Saturday, November 30, 2019
If an artist releases one great track in their career, he can hold his head high. He can't necessarily tour on that, but it seems to me that fans remember that one recording because it was superb, yet forget about all the artist's other marvelous music simply because it all pales in comparison. So, yes, at least a half-hour show, I'm calculating.
Country music today is...? I don't know exactly what happened to country; where it went wrong. I know when it went wrong, which precisely matches the time that I gave up on it entirely. I don't think there are any great songs released nowadays. If there were, I would have read about them and checked them out, for curiosity's sake. I saw a clip today of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and some dude I assume is country (because of his over-pronounced drawl) was singing something about "shut up", and I thought, "good advice". Let's just be honest ~ today's country is awful.
In the late eighties and especially the nineties, however, great, great country music was bountiful. I've already featured many of the standouts, but there are many others. They didn't all produce 60 number one hits like George Strait, but who has?
Tonight, I'm featuring some of the "great" songs released in the nineties.
Let's start here:
"Blue" was written by legendary WBAP disc jockey Bill Mack. Bill wrote other songs, too, that became hits. He wrote this one for Patsy Cline, which is evident. It is a throwback for sure, but fans in the nineties were obviously still hankering for good country music. I don't know what happened to LeeAnn Rimes. I sort of know that she became a bikini-clad publicity whore, but as far as music is concerned, I guess she wasn't all that interested. Too bad, because she is a talented singer.
I know, I know ~ Alan Jackson deserves his own post. But much like I've written about Dwight Yoakam and George Strait ad nauseum, I'm not going to rehash all of Jackson's hits here. Again, this is most certainly a throwback; a remake. Jim Ed Brown had a hit with this song sometime around 1968. I'm sensing a theme here, but not purposely. I just love great songs.
I am aware that most everyone disagrees with me on this (most everyone is wrong), but for the best pure country voice since Patsy Cline, one need look no further than Trisha Yearwood. I saw Trisha once in concert. It was one of those expo's that small cities used to sponsor to draw folks in to sample local merchants' goods, who had booths set up around the perimeter to sell modular phones (yes, it was the nineties) and I guess, life insurance. The arena featured various acts on a small stage periodically throughout the day, acts that had to compete with the throng of old ladies carting their plastic "expo bags" from booth to booth, stuffing them with giveaway pens and refrigerator magnets. My friends and I claimed seats up in the balcony and gossiped while awaiting the next act to make her way to the stage. I admit I didn't pay much attention to Trisha at the time. I think she had a song called "X's and O's", which was her only claim to fame at the time. Too, I remember my hairdresser lamenting about a Garth Brooks concert she'd attended, which featured an unknown opening act named "Trisha Yearwood". "What big star goes on tour and brings some unknown girl singer with them?" my hairdresser fumed. "Should have been someone like Reba McEntire; not some girl I never heard of!"
My hairdresser and I were sadly ignorant. Feast your ears upon this:
One of the most bad-ass country songs ever was recorded by Foster and Lloyd. However, that was in 1987, so since I'm dedicating this post to the nineties, I will resist the powerful temptation to include the '87 song. Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd, were, too, a throwback, only updated. For being unrelated, their harmonies were almost as spot-on as the Everly Brothers'. Radney went on to do some solo work, but let's not dismiss Lloyd. It was his telecaster that gave the duo its delicious sound.
This is an unfortunate video, an example of the artists letting a dumb-ass producer frame the story. Regardless, this song will keep Foster and Lloyd on tour:
Apparently, 1987 was a landmark year in country. Steve Wariner had "Lynda", which was a track that invariably got people up and dancing in the honky tonks. In 1990, though, he also had this one, which I like. I don't know exactly why I like it; just that I do:
People misconstrue this song. It's certainly not a feminist anthem. To me it's the story of a young girl burdened with a life she never chose, one of whiskey and violence and trying to escape for one brief moment to pretend she was the same as all her friends. Maybe you had to live it to "get it":
There was a triad of superstar country artists in the nineties: George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Vince Gill. It seemed that every minute or so, Vince Gill was releasing a new track. If you have any doubt, take a gander at his discography. It's funny; one minute no one knew the name Vince Gill; the next, he was inescapable. This one is my favorite for sentimental reasons. I assigned myself the task of creating recorded music for my mom and dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration, and this was the very last song on the two-volume cassette:
I haven't forgotten Patty Loveless. She's getting her own post. She deserves her own post.
