Friday, April 24, 2009
Red River's Latest
Howdy, it's been awhile! Seems like I don't post as often as I used to, but as you know, life tends to get in the way sometimes.
And speaking of life, our latest track is hot off the mixing board. It's called "The High Cost of Living". Hope you like it!
Most of our music is available for download on our website. Stop by and give us a listen!
Friday, October 31, 2008
A Surprise At The Supermarket
For some reason, we began going to the grocery store on Sunday mornings, which isn't actually bad. There's a lot fewer people around. Sometimes I go by myself, if my husband is tired and wants to sleep in. Again, I don't mind that, except when it comes to bagging and loading stuff into my cart.
Last Sunday, as I was busily unloading my $200.00 worth of items from my cart, a woman appeared out of nowhere, holding two bouquets of roses. "Would you like a free dozen roses?", she asked. I sort of looked around to make sure she was talking to me, and then I said, "Um, sure", thinking, "what's the catch?" "They're past their sell-by date, so we have to get rid of them," she said. "Would you like the red or the yellow?" So, I said, the yellow, and lo and behold, I got me a free dozen yellow roses at the supermarket!
Here they are:
Yes, it's quite amazing to me, because I never get anything for free. There's always a catch. Usually "free" stuff ends up costing me something.
And to top it off, the guy at the checkout actually loaded my cat litter into my cart for me, and he even said, "thank you", and I think he also said, "have a nice day"! The world may be coming to an end.
And yes, the flowers were past their sell-by date, and now this is all I have left:
Saturday, October 4, 2008
The CMA Awards - 1971
Overall, the 1971 CMA's rewarded some stellar songs and stellar performers. And the best news of all was, they eliminated the Comedian of the Year category!
I'm going to run these two awards by you early in the post, because frankly, these performers kept winning these awards year after year, and I've run out of videos.
INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
INSTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass
VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR
Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton
Technically, this single was released in 1971, so it didn't help Porter and Dolly win the 1971 award, but geez, give me a break. I'm running out here. They just keep winning.
This performance of "The Right Combination" is from the Porter Wagoner Show, and once again, I must comment on P & D's lack of color coordination. The deep red "cactus" coat with the princess pink dress just clash, in my estimation. Nevertheless, they do have matching towering blonde bouffants, so that's a plus.
Dolly has a bit of a laughing fit during this performance, and I think I can guess why. It seems to me that fiddler Mack Magaha was just a bit too "enthusiastic" during his solo. Not that I'm complaining - it was fun! And I guess when you've got the spotlight, even for four bars, you've gotta make the most of it!
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
The Osborne Brothers
Wow, I love these guys! Sonny and Bobby, the Osborne boys. Bluegrass, yes, but some really great bluegrass! As Sonny notes in his introduction here, the Osbornes were the first to record the song, "Rocky Top", and I think they did it the best out of the hundreds who subsequently recorded the song, including our female vocalist listed below.
I love the banjo here; I love the mandolin. I love the harmonies. Gee, I kinda miss these guys.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"I Won't Mention It Again" - Ray Price
Funny, but considering that this was the album of the year, the only way one can buy it on Amazon is in the LP format. Now granted, if this was 1971, sure, I'd buy an LP. But I'm not what they call an "audiophile", which is just a fancy word for people whoe are living in the past. I no longer own a turntable.
You see, I'm old enough to remember how aggravating the whole vinyl record-playing process was. Almost as aggravating as computers! You'd either have to listen to the whole album, or else get up off your chair, go over and lift up the stylus and try to place it exactly at the beginning of the song you wanted. Oh, and you'd have to scrape the dust off the needle every so often with your fingertip. Then, sometimes you'd get records that weren't exactly "round". You'd hold them up at eye level, and the warpness was evident. And I don't know why, but some of the albums were of a harder vinyl material, while others were like limp paper. And then storing them. You'd have to have a whole long bookcase row of LP's, and then, because they were positioned right up against each other, some of the album covers would have those black round indentations on them, from snuggling up too close to their next-door neighbor.
So, I'm not gonna buy this, or any other, album on LP.
But, all ranting aside, Ray Price is one of the legends of country music, and one of my all-time favorites. YouTube doesn't seem to have any of the cuts from "I Won't Mention It Again" available, so I just thought I'd throw in this one, because, after all, it is on the list of my top twenty country songs of all time.
Wow, not only a steel guitar prominently featured, but three, count 'em, three fiddles! Nice going, Ray!
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
Help Me Make It Through The Night - Sammi Smith
I'm psyched to get to include another of my top twenty country songs of all time here! This song, as you know, was written by Kris Kristofferson; one of many great songs by a "how does he do that?" songwriter. Man, if only I could write like.......oh, sorry; I'm off topic again.
A lot of people recorded this song, but Sammi had the hit, and while a lot of people did a great job on it, none did better than this (even if she had to sit on a hay bale in her evening gown to sing it):
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
While this is not a vintage performance, it's still a good quality video (not one of those hand-held video camera operations), and thus it is actually enjoyable.
Well. It seems that old Charley has put on a few pounds since 1971. And I'm glad he could come in from doing his gardening to perform this number. What's with the lime green sweatshirt?
I don't know why none of these videos of this song have him whistling at the end, like he did on the record. Has he lost his whistling capabilities? And it was just a sorry sight to see him try to hit a low note instead of doing the whistle, and he couldn't quite do it. Low note, indeed. Not to pick on ol' Charley.
