Showing posts with label brooks and dunn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brooks and dunn. Show all posts

Friday, October 28, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Country Singles From This Date In 1994



My record reviews somehow seem to zero in on certain years. I actually prefer more variety, but I'm dependent on the charts that are available. Google isn't a "magic answer machine", as my computer-illiterate husband seems to believe.

These lookback posts may seem quirky, but I still love music; just not today's music. When one reaches a certain age, they enjoy revisiting the past; probably for the same reason my dad thought Dean Martin was the shitz and my mom loved Ray Price well past his time.

Plus, our memories are selective. If someone was to spit out 1994 to me, I'd say, well, yes, that was a great year for music. But was it? Revisiting the past informs today. For example, it's an accepted fact that today's country reeks, but does it reek more than yesteryear? That's what I'm here to find out.

Where was I in 1994? Well, I hadn't yet turned forty and I'd just begun to find my niche in the corporate world. I'd barely landed a job at a health insurance company (because someone else dropped out) and had risen in the ranks to a supervisory position, when my obsequious boss called me into his office and presented me with a proposition ~ lead a new, experimental division that consisted of data entry, a mindless pursuit that struck me as a blow to my intelligence. He wanted me to abandon all the knowledge I'd gained and teach people how to fill in little computer boxes? Granted, he and I weren't best friends, but I didn't deserve to be punished this way.

"Can I think about it overnight?" I asked.

"Sure. Come back tomorrow and tell me you accept," he said.

Faced with no choice (I surmised), I came back the next day and accepted. And that supercilious asshole actually opened up a whole new world for me. I learned how to interview prospective employees, how to train them, how to troubleshoot a wobbly system, how to talk back to a vociferous VP a thousand miles away. I learned that I liked this "being in charge" schtick. And I was good at it. My (now) former boss would stop by from time to time just to shoot the breeze. I'd gone from peon to princess in the course of a few short months. In time my unit expanded into a second shift and I had to choose supervisors and assistant supervisors. I was never awarded with the title of "manager", but I was a de facto one. I earned a manager's salary and even landed a corner office.

My oldest son was about to graduate from high school and my youngest was only two years behind. They were self-sufficient enough to allow me to indulge in this new world. I spent hours at work and too many hours at home planning for the next day. And I never once felt stressed. 

Music was my primary release and the country world obliged. The bulk of my employees loved country, too, so we could always chat about the latest hits on my walkabouts. 

All this would eventually end explosively, but in 1994 I didn't know that.

So, this review has resonance for me and I'm looking forward to finding out if this is my version of dad's Dean Martin or if I've completely hallucinated the year's musical events.

 

I've repeated this ad nauseum, but if you're a new reader, these are my rules:

  • I review each single as a first-time listener.
  • I must listen to the entire track before offering my critique.  
  • I stick with the Top Ten only.
  • I do my best to find music videos. If all else fails, I use a video of the recorded song.

Let's go!

 

#10 ~ Man Of My Word ~ Collin Raye 


To be honest, I've only ever liked two releases by Collin Raye, but one of those was so good I think I elevated this singer in my mind. This track is so formulaic that only the singer saves it. I guess I see now why there is no official video. This is completely forgettable, even though ballads are Raye's strength.

The song has a nice sentiment, but the track has nothing to distinguish it. It's a poor man's Love, Me, which also wasn't too great.

The 2022 me would hear this as a completely new single because I would have zero recollection of it.

C

 

#9 ~ Shut Up And Kiss Me ~ Mary Chapin Carpenter


This singer started off with a bang in '89, with original, emotional releases. Her first album was delirious. Even 1991's Down At The Twist And Shout stirred a sense of abandon.
Then at some point fame seemed to jade her. This track may have been her swan song, at least at the top of the charts. I get it. It's a craggy mountain to topple from. Only the best can top themselves. Mary CC didn't do it here. It may be that it suffers by comparison to her meatier songs and even her "fun" songs, like Down At The Twist And Shout and The Bug. She still has the discordant piano kicking it off, and her songwriting chops are intact, but the song itself is a feather.

I can't put my finger on why this one doesn't work. My go-to theory is that a song needs a memorable chorus, and this track doesn't even have a chorus, just a repetition of the title. That may account for my shrug. Three decades in the future when I think about Chapin Carpenter songs, this one won't even cross my mind.

C+

 

#8 ~ The City Put The Country Back In Me ~ Neal McCoy

 


I'm trying hard to remember which song put Neal McCoy on country's radar, but in the early 90's he was always there. I'm going to venture that the song was The Shake, but only because he called out my hometown in the lyrics. 1994 me is going to guess that McCoy is but a flash in the pan. He fills a certain niche, a pre-Achy Breaky Heart vibe.

As for the track itself, points for the crunchy Telecaster at the beginning, which will draw couples to the dance floor. I would have done verse-chorus, rather than verse-verse chorus, for better flow; since the narrative itself isn't all that interesting. The back story could have easily been condensed into one verse. Really, what gives this song any energy at all is the chorus ~ emphasize that. I get it; this is a barroom song, and there's nothing wrong with that. Everything in music doesn't have to be super-serious.