Joe Diffie, Little Texas, Lorrie Morgan, The Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack...
When folks look back on the nineties, they talk about Garth and Shania; maybe if they aren't brain-dead, they remember to include George Strait.
I remember this:
I don't live in the past, but I dare...nay, challenge...today's country artists to match these songs.
Saturday, June 23, 2018
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?
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Fair-weather sports fans no doubt anger the die-hards. I was a fair-weather fan. I understood baseball (unlike football), because I'd been tutored. My dad was not a sports fan. My first husband taught me about baseball, although hearing it on the radio was not quite the same as watching a game. I learned what a double-play was, and an RBI. I learned that Rod Carew was the best player the Twins ever had (I now disagree).
Having sons who were baseball (or baseball card) aficionados helped nudge me in 1987. From buying pack-upon-pack of Topps Bubble Gum, I learned who the best players on each team were (or whose cards were the hottest, at least). I learned that rookie cards are great "gets". I began paying attention to the box scores in the newspaper. Amazingly, our hapless Twins were on a tear that year. So, I began watching. There was a Twins Channel on our cable system, so instead of tuning in to Cheers or Unsolved Mysteries, I sank into Minnesota Twins fanaticism. I was still working second shift, so I missed some games (I didn't quite resort to recording them on our VCR), but if the game was important, I switched shifts with another girl so I could have the night off to watch the game. Yes. I actually did. Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, Kirby (of course), Dan Gladden; our star pitcher, Frank Viola. Our skinny shortstop, Greg Gagne, who never failed to pop up. Steve Lombardozzi was not the world's best second baseman, but second base is a rather second-tier position, so....Tim Laudner, our catcher.
It was a cold October evening when an actual miracle occurred. The Minnesota Twins won the world series! I had so much adrenaline coursing through my veins, I barely slept that night. And yes, I had a Homer Hankie. 1987 began my odyssey of following the Twins for more or less six years. They won again in 1991, barely (but barely still counts), thanks to Jack Morris. Then things went downhill, and I moved on with my life. By then I'd begun what I didn't know at the time would be my life-long career. It does help to have a skill, I've learned. Now I spend my days teaching others how to have that skill. And to think I only got hired for that job because someone else dropped out. Thanks, Someone, I guess.
Musically, 1987 was the year I discovered country music again. I don't remember how I stumbled upon it. I think I was sitting in my car in front of my kids' elementary school and I didn't like the song playing on Y93, so I switched the channel out of irritation. I heard something I liked. I do believe it was this:
I really miss Randy. I know he's still here, but he's not, really. I love Randy.
Friday, December 30, 2016
I don't know if country bars even exist anymore -- I mean the old-fashioned kind -- a live band, a little sawdust on the floor. Sure, I know about Billy Bob's, which is apparently akin to a gigantic convention center, but I'm talking about local watering holes that are a bit more intimate.
There was a time when I and my then-partner visited our hometown nightclub, the Dakota Lounge, every Saturday night. It was a way to get out of the house, out of our rut, and practice our dance moves while discreetly blending in with the other (better) dancers. I wasn't much of a drinker -- three beers made me three sheets to the wind -- but I liked nursing a bottle of Miller Lite and observing while I waited for the band to start their set. The regulars showed up every weekend -- the tall faux cowboy wearing his black cowboy hat, nonchalantly leaning against the bar while scoping out the single ladies. The brunette female bartender who had a gaggle of guys clamoring for her attention, and not because she was a world-class drink mixer. Three girls at a table and the same one getting hit on for a dance to the juke box over and over, while her two friends tossed their heads and tossed off the slight. Fake cowboy inviting himself to the table where a blonde in a fringed western skirt sat pretending not to notice him. Fake cowboy excusing himself five minutes later and sidling back to the bar.
