Showing posts with label garth brooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label garth brooks. 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 brand new health insurance company (because one of the thirty initial hirees 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.



#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 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.



#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.



#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



#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.



#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...



#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. 



#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.



#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.



#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.



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.



#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.



#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.



#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.



#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.



#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.



#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.



#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.



#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.



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.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

1990 Music...And A "Career"

By the spring of 1990 I was desperate to escape from Farm Credit Services. It felt like I'd been there forever, when in fact it had only been a little over a year. I'd made friends, one of whom in an attempt to "help", I'd inadvertently had to say goodbye to. Linda's husband was a ranch manager who was ready to move on. I found an ad in the classifieds that was just up his alley and pointed it out to my friend. Before I knew it, Kirk had accepted the job and Linda's whole family moved clear across the state. Aside from the stultifying cloud I worked under, fun came from unexpected sources. Our local United Way conducted a promotion in which people could have someone "arrested" and the person would have to call everyone he or she knew in order to raise "bail" and be released. Before Linda left town, we arranged to have our boss arrested. It was all for charity....

In the fall of each year Bismarck held its annual street fair, which consisted of arts and crafts shopping galore and various corny events, like a pageant that featured contestants from local establishments. We decided to get into the spirit and sponsor an entrant from FCS. We talked one of our co-workers, eventually, into allowing her name to be placed into contention. (Paula ultimately, despite her initial revulsion, found the whole experience exhilarating.) I think half the contender's score was based on the creativity of her sponsor's promotion, so I busied myself drawing up posters and concocting catchy slogans. I believe that was the only time Nancy, my boss, ever offered me a compliment (I knew my strengths). Alas, Paula didn't prevail, but it was a win-win experience for everyone involved.

As a result of quitting smoking, my weight had shot up...and up. I'd gained fifty pounds and was most likely viewed in the office as the FCS schlub. Ultimately, even I became disgusted with myself and plunked down money I couldn't afford to spend to enroll in a program called "Diet Center" (admittedly, not the most original, but at least the most honest, commercial program at the time). Who wouldn't lose weight on a regimen that basically consisted of baked fish, asparagus, and Melba toast? I think a lemon was considered a "free food". I'd done Weight Watchers in the past with my mom, but this was infinitely more restrictive. But once I committed myself to something, I was determined not to fail, and I succeeded wildly. I lost all fifty pounds and more and reduced to a size three before I stopped. I bought clothes at the local consignment shop because my frame continued to shrink. My Diet Center "counselor" tried to talk me into posing for an ad, but my aversion to attention put an absolute kibosh on that notion.

As a downside, I took up smoking again. Damn, I was starving!

(After I'd left FCS, I joined my former cohorts one evening for a get-together on a local bistro's patio, and one of the guys was perplexed when Paula pointed out that I was there. He searched the area for a time and shrugged. I was unrecognizable ~ no longer the schlub.)

In my zeal to get away from Nancy and her disapproving glances, I had been scouring the want-ads for a while. When I spied one that said, "National Insurance Company Seeks Claims Examiners For a New Local Branch", I became obsessed. I fixated on that ad and staked my existence on garnering one of those positions. I knew absolutely nothing about health insurance, but for some unknown reason I understood that this was my destiny, which sounds utterly dumb, but there it was. I applied and received an appointment for a group interview, and henceforth sat in my garage every day after work and smoked and practiced answering hypothetical questions and hyping myself.

The group interview was an assembly line. I'd move to the first queue and answer a question, then shuffle on to the next cluster of interrogators and respond to another. All my practice evaporated. The only thing I had going for me was my medical knowledge from St. Alexius ~ I knew nothing about insurance and they all grasped that.

I was informed I'd hear from them within the week.

I didn't get a callback.

One of the few things I'd ever strived so hard for and I'd utterly failed. My lot was working for FCS and Nancy until I either reached retirement age or chopped her up with an axe.

Out of the blue a couple of weeks later, US Healthcare called and offered me the job.

The pay was exactly the same salary I was making at FCS, but I leapt at the offer. I didn't stop to question why it took them a fortnight to call. The next Monday when I told Nancy I was leaving, she was perplexed and disappointed. When the time came to tell Nancy how inadequate she'd always made me feel, I deflated. What was the point? Why bother? I was gone. Would I feel good about myself unloading on her? I lied and told her I was offered twenty-five cents more per hour. She apologized that she was unable to match the offer, but budgets, you know...Funny how they never tell you they appreciate you until you quit.