I'm just going to get this out of the way now, with apologies. There's no embeddable video of the song of the year winner by the original artist. I will give you a link to a non-embeddable version, however. But since I still wanted to include this category, I did find an alternate version, done by, I'm sure, the runners-up for the Vocal Duo of the Year award. So, here's:
SONG OF THE YEAR
Easy Lovin' - recorded by Freddie Hart; written by Freddie Hart; done here by Conway & Loretta:
I don't want to be mean to C & L, since they are the substitutes here for the original, but they really did this badly! Why were they so far behind the beat? Geez, did they just get awakened from a nap?
Here's how it really goes: Easy Lovin' - Freddie Hart
Just so you know, Freddie is a very nice gentleman. I have an autograph from him on my bulletin board (on the same sheet of paper as MERLE HAGGARD's autograph!), where he wrote, "To Shelly, a little doll" (I was just a kid then). This version is the superior version of the song, by far.
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Now, I like Lynn Anderson. She had a lot of great songs, especially during her Chart Records years. You know, she did do other songs besides "Rose Garden". As I've mentioned before, yes, she is a distant relative of mine, a fifth cousin once removed or something equally obscure, but that's neither here nor there. I just happen to like her.
This video is from a 1970 single, and probably helped her win the award. It's an old Hank Snow song, without the nice lead-up, which she just conveniently left off...."I was totin' my pack along the dusty Winnemucka road......." (you know how it goes). This song is a tongue-twister, and I was just dorky enough back then to learn it. I could probably remember it now. Let's see.....hang on.......Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota........yup! I can remember it!
Funny that this performance is from the Lawrence Welk Show (she was, early in her career, a regular). Lawrence, you know, is from Strasburg, North Dakota, not too far from my old stomping grounds. And I used to play the accordion, too (dork alert #2!)
So, here we go with "I've Been Everywhere"
Okay, hold on here. First of all, she's lip-synching this! And thus, I feel kinda sorry for the goofy guy who has to "fake" playing that xylophone/harmonica contraption (what the heck is that?). Then, did you notice that she looked down at her wrist before one of the verses? She's cheating! She wrote the words on her arm! Lynn, Lynn, Lynn. I took the stupid time to memorize this song; you could have at least done the same. I'm terribly disillusioned.
Well, that just leaves the Entertainer of the Year, and here we go again.....
Now, I see this video is also from the Lawrence Welk Show. Hey, I didn't plan this! I didn't even know ol' Charley ever appeared on the LW Show.
But I will say this: Charley certainly looks younger and thinner here, and he was nice and polite. And Lloyd Green is here on the steel! Okay, Charley had two hits in 1970 that probably garnered him this award, and I already featured one of them. The other one, "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore" isn't available on YouTube, so I decided to just go with one that I like.
So, here's the 1971 ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Happy 89th Birthday, Kitty Wells!
Wow, eighty-nine! Happy Birthday, Kitty!
For country music fans who are too young to remember Kitty Wells, suffice it to say that if it weren't for Kitty Wells, there probably wouldn't be a Carrie or a Taylor or a ______ (fill in the blank with any generic female country star of today).
There also wouldn't be a Tammy or a Loretta or a Tanya or a Barbara.
There might not even be a Patsy.
I could delve into the history of women in country music, but Chet Flippo explains it here far better than I could: What Kid Rock and Kitty Wells Can Teach Today's Country
For a more in depth analysis, you may want to read Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000
Or, we could just watch Kitty, doing her most memorable hit:
IT WASN'T GOD WHO MADE HONKY TONK ANGELS
So, happy birthday, Kitty!
Maybe have a cup of coffee to go with that cake.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
The Six Reasons Why No One Is Buying Music
There's a lot of blame to go around for the downturn in music sales.
First and foremost, there are the record labels. They want everything to sound the same! Of course, I guess they are risk-averse. But it's sort of a catch-22, isn't it? They're afraid to take a chance on something different for fear of losing sales, and yet they're losing sales left and right as is. They might want to rethink their strategy.
Second, the artists. I'm talking about major-label artists. Mind you, I'm mainly speaking to country music, since my musical tastes are limited. Unfortunate, but true.
My caveat here is that I don't really listen to today's' country music, but I do get some snippets from time to time. I sort of, kind of, know what's hot.
For example, I know that Sugarland is hot, and that kid, what's her name. Sorry, I am trying really hard not to come off as cynical. I also know that Rascal Flatts is hot. Oh, and I know that Kenny Chesney is supposedly the only big arena tour anymore.
So, there you have it. Today's country music in a nutshell.
Anyway, I know that they all strive to sound pretty much the same. For example, I guess banjos are in vogue now in country music. So, one act uses a banjo; they all use a banjo.
It's funny when you think about it. I bet Flatt & Scruggs are rolling over in their graves. Well, only Flatt, really, since Earl Scruggs is still alive. So, if he's rolling over in a grave, he needs to step out of there.
I could be totally off base here, but if you're a major label act, and you're making big bucks for your record company, you could afford to try some new tricks. What's the label gonna do? Fire you?
The third reason I would cite is, Pro Tools. I was reading an article titled, "Sir George Martin's Advice To Musicians", and he said this:
Capture humanity over perfection I’m a great believer in humanity. I went to a Frank Sinatra recording in the Fifties. Now, Frank sometimes sang out of tune and he did things that maybe he could have improved. But though he sang out of tune he sounded great; some people sing in tune and sound bloody awful. I like a little mistake, a little bit of humanity, and you got that with the Beatles. Ringo never played a quartz-controlled beat ever in his life.