B-

 

#7 ~ I Try To Think About Elvis ~ Patty Loveless

If a singer is going to stray from weighty songs, this is the way to do it. (Lookin' at you, Mary Chapin Carpenter.) Patty Loveless is one of country's unsung royalty, who doesn't get the plaudits she deserves. And while I love (love!) Don't Toss Us Away, I'm also a big fan of her sassier singles, like A Little Bit In Love and Timber, I'm Falling In Love. This single is cheeky and rather goofy. It's nothing but pure enjoyment

A

 

#6 ~ Callin' Baton Rouge ~ Garth Brooks


 


Most people don't realize this track is a remake. That's okay. I barely remember the original, but I do remember it ~ recorded by New Grass Revival. On the other hand, I have no recollection of the Oak Ridge Boys having recorded it, even though it was included on an album I bought, Room Service. (I sampled both versions on Spotify and can report that Garth's version is a near-replica of the original and the Oak's version is pale and pallid. No wonder I don't remember it.)

This is one of those songs that just grabs you. If you're driving when it blasts out of your radio speakers, you can't help but stomp your foot down on the accelerator. It's best consumed on a moonlit night on a rural highway. 

I would like more Garth Brooks tracks if he recorded better songs. I've got nothing against him as a singer. Sure, he's not the best country singer of all time, but he's certainly not the worst. 

This one, though. Genius choice.

A

 

#5 ~ Third Rate Romance ~ Sammy Kershaw


While Nashville songwriters are starving, everybody's busy recording remakes. Of course, this song was made famous by the Amazing Rhythm Aces. 

Sammy Kershaw just keeps hanging in there, but has never once managed to record a song I like. As a singer, he's a solid C-. Maybe that's why I've never given him a second thought.

This song has that Jamaican rhythm I like, but the original wins, especially since Kershaw's version is a note-by-note replication.

I give the original a B, but Kershaw's version a...

C-

 

#4 ~  Watermelon Crawl ~ Tracy Byrd


As ambivalent as I am toward Sammy Kershaw, I absolutely detest Tracy Byrd. I can't explain it, but he strikes a repellent chord in me much like Conway Twitty does. Maybe it's his face...or his voice. Or a fusion of both. 

And what exactly is a watermelon crawl? I don't know and I don't give a damn.

The song itself? Putrid. Were the songwriters drunk when they penned it? A memorable song needs to be universal. The fact that 99.9% of country fans have no idea what this is even about is the kiss of death. 

F

 

#3 ~ She's Not The Cheatin' Kind ~ Brooks And Dunn


Ronnie Dunn wrote this. He also wrote Neon Moon, Boot Scootin' Boogie, My Next Broken Heart, and (my sentimental favorite) Red Dirt Road. 

Ronnie Dunn is a helluva songwriter. This one is essentially a throwaway. Hey, you write a lot of songs, you're gonna have a couple of clinkers.

I see where he's going with it. The long drawn-out "sheees", but the beginning doesn't lead to anything but mush.

This track is simply not one to list on Ronnie's CV. I doubt I'll even remember it in, say, 2022.

C-

 

#2 ~ When You Walk In The Room ~ Pam Tillis


Oh, look songwriters ~ another remake!

This song was, of course, written by Jackie DeShannon (what the world needs now...) That said, it's almost the perfect pop song. Can one blame Pam for recording it?

I can't critique the song itself. That's not why I'm here. But let me say, this is the quintessential sixties pop composition, and I'm partial to those.

Pam Tillis, while not possessing the strongest voice in country, knows how to accentuate her talents. Any girl of a certain age would find herself dancing The Jerk to this.

A-

 

#1 ~ Livin' On Love ~ Alan Jackson


Alan Jackson has never received the respect he deserves as a songwriter. He gets it. He knows how to write a country song. Short, pithy verse, sock-you-in-your-gut chorus. I think if I was to choose one single co-writer, it would be him. Of course, he'd get all the credit, but I could insert a couple of words somewhere.

If one is looking for the essence of country songwriting, you can stop here.

A+

 

So, what do I know about October, 1994? Well, a lot of artists, sans Alan Jackson, thought old hits were their ticket. Some succeeded; most faltered. I'm not averse to remembering the past ~ the past was sometimes great ~ but you just can't beat a timeless talent.

Good on you, Alan Jackson.




 

Monday, January 31, 2022

Reviewing The Top 10 Hits From This Week In 2002

 

I more or less stopped listening to country music in the year 2000 (thanks, Faith Hill), but I still had a toe dipped in the world of country radio. It's only fair that if I review "new country" I apply the same standard to the country music of twenty years ago.

My rule of thumb is, I review the tracks as if this is the first time I've ever heard them, and in some cases, I actually haven't heard them before (or I don't remember them from merely their title).

What the weekly charts prove is that hits are fleeting. One would assume that if a track makes the top ten, the song will be memorable. That's hardly true. Often even the artist isn't memorable. And often the artist has since become a household name, but the song on the charts is subpar -- simply another notch in their belt of hits -- a minor notch.

I will state for the record that country began its downhill slide at the turn of the century and has not (yet?) recovered. I was right to abandon it.

So, without further a-DOOOO....

#10 ~ The Cowboy In Me ~ Tim McGraw 

 


This is not a bad song (the live concert video kind of ruins it). I will try to ignore the video and concentrate on the song. This is definitely country, in the vein of George Strait. In fact, George must have turned this one down, although his arrangement would have been more pleasing to the ear. I was curious and looked up the songwriters: Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson, and Craig Wiseman (thus ushering in the needless practice of requiring three people to write a song). Steele actually did write a Strait hit, the misspelled, Love's Gonna Make It Alright; while the other two writers have penned numerous hits. The message of The Cowboy In Me follows the time-worn tradition of the cowboy as a maverick, a loner.  It's a pleasant song, although I would not lay down money for it.

