTube, let's all get sad.

Naturally, the first song that comes to mind for me, when I think of sad songs, doesn't actually have a real video associated with it. But I'm still starting with this one, by Earl Thomas Conley:

Brooks & Dunn:

By way of disclosure, I don't like Rascal Flatts, generally. HOWEVER, I like this one, and this one is sad.

I don't really like the video for this song. That's just my personal preference. Personally, I think they should have left it up to each listener's imagination. Nevertheless, what is sadder than Alison Krauss singing, well, anything?

Nobody features Gary Allen enough. I'm glad I have the opportunity to do it here:

No video for this song, of course, but it's one of my favorite George Strait recordings:

And speaking of George, I didn't really want to double up on singers here, but I think this is a mightily sad song:

Everybody tends to cite the same ones, when they're talking about the saddest country songs. I'm not really aiming for the saddest songs "ever", but more, the songs that make me cry. Yup, everybody has "Whiskey Lullaby" and "When I Call Your Name", but let's face it, they're sad. So, there's no getting around it. I'm not going with "He Stopped Loving Her Today", because everyone lists that as the number one saddest country song. I don't know. Not to me, I guess. But music is a personal thing.

In conclusion, I don't know if this song is supposed to be sad or inspirational, but let me just say that this song makes me cry. Every time. So, I'm including it. And it gets the cherished "top spot" in my list of sad songs, because it's just that good.

If I made you cry with at least one of the videos here, then my job is done.

I'm betting it's the last one. But that's entirely up to you. But you'd be crazy if it wasn't that last one.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just To Prove My Point About Critics

If you go back and read the two posts before this one, I listed a gaggle of what I consider to be "essential" country albums.

Well, it seems that good old EW decided to follow my lead! Hey, I love Entertainment Weekly, so I'm just happy that they decided to do a list at all.

25 Country Albums You Need To Hear (Even If You Hate Country Music)

EW is heavy on the more modern albums, but I was pleasantly surprised by some of their choices.

But remember when I wrote this?

"Essential" means different things to different people. If one is a music critic, the list will include the usual suspects ("Red Headed Stranger", "Will The Circle Be Unbroken", anything by Gram Parsons or Johnny Cash; you get my drift).

Well, here you go......highlights from their list.....

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

Critics love this album. But, I don't know. I guess if you were actually around in 1968, it may have long ago lost its cache.

I like Johnny Cash. But, to critics, he holds some kind of "original outlaw" status.

I'm not all that concerned with image. I just like good music.

I didn't include this on my essential albums list, and I still stand by that. I will say, however, that anyone just learning to play guitar should just sit and strum/pick along with "Folsom Prison Blues". You'll sound like a virtuoso to yourself in no time.

Home - Dixie Chicks

Well, "Fly" was far superior.

Critics like this album because this was released around the time that the DC just started becoming "political".

Props to "Traveling Soldier". Buy the mp3 single; skip the album.

Unless you really feel like contributing to their "cause". Whatever that may be.

Dwight Yoakam - Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.

No quibbles here. This was Dwight's first album, and it's got
a couple of Dwight classics.

I, however, would recommend one of the greatest hits packages or one of a number of other superior offerings.

Pick any one of them. You can't really go wrong.

Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose

The reason critics like this one is because Jack White produced it.

I bought it. I played it one time.

Pretty picture, though, huh?

Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger

The reason critics like Willie Nelson is that he plays and records with pretty much everyone in the world. I have a shoebox sitting here that Willie will be recording his next album with. Looking forward to it!

This album does have "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain", so that's a plus. It's a stark recording. I just like a little more instrumentation on the songs I listen to. I do like Willie, though. Just kinda wish he was a little more discerning about who/what he records with. But that's Willie.

Buck Owens - Carnegie Hall Concert

Already mentioned it. In fact, it was the first album I listed.

Nice of EW to follow my lead, though.

(EW then listed a bunch of modern-day stuff that you can or cannot buy. Whatever. It's your dollar.)

Gram Parsons - The Complete Reprise Sessions

I'm not overly knowledgeable about Gram Parsons. I basically know him as Emmylou's mentor.

That said, I appreciate his love and respect for older country music.

The reason that critics flock to his music is that he died young. Much like Jim Morrison.

Guys that write EW articles aren't exactly sitting back, grooving to classic country music. But I do give them credit for trying to appear relevant!

Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors

Weird thing about me and Dolly: I like Dolly; I just don't like like like Dolly.

It's hard to explain. While I definitely appreciate her enormous talent, and while I really loved her duets with Porter, I can't actually sit and listen to a whole album of Dolly at one sitting. I guess a little Dolly goes a long way for me.