It felt strange leaving FCS. It had been a filler job all along, but I'd formed relationships. Unlike the hospital, I was on an even par with most of the people I worked with. They didn't wave their degrees in my face, because like me, nobody had one. They were working class; trying to pay their mortgages and attempting to scratch out a moment of happiness in the midst of their eight-hour slog. I was moving on to a new group of thirty girls I didn't know and I'd have to start all over again. And I was thirty-five, twice most of their ages. I was a mom who bought her clothes at the consignment shop and who had to count her pennies to buy a new pair of pantyhose. I figured, however, at least we were all in this leaky boat together. And if it didn't work out, shoot, I'd become an expert at sussing out the one or two jobs in the newspaper that fit my meager skills.

Musically, I'd become torn. At Farm Credit Services, I mostly tuned my portable radio to the local rock station. Part of that may have been that I liked the morning DJ, Bob Beck; part of it was that I wasn't ready to let rock go. When I'd turned away from country in the mid-eighties because it reeked, I became the quintessential MTV fan, and my sons shared my enchantment with Huey Lewis and Dire Straits. We bonded over pop music and baseball cards.

Country music, however, was harkening me back. Changing one's essence is ultimately a hopeless quest. One can change for a while, but we always come back to the person we intrinsically are.

Luckily for me, Eddie Rabbitt was still around:

One of the best country groups of all time, Highway 101:

A pristine country voice, Patty Loveless:

Mark Chesnutt will forever reside in the top five of my favorite artists:

Tanya Tucker and T. Graham Brown:

Gotta love Steve Wariner:

My lord, Marty Stewart:

Like Eddie, Ronnie Milsap was still hangin' in there:

 Some dude named Garth appeared on the scene:

Ricky Van Shelton:

When someone says "ninety country" (although no one actually does), this will be the song on the tips of everyone's brain:

My new career in health insurance commenced, with country music as a backdrop.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 3, 2018

1996 ~ Country Music ~ And Work

When Evil Manager Connie was shepherded out of the building in 1994, I finally felt like I could be myself; not a simpering lackey dutifully following behind her big fat ass as she conducted a tour of our new office wing.

I had swallowed my meager pride and forced myself to genuflect before her eminence in a last-ditch attempt to hold onto my job, which was the best-paying job I'd ever had and would ever have in Bismarck, North Dakota -- a city bereft of presentable positions. My deceit worked -- Evil Connie wasn't too perceptive. In actuality, she was such a megalomaniac, she believed that I'd suddenly fallen in love with her. She, in turn, came to see me as one of her dutiful soldiers. I was ON BOARD! In truth, I hated -- despised -- her very existence.

I played that painful game for three long (l-o-n-g) years, before I got my chance; a chance I didn't seek out, but one that fell in my lap. One I hadn't planned for; an opportunity that was thrust upon me.

I didn't waste it.

I take pride (and credit) for getting that miserable piece of human existence fired. (All you other USHC supervisors -- you're welcome. Except for you, LeeAnn and Linda, because you were the ultimate ass-kissers and you two will just need to live with yourselves.)

Nearly a quarter of a century later, corporate culture has progressed to the point at which managers can no longer abuse their subordinates with impunity. Human Resource departments are eager to justify their value, and they cherish nothing more than culling the herd. In '94, the little people needed to simply shut up. Like I said, I didn't seek out the opportunity to spill my guts. Somebody asked me and I didn't waste the opportunity. I had three years of vile hatred choking my intestines.

Once Savior Replacement Manager had moved on to brighter vistas or soothing retirement, our VP, Dave Kolton, recruited a guy he'd worked with at Mutual of Omaha in Lincoln, Nebraska, to make the slippery move to Bismarck and be in charge.

Phil was an easy mark. We all pegged him immediately as a lazy guy who'd much rather page through the local phone book than actually manage. I was surprised I didn't pop into his office one day and catch him clipping his toenails.

My unit was situated right outside Phil's office, so he focused on me preternaturally. I didn't purposefully dress provocatively -- short skirts were the order of the day -- but Phil wasn't shy about commenting on the fact that he saw my legs "all the way up" as I was bending over, peering at my employee's CRT, helping her with her question.

Phil was a pervert.

A lackadaisical pervert.

Phil and I had our go-rounds. He was an Aries to my Taurus.

One day, as I was erasing words from my whiteboard, during one of our "Goal and Go" days, he sauntered up and said, "Your unit is always the first to leave." I whirled around, fuzzy eraser in hand and hissed, "My people do more than their share and YOU KNOW IT."  Little Phil skulked away and for a second I thought, "You've blown it...again".

I thought I'd have to begin scouring the want-ads once more, and I beat myself up the entire weekend I'd ridden Evil Connie from our existence, and now I'd overplayed my hand. But damn, my people didn't deserve the flick of his hand!