MY RATING: B

 

#9 ~ I Wanna Talk About Me ~ Toby Keith


This track was hard to get through, but I promised I would listen to the entirety of each song, so I did. It's not that I'm offended by the message, like some of a particular political persuasion no doubt are. It's just that it's boring and repetitive. It's a novelty song. And the rap does it no favors. Needless to say, I wouldn't purchase it, because I have better taste than that.

MY RATING: C-

 

#8 ~ The Long Goodbye ~ Brooks and Dunn

 
(no live video, apparently)

Immediately I'm struck by the awful arrangement. But aside from that, this is certainly not country, unless one considers a Jimmy Webb song country. I checked and neither Brooks nor Dunn wrote this, and it shows. I doubt that the duo includes this one in their concerts, but who knows? Apparently they like it or they wouldn't have slapped it on an album. The guys should stick with country music.

MY RATING: D

 

#7 ~ Bring On The Rain ~ Jo Dee Messina and Tim McGraw


See? This is how Faith Hill ruined country. She even got her husband to chime in on this track. I'm searching to find a hint of country in this, but not succeeding. The singer is pretty good, but she has a country voice and needs to find songs that fit it. As a song, it's passable. As a country song, it reeks of failure.

MY RATING: C

 

#6 ~ Wrapped Up In You ~ Garth Brooks

This track is inoffensive, like a marshmallow. It's more sixties pop than country, but maybe that's what the singer was going for. Certainly not a single that will stand the test of time. It's almost as if the singer is at the tail end of his recording career and is just throwing stuff against the wall, not caring if it'll stick.

MY RATING: C

 

#5 ~ Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly ~ Aaron Tippin
 


This song takes the award for the longest song title in country. The singer's heart is definitely in the right place, but this is no "God Bless The USA". I don't hate it; I don't love it. I would be satisfied only hearing it once and then forgetting all about it. An "A" for effort, but...

MY RATING: B- (and that's grading on a curve)


#4 ~ Wrapped Around ~ Brad Paisley


I like it. The chorus nails it. Apparently this is a singer who understand what country music is supposed to sound like. I have no quibbles with the song, the singer, especially none with the arrangement, which is kind of a mashup of Yoakam and Owens. Would I buy it? YES.

MY RATING: A

 

#3 ~ Run ~ George Strait


The singer's voice is definitely easy on the ears. Not the countriest country song I've ever heard, but the singer carries it. I prefer my country a bit more hard core. One thing that can be said about the singer is that he has a presence, almost like a king. Watch the reverential way the audience hangs on his every syllable. I wouldn't buy it as a single, but it makes a decent album track. I suspect he is capable of much more.

MY RATING: B

 

#2 ~ Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning) ~ Alan Jackson

 


Again, not the best representation of what I suspect this singer is capable of, but as a touchstone, I doubt there is any song that better represents a particular moment in time. Clearly, this song is heartfelt. I wouldn't buy it, but I don't turn the station when my local radio station spins it. I predict a long career for this guy.

MY RATING: B+

 

#1 ~ Good Morning Beautiful ~ Steve Holy


Not crazy about this. And the singer somehow reminds me of Dwight Shrute (although one would only notice if they watched the video). This is one of those pandering ballads that pretends to know how men talk to women. This is the first and last time I've heard the name Steve Holy, but all the best to him, I guess. Would I buy this? LOL.

MY RATING: C-

 

So, there you have it. Country music wasn't completely dead in 2002 (witness Brad Paisley), but it was mostly dead. It still beats 2022, but that's a low bar. Even Dwight Shrute beats 2022.

This exercise helps to put country music in perspective. And helps us to know how it declined and who was complicit in its downfall.

Stay tuned for more retrospective reviews.



Saturday, October 5, 2019

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 21, 2019

September Is Country Music Month ~ The Nascent Nineties





By the end of the 1990's, I will have abandoned country music forever. But, oh, the nineties!

It may have been the times, but I don't think so. I do believe that "music is life through the ears of the beholder", as my blog's theme states, but there was something special about country in the nineties. Randy and George and Dwight had primed the pump the decade before, which allowed the artists of the nineties to soar. Too, I was in the prime of my life, at age thirty-five. And in the prime of what, unbeknownst to me, would become my "career". Blue skies shone above. Like country music, I didn't know what awaited me, but I had a feeling it was something good.

People liked to dance ~ buoyant, shit-kicking dance. Not giving a damn about the wagging tongues of the neighbors next door. Line dance, two-step, stumblin' drape-your-arm-around-your-partner dance. Don a western shirt with spangles dance. We even liked Billy Ray Cyrus, cuz you could dance to him.

You couldn't flip on your car radio and not hear a song that didn't make you bounce in your bucket seat and warble off-key into the breeze whooshing outside your wide-open window. I sang along to "Friends In Low Places" roaring home from work in my white Ford Taurus, and I didn't even like Garth Brooks much.

I'd only recently returned to country music by the time the nineties rolled in, but I was fully committed. I even no longer wanted my MTV.  Radio still ruled. Radio was everywhere ~ in our cars, at work, in the kitchen, on camping trips and in the backyard garden. There was no such thing as "streaming". One could barely figure out how to get online and even when we did, we looked around a bit and said, ehh. Country had caught up with the rock world, though, and country videos were available twenty-four hours a day on CMT.

