Showing posts with label country music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label country music. Show all posts

Sunday, August 20, 2023

To Be Honest...


I haven't posted in a while, mostly because I've been working on other projects, but also because this is primarily a music blog and I don't think much about music anymore. It stings to admit it. I click on Spotify once a week at the most and even then I struggle choosing what to play. 

Music and I go back a long ways together. When I was a little kid, too young to even buy records, everything that poured out of my mom's kitchen radio was magical. I didn't totally understand how it all worked -- my big sisters had a few records and my parents had two, but who was the guy inside the radio playing his records for me? And he sure must have owned a bunch, because I heard a different song every two and a half minutes.

Once I turned nine I somehow managed to collect enough money every month or so to walk to the record store and pick out a '45. There were so many hot singles swirling around in my head that choosing just one was excruciating. Admittedly, I generally went with The Beatles, but I was also enamored with "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" by The Righteous Brothers and oddly, The Tijuana Brass's "Spanish Flea". Luckily I requested those two '45's from my friends for my one and only birthday party, so I didn't have to interrupt my Beatles buying spree.

In junior high before I defected to country music I picked up "Thank The Lord For The Nighttime" and "(It's A) Beautiful Morning". Pop music around that time wasn't especially scintillating.

Once I immersed myself in country I became fanatical. In the summers I'd stay up late just to tune in to clear channel radio stations like WHO in Des Moines and WBAP in Fort Worth (which was still kind of scratchy, even at one a.m.). Mike Hoyer from WHO always had the newest tracks and I got to hear them before they even hit the stores. My summer job made me "rich" and thus I picked up country albums willy-nilly -- Merle and Porter and Dolly, Loretta, Tammy, Tanya Tucker, Faron Young, Lynn Anderson. I bought most anything the tiny country section in JC Penney's basement offered. I was big on greatest hits -- more bang for the buck -- George Jones, Connie Smith. I spun the hell out of all those LP's, knew the track listings by heart, scoured the liner notes (where I learned who Pig Robbins and Lloyd Green were), became familiar with the go-to songwriters. 

The early seventies didn't slow me down. I was just as thrilled to select albums by Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Rodriguez, Eddie Rabbitt, Emmylou, Gene Watson, Gary Stewart, Ronnie Milsap, the Gatlins, the Statlers, even new acts like Dave and Sugar (yes, I admit it). Country was still as exciting as hell...until it wasn't.

(Insert ten-year intermission here. I gave up on country because it forced me to. Sure, I still kind of knew what was going on in the country world, but that didn't mean I liked it. It was the era of Kenny Rogers and John Denver and Rhinestone Cowboy, and Sylvia. Dolly took a pop swing, Tanya didn't seem to know where she was most of the time. Music became more of an irritation than a rush.)

Ahh, but then came the mid-eighties. You gotta hand it to whoever wrested the reins from Nashville producers' hands, because country was back and it was good. I mean, really good. That old tingle of excitement returned when I slapped on my minty-fresh albums by Highway 101, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ricky Van Shelton, Randy Travis, George Strait, Dwight, Rodney Crowell, Clint Black. It was like waking from a decade-long coma. The sounds thrilled me. I couldn't get enough of it. It was like I was sixteen again. Or nine.

By the nineties, I no longer felt alone in my country music rapture. I don't know what happened, but suddenly everybody liked it -- everybody I interacted with, at least. At work kids ten years younger than me had their radios tuned to the local country station. As a teen I kept my country predilection a secret. Nobody at that age wants to be an outcast. Really, the only people who knew were my best friend who turned me on to country in the first place and my parents (it gave us one thing in common). But now? We all began comparing notes about our favorite artists, the latest hits, even a bit of country gossip. It was liberating. Dwight and George were still hotter than ever, but now we had Alan Jackson and Mark Chesnutt and Pam Tillis and Mary Chapin Carpenter and Patty Loveless. Diamond Rio, The Mavericks, Brooks and Dunn. Tanya was releasing her best music ever. There was such a glut of great music it was almost overwhelming. I collected CD's like my son collected baseball cards.

After the nineties, I held on. I somehow found a Texas independent radio station online and listened to it at work. Every so often I'd catch a track I liked. But let's put it this way: My Spotify playlist for the years 2000 - 2010 contains 74 songs. My '90's playlist has 227. Something bad was happening to country. It was almost as if all the creativity was spent the decade before and everyone was tired, even the new acts. The word came down from on high -- "No more of that 'country shit'. It's a new millennium." And thus Faith Hill and Tim McGraw were borne. The Dixie Chicks turned surly. Kenny Chesney was lying back on a beach somewhere. A few, like George and Alan and Dwight, refused to bow, but it was a new, loathsome world. I recognized few artists' names, and worse, I didn't care that I didn't know them.

That's when I stopped. Just stopped. Stopped listening to music in general. Sure, here and there something would strike my consciousness -- an album, a song I heard while I was buying coffee in the morning --  and I might buy it or I might not. 

I no longer felt that chill. 

I miss it.

I miss getting so gobsmacked by a song that I couldn't wait to go out and grab the CD, come home and rip off the cellophane, peel off that stupid adhesive strip, fling open the CD changer and swirl up the volume, stand back and swoon. Then play it again. 

I miss hearing Ralph Emery in the middle of the night spin a new track by Faron Young and losing my breath, then zipping a money order off to Ernest Tubb's Record Shop to get my hands on it because my local record shop across the river didn't bother to stock it. 