(You would find me somewhere behind the sign, near those windows, smoking.)

A funny thing happened, though: Bespectacled Phil was actually cowed. He avoided me for about a week. Eventually he and I came to an unspoken understanding. He would no longer make half-assed comments and I would address him with a modicum of respect. Sometimes he'd stop into my glass-encased "office" and plop down in my second chair, shoot the breeze; try to be funny. I always laughed. I wanted detente. I wanted to keep my job. I'd experienced much worse managers. So Phil was a lazy sloth; at least he did little harm. In hindsight, I think he was supremely insecure and puffed himself up to mitigate his vulnerability. That's the difference between men and women. Women castigate themselves for failures. Men over-compensate.

My unit was comprised of over-achievers. No claims unit in the history of US Healthcare had ever achieved 100% quality for a full month. It was unheard of. Until my unit came along and smashed it; not just once, but over and over again. I had some really smart employees -- really smart. Take care of your people and they'll make you look good. My people made me look good. That would lead to something completely unexpected the next year; something I was sure I didn't want, but that Good Ol' Phil told me to "think about and then come back and say yes".

However, before that day arrived, there was music. Maybe small towns breed homogeneity. Maybe we're supposed to disdain that; but maybe we like having people around us who share our tastes. We all liked country in 1996. Those who didn't rarely brought it up in conversation. There was the rare Mariah Carey fan, and I was okay with that, although I admit I tried to steer that wayward wanderer toward George Strait -- as a public service.

My theory is that the music that resonates with us is from a time when we felt good. I've had those eras. I felt good in the mid-eighties, when I had two shining, growing boys and I really liked my hospital job. I felt good in the mid-sixties, when music was new and glistening and life held endless potential. I felt pretty good in the mid-nineties. I'd discovered that I had a voice and I could use it and I wouldn't necessarily get fired.

This music made me feel good:

There was this new girl. I wasn't completely sold on her. Female country artists had a certain protocol they needed to follow, plus she didn't sound like or present herself like any female country artists I knew. The thing was, one couldn't ignore her. I secretly loved her, but publicly dismissed her. I was a rather rigid music aficionado then:

I was never on board the Garth Brooks train. I thought his songs were mostly maudlin and frankly, not country. I think Garth might admit as much. I never understood the Garth Mania, but I guess he was a cross-over and that meant...something. I bought approximately four Garth Brooks CD's and was able to winnow out two...three at the most...decent songs. I did like this one, though, but alas, Garth didn't see fit to film an official video for it. I guess if you don't have a piano and red splotches of blood, it's just not worth one's time:

Clearly, the best country song of 1996 was one that Patsy could have recorded in the sixties. My old DJ friend Bill Mack (not an actual friend, but a lion of country radio who I cherished) wrote this song. Too bad LeAnn Rimes apparently couldn't live up to her hype. She is a phenomenal singer, but she chose to go a different way, which is okay. She'll always have this:

Speaking of Cheyenne, here's George again:

1996 will always be mine and George's year. Professionally speaking.

It would not be long before country became sewer waste and my life would be turned upside down. Music and I soon would take a break.

But it was sublime while it lasted.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

1989 In Country Music Was Damn Good

Sometimes I wonder if my life can be measured by the jobs I've held. I sincerely hope that's not true. But when I think back to 1989, I remember my work life being in flux. I'd left eight comfortable years of being the girl behind the desk on the medical floor of our local hospital, and I distinctly remember why I left. Monday evenings were a flurry of activity on the medical floor. Folks who'd been sick all weekend, but who'd told themselves, just hold on -- maybe I'll be better by Monday -- had finally given in and made an appointment to visit their personal physician, and found out, why yes, I really am sick! Sick enough to be admitted to the hospital, in fact. Thus, admissions came fast and furious on late Monday afternoons. The medical floor had three wings. One was for telemetry (heart) patients, and the other two -- Central and West -- were for general illness. I juggled admissions as best I could between the available wings. The nurses were sorely overworked and I endeavored to rotate new patients so none of the RN's and LPN's became overwhelmed. Sometimes that was an impossible task. I guess my final room assignment was the last straw for one of the RN's who I'd considered a friend. She took a moment out of her whir of vitals and wheelchairs and sputum cups to voice her displeasure. Essentially, her position was that I was deliberately tormenting her and she was disappointed and disillusioned with me. I don't think I said a word in response; I just stared at her, feeling like a bug she keenly wanted to stomp beneath her white oxfords. She and I had shared breaks -- sat in the nurses' lounge and smoked our cigarettes on moonless nights -- laughed together about goofy goings-on in the Pharmacy Department; shared anecdotes about our kids. And now she hated me. I left the hospital at the end of my shift and went home to my torture chamber bed and tossed and scrunched around most of the night. I felt unjustly accused. I had simply done my job the best I could, in impossible circumstances.