New artists were popping out all over. And ladies (if that is the correct PC term), if you still believe that country is lagging in the female artist department (which never was true, by the way), welcome to the nineties! In the decade there were as many hit songs recorded by women as by men. Maybe girl singers were simply more fun to listen to then, because they were joyous, rather than whiny.

Let's take a quick whoosh through the decade, shall we?

1990:






The year 1991 kicked off in grand country style, with a newly-formed duo (whatever happened to them?):





Another new act had a familiar last name,


 

1992:

Sometimes a song just hits you. It might not be sung by a well-known artist. It might be a passing fancy. Or it might just stay with you:



I liked this new guy. He had a cry in his voice, just like good country artists should. And this is a quintessential country song:



1993:

Speaking of dancin', try not to boogie to this. Joe Diffie was a huge country star in the nineties ~ people tend to forget. I don't.




I could go with a plethora of artists for my second pick, but let's be real. in 1993 Dwight Yoakam released his penultimate album that featured this:







Sorry, can't leave out Clay Walker:



1994:

Shoot me ~ I like this (a lot):



Again, shoot me; but this is an awesome recording. We can arm-wrestle over it, if you insist:



1995:

Nineteen ninety-five was a little lean in the "good hits" department. Thank goodness for Mark Chesnutt. I know I devoted an entire post to Mark, but if I'm culling the best singles of a particular year, this is definitely one:



Oh, remember her? She "ruined" country music, they said. Ha! I, too, was a bit skeptical of Shania Twain in the beginning, but let's compare Shania's songs to today's "country music", shall we? Here's the deal ~ she's an excellent songwriter. She found a niche; she exploited it. Deal.



I will end with 1996, just like Ken Burns did. It's fitting. Ken, a country music neophyte, was maybe onto something. After '96 country life took a downturn. We had the Dixie Chicks, who were okay, but not as awesome as their press wanted us to believe. McGraw and Hill (isn't that an encyclopedia company?) took over. An Australian, who, granted, could play a mean guitar solo but never ever recorded a distinctive track, won new artist of the year at the CMA's. Country was changing. And not in a good way. Somebody somewhere in the bowels of a Nashville office determined that fans didn't know what the hell they needed or wanted, and they were going to proceed to show them.

Bye bye, country.

Let's end on a high note, though, with The King:



Saturday, March 23, 2019

2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees ~ Part II


There was an NBC prime time series that debuted in 1991 called "Hot Country Nights". The producer was Dick Clark, who had been around longer than God. Dick Clark knew his music ~ he'd had his ear to the ground since sometime before I was a glimmer in my mom's eye. Of course, Dick also created the Academy of Country Music Awards, which was a bastardized version of the CMA's and even sparklier than Nashville rhinestones.

But to his credit, he discovered a hole in the '91 TV schedule and decided that country music might be a good hole-filler. He was right. Entertainment news wasn't ubiquitous then, so the program took me by (pleasant) surprise. I flipped on my TV, plopped down on my couch on a Sunday night at 7:00 and what the heck ~ country music? There was Pam Tillis! Look ~ Clint Black! And the show was almost all music; with only a few hokey "comedy skits", which allowed me to toddle off for a bathroom break. The following week's episode was even better:  Kathy Mattea, Highway 101, Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam (!!) I distinctly recall two performances from the series: Travis Tritt with an acoustic guitar doing "Anymore" and a delicious country shuffle called, "Down To My Next Broken Heart" performed by a new country duo:



Ahh, life was good. I got to see Patty Loveless, the Kentucky Headhunters, Marty Stuart, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Wariner, Suzy Bogguss, Restless Heart, Vince Gill, Holly Dunn, Trisha Yearwood, Collin Raye, Ricky Van Shelton, and Eddie Rabbitt.

Alas, the fun ended in the gloomy late winter of 1992, and there's not been a network country music performance series since. 

Which leads me to this year's inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame from the "modern era". Oh look! There they are, performing in the video above!

I have no quibble with Brooks and Dunn garnering the singular spot. They hit the ground running in 1991 and made country music a little bit better. "Neon Moon" is a classic. Their second album was a letdown, but it still had Boot Scootin' Boogie. I got to see them in concert sometime around 2000. By then, they were mostly existing on past laurels, but they had this one song....

Anybody who thinks of Kix Brooks as an unnecessary appendage needs to get a load of this songwriting:




Maybe only someone who prays to write a song like this can fully appreciate it.

I learned the path to heaven
Is full of sinners and believers
Learned that happiness on earth
Ain't just for high achievers

Try putting together a philosophy like that. And make it rhyme.

I will note that there are many, many acts from that splendid time in music that also deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame, but alas, most of them won't get the chance. Everybody posting on that one certain website I follow seems to think Dwight will get in for sure. I don't know if there is a bigger Dwight Yoakam fan than me, but I'm skeptical. Dwight never played the Nashville game. And you gotta play the game. If, by some lightning strike, he ever does get inducted, I will fully and repentantly admit my error.

My guess for the next inductees are The Judds. Mark it on your calendar. And you're welcome.

Meanwhile, why don't you and I chill to this:












Friday, March 22, 2019

2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees ~ Part I


The Country Music Hall of Fame inductees were announced this week, and one would think, from the music sites I visit (okay, I only visit one site), that a thermonuclear blast had annihilated the planet.