Well, sadly, Sir George is out of touch with today's music. There is no room for imperfection. Any imperfection is erased with one click of the mouse. What that does is, it takes the soul out of the music.
I've cited before a recording by Merle Haggard. I think it was, "(I'm A Lonesome) Fugitive". There was that sort of squeak that happens when you're running your fingers up the fretboard of your guitar. I listen for that squeak every time I listen to that song. I like it there. If it was gone, I would miss it. Call me crazy.
Fourth is this: the music is unrelatable. Give me a cry in your beer song any day. Give me a good heartbreak song. Nowadays, it seems like everyone is trying too hard to impress. They're overthinking it. They're trying to be "cool". The thing about music is, and always has been, you have to be able to feel it. The technical skill, while maybe admirable, doesn't hit you in your gut (at least not me). My response to that kind of thing is, "ehh", and then I turn the station. You can sense that there is no "there" there.
Number five. "It's all about ME." I want to make a splash. I want to be featured in People Magazine. I want to join the cult of personality. Yea, musicians are an egocentric bunch. Egocentric, yet completely vulnerable to what people think of them. Those that hit it big nowadays want the validation that only a tabloid can bring. The artistry is secondary. Artists like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, who tour constantly, don't care about that stuff. They're in the minority. They're relics.
Finally, the music has lost its JOY. Oh boy, it's all business, isn't it? Let's chart this out on a graph. Okay, hooky chorus, a bridge after verse two. Throw in some banjo. Hey, how about some cowbell? More cowbell! Yes! Let's check out what Miranda is doing. Okay, she's got a hit song with all verses; no chorus. Okay! Change of plans! Let's do a song with no chorus, no bridge, just verses! Eureka! We've got it!
The music business has become too much business, too little heart.
I'm probably considered an old fogey, because I prefer the country music of the eighties. I haven't "gotten with the times". Well, here's something to ponder: Maybe the country music of the eighties was just BETTER. Maybe I'm not an old fogey. Maybe I'm just a music connoisseur.
But hey! Don't market to me! I could be buying lots of music, if they all gave me something I'd want to buy.
In the meantime, I'll download individual mp3's from Amazon. Old songs, mainly. I'm done buying CD's. Except for Dwight Yoakam. And occasionally, someone who surprises me.
And since this is a video blog, I'll leave you with this:
Friday, December 7, 2007
Blast From The Past - Top Country Hits Of 1968
Sing Me Back Home - Merle Haggard
Skip A Rope - Henson Cargill
Take Me To Your World - Tammy Wynette
Fist City - Loretta Lynn
The Legend Of Bonnie & Clyde - Merle Haggard
Honey - Bobby Goldsboro
(Without a doubt, one of the WORST songs EVER. Click on this video if you want to puke - sorry, I just hate this song.)
She wrecked the car
And she was sad
And so afraid
That I'd be mad
But what the heck(KILL, KILL, KILL!!)
D-I-V-O-R-C-E - Tammy Wynette
Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
Mama Tried - Merle Haggard
Harper Valley PTA - Jeannie C. Riley (writ' by Tom T. Hall - a camp classic)
I Walk Alone - Marty Robbins
Stand By Your Man - Tammy Wynette
Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell
By The Time I Get To Phoenix - Glen Campbell
Big Girls Don't Cry - Lynn Anderson
The Easy Part's Over - Charley Pride
Flattery Will Get You Everywhere - Lynn Anderson
The Last Thing On My Mind - Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton
Promises Promises - Lynn Anderson
We'll Get Ahead Someday - Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton
Wild Weekend - Bill Anderson
Your Squaw Is On The Warpath - Loretta Lynn
Gee, was 1968 a banner year for country music, or what? Some of these songs are what you'd call CLASSICS.
I guess, from this list, it appears that 1968 was the year of MERLE HAGGARD, Tammy Wynette, Porter & Dolly, Lynn Anderson, Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell , and, of course,
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
My New Favorite Country Song (For Now)
Saturday, September 1, 2007
I'm also not sure that the song is finished. It seems like it's missing something, so another weekend gone by, more progress made, but still more work to do, obviously.
My husband relayed a comment that was made about me by one of his musician friends. It went something like, "It's surprising that she can come up with so many different melodies.....considering that she is so limited in the number of chords she can play."
Ha! So true! So, I guess that's sort of a compliment. ""Well, she's not too bright, so it's a wonder she accomplishes anything at all."
All I can say is, out of adversity comes "something". It might not be something good, but kudos for the effort. (ha ha)
You gotta keep trying. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Or some sort of cliche like that.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Writing Again - And A Resource For Writers
A new resource I found that has helped me, is called Chord Studio. What it does is add instrumentation to your songs, and you can also set the BPM (beats per minute) and add whatever instruments you'd like. It helps me to actualize a song.
So, the new songs I'm currently working on are, "The Late Great Me" and "Road To Ruin". I like the title, "Road To Ruin", so I'm hoping I can do it justice. Just finding an interesting title is really half the battle.
I'm still feeling positive about "The Late Great Me". I've actually had the song going through my head all week, so I take that as a good sign. What with all the other stuff that's been going on this week, it's a wonder my brain has the capacity to hold anything other than (boredom alert!) insurance claim stuff.