Why do critics choose one of her albums? Because she crossed over. She recorded with Kenny Rogers, with that godawful, yet catchy! Barry Gibb song, Islands In The Stream. She starred in Nine To Five. You just know the critics aren't cranking up the far superior, Tomorrow Is Forever.

Emmylou Harris - Elite Hotel

Yea, I beat 'em to it again. But compliments from me on their good taste!

I already said that this is Emmylou's finest album. If you don't own it, you really should.

Robbie Fulks - Georgia Hard

Robbie Fulks = Alt Country.

Alt Country = Country That Used To Be Country, But Is Now Too COUNTRY To Be Called Country.

Is that clear? Cuz it seems kind of nonsensical, but that's just the way it is.

I don't actually own this album, but I own a bunch of Robbie Fulks CD's. I think I might have to get this one.

Critics like Robbie Fulks because he's "alt". I like him because he likes country music. And he's unique.

Listen to Tears Only Run One Way. That sounds like country to me. Do you think maybe Rodney Crowell was influenced by Robbie? I think that's a pretty safe bet.

Hank Williams - Gold

The only reason I didn't include Hank Williams on my lists is because it seems like kind of a no-brainer.

I mean, isn't it just assumed that Hank Williams would be included among the essential country albums?

Just listen to this, and it tells you all you really need to know about country music.

Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard

Okay, if you want to do Merle Haggard on the cheap.

I still say, buy Down Every Road. It's a tremendous bargain. Especially for the successor to Hank's throne.

Shania Twain - Come On Over

Agreed. This is Shania's best album.

When this album was released in 1997, we music fans were supposed to feel stupid for liking it. Poppycock.

This albums stands up. I don't care if you think it's poppy schlock or really, what you think of it. It's good.

I got up, like a drunken fool, with my best friend, at another friend's wedding dance, and sang this song. I had morning-after regret, but you know, it's a really good song! Recorded with Bryan White, I think it's actually the perfect wedding song!

Steve Earle - Guitar Town

It's not that I meant to exclude this album. I just sort of forgot.

Step inside any honky tonk in the nineties, and you would hear the driving strains of Guitar Town, not to mention Hillbilly Highway. All that's missing here is Copperhead Road.

Sadly, Steve Earle pretty much had one great album. He's recorded a lot of them, but I guess one shouldn't peak too soon. It kind of makes everything else you do sound like second best.

Guitar Town has some of the most clever and catchy lines ever written in a country song. It makes songwriters strive to capture that fairy dust. Alas, it's not easy.

Vince Gill - These Days

Okay, I'll admit it. I don't own this album. I know that's it's purported to be Vince's best, and a four-disc set, to boot.

Is this worth purchasing? Let me know.

What track should I listen to from this set, to make me want to buy it?

I'm a Vince Gill fan; don't get me wrong. I just sort of stopped listening to country a few (okay, five) years before this album was released, so I missed it.

I have no doubt, however, that it's as great as all the critics say it is.

Almost Blue - Elvis Costello

Why do critics like it? Well, it's a rock star doing country music.

It's sort of, you know, like how the critics latched on to country music when Keith Richards recorded a country album. It's the unexpected.

Critics don't really give a hoot about country music until one of their icons tells them that country music is cool. Then they'll listen. I'm waiting for Springsteen to record his country album. Oh, and it's coming. Trust me.

I have this album. I'm not one of those Costello worshipers. But I do appreciate what he did here. And if Elvis can get folks (like critics) to listen to country, then God bless Elvis Costello.

Raising Sand - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

This is one of my favorite albums ever!

I didn't exclude it from my list on purpose. I just didn't know that it was a country album!

Killing The Blues is one of my favorite songs from this LP (LP - how much does that date me?)

And, of course, Gone Gone Gone.

Why do critics like this? Well, a critic would have to be a real dunce not to like Alison Krauss. But aside from that, well, it's Robert Plant, after all. Led Zeppelin?

The juxtaposition between Robert Plant doing Robert Plant-like stuff, and Robert Plant doing T Bone Burnett stuff just boggles the critics' minds.

T Bone really deserves the credit here. Sure, if you, as a producer, have two stellar voices to work with, it might seem easy. But it's the production that really cinches the deal.

After all, before he even imagined pairing Alison and Plant, he hooked us with this song, ably lip-synched by George Clooney in the Coen (Minnesota!) Brothers movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

So, yes, I skipped a bunch of EW's recommendations. I really had no comments to make on some of them, since I couldn't really tell you if they're good, not so good, terrible, or pathetic. (I will say, for the record, however, that I do consider Big & Rich to fall into the "pathetic" column.)

My EW grade? Cuz, you know, if you read Entertainment Weekly, the critics love to give a grade to everything they review.