Inevitably there was a group of people (from work?) who got up and line danced to someone like Charlie Daniels. Non-regulars. Some groups were actually quite good; some were embarrassing. But it was all part of the (my) show. It was a diversion before the real music started. Line dancing wasn't the name of the game at the Dakota, nor was showing off in general. Line dancing was for those not in the know.
The Dakota displayed its roster of upcoming bands on a scrolling marquee and I made note of the weekends when my favorites would be playing. The bar booked regional and local bands and some of them were awesome -- Me And The Boys, The Back Behind The Barn Boys, Firehouse, and my favorite, Live N Kickin', a North Dakota band that was so good they landed a label deal in Nashville. Alas, it was the nineties and nothing blossomed from their debut single, but they were good.
There were certain songs, no matter the band, that had to be played. The Dakota's goal was to sell lots of drinks; the single boys' and girls' goals were to find comfort for the night. My goal was to dance without tripping over my feet or otherwise calling undue attention to myself.
Hence is my short list of the best two-stepping songs.
There was one song, immensely popular at the time, that was impossible to dance to. Trust me, I tried. A great song, but getting a bead on the beat was impossible. Know people who have no rhythm? That was me, trying to wrap my body around this song. I looked like a toddler having a temper tantrum.
Thus my primer on basic two-stepping. Pick any of the songs above (except Fishing In The Dark) and you can't go wrong. You, too, can be a faux cowboy!
Friday, January 11, 2013
That question is sort of a knee-slapper, isn't it? Does anyone really have a favorite song?
I sure don't.
I have LOTS of favorite songs. The one I like the best at any given moment depends upon the mood I'm in. Am I feeling sentimental? Loved? Sad? Like dancing?
Part of the conundrum for me is, if I really like a song, I play it to death. Then, at some point, due to sheer repetition, it begins to lose its magic for me. I forget what exactly it was about the song that first took my breath away.
Windows Media Player has a feature that allows one to assign "stars" to a particular track. Tonight, I sorted my music by "star" rating. Granted, I don't normally bother ranking my music. That might account for the fact that I only have eighteen five-star tracks on my list; and frankly, I was being overly generous when I ranked some of them.
Be that as it may, if I've known a song since, say, 1964, and it's still ranked among my favorites; forty-nine years later, that has to be a hell of a song.
I peruse a few songwriting forums regularly; and when songwriters get all misty-eyed about certain songs, it seems to me they're just lying. These people always wax rhapsodic about songs with "deep" lyrics, when, in fact, in the privacy of their own homes, they are most likely listening to something that has a thumping bass line and a chorus that repeats the same two lines over and over.
People don't listen to music to discover wondrous truths. They can read Longfellow if they're really that obsessive-compulsive. Music is supposed to be fun. It can be serious, too, but without a good melody, and good production, a song is a song is a song (or a bad poem).
So, alas, I don't have a favorite song.
And frankly, I don't want to have one.
My theory about favorite songs is two-fold:
1. Your favorite song is a reflection of an important time in your life.
2. There is something about the sound, or the singer, or the mood, that grabs you and won't let go.
So, I thought, just for fun, I would feature a few of my five-star songs in future posts (and in this one); and I will frankly tell you, without embarrassment, that they almost ALWAYS adhere to at least one of my two theories.
This one adheres to both (sorry for the long intro to this video, but I like LIVE sound, so bear with me. Just slide that little slider, like I do, until you get to the actual performance):
And, if you have a favorite song, I would love to know what it is!
Saturday, October 1, 2011
I won't say that "Crazy Over You" is the all-time best two-stepping song. Okay, I will.
This is how I first got to know Radney Foster:
Is that a kick or what? I love this song.
So, my introduction to Radney Foster was through his partnership with Bill Lloyd. Foster & Lloyd weren't around for a long time (although they're now back together), but they had some fine recordings.
Here are two (and regretfully, the guys only seem to have a couple of actual music videos from their halcyon days):
True music aficionados, I believe, pull out that little booklet from a new CD and check out who the writers are. As well as the lyrics, of course.
I always read my little booklet.
So, I found that Radney didn't just write for Radney. He wrote hit songs for other artists, too.
Like this one, by Tanya Tucker and T. Graham Brown (what the heck ever happened to T. Graham? He's a great singer!)