On another note, we've gotten some great responses from people on our mailing list at Number One Music Dale's song, "Heaven Knows", elicited a very positive response. I am always thrilled to read positive feedback, and this song definitely deserves it. Click the link above to hear what's up with Red River.
I've got a few things on my mind this week that I want to talk about, but I'll put them in another post. Funny how something you read strikes a nerve, and you think about it long after the fact. I've got a couple of those things going on this week.
So, stay tuned......
Friday, August 10, 2007
I’ve been on a mission lately………to clear out the needless clutter in my life.
The impetus for this was all the Nigerian emails and others that I’ve been receiving lately (what is WRONG with Yahoo, anyway? I used to be a Yahoo fan, but lately…..geez, they have really been falling down on the job.)
It’s gotten to the point that I’ve been ignoring my friends, because it’s so daunting to weed through all the junk emails to find the legitimate ones.
But, aside from the spam, I only have myself to blame for subscribing to certain sites, thinking the newsletters would be interesting, only to find that they’re either NOT interesting, or I just don’t have time to read the stuff anyway (I need to click on that “unsubscribe” button.) Or, once you subscribe to them, they ask for money for the “real inside scoop”. I think maybe that’s the outlet I’ve been looking for……I need to ask for money to have people read my stuff…….then I could become rich and I’d have LOTS of time to spend browsing the internet.
Funny how the world-wide web was supposed to make our lives easier, but in actuality, it’s just caused more aggravation in our lives. Am I right? Yes, I am. And, really, isn’t there enough aggravation to begin with, without asking for more? I mean, after spending countless hours on the internet, you find that you have adware and spyware and all kinds of “ware”, so you have to purchase programs that get rid of all of that for you, or your computer will go up in flames. It’s created a whole new industry.
But I’m on a mission to de-clutter my life. There are currently three sites that I pay for the privilege of being a part of. One of them I will be ditching quite soon. Another, I have mixed feelings about. It’s not that it does me any good; it’s just that I like the look of the paid site, as opposed to the free one. Ah, vanity. The third, I believe I will hang onto for awhile. That is the only one that has reaped any benefits/rewards for Red River.
Funny how musicians get sucked into joining these organizations. It’s the promise of rewards that never come. But we always grasp onto that sliver of hope. Oh, this one will be the one. I think we’ve got Red River music all over the web; most of it on free sites (thankfully), and most of it uploaded on a promise of riches that never materialize.
There are probably websites out there for every inclination and aspiration. I don’t think musicians are the only ones targeted. I suppose if you write short stories, there are most likely HUNDREDS of sites out there, promising you that they are the ones who will deliver fame and fortune to your doorstep. It’s a racket, but yet we choose to believe them (at least for a day). Then we move on to the next new one that pops up. It’s an endless graph of highs and lows, and lower-than-lows. But without hope, what do we have?
But the advice I would give to aspiring musicians is, tread lightly. There are a lot of people who are circling like sharks, waiting to chomp onto your money and your dignity. Promising you those riches that you so rightly deserve.
I say, create a MySpace page. It’s free, and you can upload four songs. You can gain lots of friends who surf the net looking for the latest “add”. It won’t make you rich, but neither will any of those paid sites, and you’ll feel good, knowing that you have a lot of “friends” (not that they actually listen to your music, but still…..)
If you are truly serious about making any money in the music biz, search out a song plugger, and see if he or she will agree to shop your songs around. Be forewarned, however, with the state of music nowadays, you’d better have something that’s generic, preferably three-part harmony (ala Rascal Flatts), or don’t even waste your time. If you’re an artist, well, good luck! Nobody is signing new artists. Heck, they can’t even clear their shelves of the product that they have, and it’s pretty damn good. I mean, c’mon, Prince is actually GIVING his stuff away. So, how the heck do you think YOU are going to make any money?
But, hang in there! Maybe YOU are the one. You could be. Who knows? If you’ve written something that has a modicum of intelligence and heart, you COULD just hit the jackpot! Hey, it happens! (occasionally).
Just don’t waste your money. I implore you. If you’re poor like Red River, then you will just dig yourself further and further into debt, and all you will have to show for it is a comment on your MySpace page, saying how much they like your music; but yet, they won’t put themselves out enough to actually buy anything.
Don’t waste your time on websites that ask you for money. Log off of the internet, pick up your guitar, and write something. If you don’t please anyone but yourself, you’ve still pleased someone important.
(I leave you with an image to clear your palate….my songwriting hero, Kris Kristofferson.)
Those Lazy, Hazy Days
(originally posted 07-01-07)
Wow, I just realized that I haven’t written anything since April! Well, that just goes along with my songwriting output, since I don’t even remember the last song I wrote.
I think it’s those lazy, hazy days of summer that lull me into a kind of slumber (ooh, I made a rhyme, sort of!), and make me forget that I’m not being productive.
I always considered myself a “summer kind of gal”, but lately, the hot weather just seems to bog me down and makes me pine for an oscillating fan and a thermostat set at 68 degrees, as I congeal into a pool of mush.
Funny how we long for summer during those long (yet short) winter days, and then when summer finally arrives, we bitch about it. Well, that’s humans for ya. Always bitching about something.