I miss falling so in love with "Silver Wings" that I sang all three vocal parts into my reel-to-reel tape recorder, which required sleight of hand I didn't even know I possessed at sixteen. 

I miss hearing "The Big One" on my car radio for the first time as I waited for my kids' classes to dismiss and hoping against hope that the DJ would it again.

I miss playing Marty Stuart's "Sundown In Nashville" on repeat, over and over. 

I miss Roger Miller's "Engine Engine #9" becoming an earworm when I was eight years old, hearing it on the radio inside my big sister's first apartment after school. 

I miss writing a rock opera to The Beatles' "Help" album when I was nine as a testament to my devotion. 

I even miss sitting in the rocking chair in my bedroom and playing Ray Price's "Soft Rain" on repeat with tears streaming down my face the day my dad died.

To be honest, music will never touch me like that again.

I try to keep up. I have a favorite country website that features the latest from the country world. I click on the videos the writer embeds, but I rarely make it all the way to the end. Even with the few I like, it's more on a cerebral level. "Yea, he sounds authentic; tight songwriting; wish he would've gone to a bridge here." I can't remember the last one (was there one?) that stabbed me in the heart. I don't know if it's them or if it's me. It's probably both of us. I've lived through wondrous times in music. I'm jaded. You're gonna have to give me something otherworldly to knock me over. Trust me; I don't want to feel this way. I want to fall in love with music I've never before heard. But maybe it's simply too late. It's all been done, and done so much better that the deck is stacked. 

If you're wondering why I have been silent here so long, it's because there is really nothing left to say.



Friday, May 20, 2022

Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees ~ 2022 (Part One)


I used to chirp incessantly about why Bobby Bare wasn't in the Hall Of Fame. Then at last in 2013 he was. Honestly, don't even get me started about dolts who have zero sense of history and lackluster taste in music. So because of me and me alone 😀 Bobby Bare finally got his due.

Then eventually it struck me like a bullet ~ Jerry Lee Lewis isn't in the Hall Of Fame? What kind of bizzaro universe are we inhabiting? And more significantly, who exactly comprises this super-secret cabal of decision makers? Even the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame puts its nominees up for a vote. 

I don't like it. These guys and/or gals are obviously not taste-makers. Do they get payoffs? We'll never know ~ it's a "secret".  And only three inductees per year, with one of them not even a performer? At this rate Dwight Yoakam will be inducted sometime around 2098. It doesn't matter to the HOF syndicate, though. They like waiting until someone is dead before inducting them. Ghouls.

Growing up, I paid scant attention to Jerry Lee. His rock and roll hits came before my time, but boy, when I heard them on the radio ~ WHEW! Jerry Lee wouldn't allow you to ignore him.

There are few true originals in music, any genre of music. It's true. In country, many would proffer Johnny Cash and I don't disagree, although I'm not about to spin Five Feet High And Rising anytime soon. Loretta Lynn, maybe. Willie? Okay. But, trust me, you ain't ever gonna hear anyone anywhere close to Jerry Lee Lewis in your lifetime.

What Jerry Lee had (has) other than celestial talent is attitude. A stylist? You bet your ass.

Can you envision another country singer delivering something like this?


 I can't find a decent live video of this, but man....

Have you ever seen someone so casual with so much presence? "Yea, here I am. I don't need to impress you. Just fuckin' listen."

There's a scene in that bad Dennis Quaid movie, "Great Balls Of Fire" in which Jerry Lee finds out he's not the headliner on a rock and roll package show that night and he says something to the effect of, "nobody outguns The Killer". And he proceeds to wipe the floor with Ritchie Valens or whoever the flavor of the month happens to be.

Confidence. Attitude. Sheer divine talent.

Note: I don't give a Goddamn about Jerry Lee's personal life. This isn't Emily Post ~ it's the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

Congratulations, Jerry Lee Lewis, who at the age of eighty-six has finally (finally!) been inducted into the hallowed hall.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Bad Band Names


I'm not Saving Country Music's target audience. I check out the site daily, but mostly to find news about artists I'm familiar with. I've honestly tried to get into some of the current acts and the site owner always posts YouTube videos with each article, but in the couple of years I've been browsing the site I've maybe found one unfamiliar artist that merited more than a single listen. Most score a cursory twenty seconds, even when I slide that little red dot a few paces hoping to find the "good part".

Apparently it's not an age thing. Many of the commenters are as old or older than me, but they're still enamored of new music and seem quite knowledgeable about current acts. I know nothing about Florida Georgia Line, but I know that most true country fans hate them, so they must be awful. The more obscure the artist, the more the site's devotees love him or her. Honestly, I think these aficionados are simply making the best of a mediocre music scene. They're grading on a curve.

Scanning the home page of SCM today I found the following bands: 

Flatland Cavalry
The Steel Woods
American Aquarium

These groups might be great. I don't know. But the names could use some spit and polish. 

I thus decided to use a random country band name generator to try to create some buzz for a few new groups I've discovered:


Game Loaf With The Acrid Bowel

One of the most rumbled-about country bands erupting out of Enid, Oklahoma, Game Loaf With The Acrid Bowel literally blew up indie country radio with their very first single, "IBS", a rocking and queasily rolling debut. Some critics have called the track bloated, but that hasn't cramped GLWTAB's momentum. The band continues to belch out hits that punch fans hard in the gut. Fans especially appreciate lead singer and primary scribe Far T. Trotsky's perceptive takes on life's challenges, with songs like Colitis Calling Me Home, Please Don't Divert My Ticulitis, and of course, I Don't Got Milk. It remains to be seen if Game Loaf's fans will continue to view them as a gas, but all signs for now point to a chronic and persistent ache for future releases.