I wonder if there's ever been a year when the recipients weren't at least a little controversial. The only quibble I ever had with the awards was that it took too damn many years for Bobby Bare to be enthroned (I mean, c'mon!) Also see "Bobby Bare Inducted Into The Hall of Fame ~ Thanks To Me!"

There are three categories for potential election to the Hall of Fame:

Modern Era ~ bestowed upon an artist who first gained prominence twenty years prior.

Veterans Era ~ those who achieved distinction at least 45 years ago.

Non-Performer ~ this category includes songwriters, producers, behind-the-scenes bigwigs, and basically anyone in the country music business who isn't an actual recording artist.

There is no guarantee that one or three or anybody will get elected (however, that's rather unlikely, especially in the veterans class, seeing as how there is a glut of artists who still haven't gotten their due).

But people are mad (mad!) that Ray Stevens will be inducted this year. They say it's political; that he lobbied the mysterious hall of fame people. (Can you really lobby for yourself? "I was just thinking; I'm pretty good. How about me?" That's a bit too obvious.) There's even a conspiracy theory that Ray was hanging out at last year's awards, making himself conspicuous; bringing people cups of coffee (okay, I made that last part up), just so they'd look at him and think, "Hey!"

I say, stop hating on Ray Stevens. And honestly, no one's world will end just because Mister Gitarzan's bust will be displayed in the museum. Those who forgot or weren't alive during Ray Stevens' heyday only recall the goofy songs, but Ray Stevens was a hell of a singer...and a stylist. One of my very favorite albums is "Misty". He turned old standards into country songs ~ Indian Love Call, Deep Purple, Mockingbird Hill, Misty, of course ~ and made them awesome.


Sure, he once had chickens clucking In The Mood, but who doesn't love a good chicken chorale?


By the by, he also had hits with Everything Is Beautiful, Mr. Businessman, and Turn Your Radio On. He was Dolly Parton's first producer when she came to Nashville. He recorded "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" before Cash did. Ray Stevens wasn't just The Streak.

You can quibble (and so can I) that there are a plethora of veteran artists who haven't been inducted. Maybe some of them never will be. It's not elementary school ~ everyone doesn't get a trophy. Some who have been suggested:

Tanya Tucker ~ yes, she will.
Lynn Anderson ~ probably never, although I love her.
Jerry Lee Lewis ~ definitely deserves to be.
Gram Parsons ~ why?
Crystal Gayle ~ I'm gonna say no on that.
David Allen Coe ~ Did he have one hit? I'd pick Johnny Paycheck fist.
Gene Watson ~ love, love him. I hope he gets in, but I doubt he will.
Johnny Rodriguez ~ same as Gene. Same chances.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band ~ I love them, but their chances are slim.
The Gatlin Brothers ~ nobody mentioned them, but why not? Better than Crystal Gayle.
Hank Williams, Jr. ~ This seems to be the popular pick, and I have no earthy idea why. I'm trying hard to understand his influence on country music, other than exclaiming "I'm Bocephus!" in every single one of his songs. They're not actually good sing-alongs: "I'm Bocephus!" "No, you're not." "Well, uh, those are the lyrics."

And that's just the veteran's category.

Just wait 'til I get to the Modern Era.

Get ready to rumble!!

Until then, I choose to think that everything is beautiful:









Friday, November 23, 2018

Finding Something I Was Good At ~ 1990/1991


I always liked getting in on the ground floor. When LaBelle's Department Store opened, all of us were new. It tends to even the playing field. Cliques have not yet formed; there's no, "Jenny never did it that way". Because there was no Jenny. US Healthcare was brand-spankin' new, at least in my city.

I knew nothing about health insurance, but I did possess a brain. I wasn't concerned about ranking at the bottom of the clump of thirty new employees. I didn't have to be the best, but I was not about to be the worst. If there existed a health insurance company in my town before US Healthcare, I plead ignorance. There may have been a two-room alcove somewhere above a furniture store that sold "health and life" to ranchers who couldn't legitimately form a group and therefore paid five thousand dollars a month for major medical. I therefore didn't know from whence the other twenty-nine girls were plucked ~ maybe they had a "semblance" of medical knowledge, like me.

Our new digs were a rented floor on the second story of a bank. We were granted parking passes, as long as we utilized the parking "arcade", which was a queasy sphere of lightheadedness I managed to maneuver each morning without passing out. In the office we were seated in sequential rows of five, in front of green-screened CRT's with impatiently-blinking cursors. Our trainers had been shipped in from Philadelphia and thus two wildly divergent cultures collided. East-coasters did not suffer fools or even semi-fools. Every raised hand was met with an attempt at a civil response, but disdain dripped like cheese steak from their lips. The travelers did not enjoy their sojourn to the hinterlands, as much as the idea had seemed like a fun lark when it was first presented to them. We were "rustic". Our local restaurants especially offended them. Amongst themselves, they pondered whether we had indoor bathroom facilities.

It had been determined that we would learn how to process eye exams. How bad could we fuck those up? If we managed to master that "skill", we might eventually advance to office visits. With three trainers and thirty trainees, one would have to hold her hand in the air for ten minutes before someone wended their way to the table, only to answer, "It's fine". Oh, okay. There goes my production, I guess.

Essentially, what we were learning was how to navigate US Healthcare's operating system. It makes sense in retrospect. But still, the scorn oozed.