I moved my guitar, so that it’s sitting right here in my line of sight, hoping that this would nudge me into picking it up once in awhile and trying to write something. Alas, the old girl is standing here looking at me, and it’s got a nice coating of dust on it. “Why don’t you want me anymore?”, it asks, pleadingly. “It’s not you, it’s me”, I say. (Luckily, no one else is here in the room to observe me talking to my guitar.) “But, since we’re talking, why don’t you learn to play some new chords…..stupid slacker guitar…..”
And then the accusations start flying: “Well, why don’t you come up with some new ideas, hotshot?” (I hate a backtalking guitar.)
“Well, it’s summer”, I reply, defensively.
I actually tried writing a couple of songs lately. It didn’t work out well. I took advantage of a 10-day trial subscription to SongU. You can submit songs for critiques there (for an extra charge), so I submitted my first song and got a really scathing critique. I laugh about it now (sob!) The guy basically said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “What the hell?”
So, for my next critique, I chose a different “critique-er” (I’m no fool!). This submission was just lyrics; no melody. This guy was WAY better! He said something to the effect that I had “an obvious grasp of lyric writing”, or something like that. Then he said a bunch of negative stuff, but I only remember the good parts of his response.
I’m being somewhat flippant, but in actuality, I did benefit from both critiques. I know what I have to do to improve both songs; however, do I want to even work on them anymore? Hmmmm………
The other thing I’ve been exploring (since I’m not writing songs or anything) is music licensing. You know, licensing songs for movies and TV. It’s an interesting diversion. I found a website that lets you upload your songs for consideration in movies and TV shows, but, geez, is that process boring! It takes forever to upload a song; then you have to go through this whole check-off list to describe what type of situation the song would work best in. Hey, I don’t know! How about you listen to it and tell me! I’m not holding my breath on that thing, but you know, you have to keep a bunch of irons in the fire.
In more productive news, we have a couple of new members who have joined Red River. Mike is a great drummer, and just a fun and interesting guy to be around. Dale is an old band member of Dave’s from back in the ’70’s, and he lives in Hawaii now. Ah, the internet is a great thing. We can still work together, even with those many, many miles of distance between us. We’re going to see Dale in a couple of weeks, since he and his wife will be in Iowa, and we’ll be motoring there to meet up with them.
Right now, we’re actually re-recording some of our older stuff (stuff that frankly wasn’t recorded right the first time). As you can imagine, it’s not the most interesting task. You know, once you’ve heard a song for the 1,000th time, it pretty much tests the limits of your patience to have to listen to it again.
But, some of these songs are what we consider to be our best, so this is something that we really need to do, if we want to present ourselves as professionals to music industry people. I will say that Mike has made a WORLD of difference on these songs. So, in that respect, I am delighted.
So, that’s my update from, I guess, two months ago! Am I old or what? The time just seems to FLY by!
I have to look for a good CD cover to attach to this post; something that reflects my state of mind right now. Hmmm….what to choose?
The True Story Of April Days
(originally posted 03-18-07)
Click Picture To Listen
I’ve had a few jobs in my life. I’ve been the lowest-level peon (cleaning motel rooms for my parents’ business) and I’ve been a manager of a 150-person department, and everything in between. Doesn’t really matter. Work is not fun.
Oh, I remember back when I was just out of school. I was so excited to get my first job and to be out in the REAL WORLD.
I got a job as a clerk-typist for the State Health Department. And you actually had to take a test to even be considered for an interview!
I was eighteen and answering phones, basically. Then, as a special bonus and a nod to my superior abilities, I was asked to become part of a “special project” for the department. All the birth, death, marriage, and divorce records were going to be microfilmed. (Before that, they were just bound in big books).
What was this special perk that I was chosen for? I got to go through all the records (starting back in the 1800’s) and trace over any printing that was too faint to be read by the microfilm machine! What an honor!
So, I was holed up in this back room with one window, with one other person my age and a supervisor. We spent our days with our pencils, tracing over letters, and alternating using the microfilm machine to film the records. It was fascinating work!
I was eighteen! Who could ask for more??
The one saving grace in that dank, smoky room (yea, all three of us smoked) was the AM radio. At least we could listen to tunes as an alternative to blowing our brains out.
Gordon Lightfoot had a hit song at that time, “Sundown”. Just to amuse myself and to break up the monotony, I would sing along with the radio whenever that song came on, in an effort to supremely annoy my co-worker friend. And it worked! She shot me some really evil looks whenever I would sing that song. Ah, good times.
We were on the 17th floor of the State Capitol building, and we had one tiny little window that we would sometimes walk over to, to see if there really was any actual life going on outside our little oxygen-starved room. You could hear birds singing! Well, sure, they were singing! They weren’t PRISONERS.
It was pretty much my worst job ever. At least when I was cleaning motel rooms in high school, I got to go out into the sunlight once in awhile.
My friend lived about a block and a half from the capitol building, so sometimes we’d walk down to her place for lunch — Spaghettios — because we were quite poor. But we did at least get to bask in the sun as we made our trek from the gates of hell down to her apartment. It was a welcome diversion, as we walked in our short dresses and platform shoes. (had to dress up for work, you know.)
I lasted there about a year. I had to either quit or commit myself to an institution for the mentally deranged. I actually went back to work for my parents (in the office this time, thank God).
It just occurred to me that I rarely left any job because I wanted to pursue a better opportunity. Usually I was just really bored or ticked off about something. I always told them, though, “It’s not you; it’s me.” But it really was them.