The next day I scanned the hospital bulletin board for open positions and promptly applied for one in the Admissions Department. I was hired in a flash. The medical center had a policy of filling jobs from within. Thus, I sat in a high-backed chair in an office with three open-air slots, evening after evening, right next to the switchboard operator's glass-encased cubicle, and awaited new "check-ins". Every department within the facility had its specific wardrobe requirements, so I switched from navy blue polyester uniforms to some kind of baby blue stiff starched linen. I guess that was how one could be readily identified -- slotted in, as it were. I hated registering new patients. I felt clumsy and asked the wrong questions or inevitably forgot to check a specific box on the admission form. I couldn't remember which forms I was supposed to stamp beneath the heavy iron contraption, and creating the little plastic identification cards with a "C" for Catholic and remembering to include the "Mrs." before Verna Schuffeltd's name seemed beyond my brain's capacity. The truth was, I simply hated my new job. I missed knowing what I was doing; missed the breezy efficiency with which I'd whipped out lab orders and missed the nurses I'd come to know so intimately. I hated the stilted quiet of the admissions office and longed for the familiar cacophony of real life.

I lasted a week or so in my new position, and then I lied and told my new supervisor some tale about how the schedule wasn't working for my family.

If I hadn't been shot through the heart, maybe I'd still be at that hospital today. I'd be the elderly gray-stranded woman everyone allows to cut in front of them in the cafeteria line, because, you know, she reminds me of my grandma!

I padded across the sliding-door threshold of the hospital one final time. I had no plan. I had no options.

In my small town, the newspaper's want ads for "clerical work" encompassed a line space approximately the width of my thumb. I innocently assumed I could always get a job with the State Government -- my fallback. I'd begun my "career" working for the State, and trust me, they'd hire practically anyone they could confirm was actually drawing breath. And I sort of did get hired by the State, but it was a downtown (not at the State Capitol) temporary part-time job as a receptionist for the Teachers Retirement Fund. My duties consisted of passing out mail and typing occasional letters on an IBM Selectric with a correctable ribbon. No more Wite-Out for me! No sirreee! I worked from eight a.m. to noon and couldn't wait to escape that soul-sucking receptionist's desk when the big hand clicked on the twelve. Between mail delivery and the two letters per day I was required to type, I had approximately three hours of non-productive time. I don't recall how I filled those hours -- I'll guess by jamming a Kleenex between the numbers on the switchboard and whisking away the dust. If one wants to achieve invisibility, she should get a job as a receptionist. Most of the staff to which I delivered mail rarely bothered to show up for work, so I had no clue what they actually looked like. They were simply names on a business-sized envelope. Thus, I was taken aback when I finally found what I thought would be a better position -- and full-time! -- and hovered in the doorway of my anonymous supervisor's office to give my notice, and this woman, Mary Smith (as far as I was concerned) expressed dismay and told me they'd been thinking of offering me a permanent full-time position. What? And why? I only had fifteen minutes worth of work to do in the first place. But who knows? If I'd hung around, maybe I'd be the soon-to-retire director of that God-awful place today. I honestly still don't know what they actually did there.

I saw an ad in the newspaper for a medical transcriptionist. No, technically I'd never transcribed medical records, but I did know medical terminology and I certainly knew how to type. Voila, I was hired. This job did not work out well. The owner assured me that a "transcribing machine" was on order and I would settle into my new position just as soon as it arrived. In 1989, a transcribing machine was a 21-inch television-sized word processor. I don't know what was packed inside that behemoth, but knowing technology as I do today, I'm guessing it was a pile of lead plates that served no discernible purpose other than to make the contraption a hernia-inducing heave up a flight of stairs for two unfortunate delivery persons.  Alas, the transcribing machine was a mirage. I sorted mail (yep!) for months into individual slots, drank gallons of coffee, drove to the McDonald's window for a hamburger every day at twelve, came back and tossled envelopes around for a few more hours before checking out and heading home. I know transcribing machines actually existed, because the company had two busily-finger-tapping transcriptionists I envied daily for the fact that they actually had something to do. The highlight of that position was the company's annual trip to Kansas City for, I guess, a transcribing convention. I boarded the plane to KC with the two actual typists and proceeded to get sloshed. Once there, after our sirloin steak dinner, one of the girls (I'll call her "Jill" because I have absolutely no recollection of her actual name) cornered the company's CEO and vented all her frustrations about our boss. Jill then pointed to me and promised I could vouch for everything she was saying. I think I drunkenly muttered something about "not getting my machine". The next day we flew home. Come Monday, each of the three of us typists got called in separately to the boss's office to discuss our Kansas City faux paus. When it was my turn, the office maven asked me if I was dissatisfied there. I piped up that I still hadn't gotten "my machine". "I told you it's on order!" she huffed. "Well, it has been six months," I responded timidly. She then asked me if I wanted to retain my employment with the company. "," I said. And thus I tromped down the stairway and out the front door. That was the last day I had a single burger and a small fry for lunch from McDonald's.