 Jealousy Of Ouch

Jealousy Of Ouch vocalist Jenny Bandade scrapes one's heartstrings with slashing lyrics that leave the listener bloodied and buckled. From her quiver Jenny chooses razor-sharp words that plunge an emotional arrow straight into a cheating man's bloodied heart. Jenny offers no mercy as she jabs deeper and deeper, until the listener is left psychically crippled. Then she salves the wound with reassuring tracks like "Mama Will Make It Better" and "Stop Fucking Crying - It's Not That Bad".  Certainly Jealousy Of Ouch isn't a band for the faint-hearted. But if one likes their music raw and exposed, they should check out the title track, along with standouts such as, "I Didn't Hit You That Hard" and "I'm Gonna Tell Mom You're Just Faking It".

Hose Along Intoxicant


Mississippi has birthed artists as disparate as Elvis Presley and Jimmy Buffett, Charley Pride and Marty Stuart, even blues legend Robert Johnson, but never has it produced a group as debauched as Hose Along Intoxicant. HAI is poised to surpass even the whiskey-fueled roller coaster that is Faith Hill in bawdiness, and its fans are quick to slosh to their nearest record store, drunk on the knowledge that they're sure to find a juiced-up good time.

Along Intoxicant is definitely a party band, albeit one that has a puking pile of regrets the next day. One wonders how long HAI can keep staggering on without some kind of intervention. But for a country fan in the market for some lush party tunes, Hose Along Intoxicant is the answer to a skid row prayer. Tracks like "Just Mix It All Together" and "Listerine Ain't All That Bad" speak a tight truth many hard-core country fans are thirsty for. Lead singer G'Rain Everclear hits the high notes with his blood vessel-popping regurgitation of the band's best late-night compositions. Give HAI a spin on a midnight Saturday and it won't disappoint. You'll find yourself stomping one step outside the beat around your bedroom, but no one will care. Sadly, you'll hate yourself the next day. But that's the price we'll willingly pay for tight indie music.



Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Weird, Brilliant Mind Of Roger Miller


Some guys are smart, some guys are clever, some guys are completely alien. Roger Miller, I think, was an alien. 

I first became aware of Roger Miller in (I think) 1964. You couldn't miss him. From '64 to '66 there was no one hotter in country music. 1964 was a time when radio stations weren't segregated by genre. We heard a little bit of everything -- The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Dean Martin, J. Frank Wilson (bet you forgot!), Manfred Mann, Al Hirt, Roy Orbison, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Vinton (!?) and Roger Miller.

In 1964 and 1965 alone, Roger Miller had Dang Me, Chug-A-Lug, Do-Wacka-Do, England Swings, Engine Engine #9, and of course, King Of The Road. You couldn't miss him. I was nine years old in 1964 and (just like now) I liked songs for their melody, not necessarily their lyrics, but Miller's words were so foreign, that even though I didn't actually understand their meaning, his songs were impossible to ignore. Part of the genius of Roger Miller's songwriting was the accessibility of his songs. Even a nine-year-old girl could sing along. He was an expert at unexpected rhymes. I knew even then that most songs were pap and only their melodies and production saved them, and I'm not excusing The Beatles here, either. I wasn't exactly jaded, but I could pick out originality. Miller's songs were unlike any other. I do believe, however, that as silly as some of those tunes were, they all had a grain of Roger Miller truth (maybe not You Can't Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd). 

But let's start at the beginning.

He was a bellhop at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville before signing on with Minnie Pearl's band as a fiddler, although he didn't know how to play the fiddle. Eventually he joined Ray Price's Cherokee Cowboys and wrote this hit for Price, which he sings harmony on below:


In fact, Roger Miller wrote tons of songs for tons of artists, from Ernest Tubb to Faron Young to Jim Reeves.

"Roger was the most talented, and least disciplined, person that you could imagine", citing the attempts of Miller's Tree Publishing boss, Buddy Killen to force him to finish a piece. He was known to give away lines, inciting many Nashville songwriters to follow him around since, according to Killen, "everything he said was a potential song." (source)

It's impossible to list all the songs Miller wrote, or the swarms of artists who recorded them. He eventually went on tour as Faron Young's drummer, though he was as much of a drummer as he was a fiddler, before at last landing a recording contract with Smash Records.

And then he exploded.

One couldn't turn on network television without seeing Roger Miller. He appeared on everything from The Tonight Show to Shindig.  

(I like how Dick Clark calls him a "humorist" - I don't think Dick actually got it.)


This was self-loathing at its finest:

Well, here I sit high, gettin' ideas
Ain't nothin' but a fool would live like this
Out all night and runnin' wild
Woman's sittin' home with a month old child

Dang me, dang me
They oughta take a rope and hang me
High from the highest tree
Woman would you weep for me?

Just sittin' 'round drinkin' with the rest of the guys
Six rounds bought and I bought five
I spent the groceries and a half the rent
I lack fourteen dollars havin' twenty seven cents

Dang me, dang me
They ought-a take a rope and hang me
High from the highest tree
Woman would you weep for me?