On morning break, we all rode the elevator downstairs and streamed out to the concrete flower planters along Third Street. I gravitated to fellow smokers and found myself in a clutch of two much younger gals, Sherry and Marla. They may have told me where they'd worked before, but I have no recollection. After a couple of weeks, Sherry informed me one morning on break that I had only secured the position because someone dropped out. She didn't say it maliciously, but it still stung. At least I now understood why USHC had waited so long to call me. I don't know how Sherry knew and I didn't inquire. It might not have been true, but I think it was. Sherry was a nice person and she had no reason to jerk me around. Now that I knew I was an afterthought, I became more determined than ever to show 'em.

 Our local supervisors had been pre-selected ~ Kim, Barb, and Connie. They didn't do much during training; essentially hovered about trying to appear knowledgeable. When they ventured an answer to someone's raised hand, they were tentative, glancing up at the Philadelphia experts for validation. The rest of the day they huddled in a tiny back office and did...planning or something. There was also a manager; Marian, I believe her name was. She didn't stay long; I have no idea why. Maybe working with Connie was just too keen a punishment.

As the days dribbled on, I pondered who my supervisor would be. I liked Kim. He was an affable sort. Barb seemed a bit uptight, but harmless. Connie was a red flag. She didn't appear "real"; a person who went through the motions like she thought a normal human would, but couldn't quite pull it off convincingly.

Toward the end of our training, it was announced that three assistant supervisor positions were available. I applied. What the heck? Most everybody else did; I didn't want to seem unambitious. I didn't get it, of course. I didn't think I would. Girls named Carlene and (another) Shelly and somebody else who apparently was not memorable because I can't remember her, were granted the promotions. At least no one in my little three-person clique got it, so we could go on smoking and making small talk and anticipating our move to the new building on the north side of town that we'd all driven past a time or two and spied the formulating blue and white construction.

My supervisor would be Barb. When the building was completed, we moved into our respective units with their pre-ordained cubicles; Barb seated in her extra-special glass-enclosed case up front. Bye-bye sickening garage precipice.

And life went on.

As did country.

My man, Mark Chesnutt:


Pam Tillis:


And still there was Ronnie Milsap:


Some new guy:



Another new guy:


A new duo:




Yes, like me, all the way from '73, Tanya was still live 'n kickin':



Mary Chapin:



Some new group:


The all-time Dwight:














Saturday, June 23, 2018

"Country Music Is So Depressing"


As long as I've been listening to country music, which includes my pre-country music period (my mom and dad's music) as well as my three-decade obsession, from approximately 1967 to 1999; I've heard two criticisms:  country music is soooo corny and country music is too depressing.

I never found country music depressing. A track by Little Texas never once made me consider killing myself. Of course there are sad country songs -- country music is just like life; sometimes we're happy; other times wistful. Sometimes we feel giddy and silly; ready to break into a dork dance. And sometimes our hearts are broken.

The times when I've been sad, I wanted music to wallow in. Crying is sorely underrated. Right after my dad died, I sat in my room and played Ray Price's "Soft Rain" over and over and over. The grief I couldn't put into words, Ray did, and perfectly.

I don't know what those judgmental people are listening to, but obviously not the country music I know. In the eighties and nineties country music was glorious, even the sad songs.

This is ostensibly a sad song. Does it sound sad?


Likewise:


If it's got a good beat and one can two-step to it, sad or not, it's happy. At least it makes me feel happy. 

And, you know, everyone in country music is not heartbroken:





Sometimes they are falling in love and it's just now hit them:



As a country music historian, I know there are (old) songs that are frankly, maudlin, or at least cheesy. Do you like every rock song every recorded? Don't judge a whole genre of music by "I Wish I Was A Teddy Bear" and "Honey". In my teens and pre-teens, I felt obliged to defend the bad country songs, because people were so vociferous in their hatred. "Folsom Prison Blues? Yea, really great with that chunka-chunka guitar." Guess what? I didn't like that song, either. I also didn't like Rose Garden, but had I named a good country song, I would have gotten quizzical stares, because all those people knew was what was played on Top 40 radio. 

I wasn't a top forty kind of gal. I had taste; not that it mattered one whit to anyone but me. But that's okay, actually. When it comes to music, I only need to be true to myself. 

And, no. Country music is not depressing. Unless you want it to be.






Friday, October 13, 2017

Traditions


Kids who grow up in a dysfunctional family can take one of two paths. Some become thrill-seekers, constantly on the lookout for something new, weird, unapproved. Others grab onto security with all their might -- wherever they can find it. There are downsides to both journeys. The daredevils can find themselves in over their heads, entangled in a life they don't know how they landed in, with no iota of a clue how to fight their way out. Safety nuts can be harshly judgmental and afraid to dip a toe into murky waters.

I grew up a scaredy-cat. I have veiled memories of family traditions from when I was a teeny kid -- holiday crisp-roasted turkey dinners, a pungent Christmas pine globbed with baby handfuls of shiny tinsel. By the time I turned eleven, there were no more traditions, unless one counts Dad passed out on the living room shag carpet as a sweet family memory. My parents did the best they could with what they had to work with. If I haven't completely forgiven them, I now at least understand. Kids are essentially bendable objects, though. I sussed out my own traditions from that time. Christmas Eve, once I retired behind the locked door of my bedroom, I unwrapped the gifts from my best friend, Alice, placed each of the two LP's on my turntable and marveled at my friend's exquisite taste. Sure, it was a solitary tradition, but once each of us had listened to the two albums we'd purchased for each other, we got on the phone and gushed for an hour or so.