My job prospects were dire. My family was incomprehensibly understanding. If I'd been a bystander, I wouldn't have been so patient. I compare the employment opportunities at that time to a choice between three entrees that are all putrid -- let's say, liver, seared cow brains, and boiled chicken hearts. Hmmm, what to choose? Okay, I'll take the liver. Maybe I can at least choke that down. Before long, I found a posting for a "Farm Records Secretary". I had no idea what that was, but I understood the three words, singly. I figured stringing the words together would produce a job I could perform, albeit begrudgingly. The Farm Credit office was located on the far edge of a different city from the one in which I resided, but there really was no such thing as "traffic" -- the interstate highway was clear and the morning drive was rather lovely. I could zone out and listen to the radio as the sun rose behind me. I did have a bias against the word, "secretary", since in my experience, secretary meant shuttling a mug of coffee to a man who didn't take the trouble to glance up from his paperwork and make eye contact. Fortunately, my new boss wasn't a man, but a woman who didn't take the trouble to glance up from her paperwork and make eye contact. She was prim. And awkward. Conversation didn't come easily to her. She'd migrated years before from someplace like Oklahoma and hadn't yet lost her Okie accent. Transcribing her recorded correspondence was a challenge. At first I would ask her to clarify a word, but later, finding our interactions less than scintillating, I simply typed the word that seemed to fit best. The previous secretary, who had recently been promoted, trained me, and she was impatient. She kindly ignored me when not giving orders. I didn't like all. In a couple of months, we would become the best of friends. I'm not sure how things like that happen. Maybe we had a common enemy....Mrs. Park. I spent half of 1988 and the entirety of 1989 doing my farm secretary duties. One winter morn, as I endeavored to cajole my rear-wheel drive Ford up the steep hill to the FCS office, I found myself sliding backwards. I flipped the butt of the car into a roadside snowbank and tried again...and again. We'd had a rare freezing rain storm and I was not a well-lit bulb. After about fifteen minutes of fruitlessly trying to push up the hill, I gave up and backed/slid down to the intersection, parked and found a nearby telephone. I called up the guy whose office abutted my receptionist desk -- an older guy who spent his days jawing with ranchers -- kind of a dad-like prince of a man. He soldiered out to where I sat shivering in my Taurus and loaded me in his pickup and shuttled us to the office. As much as may hate our circumstances, there are always angels. Farm Credit Services was full to the brim with nice, nice people. Had it not been for Mrs. Hateful, I might have stayed. But I was basically miserable.

Thus, the music of 1989 was my salve. The Dakota Lounge was full of sawdust and regional bands and a loud juke box. Fridays and sometimes Saturday nights we ventured there, and here are the songs I remember:


I wonder if this was the number one country single of 1989. I'm going to guess yes:

I haven't left out the king. I wanted to give him a special place of honor, because in 1989 he released one of his top two best albums, "Beyond The Blue Neon"

Ahh, 1989 in country music was damn good.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Music's Circle

When I was a kid, all music was new -- new and exciting. Every song, no matter how old, was new to me; a new discovery; a new coin of knowledge to tuck in my pocket. I didn't know I was studying music; I thought I was simply inhaling it. I don't have any means of comparison, so for all I know, every kid was like me -- every kid scoured the 45 label and memorized the songwriters' names that were printed in parenthesis below the title (they always seemed to be compound writers then:  (Brown - McGee). Rarely was the artist on the record also listed as the writer. Maybe every kid imprinted the label's logo on their brain; the yellow and black Bang emblem, the orange and yellow swirl of Capitol, the blue sky of Motown. 45-RPM records were cradled in our hands like they were spun silver. I never once broke one -- I chipped a few, but I still managed to get them to play -- doggedness could form miracles.