They say roses are red and violets are purple
And sugar's sweet and so is maple syrple
Well I'm seventh out of seven sons
My pappy was a pistol, I'm a son of a gun

I said dang me, dang me
They ought-a take a rope and hang me
High from the highest tree
Woman would you weep for me?

(Don't feel bad, Dick. I didn't get it until recently, either.)

My favorite Roger Miller tune remains the same fifty-seven years after its release. At age nine, as opposed to age thirty-nine, I didn't internalize the heartache in this song. Maybe the brilliant rhyming obscured my emotional cognizance. Or maybe I was nine.


Naturally, this song was everywhere, and established Roger Miller's bona fides:

But long after Roger passed away, artists kept recording his songs:

(Okay, that's gotta be the actual, real, original Roger Miller in this video.)

Roger Miller was probably the most prolific, most original songwriter Nashville has ever, or will ever see. 

That only happens once in a century. 

It deserves to be remembered.


Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Key's In The Mailbox, Come On In


When it came to music, my dad liked what he liked. He wasn't a musical explorer. In the sixties and seventies, Dad could pick from the the offerings of AM radio...and that was it. My dad was a guy whose notion of success was buying a new car every two years. He had graduated from a used Ford Model A in the forties to the subsequent automobile upgrades of Galaxys and ultimately to the boxy casket of a gold Lincoln once his ship came in. My dad's ultimate success symbol was a shiny new car.

His seventies-era Lincoln came equipped with the newest advent in sound -- a built-in eight-track player. He bought approximately three eight-track cartridges -- surprisingly, Ray Stevens and Jerry Reed -- and Tony Booth. Every local destination he drove me to, which consisted of junior high school choral concerts he never hung around for, featured one of the three tapes, which inexplicably managed to stop smack-dab in the middle of a song and he'd have to eject and flip the cartridge over for the song to continue. I was dubious about this new technology, but everyone said it was "the thing", so I played along. It wasn't as if I had any say in the matter. I was a passenger hostage. I don't know how many times I heard Jerry Reed's "Another Puff", and it was humorous the first three hundred times my dad played it, but the sheen wore off by play three hundred and one. Dad was essentially a cheapskate when it came to laying out money that didn't involve cars, so those three eight-track tapes became imprinted on my brain pan. 

Tony Booth was one singer among Buck Owens' new coterie of Capitol artists, which included Susan Raye and Buck's son Buddy, who was an even paler version of the pasty vocal talents of his father. I was a bit suspicious of this new cabal. Buck had been the premiere country artist of the sixties, but then as the decade turned he veered off into his own personal talent agency, plugging his latest finds and using the Buckaroos to cement the gaps in his artists' ability.

Dad also possessed the Capitol Records' orange and red single of this track, which he spun on his console stereo in the living room, and which sounded suspiciously like the phenomenal Don Rich was singing background vocals on (he was).

I was reminded of Tony Booth one afternoon when Willie's Roadhouse spun him. I'm not sure that Tony Booth ever recorded an original song, but Dad liked him a lot. Tony Booth is like one of those luminary bodies that pops up in the sky on a late night when one happens to awake and peers out their bedroom window. By dawn he's gone.

That's not a bad thing, necessarily. It's just the way of the music world. It would take me more than ten fingers to list the artists, many of them extraordinary, who flamed out simply because the musical universe had changed. 

In honor of Dad's three eight-track tapes, here's the Jerry Reed song that eventually brittled my nerves. DISCLOSURE:  Dad was a lifelong smoker, and I guess one could now say I am, too. Maybe that's why it's not really that funny.

In honor of Dad's good taste, and mine, here's Ray Stevens:


I don't give a flying F what any of the country sites say to denigrate Ray Stevens. The album Misty is a masterpiece. Anyone who's not an imbecile knows that Ray Stevens is more than "The Streak". 

So, Dad was essentially two for three. I never cared for Jerry Reed, but Tony Booth was (is) pretty good, and Ray Stevens is a treasure.

I wonder if heaven has an eight-track player, or for that matter, a Lincoln town car. If it does, Dad is happily cruising along, a Belair filter-tip balancing in the ash tray.

Music is where you find it. 

Hug onto the good; giggle about the bad.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Record Collections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead I rely on my uploads.

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

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

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

I'm feeling good that I chose wisely.

Saturday, May 2, 2020


I long had a love-hate relationship with Alabama. My hometown was relatively small and while we were initially visited by country stars (who traveled everywhere), by the nineteen seventies our concert options were paltry. We had a brand new venue and nothing to see there. Residents of big cities in the nineteen seventies wouldn't understand why someone would venture out to see Barry Manilow or Jay Leno. I saw them both. I saw lots of acts I wouldn't ordinarily choose because they were my only options for live entertainment.

But God bless Alabama. Alabama showed up a couple times a year. They must be more traveled than even Bob Dylan. That might be why I dismissed them -- they were so prevalent. It became a joke -- "Are you going to see Alabama...again?"

I never saw Alabama up close. I was always high up in the bleachers and I didn't fuss with binoculars. The band consisted of tiny claymation figures with big amps. But the Civic Center was packed to capacity.

Alabama was a new strain of country -- not really country; not rock. I really liked some of their tracks and I really hated others.I was still buying singles and "The Closer You Get" was one I plucked from the Woolworth bin:

Oh, play me....I liked this one, too. although this video edit would not be my choice :

Like all of us, Alabama matured. Once their initial flame began to flicker, they produced their best work: They'd become arrogant after winning all those CMA awards, and pretty much unbearable.It's not that they hadn't worked awfully hard for their success, but nobody likes a braggart.