I've been thinking about traditions this week and how the daredevils of the world want to rip them to shreds. I will never relate to that mindset. Traditions should be revered -- maybe because I have so few of them to claim.

Traditions can't be pre-planned. Did you ever set out to create one? It never works. "Hey, kids! Let's go out caroling in the neighborhood and then we'll come home and sip mugs of hot chocolate!" Year one, it's fun! Year two, one kid hangs back to stretch out on his bed and take a snooze. Year three, Kid Number Two lags a block behind, seething with resentment that Kid Number One gets a pass. He also wants to impress the cute girl from down the street and is certain that an a Capella rendition of "O Come All Ye Faithful" will banish him to dweeb hell forever.

Traditions form organically.

Our annual family vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota featured lots of FM radio road songs. The songs that stuck were never the great ones. These were our two:





I will never hear either of these two songs without my mind flashing back to the tunnels of Needles Highway and a Chevy Malibu with its windows flayed wide open, the July winds whipping up mini-tornadoes as we traversed Highway 83 South.

Traditions could be as simple as a wintry stroll through a forest of trees tinged with frost; holding hands with the person you love -- and a fluffy white dog who is mesmerized by the scent of the decaying leaves that litter the ground. 

Traditions could be one alone on the night before Christmas, listening to Anne Murray's rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas". 

I don't understand those whose life goal is to banish traditions. What do they hold on to? 

"What are you doing for the holidays?"

"I don't know. Whatever."

Really? 

If we have no traditions, we have nothing.

Take it from someone who had to invent her own. 

Maybe that's why I like this song so much:











Saturday, September 16, 2017

Stress


Maybe it's a facet of getting older. I'm generally a pretty even-keel person, or maybe I'm just in denial. I do know that I now get too upset by workplace irritations and I'm not necessarily handling them well. You know, the usual -- people who ignore emails, someone taking over a room I've had reserved for two weeks and expecting me to find other accommodations. People declining to shoulder their share of the burden and being pissy in their refusal.

No wonder I don't sleep.

I read:  Sustained or chronic stress, in particular, leads to elevated hormones such as cortisol, the "stress hormone," and reduced serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, which has been linked to depression. (link) I didn't think I was depressed, but maybe I am. Even if I am, what am I supposed to do with that? I have to continue to "deal", because that's how life goes.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be selfish, to not be beholden to anyone. I think it would be heaven for a while. I would settle for just a tiny bit of fun. To be honest, I think I've forgotten what fun is. I asked myself, what would I do that would be fun? The first thing that popped into my mind was...dance. Dance like an idiot. Wave my arms in the air and swivel my hips like a bad Elvis impersonator and clap my hands over my head. Stomp my feet to the beat. Get those pheromones whizzing.

Music rarely fails to lighten my mood. Tonight it kind of failed me. The first song I heard that even registered was this one (thank you, Brian Wilson):


If I was alone on a dance floor and nobody was watching, I wonder what I would dance to....














Okay, I feel better now.

Goodnight.








Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Beauty (Sorry - Absence) of Video Clips - 2014 ACM Awards

As you know, I hate watching awards shows. And yes, I realize the ACM Awards were broadcast April 5. I've been busy - sorry.

Generally, awards telecasts feature a bunch of inane scripted chatter that is supposed to pass for "humor", but instead creates twinges of embarrassment, and I'm referring to the poor viewers who have to witness it. I say, speed things up. These shows could be wrapped up in an hour, with a judicious producer. Omit the inside jokes that nobody gets unless they're a crazed web fanatic with nothing to do all day but peruse country music gossip sites.

Ditch the "medleys". Whose brainchild were those? The problem with medleys, aside from the fact that, well, they're medleys; is a) just when they start a good song, it abruptly stops and transitions into some soporific tune that the poor artist being honored couldn't even manage to break the top 40 with; and b) the producers always trot out some kid singer wanna-be, who butchers what originally was a really great song. If it's imperative to include medleys, please let the original artists perform them. And don't give me that, "we're here to honor....". No, you're not. You're here to snatch some screen time. Quit trying to jazz up a classic song. Who do you think you are? Reba McEntire? with your laughable note-bending and your southern rock mimicry? Just do the damn song the way it was intended. Show-off.

Three, don't include Faith Hill. I have nothing whatsoever against Faith Hill, and I realize she's a package deal: "McHill". But she hasn't been relevant since the turn of the century.

Finally, and this really goes without saying, stop panning the camera to Taylor Swift whooping it up in the audience.

All bitching aside, let's get to the clips, shall we?

UPDATE:  

This just in:


Sorry - it seems that the ACM's or CBS or whoever's in charge doesn't want anyone to watch their videos. I'm not sure why. I've never understood why these folks remove their online content. It's free advertising, after all - and you network people know the show's already been broadcast, right? It's not like you're going to lose advertising dollars.

By the way, the ACM's were created by the late Dick Clark, who actually was a big country music booster, as a way to compete with the CMA awards. It's not as if the ACM's are an "industry" function; they're a TV show. Which is fine. I just wanted to point out the distinction.

Anyway, here's a video. It has nothing to do with the Academy of Country Music Awards, but I found this during my search - and WOW!



Back to the ACM's, I also understand that some guy named Garth got the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to some guy named Merle (I don't know - there is no video evidence of this anymore).

I am just hoping that I have better luck with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction performances. Because I have a lot to say about that.












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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thoughts On My Singer-Songwriter Series


I wonder how many people in this world consider themselves to be songwriters.