And this one, by Diamond Rio (Wasn't this DR's first hit song?):
How about Nitty Gritty?
Ha ~ and just to prove that I'm hip; I'm "with it" (although I have never in my life heard this song before), this is one that Radney wrote for Keith Urban:
Back in my sordid musical past, when I finally decided to give country music another go, I bought a couple of cassette tapes. One was by the Sweethearts of the Rodeo (and I don't remember the other one). I'd heard the SOTR a couple of times, and I liked their sound. It was, you know, country-sounding, as strange as that may seem today. I didn't know that Radney had written this song; I just knew that I liked it (and sorry for all the chatter in this video, but hey, it was the best I could find):
Lest we forget that Radney Foster is also a performer, here are some songs from his solo album, "Del Rio, Texas, 1959" (My, he looked much younger then!):
I'm kinda partial to this one:
And then there is this one, recorded by Sara Evans.
This song reminds me a lot of Texas in 1880. I think it was released around the time that I started to wean myself off of country music (not because of this song!), but it's kind of the last good one that I remember hearing on the radio.
The thing that I find about Radney Foster's songs is, melodically, they're superior. I, in fact, at one point, looked up the chord progression for this song, and tried to incorporate it into one of my own. Well, that didn't work.
What makes a good songwriter? Magic fairy dust? I don't know. I still say, either you've got it or you don't. You can't force things like that. Unfortunately.
I watched a video interview with Radney, in which he said that he has written between 25 and 50 songs a year for at least thirty years. I can't even comprehend that. Does he eat or sleep? Does he get any of that good exercise? I think he should get out and walk around a bit; stretch his legs; soak up a few rays. Man does not live by song scribbles and guitar chords alone. Does he?
Maybe writing 25-50 songs a year for thirty years makes one a master songwriter. But I truly think that if I wrote 25-50 songs in 30 years, I'd just have 750-1500 crappy songs. And what would be the point of that? How many crappy songs need to exist in this world? I'll say one. One crappy song. Just to have something to contrast with the good ones.
And to prove that good songwriters beget good songwriters, here's Radney's version of you-know-who's song:
Friday, January 14, 2011
Okay, I'll start a little.
One weekend afternoon, I couldn't find anything on TV, so I thought I'd check out the latest happenings in country music. (I don't listen to it on the radio, so I'm completely clueless.)
Well, let me tell you; it's hideous. One can only take so much of it, I found. I listened (sorry, watched) about four videos, hoping there would be some semblance left somewhere of actual country music. Alas.
What I found is, there are a bunch of very young guys, with names like Wade or Chad or Lance or whatever; and they're all horribly henpecked, apparently.
Some poor guy (Wade or Chad or...wait...let me look it up....Walker Hayes! Hey, I wasn't far off the mark!) was singing about how his girl can "wear the pants" in the relationship. In the video, we see her apparently scolding him for something, or everything. He ends up in a park singing his pitiful song, and she drives up to pick him up, and nags him about whether he made any money today.
Really? Is this his mommy or his girlfriend? But he seems perfectly happy with the arrangement (poor little sissy), so who am I to judge?
Another video, by some boy/girl group (or should I say girl/boy?) was a poorly-made ripoff of Grease. I don't know what it was about, frankly, but they were in a bowling alley, and each had their "posse" with them. I don't know; I'm so confused.
Then I saw something where Reba McEntire (Eek! Plastic surgery gone awry!) was a Dear Abby-type character, and the fighting couple ended up at her house for...tea or something. I turned the sound off at some point.
Thus ended my experiment.
I am so out of touch. Have I been asleep for the past twenty years?
When I last left country music; scratch that; when I last ENJOYED country music, it was great. I've loved country music my whole life. I don't recognize THIS STUFF. What the hell is it? Seriously. Can people actually perform these songs with any modicum of self-respect?
I'm not saying you have to be in love with Hank Williams or Ray Price or, you know, Webb Pierce or Hank Snow or Kitty Wells. Heck, even I don't like all those people.
I'm not talking 60 years ago; I'm talking about music in the not-that-distant past.
Stuff like this:
Okay, this is from 2005, so c'mon; it's not old!
Frankly, I could throw any Dwight Yoakam video on here, and be done. But I don't want to short-change others.