There are some artists who stick around so long, one takes them for granted. Most stars burn out relatively quickly. Even those you think had a years' long string of stardom in actuality simply had several mega-hits clustered together. And frankly, few artists are able to maintain a label contract for more than a few years, especially now. In the so-called modern era of country music, those enduring artists include Alan Jackson, Merle Haggard, George Strait, and surprise! Alabama. While Merle kept recording hits into the eighties, after a time one did not jump with excitement at a new Haggard release. The same can be said for Jackson. George Strait remained the exception well into the 2000's. 

Then there was Alabama. I don't recall ever buying an Alabama album, and after the seventies I no longer spent money on singles. In the eighties and even the nineties, radio was the means by which most people caught new songs. I heard Alabama on my car radio throughout those decades and their songs barely registered beyond background music. It really wasn't until I was able to revisit some of their tracks via SiriusXM that I realized some of them were quite good.

Admittedly, I like this one because it has a classic country vibe, but there's nothing wrong with that:

I can't find a performance video of this song that I like, so look at the pretty pictures instead. This might be my favorite Alabama track:

The cool thing about the next track, to me, is the subtle background vocals that add a touch of spice to the recording:

For many years the band personified the southern rock aura; the Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr. mien. Many people worship that. I'm not one of those people. That may have been why I casually tossed off their live performances. I wouldn't mind seeing the more mature Alabama, though.

I chuckled when in my research I learned that Alabama performed their final show in October, 2004 in Bismarck, North Dakota. That's about thirty years after I first saw them live -- in Bismarck, North Dakota. I wonder how many class of '73 country-hating gray hairs were in the audience that night. Maybe they went because there weren't any other entertainment options in town. 

Or maybe they went to show appreciation for a thirty-plus year career.

Friday, February 21, 2020

There Are No Good Conservative Songwriters


Some dolt named Jason Isbell, who is apparently the "King of Americana Music" (I honestly have no idea who the idiot is) recently got into a Twitter tussle with someone who tweeted that they didn't like his progressive politics, and responded, “If it ever gets to be too much for you, there are a lot of great songwriters out there who agree with you politically. Oh wait, no there aren’t.”

I abhor making fun of the mentally challenged, but I will make an exception in this case. Let's begin with the absurd moniker of "King of Americana". Who crowned him? In my limited exposure to whatever the hell Americana is, I would exalt Dwight Yoakam (who is apparently no longer considered "country") to that title. And Dwight's politics are, yes, progressive, but he's no imbecile. There is no chance in hell Dwight would make a statement like that, because he knows better. Dwight knows that political bent has no bearing on songwriting prowess. In fact, political leanings have no bearing on creativity, period. I don't know (and don't care to know) what kind of songs this Isbell guy writes, but if you're in the country milieu, aren't you writing about heartbreak and about life's ups and downs? I didn't know that was solely the purview of liberals. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not, based on my reading of online political site comments; unless the songs are all about how much I hate Trump and the world is going to hell...because of Trump.



It's sad that some people's existences are so tiny that all they have to latch onto is hate. No, not sad -- pathetic.

I'm not going to enumerate all the superb conservative country songwriters, because Trigger compiled a comprehensive list here. My point in writing this post is that people need to get over themselves. I sometimes lurk on a (fiction) writer's forum and it's just as hateful as Jason Isbell. The prevailing opinion there (among writers who've had just as much success as me; meaning "none") is that conservatives are hayseeds who can barely read, much less write. The place oozes with condescension.

No wonder I pine for the days when music was just "music". Now we are forced to take sides. That's not what music is about. Music should be joyous. Music should be a respite; a little jewel we tuck inside our pockets. I don't want it to be ruined. I knew that Stephen Stills was a Hollywood Hills lefty, but I didn't care because I liked his music. I know what John Lennon was. Lennon is a god to me. 

Let's all calm down and stop hoisting our battle shields. 


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Anatomy Of A Great Country Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Blogging Platforms and Discovery

I love Google as much as...well, everybody. I use Google practically every day for something. And I'm quite sure that Google knows me very well, but it's a trade-off...information at my fingertips or protect my privacy? Frankly, I need Google. After all, Ask Jeeves has retired.

Everyone swears by WordPress for blogging, but I've used Blogger since 2007 and I like it ~ it's made to order for a writer; no confusing elements to configure; no resultant hissy fits. I actually have a blog on WordPress, but I'd never be able to find

The one advantage to WordPress, though, is that it's easy as pie to find blogs to browse. You just click "next blog" and voilà. Finding blogs on Blogger, however...good luck! The Google people are so smart, I just don't get it. Maybe blogs aren't actually a "thing" anymore, so Google figures, why bother?

I used to follow certain blogs, but then Google locked me out of my account and hard as I tried, I could never recover my settings. The email threads were (almost) funny...nobody at headquarters could grasp what I was asking, and each "representative" sent me to links that redirected me to other links that redirected me back to the original links. After months of frustration, I simply gave up and created a new blog. But I, of course, lost my favorite blogs and lost all my followers. I'm (kind of) over it now.

But now I can't find blogs to follow. I tried...well, Googling..."Blogger blogs" in my preferred category, but that was essentially useless. I feel adrift. I would love to find like-minded writers, to feel like I'm part of a community. I also would love to get my followers back ~ they at least left comments ~ but they lost me and won't ever find me again.

