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

Thursday, September 12, 2019

September Is Country Music Month ~ I Almost Missed The Eighties

Unlike today when country music really is dead, by the dawn of the eighties I was convinced (erroneously) that my favorite music had bit the dust. I mostly gave up on listening at all, although a part of me kept checking in just to make sure I was right. Decades-long habits are tough to break.

Country was dominated by Kenny Rogers and a newly-pop Dolly Parton. Alabama was still clinging to the charts, but I was frankly tired of Alabama. In my little town, we didn't get a lot of concerts, but Alabama showed up almost once a year; thus I went, simply to see live music. They were the sort of group if asked one's opinion about them, we would say, "they're okay". I don't mean to knock Alabama; I just wasn't excited by their music. I caught a couple of artists on the radio I liked ~ new girl singer, Johnny Cash's daughter, Rosanne; and I still was a fan of the Oak Ridge Boys. The movie Urban Cowboy was released in 1980 and almost smothered country's breath. I saw the movie with my mom, because we both liked country; she superficially; me reminiscently. The soundtrack was not good. It was a gloppy stew of disjointed songs. And if I never again hear Lookin' For Love, I will consider myself blessed.

Sometime in the early eighties a new channel slipped into my cable lineup ~ MTV. I found that the songs were catchy and it seemed that, unlike country artists, the musicians really liked what they were doing. So I made the wrenching decision to forsake country completely. My car radio preset became pop station Y93. Ask me anything about eighties pop and I can tell you. Mention early Judds and I'd ask, "who?"

The eerie thing about skipping a few years of country was that I did it just as the genre was making a comeback, and I completely missed it. Who did I miss? The afore-mentioned Judds, George Strait, Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam. I stopped in to visit my mom and dad one evening and they were watching a VHS tape of George Strait in concert. Of course, I didn't know who George Strait was, and I tossed my head derisively. I'm sure I clucked my tongue, too. The next day, just to make sure I'd been right, I twirled my car radio dial to the local country station and gave it a trial listen. I was flabbergasted to hear actual country songs, real country songs; and no longer analog. The steel and fiddles were so crystal-clear. The bass pounded like a heartbeat. There were drums! The artists seemed unafraid to burst forth with actual passion. 

Damn! I'd missed it!

I heard others, whose names I'd eventually learn: Kathy Mattea, Rodney Crowell, Ricky Van Shelton, Restless Heart, Highway 101, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (who I knew, but not like this). Foster and Lloyd, Clint Black, Steve Wariner, Holly Dunn, Earl Thomas Conley, Marty Stuart.

I didn't stop watching MTV, but I found a new channel called CMT. It had music videos, too, and they were country! This whole revelation was mind-blowing! Maybe all it took was for me to go away for a while (unfortunately, that theory hasn't worked for the last 20 years).

I'm not completely convinced the nineteen eighties were the best decade for country music ~ the sixties and nineties are stiff competition ~ but the eighties roped me back in.

So, to celebrate September as Country Music Month, let's look back at the best songs of each tick of the eighties:



1982 (hey, I'm no music snob):







Sorry, too many. Here's a bonus:


More awesome:



Bonus #2:



Bonus #3!

I could go on and on and on, but I'll stop here.

Thank you, Randy Travis and George Strait, for re-inventing country music.

And thank you, Dwight Yoakam.

A couple or three of these songs were written by you, Rodney Crowell. I am in your debt.

This is country music.

There you go, Ken Burns.

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.