Can't find any recent Marty Stuart videos, but trust me, he's doing GREAT work. It's just that his label didn't support him, so he can't make videos nowadays. Bastards. But I still like this one:
Hey, how about this?
Not to leave the ladies out. When Paulette Carlson was still with Highway 101, they were great. Here's one to prove that:
What can one say about Mark Chesnutt? He's cool, ultimately cool. What a voice. Too damn bad the record labels don't get that.
Pick any song by George Strait. Yea, pick any one.
I could go on and on. But I won't. If you wanna know what country music used to be, well, here you go.
Now it's all about gym lockers and men wearing aprons.
But have at it, kids. If that's what you like. I still have all my CD's, so I'm good. And yea, I do have ALL these CD's.
Hey, I'd still be buying music if y'all hadn't ruined it. But y'all do whatever your business model calls for.
Time marches on.
Yet, I leave you with this:
Makes me remember when I used to love music.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Everybody wants to recommend music to everybody else. It’s a primal instinct, I guess.
I’ll grant you, I’m somewhat stuck in the ’80’s, as far as country music is concerned. But that’s not a bad thing. Think about the so-called “country music” that’s being played on the radio now. On second thought, don’t think about it. It’s too horrific to think about.
The ’80’s were a prime time for country. We had people like: George Strait, Alan Jackson, Dwight Yoakam, Randy Travis; people like that whom no one has ever heard of. Let’s see: Who do we have now? Milque-toast Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, some other generic interchangeable singers. Sad.
But the tide is getting ready to turn. It’s usually a 20-year cycle. It’s about time for times to change.
In the meantime, while we’re watching the clock and tearing off pages on our calendars, I’ll recommend some GOOD music. Some is new, some isn’t. All are available on amazon.com or wherever you choose to purchase your music.
So, here are six:
The Seeger Sessions - Bruce Springsteen: Any time an artist does something that you wouldn’t expect them to do, that is a revelation. Bruce went into the studio with an all-newly assembled band and recorded traditional folk songs. But don’t be deceived. These songs were recorded with attitude. Driving drumbeats, horns. Listen to “Mary, Don’t You Weep”. You’ll be hooked.
Timeless - Martina McBride: Who knew? I thought she just specialized in overwrought pop-country songs. This woman has GREAT taste in music! She’s redone some classic, and dare I say, “timeless” country songs. And she stayed true to the original recordings! Check out “Rose Garden”. Ah, memories.
Highway 101’s Greatest Hits: Okay, I like my country upfront and not timid. This band didn’t hold back. Paulette Carlson is a Minnesota native! These guys were HUGE in their time, and their songs stand up today. And talk about good taste! They recorded songs written by the likes of Rodney Crowell and Roger Miller. How cool is that? These folks had taste. I recommend “Cry Cry Cry” and “Somewhere Tonight”.
The Essential Foster & Lloyd: “Crazy Over You” is a song that will always make my top 20 of the best country songs of all time. Like Highway 101, these guys put it all out there. Driving guitars. That “hillbilly-rock” sort of thing. Love them.
Speaking of hillbilly rock, the man himself, Marty Stuart: Country Music is the title of this CD. Oh, what talent. He plays everything - mandolin, guitar; he surrounds himself with the best players any musician could pray for. He has impeccable taste in music. He is one of my musical heroes. You will NOT be disappointed by this CD. Choice cut: “Sundown In Nashville”.
Dwight Yoakam: The MAN. His latest CD, “Blame The Vain“. I want to write songs like Dwight writes. Alas, it’s only something to aspire to, at this point. On this CD, he’s without his former right-hand man and producer, Pete Anderson, but he still made a helluva of an album. I’m partial to “Intentional Heartache”, but it’s very, very tough to pick the best song.
So, as you can see, I’m somewhat passionate about GOOD music. If you hate country music, you’ll hate these recommendations. If you hate folk music, you may not like Bruce Springsteen’s CD - but you should give it a chance anyway. You might well be surprised.
This music is not “synthesized”. If you like that kind of stuff, okay. If you like real music played by real musicians, give these CD’s a shot.
I never know how to end these blogs, so I’ll just say goodnight.