But anyway, that’s the TRUE story of April Days. Yes, it all happened the way I wrote it. Lo, those many years ago.
I’ve got many, many songs ripped to my computer. When I’m relaxing after a hard week, I scroll through the songs to find something to listen to that fits my mood. Often I marvel at the quality of music that I stumble upon by accident. And I think, what a shame that these artists are probably long forgotten. Some of them are no longer with us, but damn! They sure made some good music.
So, here’s a few of my recent finds (and some people that you’ve probably never heard of):
David Houston ~ Anyone who has listened to country music for as long as I have (hmmm…….40 years?) will remember David Houston. He is one of the artists who is no longer with us, but he had a great voice, and a great vocal range! The songs that I rated as 4 stars or more are “You Mean The World To Me”, “Baby Baby (I Know You’re A Lady)”, and “After Closing Time”, which he recorded with Barbara Mandrell.
Brenda Lee ~ Well, happily, Brenda Lee is still alive and kickin’. “Fool #1″ ~ she has a great smoky quality to her voice on this song. She sang the hell out of it. She was produced by Owen Bradley, which accounts for the great arrangements, but she is one helluva singer. Other recommendations include “Break It To Me Gently” (yes, she did it long before Juice Newton), “All Alone Am I”, and “Too Many Rivers”.
Connie Smith ~ Yup, Connie’s still around, and married to Marty Stuart, I might add. Was there anything she sang that wasn’t great? Connie was a major influence on me as a singer. The young whippersnappers probably won’t remember Connie Smith, but at one time, she was the biggest selling female country artist, and rightfully so. Bill Anderson discovered her and wrote a lot of her songs, and it’s really difficult to single out any of her recordings as the “best”. I’m partial to “Just One Time” (written by Don Gibson), and “Ain’t Had No Lovin’”, which was a great country torch song.
Lynn Anderson ~ well, she’s actually a distant relative of mine (according to my mom’s tales); a second or third cousin or something. BUT, before I knew that, I LOVED Lynn Anderson’s songs. Her Chart records are the best, before “Rose Garden” came along. Geez, didn’t we just grow to hate that song? Sadly, I’ve lost all my albums, but I had a bunch of Lynn’s. I think her version of “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues” (a Rodney Crowell song) is better than Emmylou’s. “Sing A Sad Song” is very, very sweet. Hard to top Merle’s version, but she comes close. And yes, she was on the Lawrence Welk Show, but hey ~ Lawrence was from North Dakota, just like me, so there.
Charlie Rich ~ Well, Charlie just happened to record one of the all-time best country songs ~ “Behind Closed Doors”. One of my favorite Charlie memories was watching him on the CMA awards show, setting fire to the slip of paper that announced John Denver as the “country” male vocalist of the year. I think he made his point. He was truly a country blues artist. Listen to “Sittin’ And Thinkin’”, which he happened to write. I’ve got the Essential Charlie Rich, which is a two-disk set, and it’s awfully difficult to narrow down the best songs.
Del Reeves ~ My husband thinks “Girl On The Billboard” is the funniest/cheesiest country song ever. He happened to discover that song on his own, and he put it on one of his compilation tapes. “A deedle-do-do-do”…. ha ha. But actually, Del recorded some very good songs. An obscure recording of his, “Landmark Tavern”, that he recorded with Penny DeHaven, is one of my faves. And none other than George Strait covered “Good Time Charlie’s”.
Faron Young ~ Well, don’t get me started. At one time, Faron was my ultimate favorite country singer. Well, let’s start with a Willie song, “Hello Walls’, and let’s just continue on. “Wine Me Up”, “Step Aside”, “Your Time’s Comin’” (a Kristofferson song), “If I Ever Fall In Love (With A Honky Tonk Girl)”, written by Tom T. Hall, “Alone With You”, which would be one of my choice songs to cover. There’s just too damn many to mention. Faron Young was the George Strait of his day.
Johnny Bush ~ Well, damn if “Undo The Right” isn’t one of THE best country songs of all time. I think Johnny Bush was unfairly labeled as a “Ray Price Wanna-Be”, but I think ole Ray loves Johnny’s recordings, too.
Mel Tillis ~ Okay, “Heart Over Mind” with those twin fiddles. He wrote it; he did the best recording of it. And you gotta admit, he was one of the best writers on Music Row. He launched Kenny Rogers’ career with “Ruby”. And he made Webb Pierce the number one artist of his day. This guy wrote some classic songs.
Eddie Rabbitt ~ Eddie Rabbitt is more than just “I Love A Rainy Night”, although I like that one! I bought his first album (and yes, they were albums back then) and my favorite of his is “Two Dollars In The Jukebox”, but of course, I’m a sucker for that honky tonk music. Sadly, Eddie is gone, too.
Marty Robbins ~ Well, okay, Marty deserves a topic of his own. And I’m going to write about him when I feel like I can do it justice. Marty left us in the ’80’s, and probably a lot of younger people don’t know anything about him. These people are FOOLS. I’m gonna save my words for another topic, but let’s just say, for now, “Don’t Worry About Me”.
It's That Time Of Year Again
(originally posted 12-28-06)
Click on picture to listen.
No, not Christmas. Let the masses celebrate Christmas as their favorite all-time-mass-consumption holiday. Let’s face it; not too many people think of Christmas as anything but visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads. I mean, really.