So, if anyone is actually reading this and either has a blog or knows how to search for them, please let me know. 

Meanwhile, I'll keep on keeping on. I'll keep writing. That's what I do, after all.


I did find a Blogger search engine, Bloggernity, in which one can search by category. Sadly, most of the blogs I found have not been updated in ages. Maybe Google is right and blogging isn't a "thing".

Friday, April 19, 2019

I Like Comments!

If you're reading my blog and you like or don't like, or are vehemently in disagreement with anything I write, leave me a comment!

Blogger tells me I have a decent number of followers, many of whom are bots, granted; but I enjoy hearing from real people.

Please don't be shy. And if you have a favorite artist you'd like me to feature, I'm on board.

In conclusion, here's a song I kind of like:

Solitary Music

My musical tastes are, to an extent, eclectic. I appreciate genres that would have many of my generation shaking their heads (and wagging their finger at me, no doubt). From my perspective, a person who only likes, say, classic rock, is inflexible and missing out on some of life's musical joys. How many times can you listen to "Walk This Way"? Even if you happen to like it?

I've also come to like things I used to hate. When I was a kid, I thought Sinatra was putrid. Really putrid. Actually, however, he's not bad!

I always loved big band music. Give me a Glenn Miller tune any day.

I like roots rock 'n roll (a lot). And don't even get me started on '80's MTV-era tunes!

I grew up during arguably the best era for music ~ the sixties. Those hundreds (or thousands) of tracks will always claim a ventricle of my heart.

But, all in all, I'm a country girl. Country has always been the ugly stepchild in the eyes of the masses. I grew quite used to that when I was a teenager in love with country music. I actually hid the fact that I loved country ~ I was uncool enough already; I didn't need any extra help in that arena. Outside my immediate family, it wasn't until the nineties that I found simpatico people ~ suddenly I was surrounded by folks who only liked country music. Maybe it was a measure of the musical times. Country was pretty good back then. Every single person I worked with (save two or three), and I worked with a lot of people, listened to country exclusively. It was nice to have people to talk to about songs and friends who frequented concert venues with me. Granted, they didn't know country music history, but how many people did? My high school best friend (who'd reintroduced me to country) had moved on with her life, and we no longer spoke. That's why I rather consider country solitary music. I don't have anyone to which I can say, "Ooh, remember that one?" Because nobody would.

I was thinking about that as I read the autobiography of a former pop star who began a second musical career in Nashville. I'm skeptical that this guy would have recognized George Strait's name in the eighties, much less someone like Tracy Lawrence or Clay Walker or Mark Chesnutt (I bet he knew Kenny Rogers, though ~ which proves my point). I'm not calling this person an interloper...just naive. I sort of like that he suddenly realized country music is good, and he's definitely not someone who claims a verse in this song:

I also thought about how singular and solitary country music is when I read that Earl Thomas Conley had passed away. I don't understand why there isn't a music video, or at least a performance video of this song ~ it's one of my all-time favorites. Is it just me? I can't believe that. In the mid-to-late eighties this was the ultimate slow-dance song in honky tonks:

Throughout his career, Earl Thomas Conley charted more than thirty songs. How many artists can claim that? And yet, few people even know who he was. I miss my friends from the nineties ~ at least they'd know who I was talking about. 

Too, I was sad to learn that Hal Ketchum has retired from performing because he's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. When buying CD's was a thing, I bought "Past The Point of Rescue", which featured this song that people wouldn't know was rather cynical unless they listened closely:

How many people recognize Hal Ketchum's name? Alzheimer's hits too damn close to home for me ~ Hal doesn't even know that he was once a country star. But I (we?) know. 

It scares me that we're going to lose more people and hardly anyone will notice.

That's kind of why I do this blog ~ so someone, at least, remembers. And acknowledges. 

Even if no one but me cares, these are artists who touched me.That counts for something in my musical world.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Red River Is Back!

We've been away for a while due to financial considerations, but now Red River once again has its own website. And I managed to snatch up our old domain. I am rather averse to change, after all.

You can find Red River here:

We soon will begin selling our new digital album online. Stay tuned!

Am I excited? I am!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Retro Album Review ~ Buenos Noches From A Lonely Room

I returned gently to the country music fold. I don't remember quite how it happened. I vaguely recollect sitting in my car, waiting for the kids to alight from the elementary school door, and apathetically punching the buttons on the car radio. Y93 was my go-to channel, but something boring was playing; maybe a Debbie Gibson song, so I clicked the preset for KQDY and caught something that actually sounded like country music ~ maybe Rosanne Cash or that new guy whose voice I liked but didn't know his name...George somebody.

That was all it took. I began to explore this "new" country. I purchase a cassette tape by the Sweethearts of the Radio and played it in the background while I did my housecleaning. I bought another one ~ it may have been the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band ~ and I wore out those two tapes, not yet convinced to plunge full-bore back into the country cosmos. After all, country had betrayed me before.

But I was supremely curious. I began hitting the KQ94 button more regularly, and before long I simply left the car radio tuned to that channel. I found wonders! Yes, some of the old-timers were still around ~ The Oaks and Alabama ~ but there were all these new guys! Randy Travis and Ricky Van Shelton and Highway 101 and Kathy Mattea and Foster and Lloyd...and that new guy, George...