I don't remember the last time any music felt new. If I was to guess, I'd say it's been about ten years. The last song I remember falling in love with was "Come On, Joe" from one of George Strait's albums. So now music is all memory -- a circle that's closing. Sometimes that makes me sad, but life is busy with daily stressors and a clock with hands that whirl around fast like on one of those old campy TV shows that wants to show that time has passed so it can segue into the next scene. I don't listen to the radio unless it's songs from the sixties or eighties or unless it's political news. I don't know new country and I frankly don't want to. I sampled it a bit, enough to know that it's gross and irritating. I dabbled in Texas country a bit many years ago -- some of it was good, yet obscure. Now when I'm working, I don't mix music with drudgery. It would feel like I'm disrespecting the music. It's bad enough that I have to endure eight-hour pain; it wouldn't be fair to subject something as pure as music to that bad karma.

Which brings me to tonight.

We have a Sirius Music subscription that allows me to also listen on my phone. So, naturally, I dialed the app to Eighties Country. It's a quintessential human condition to only remember the good. Funny how reality isn't exactly a match for our soft reminiscences.

I've been listening for a couple of hours now, and what have I learned? Well, Garth was everywhere, for good or bad (mostly bad). Here are some others who rocked the Sirius eighties jukebox: Martina McBride, Sawyer Brown, Brooks and Dunn, Alan Jackson, Shenandoah, Diamond Rio, The Judds, Alabama, Trisha Yearwood.

Here is what I remember from the eighties:  Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, George Strait, Randy Travis, Highway 101, Rodney Crowell, Clint Black, Rosanne Cash, Ricky Van Shelton, Restless Heart, Steve Wariner, Holly Dunn, Earl Thomas Conley, Mark Chesnutt, Patty Loveless, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keith Whitley, T. Graham Brown, The Forester Sisters, Shania Twain, Collin Raye. Alan - of course. Brooks and Dunn - of course. Diamond Rio - of course.

But funny how I completely blanked out Garth. Garth, the hugest country artist of all time.

Also funny how Sirius has, in the past (now) three hours only played one George Strait song, but three Alabama songs. Really? Sirius folks, are you familiar with the eighties?

My memory has apparently weeded out the bad songs and only retained the good. That rather eases my mind. I'm not fixated on "Achy Breaky Heart".

Overall, however, it's been a fun evening. I like to be taken back to a time in my life when music meant so much.

Oh no -- now they're playing Sylvia.

I should start my own podcast -- the worst country songs and artists of all time. I wonder if it would catch on.

Time for bed. I wonder if I'll dream about a black 45 with a bold red line and the word "MUSICOR" emblazoned on it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees

On March 6, the 2012 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame were announced.

I'm always interested in the inductee announcement, because, let's face it, these guys/gals are closer to my generation than someone named Dierks or Luke or Carrie or the gender-neutral name, Taylor.

And thus, they are naturally better.  But that goes without saying, although I just said it.

Every year, there are good surprises and "eh" surprises, I guess.  The only problem I have with the annual choices, in actuality, is that so many deserving artists are passed over (Bobby Bare).

But I can't quibble with the 2012 inductees.  I can quibble about the timing, in one case, but that's all.

So, let's begin.


The class of 1989 was comprised of a bunch of valedictorians.  People whose names now roll off the tongue were "these new guys that are pretty good", back then.

There was Clint Black; there was Alan Jackson; there was Travis Tritt.  There was also Lorrie Morgan, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Lionel Cartwright.

I was a rabid fan of country music back then (unlike now), and I two-stepped in the honky tonks, too.  I know what was being played the most, not only on the radio, but in the clubs.  It wasn't actually Garth Brooks.  It was Clint Black, Dwight Yoakam, George Strait, Highway 101, Rodney Crowell, and the Judds.

Garth was sort of an afterthought in 1989.  He had some tune about being much too young to feel so damn old.  That song was basically what any fan knew him by, if they knew him at all.

On the other hand, one could not escape "Better Man", even if they'd wanted to, which they didn't.  It was a good song, as was "Killin' Time".  There was, of course, "If Tomorrow Never Comes", but you couldn't really dance to it.  It was one of those, "let's admire it" songs, but not a "fun" song.  As was, "The Dance".

It wasn't really until 1990, when that ubiquitous ditty, "Friends In Low Places" began playing non-stop on one's car radio; so much so that, even if you finally had had enough, and you flipped the radio button to the "off" position, the damn song just kept playing.

I distinctly remember driving somewhere in my little town, and hearing that song for the five millionth time, and thinking, oh my God, I just can't take it anymore!

So, Garth, of course, hit us with both barrels, as they say.  He started out bland, and then became vociferous, and then finally just overwhelmed us with his "Garth-ness".  Face it, the albums weren't very good.  I bought them.  At least the first three.  Aside from the radio singles, the songs were throwaways.  Although to watch Garth in a TV interview, or read a magazine article, one would think these songs were chosen with the UTMOST care; they were the CREAM OF THE CROP, and if we (the fans) didn't "get" them, then there was something wrong with US.