I’m talking about New Year’s Eve.
I like New Year’s Eve, and not because I go out “celebrating”. Heavens no. I like it because it’s a time of reflection; a little pause before the new year kicks in and everything just picks up where it left off; the only change being that you have to get used to writing a different number.
More people should become friends with New Year’s Eve. Of course, it’s not a commercial holiday, unless you are a bar-owner, so it probably won’t catch on like Halloween or Christmas. My feeling, though, is that while Christmas has lost its spiritual meaning, New Year’s Eve has taken up the slack…….well, for me anyway. And it can for you, too.
Let’s face it; Christmas is depressing for most people, for a variety of reasons. Oh, c’mon, you know it is. Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but it’s true.
New Year’s Eve, however, gives one permission to be sad and wistful and sentimental. You don’t have to feel guilty for feeling that way.
You can think about people you don’t see anymore, for whatever reason. People who were important in your life for a moment, or for a lifetime. You can have a glass of wine and put on a song that reminds you of a memory that you shared with that person. You can play Perry Como, singing “Catch A Falling Star”, and remember your dad singing that song to you when you were just a tyke (as an example). And maybe you’ll shed a tear, but you’ll smile, too. You can play a song from 1973, and remember feeling carefree and independent, and singing along to the car radio at the top of your lungs with your best friend.
You can celebrate any moment that you darn well choose to celebrate. There are no expectations, no obligations that you have to meet. You can be alone with your thoughts.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think people don’t have enough “quiet time” anymore. Everything is “have to’s”. I have to do this; I need to get this done. Just stop for one day out of the year. Take some time and think about what really matters to you. I mean what truly matters. Set aside one day from the meaningless tasks. Isn’t there enough of that going on every day? How much do you really do in your life that matters one way or the other? Seriously.
When all is said and done, there are a finite number of people who make our lives worth living. Maybe it’s your dad, maybe your mom, your kids, your spouse, your best friend.
So, give it a try. Stay home on New Year’s Eve. If you feel the need to dance, put on a song that really makes you WANT to dance. I don’t care if it’s “Old Time Rock & Roll” or if it’s some stupid song that you’d only play in the privacy of your own home, like “Achy Breaky Heart”. (Oh you know you’ve got one of those songs; admit it.) But try to dance to one that brings back fond memories, and just dance and be stupid
Trust me; you’ll feel better for having done it. Make a sentimental toast to those people who maybe can only hear you from heaven. They’ll enjoy your dancing. They’re no fools. They know what matters.
Back To Music
(originally posted 09-02-06)(Click Picture To Listen)
Boy, long weekends are great. I’m such a prolific house cleaner that I have lots of spare time. (Okay, I didn’t clean very much. I like to pace myself.)
I’m actually writing two posts in two days. That is a weird, wild thing for me.
Been sitting here (a lot!) thinking that I’ve really been distracted by a lot of other stuff lately, and I haven’t worked on any Red River music. It’s been a long time since I’ve written a song! But unlike some people who want to write 50 songs in 50 days, or some such nonsense (yes, that is a real person), I need to actually have something to say before I write.
The good news is, we are working on a Red River song this weekend! I wrote this one (after checking my handy Excel file) on May 26th of this year (another long holiday weekend!) It’s called “Lovely Day”, and it’s sort of a Paul McCartney-ish happy, happy song, with a bit of English flavour (and per David, it will have a “paisley” feel to it - whatever that means). I’m supposed to play a track of my own on it, but I’m not really a player, so I don’t know if that will come to pass, or if Mr. Producer will just get impatient and do the track himself (I hope!!)
Our next album will be quite different from Sparrow. We are moving a little further from the alt country thing to more pop. That said, I really, really want us to do one of David’s old songs (from the early ’70’s) that is a perfect alt country song. I don’t know if he wants to revisit it, though. He can be kind of weird about stuff like that. I also have a blues song in the wings that I really like. I’m probably the only one who likes it, but I don’t care. After that, I’m empty. I have to write more songs.
I also set up a page on Soundclick to feature David’s older songs. I like setting up stuff. I spiffed up our website, too. It looks a lot better, I think.
Gotta run now. It’s almost time for me to record my second vocal for Lovely Day. My friends who actually read my blog (JK!!) will be the first to hear the finished product!
We Really Need To Sell These Babies
(originally posted 09-02-06)
My friend at work tells me I’m too easygoing, and I never say “no” to anyone (which is true, so don’t ask me for anything!)
The other thing is, I don’t like asking for help. I will waste countless hours trying to figure something out, because I don’t want to “bother” anyone.
So, I’m surprised at myself because I am now shamelessly asking friends and family to help us sell our CD’s (ha ha). Just emailed my sister and two friends and asked them to please post a CD review on CD Baby. Barb, who is the friend who stated the obvious about my work habits (see above) responded to my email request and said, “Well, since I don’t really listen to country music, how does this sound….?” Hey, great!! I don’t care. Just say, “It’s good.” My sister is going to list our website in her office newsletter (all right, Lissa!) Julie’s on vacation, but I know she’ll come through when she reads my email. I’ll probably have to pay her, though….just kidding (?)