And I heard a song that was revelatory, "Guitars, Cadillacs". It combined everything I'd ever loved about country into a brash, bass-thumping, Telecaster twanging, two-step twirling slice of perfection.

This "Dwight" dude was different but familiar. He was no crooner ~ he had a Kentucky tenor that took a bit of adjustment for my ears to settle on. But I liked it. His songs tore at my heart, the way my mom and dad's country had once stabbed me in the gut, but better in a way I'd once only imagined sublime country could be.

When I finally took the dive and committed to country again, I became omnivorous. Now it was CD's, and I turned into the Musicland pest, scouring the racks every week for new glorious sounds.

Inevitably I stumbled upon "Buenos Noches From A Lonely Room".

Dwight's third album didn't foster many hits, but it set a marker that still stands. Country was always about singles. That changed briefly with Merle in the sixties, but nobody in country set out to make a statement. They only strived to make a dollar. Buenos Noches From A Lonely Room wasn't a concept album, but it became one. I purchased every one of Dwight Yoakam's CD's and this one ranks at the top. I've "liked" his later releases, but when I hear this one, it's fresh. It doesn't spoil with repetition. That's not an easy feat.

No live video, but this is the lead track:

Track 5:

Track 7:

Track 6:

Track 8 (and the number one ~ I heard this by Buck and his Buckaroos, so it wasn't relevatory like it was for others, and not, by any stretch my favorite):

Track 4:

There's not a lot in life that brings joy. 

This album does.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Nashville Finale

Yep, I stuck with it.

I almost didn't. The show went off the rails sometime in the middle of the fourth season, and the storyline became more and more implausible. When ABC cancelled the series in 2016, I assumed it was the end, and the "last" episode tied things together nicely. Then CMT announced it would pick the show up, and I had a decision to make. Did I want to continue? CMT's scheduling is messy and hard to disentangle. I'd watched Hulu for free from time to time; now I bit the bullet and purchased a subscription, expressly to watch this show that confounded, perplexed and sometimes bored me. When one has invested four years of their life in characters that now seem like "real" people, it's not easy to just dump them off a cliff. Plus, I'm not a quitter.

I never believed Connie Britton as a country superstar. For one, she is not a good singer. That's no knock; I'm not a good singer, either, but then again, I don't portray one on TV.  Rayna was never, ever my favorite character. 

I started out hating Juliette Barnes, but it's a tribute to Hayden Panetierre's acting chops that Juliette eventually became sympathetic and, in fact, cherished.

Only diehard fans will remember that Avery was a complete and utter jerk in Season One. The supposed breakout characters were Gunnar and Scarlett. My six-season record is intact of hating Scarlett. It's not the Australian actress's fault. The show runners encumbered her with a preposterous, intelligible accent and a neurosis that was not endearing, but rather, grating.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Deacon (Charles Esten), who was an alcoholic songwriter and a weak would-be singer; and of course, the Stella Sisters. Esten's main claim to fame before Nashville was as a recurring cast member of Drew Carey's improv show. Now he appears on the Opry, because music fans like recognizable faces. When Connie Britton quit the show, Deacon assumed the main character role because Hayden Panetierre was coping with post-partum syndrome and somebody had to be the star.

When Daphne "forgot" that she had a real father and coolly replaced him with Deacon, I began to have my doubts. But I, like Dallas viewers in the seventies, suspended my belief and chilled.

Other characters have come and gone. Will was always gay, but married Aubrey Peeples (not literally), who went on to fall in love with Goldie Hawn's son, who fell to his death off the roof of a skyscraper...which served to advance the Juliette story. I vaguely remember an early episode in which Juliette's mom shot and killed somebody who was a pain in the ass to Juliette, but the sixth season told us that Mom was bad and that's why Juliette joined the Church of Scientology (er, the Church of Coherent Philosophy).

Things keep chugging along in the Nashville universe.

A word about the music, which ostensibly, the entire series was about: No way in any known universe was the music on Nashville "country". That's not a bad thing. Through the years, the show's music directors have included T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller, who know good music, but don't cleave to the current fad of country-which-is-sort-of-rock-really.  The songs featured on Nashville would never be played on Hot Country Radio. Never. I liked the songs. Some were, in fact, awesome. And Hayden, by the way, if you ever want to forego acting and take up a new pursuit, I'll buy your album (and I never buy albums).

Here is my initial review of Nashville from 2012.

Did I cry when it ended? You bet your cowboy boots I did.

Am I sorry I stuck it out? Nope. Through all the BS and fast-forwarding, Nashville had heart. 

It's important to finish what we start. And sometimes the journey is worth it.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

We Interrupt This Blog...

Please buy this book so April, who is too lazy to start her own blog, apparently, will stop begging to hijack mine in her shameless attempt to shill her wares. It's not enough that I've linked her book over in the right-hand column, claiming territory that I could use for "fun" things.

Honestly, it's a good book, but come on...

Now April (the web-hapless author) has somehow managed to create her own Spotify playlist for the book. I admit, listening to the songs brought the story back to me in all its stark intensity. Still...

I got this email from April:


Do you mind including my Spotify playlist on your blog? I worked on this a long time, and it wasn't easy, because Splotify isn't user friendly.

I promise I'll start my own blog soon and I'll include any stupid stuff you write. What do you use? Wordpress or whatever it's called?

You are awesome!

How could I resist? I am, after all, awesome.

My job is done...