I'm thinking there's a lot.

I've so far featured three singer-songwriters. Three damn good ones. (Not to confuse you. You've only read about two, but trust me, I've written about three. It's just all out of order, because, well, that's how I roll, apparently).

How many damn good ones are there? I'll say you can count them on the fingers of two hands. Okay, maybe three. But how many people actually have three hands?

I don't think songwriting is like a puzzle. It's not as if you can work on it long enough and hard enough to crack it.

You either have it or you don't.

Yes, I've used that phrase every time I've posted one of my "episodes". That's because it's true.

I've called myself a songwriter for about nine years or so. And I'm thinking, nuts to that. I'm not going to crack the code.

Unlike Radney Foster, I haven't written 25-50 songs per year. I frankly don't have the subject matter. Some years, in fact, I probably wrote two. If it wasn't for FAWM, I would be sitting at about number 13 at this point.

Oh, it's not for lack of desire.

It's for lack of ability.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone. But I will say, write for yourself.

If you like it, that's really the only point there is. I still really like some of mine; not most of them, but some. I guess you had to be there (ha); you know, in my subconscious, to really "get them'. That's, I guess, the problem.

I don't even know what it is about us that makes us want to do this. It's not for commerce. Because that would be the most doomed business enterprise ever created.

Can you imagine a storefront advertising songs for sale? Nobody would stop in. Or, if they did stop in, they'd say, oh, that's okay; I'm just browsing. And then they'd surreptitiously make their way over to the door, and slither out.

There you'd be, following them around, wearing your nice white apron, asking, "Is there something I can help you with?" And they'd murmur, "I was just looking for something bright and shiny; you know, something I can dance to".

"Well, I've got this song about love and loss", you'd say. "Oh, that's okay. I was kind of looking for something different. A little variety. I'm not really in the mood for love and loss today. I've already got a bunch of that at home."

"Well, let me just play you this one. You'll like it, I think."

Then strum, strum, strum. Your three-minute intro.

And you look up, and they're gone. Out the door.

You mutter to yourself, I don't know what people want. Maybe I should have stayed in customer service. Maybe starting my own songwriting business wasn't such a great idea. I guess people just don't understand greatness.

At this point in my songwriting career (okay, I can call it a career if I want), I look at the songs I've written sort of like a diary. I think maybe only one or two of them are completely fictional.

I read something that another songwriter wrote on one of those songwriter sites, and I'm paraphrasing, because I'm really too lazy to go back and re-read it, but he said that every song he wrote had some personal truth in it, even if he had to go back afterwards and cover up all the tell-tale signs. I kind of like that.

Songwriters (at least the un-schlocky ones) are really telling their life stories.

The problem with that, commercially, is that most people don't care about other people's life stories. Not really. Even if you know somebody really well, you are sort of interested, but not as interested as you are in your own life.

So, it's the rare (again, count 'em on three hands, if you have them) songwriter who can transcend that complete and utter disinterest, and invoke some kind of recognition in the listener's mind.

Either that, or the songs need to have a catchy beat.

I can go either way on that.

I'm being semi-facetious, but not really. For what is music, really, if not entertainment? What's wrong with a nonsense song that's infectious? I've got some of those guilty pleasures in my music collection, and I really like them.

That same songwriter that I referenced earlier (I think I'll call him "Jed") likes to talk about hearing music that touches his soul, or something like that. And I like that sometimes.

But sometimes, I've had a really crappy day, or a crappy week. My husband has lost his job (like a quarter of the population, apparently), and I'm worried about stuff like paying our bills, and insurance, and how we will survive when we're old; that kind of fun stuff. And I don't really want to hear some singer crying about...well, anything. I don't need to listen to some sad song to make me feel sad. I'm already sad. I just want to forget my troubles for one measly hour of my life and hear something fun and mindless.

And, come to think of it, the few songs of mine that people say they actually like are those kinds of songs. Entertainment. No offense to Jed, but I don't think the majority of people want to wallow.

So, what is the point of this post?

Well, it's two-fold. Listening to great songwriters (and so far, there have been three, but there are many more to come), I realize that this just isn't the gig for me.

I'm at a crossroads, and the road I'm traveling on right now is leading me toward just writing, but not songwriting.

Maybe I'll change my mind later (probably), when I'm in a better frame of mind. But I'm thinking, why keep beating my head against the wall? It's giving me a real headache, and I've got enough headaches already.

The other point is, let's have fun!

I'm going to search my music collection for "fun" songs, and post a few here and now. The week has been long and difficult (for you, too?), so it's time to kick back.





(Thank you, Dwight. I can always count on Dwight).





(Thank you, George. I used to always be able to count on George).



(Thanks, Marty. You're a rock.)

I know I posted this one before, but I don't care! If you don't like this one, well, I guess you just don't like country, and you just don't care, and you just don't really know what real country music is. Pity.



(My four go-to guys: Dwight, George, Marty, and Mark. George, you're moving further down my list, but you still have time to rise to the challenge. I haven't given up on you yet; at least not completely).

We're not done.





And while we're having fun, and throwing caution to the wind, let's not forget this one:



Tomorrow (or sometime) I will post the sad songs. But not tonight.

Don't forget, songwriters, that music is entertainment. We all just want to feel better; forget our troubles. So, while you're pouring out your guts, and lamenting your life circumstance, everybody else doesn't want to think about that.

I think that's the best advice I can give.