Yesterday, Michele in the department was soliciting ideas for a United Way basket. We have a stupid auction thing every year for the United Way - departments are supposed to donate stuff - or individuals can donate, too. The reason I call it “stupid” is because I never win anything. I’ve spent way too much money on tickets, and I’ve never won, so the hell with the United Way - ha ha ha. I even put a line in a song I wrote last year: “I searched inside my pocket for some change; found an IOU written out to United Way.” That was right after I didn’t win anything AGAIN. But I digress.
So, back to Michele (Michele L, as opposed to me, Michelle A, or the other Michele in our department, Michele T - we’ve got way too many Michelles, in my opinion. Just lost Michelle B. Don’t know what happened to her - she’s just lost.
Michele (L) sent an email asking for suggestions for our (stupid) United Way basket. The ideas she had all revolved around food (naturally). Food is very important in our workplace. I emailed back and said, “What about an entertainment basket - we could put in CD’s, games, that kind of stuff”….heh heh heh……So, they LOVED the idea (because I was the only one who responded, apparently). She told me I needed to come up with a catchy name, so I said, what about “Let Us Entertain You” - or does that sound too much like a stripper song? She and her cubicle buddies thought it did sound too much like a stripper song, so they changed it to “That’s Entertainment”.
So anyway, I have my donation for the basket - didn’t cost me a dime!! Plus, I get free publicity. I rock!
Where The Heck Have I Been?
(originally posted 07-21-06)
Click On Picture To Buy!
My friend told me awhile ago that she thought I would surely post in my blog after our CD came out. I thought I would, too!
Our CD, “Sparrow“, was released on June 9. It was exciting, yet scary, to hold the actual, professionally manufactured CD in my hands. The Noiseland guy loaded the 5 boxes of CD’s into our trunk, except for the one CD I was hanging onto, which we popped into our CD player for the drive home. Immediately, of course, Red River’s Other Half (Producer Guy) became strangely silent. Later, I found out that he was noticing all the mistakes (of course!). I, on the other hand, chose to just enjoy the finished project.
So, what do I think? Objectively? ha ha ha ha ha - No seriously. I can be objective……to a degree. One must keep in mind that these songs are my “children”, however. I think the songs are damn good. That said, yes, there is always room for improvement. Even highly successful artists are never completely satisfied with the end result, and anyone who is, is not a true artist.
The recordings I think are the best (as opposed to the songs I think are the best) would probably be “Ring In The Old” and “The Way”.
The feedback from the CD’s we’ve given out to family is overwhelming…..ly non-existent. I’m sure it’s nothing personal. It’s true, however, that artists are filled with self-doubt, and silence is basically the same as, “You suck.”
But, just when I thought, geeez, maybe it isn’t any good, I got this email from the director of a GREAT country station, Classic Heartland:
President, Classic Heartland
So, I’m feeling better. And now, on to new songs.
The Dork Visits The CD Manufacturer
(originally posted 05-13-06)
Well, today was the day. We (I) gathered up all our important papers, pictures and of course, our master, and trudged down to the CD manufacturer. I thought we were quite well prepared, in light of the fact that we had no idea what we were doing.
Last night, I’d carefully spell-checked and printed out all our song lyrics (for the CD insert), I printed up our track listing and our credits page with our little bio and other important information.
I had been told that the pictures were “my decision” (ha ha ha ha). So my other duty last night was to cull through the pictures we’d already isolated as possibilities and come up with some that might actually work. By the time I was done, I had about three pictures, which quickly were reduced to one, after David flatly stated, “No”, “Don’t like that one”, “That one won’t work”. So much for my decision-making.
Additionally, I played stenographer, as I dutifully wrote down all the questions that David wanted to ask the CD rep today.
So, we (I) had my folders ready with the papers, the pictures, the picture disks, the questions. And off we went today.
As we walked into the place with our “deer caught in the headlight” stares, we wandered around aimlessly, accurately mimicking characters from “Night Of The Living Dead” until it was our turn.
The man was very nice, although I was hoping he’d kind of give me a cue as to where to start. Since he didn’t, I babbled incoherently, rustling papers, talking nonsensically, trying to communicate the look we wanted to achieve.
Meanwhile, Mr. Question Person sat back on the couch, suddenly becoming an innocent bystander. I looked to him for assistance from time to time, but he appeared to not know why we were there or what it was I wanted him to do or say. “Remember, you wanted to ask about ……?” “Oh, that’s not important now.”
So, I somehow stumbled through the “conference” (??), left with the terrifying impression that the man had no idea what we wanted.
And the papers I’d so carefully prepared ~~ “Can you just email those to me? Otherwise I’ll just have to retype everything.” Oh, duh. (Hand slapping forehead). Gosh, golly, I never thought of that. I’m an idiot. Shoot me and put me out of my misery.
Then the “head guy” (I guess) came out and greeted us. Husband did finally manage to utter almost one complete sentence. “Head Guy” asked us if we were in a rush for the CD’s - if we had any upcoming gigs. “Not yet”, I replied. (Not yet?? - ha ha - good one, I laughed to the voices in my head - since Husband was apparently still employing the “silent communication” style of conversation.)
So, Dan (our guy) told me that he’d prepare some preliminary graphics and email them to me, and we can revise and consult as needed via email. That will take about 8 - 10 days. Then, once that has been settled, the actual manufacturing process will take another 10 days or so. So, our CD should be ready around the first part of June!!!
The moral of the story is, be prepared, talk nonsensically to cover for the “silent partner” sitting next to you, cross your fingers and hope we don’t end up with a giant tongue on the cover or something similarly inappropriate.