Thursday, August 4, 2016

We Now Pause For This Commerical Announcement

I am offering a FREE copy of Radio Crazy tomorrow, August 6, only!

You can download your free copy here

A review would be very much appreciated, whether you like it or don't like it (I would be too embarrassed to read my reviews anyway.) But I think you'll like it.

If you're a country music fan, this novel will be right up your alley. If you're not a country music fan, what are you doing reading this blog, silly?

P.S. If you miss the promotion and would still like to receive a free copy, I'll make sure you get one.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Red Simpson

I was perusing the New York Times website the other day (yes, it's true!) and in the obituaries I saw the name Red Simpson. I thought, well, that's familiar. I vaguely remember seeing that name on lots of yellow and orange Capitol Records 45's back when I was young, stupid, and flush with life.

I didn't exactly know Red Simpson as an artist, but on those records, his name was etched in parentheses right underneath the song titles.

He was a writer. Nevermind the trucking songs, the CB radio tunes, which are a quaint snapshot of a decade most of us would rather forget.

Red Simpson wrote this song, and damn.

You know how much I love Dwight, but here is how I remember this song:

Red also co-wrote this next song with Buck Owens. I'm not going to diss on Buck, but he was known for pilfering tunes, so I'm guessing Red truly wrote this song. I used to hate it -- truly I did -- when Buck and his Buckaroos would show up on my TV screen, and Buck would do his shoulder-shrug. I thought, wow, what a half-assed song! But that might have been my love/hate relationship with Buck Owens. It wasn't exactly Red's fault.

Red was entwined with the Bakersfield Sound. Yes, that was actually a (C) capitalized thing -- Buck, and Merle Haggard (especially).

I figured he at least warranted a tiny bit of recognition -- for all the 45's I spun -- with his name on them.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Looking For Music Recommendations

I remember the exact moment I decided I was done with country music. I was in my car going to work, and once again K102 blasted out Faith Hill's "Breathe". I moaned something like, "Country music is gone!" and I never looked back. To this day, I maintain that song is a horrible facsimile of country music.  But it wasn't all Faith's fault. 2001 was a mediocre-to-bad year for Nashville artists. Even the old standbys like The Dixie Chicks, Brooks & Dunn, and even George Strait released forgettable singles. If I couldn't count on George, I couldn't count on anybody. Who remembers "Ain't Nothing 'bout You"? Or "Where I Come From"? I rest my case.

So I simply re-listened to my Dwight and Diamond Rio and Restless Heart albums until I got sick of listening and gave up on music all together. Now I only listen in the car (on short trips) and only to the oldies station.

I would like to listen to country music but I don't know where to begin. As an experiment I switched the channel in the car to the country station today, and while I only heard parts of two songs, I didn't like them. I think one was by Carrie Underwood, who is a great singer, but I don't care for the bombastic songs she chooses. And they're all mixed hot. The guitars don't even sound like actual guitars; they sound like a swarm of angry bees. I'm not sure who sang the second song - it was a guy, that's all I know. I'm completely out of the loop with regard to the popular artists of the day.

So I'm looking for recommendations. Who are the good artists of today?

Here is what I like:

  • a nice melody
  • nice harmonies
  • instruments that I can pick out of a lineup

Here's what I don't like:

  • in-your-face instrumentation
  • bragging
  • cutesy and/or cringe-worthy wordplay

Please let me know who I should be listening to. I promise to give every suggestion a fair chance.

Oh, and I also am looking for Americana recommendations - you know, what they used to call country music.

Thank you!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Country Music Novel

Write what you know, right?

I took that advice to heart, and therefore I am writing a country music novel.

As with all inspired ideas, it started out with a song - a George Strait song, by the by - and it turned into something a bit - okay, a lot - more involved.

My protagonist is an overnight disc jockey. She's landed in a dead-end town and she spins records in the wee hours. Meanwhile, she's being stalked by someone. At least everyone has convinced her that she is.

I am halfway through my story, and, oh yes, I do have a playlist. All inspired novelists have playlists - don't they?

Sometime, in the future, I'm going to link videos to my playlist - just because the visual medium helps me stay focused - but for now, here's what I've got:

1.   Heartland - George Strait
2.   There Goes My Heart - The Mavericks
3.   Fast As You - Dwight Yoakam
4.   Up! - Shania Twain
5.   Does He Love You - Reba McEntire and Linda Davis
6.   I Breathe In, I Breathe Out - Chris Cagle
7.   I Cross My Heart - George Strait
8.   Need You Now - Lady Antebellum
9.   Mama Tried - Merle Haggard
10. A Better Man - Clint Black
11. Indian Outlaw - Tim McGraw
12. T-R-O-U-B-L-E - Travis Tritt
13. Crazy - Patsy Cline
14. Mama He's Crazy - The Judds
15. I'm Movin' On - Rascal Flatts
16. I Hope You Dance - Lee Ann Womack
17. Wagon Wheel - Darius Rucker
18. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - Hank Williams

These don't necessarily represent my "favorite" songs. But they're songs that fit within the story. I guess you'd just have to read it.

And here's the deal - if I don't manage to land an agent - and that's pretty hit or miss, to be honest - I'm going to self-publish. So, if you're a country music fan, you can still read this thing. One caveat - it could take me another six months or so before I finish it, and another 30 days before I figure out how in the hell to turn it into an e-book. But I'll get there.

Just a hint - number 15 is the one to watch for. That's the one that pretty much seals the deal.