Garth also overwhelmed us with his narcissism.  I wonder if he realizes that now, and possibly regrets it.  I wonder if maybe he decided to retire because he instinctively knew that we (the fans) just couldn't TAKE any more of his ego.  And meanwhile, good ol' Alan Jackson just kept steadily rolling along, doing his country songs; ones that weren't written by Billy Joel, but rather were written by Alan Jackson.

But, all ego aside, one cannot deny that Garth Brooks was THE biggest thing to hit country music in...well, a long least until Shania Twain came along.  So, that's why the Country Music Hall of Fame has now inducted him.  Gotta give the guy his ($$) due.

The other thing that I have found out, the hard way, is that it's really difficult to find Garth Brooks videos on the web.  Why that is, I can only speculate.  My deduction is that Garth does not WANT to make his videos available.  I don't know why.  I honestly don't know why any artist would not want to make his videos available.  I thought artists were all about the publicity.

But I did manage to find a couple, from the 1989-ish era.  Here is one:

Watch Garth Brooks "The Dance" in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Garth Brooks Central Park-Friends In Low Places by bigjmac0815

I obviously would include more videos, if there were any.


Anybody who ever bought a country album, and who ever read the liner notes, knows the name Hargus "Pig" Robbins.  Hargus "Pig" Robbins' name was listed on practically every country album, ever.

The greatest piano session player that Nashville ever saw.  That was Pig.

The first hit song that Pig played on was this one, in 1959:

Here are some of the other artists Pig has recorded with:  Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Connie Smith, Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, Ernest Tubb, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Bobby Bare, the Statler Brothers, Gary Stewart, Kenny Rogers, Conway Twitty, Lynn Anderson (Rose Garden), Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan (on his 1966 classic Blonde on Blonde album), Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, John Denver, Doug Sahm, the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, Tom Jones, etc., etc.  Obviously, I'm leaving out a bunch.

Let me tell you, it is IMPOSSIBLE to find any performance videos of Pig Robbins.  I tried, and I tried, and I tried for about half an hour, before finally giving in.

You're just going to have to take my word for it.  Or read your album liner notes.  He was there on all of them.

This is an award that is much deserved, and much too late.


Dolly Parton said:   "There's really only three real female singers in the world.  Straisand, Ronstadt, and Connie Smith.  The rest of us are only pretending." 

It's a truism about female country fans:  they (we) prefer male voices.  That's just the way it is.

The true female country fan does not enjoy the thin and reedy.  We like our female singers to sound full-bodied.  Soulful. 

Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn.  If you're going to sing, then sing!  Belt it out like you mean it!

I don't go for the whispery, breathless sound.  If I wanted to hear that, I could just record my own weak vocalizations, and listen back.

In the timeline of country music, after Patsy, and before Tammy, we had somebody who filled the void.  Her name was Connie Smith.

Connie began her career recording songs written by Bill Anderson.  Bill basically discovered Connie, and nurtured her career.  And what a run they had!

This is, I suppose, her biggest, written by Bill:

Connie and Bill had a bunch more, though.

Introduced by Bill:

From the Marty Stuart Show:

Doing a Gordon Lightfoot song:

One written by Bill Mack:

I just like this (with Merle and Johnny Gimble on fiddle):

An Everly Brothers song:

This song was written by Don Gibson, and it holds a special place in my heart.  Alice and I sang along to the radio to this song:

Really, I could go on and on, and on.

There are, thankfully, endless videos of Connie Smith performances.

I remember the black RCA label.  I remember the album, "The Best of Connie Smith".  I remember the album, "Clingin' To A Savin' Hand".

I remember the joy I felt, just listening to that voice.  I remember belting them out myself, when no one was around.  I really was an excellent country singer, in my mind, when I was singing along to Connie Smith records.

The female country singers of my formative years were Tammy, Lynn Anderson, and especially Connie Smith.

If I sing like anyone, or let's say, try to sing like anyone, it's Connie.  She's the role model.  Unconsciously, she's the one I emulate.

Tammy's already there, in the hall of fame; Lynn will never be there. But now Connie is there. 

Pig Robbins is a class act.  Garth is a big dollar sign.  Connie Smith is my influence.

Who outlasts who?  Silly question.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame 2011 Inductees

(Somehow, it seems like there should be an apostrophe in there someplace, but I guess it's technically correct).

Still, maybe "Songwriter's" (although that would only be ONE songwriter). How about "Songwriters'"? It's the Songwriters' Hall of Fame. It belongs to them.