Actually: B+

Nice effort, for someone who is (I assume) playing catch up with country music. Whoever you are, writer, you've done an admirable job.

Those remedial courses are working out nicely!


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 - The Year In Music

For someone like me who likes to bitch about the state of music, I have to admit, 2007 was pretty darn good. You just needed to know how to find the good stuff.

I've read a bunch of critics' lists of the best CD's of 2007, and unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to hear them all. The critics could well be right. After all, they did list most of my favorite CD's of the year.

Critics whose opinions I value include Chet Flippo (of course) and Jon Bream, who writes for the Star Tribune. I also like to read Entertainment Weekly's opinions, although their demographic is, admittedly, younger. I also perused the list that No Depression Magazine compiled.

So, here's where we agree:

"Raising Sand" - Alison Krauss & Robert Plant

"Revival" - John Fogerty

"Dwight Sings Buck" - Dwight Yoakam

"Magic" - Bruce Springsteen (the prettiest song of the year, "Girls In Their Summer Clothes")

Some mentioned "The Bluegrass Sessions" by Merle Haggard (produced by Marty Stuart).

At least one list included "In A Perfect World" by Gene Watson.

I would also include The Eagles, "Long Road Out Of Eden" and "Goin' Home - A Tribute To Fats Domino".

I'm sure there must be new artists who are great. I hear there's some British gals who are pretty good.

What I know is, the artists who produced the best music in 2007 (in my opinion) have been around since the 1980's or longer:

Alison Krauss, Robert Plant, John Fogerty, Dwight Yoakam, Bruce Springsteen, Merle Haggard, Gene Watson, The Eagles, Fats Domino.

I don't know what this means. A cynic would say, there are no good new artists on the horizon. I don't believe that. I guess we just don't get a chance to hear the new, good ones.

But thank God for the old ones!

And here's an old one:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Categorizing Music

Just to prove my point (if you go back and read my old posts), Newsweek agrees with me:

Newsweek Got It Right For Once

It makes me happy to know that I'm right, and that someone with a lick of sense sees it my way.

Yea, Merle Haggard's "Bluegrass Sessions" isn't technically "bluegrass". Big deal.

It deserved a Grammy nomination.

Lord knows, we have to take any good music that comes our way nowadays.

And we have to recognize a superior product when we hear it.

Otherwise, all we're left with is Carrie Underwood.

Does that speak well of the music of 2007?

I've decided that I'm going back to the days of AM radio, when you'd hear a bunch of songs, without categories, and you'd decide FOR YOURSELF what the best songs were.

So, my nominees for Grammys for 2007 are:

Merle Haggard - The Bluegrass Sessions
Alison Krauss & Robert Plant - Raising Sand
John Fogerty - Revival
Dwight Yoakam - Dwight Sings Buck
Trisha Yearwood - Heaven, Heartache

There ya go - as Steve Carell would say. (He also says, "That's what she said" a lot, but that has no bearing here.)

So, Merle - 1967, 2007 - that's 40 years and still going strong.

Now WHO'S the legend? I rest my case.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

New Music Recommendations

Here are a couple of new CD's that I'm currently enjoying:

Raising Sand - Robert Plant/Alison Krauss

This is an unusual pairing, but it works. Led Zeppelin Meets Bluegrass. What a concept!

I would describe this CD as a mix of bluegrass, rockabilly, and alternative country. Some of the songs are reminiscent of the music that Roseanne Cash used to do, back in those heady days of the eighties.

I especially like:

Killing The Blues
Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)
Through The Morning, Through The Night

But there really are no clinkers here.

Buy it or download (and preview) it here (Amazon has DRM-Free Music Downloads).

Raising Sand

Dwight Sings Buck - Dwight Yoakam

For my money, there's no better pairing than Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens' songs. I have a special fondness for the music of Buck Owens, so when I heard that Dwight was recording a CD of Buck's songs, I was thrilled.

You can expect the usual high energy performances that Dwight is known for, plus you KNOW all the songs are good!

I think you'll especially like these (I basically could have listed every song on the CD):

Foolin' Around
I Don't Care
Down On The Corner Of Love
Cryin' Time
Above And Beyond
Under Your Spell Again
Close Up The Honky Tonks - a different take on this song, but I like it ~ in fact, I think it's brilliant!
Excuse Me (I Think I've Got A Heartache) - you'll love this one!
Think Of Me
Together Again - Dwight changes this one up a bit, but it's beautiful

I can't say enough about this CD. If you like neotraditionalist country (what used to be called just country), you will LOVE this CD.

Buy it or download (and preview) it here:

Dwight Sings Buck

Now I can't wait to get my new Gene Watson CD.