Sorry, I'm off on a tangent before I even start.

Well, the latest inductees into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame were honored on October 16. (I bet it was in Nashville, right? It would be sort of counter-productive if it was held someplace else: "The latest inductees into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame were honored today in Wichita, Kansas."

I guess it was quite the gala, although from the paucity of information posted on YouTube, one would never know it. Maybe it was one of those "secret" inductions.

Well, their secret is unsafe with me! Because I somehow found out about it.

The 2011 inductees make up quite a lofty group. In researching the songs written by these guys, I find that they've written a whole bunch! Granted, most of them I haven't heard of, but that's my problem; not theirs.

And really, is it quantity or quality that matters? I say, quality. Because you could write one monster hit song, and there you go! Retire! And then, while you're lolling about in your mansion, and someone stops by and asks, "Hey, let me hear some of your other songs!", you could slap a CD on the player (or hand them a set of little tiny earbuds and make them listen through your iphone, but that's sort of awkward). And they'd listen for awhile, and then mutter, "Geez, you were really lucky to get that ONE big hit, weren't you?" But you wouldn't really be that offended, because after all, you have lots of MONEY! So, what do you care?

So, in trying to single out ONE big hit song from each of the non-performing songwriters, I shot for ones that I was at least familiar with. If you care to do the research to find out what other 4999 songs each of them wrote, well, it's pretty easy. Google is your friend.

John Bettis

I'm not going to quibble that the majority of songs John Bettis wrote are pop songs. Because he is obviously quite capable of writing a country song (as evidenced below). And you know, maybe he lives in Nashville. It's not the "Country Songwriters Hall of Fame" anyway.

Thom Schuyler

Let me just say that I really hate this performance by Kenny Rogers, especially because I love this song. I don't know what's up, but it seems like Kenny just wants to hurry up and get it over with. Why bother? Yes, Kenny, I know you've sung this song thirteen million times, and you're sick of it, but we're not.

Nevertheless, here it is:

Here's how it's supposed to go:

Allen Shamblin

Okay, okay. I just included this video in a recent blog post, but my goodness! If I'm going to pick an Allen Shamblin song, it's going to be this one! And Allen wrote a lot of good ones!


Okay, Allen gets two, because I also really like this song, and I haven't heard it in ages. This was co-written with Mike Reid:

Allen, of course (as if I knew this), wrote "The House That Built Me", which they tell me was a pretty big hit. DORK CONFESSION: Today, when I found it on YouTube, was the first time I'd ever heard that song. Seriously. But you know I don't listen to country radio. I'm more of a music historian than a hipster.

Anyway, my point in bringing this up is that, when you listen to all three of these songs, you see that Allen Shamblin has a soul. Unlike the majority of hit songwriters these days. Unless by "soul", you mean "wallet".

I like them, and I don't apologizing for liking them. Perhaps these songs are a perfect counterpoint to today's songs written by the likes of pseudo-songwriters such as Taylor Swift (And yes, I've heard them. I had to do research for a previous post, so I had to listen to them). You know, songs about, why do you have to be so mean to me? So touching. Really. I hear my church is adding that one to the hymnal.

Don't get me wrong. The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame likes "wallet soul", too. That's why they named Taylor Swift their songwriter of the year.

But on we go, to other more important people.

The two performing songwriters who were honored are somewhat familiar names in the music industry. I heard that they each had a couple of hit songs, and have been able to make a comfortable living for themselves.

Okay, the thing about this guy, which is irritating for a music video blogger, is that, yes, he's a nice guy and all, but he's really stingy about allowing his music videos to be shared. I don't know why; that's his business. But this does narrow my options.

I have found a couple, though:

Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks - If Tomorrow Never Comes by romans34

Okay, that's it. Sorry. And that last one wasn't even a performance video. It was just a compilation of clips. Look Garth, if you want to get ahead in this business, you're going to have to let bloggers like me help to promote your music. I'm giving you this advice for your own good. I'm sure you'd like to have a little house out in Oklahoma one day, and not have to work anymore. Maybe grow a little garden. All that can be done! But you have to let me help you.

Unlike Garth Brooks, this next guy, you can find all the music videos you want! Nice! Thanks! This, however, creates a different problem. I don't want this post to be three miles long, so I have to pick two, or at the most, three.

By the way, I thought I would insert a plug here for a great music resource: All Music. This is a comprehensive site, and one does not have to wonder about the accuracy of the information here, unlike my old standby, which starts with the letter "W". Sometimes, with W, I have to surf over to another site to verify whether W is lying to me or not.

Alan Jackson

No video for "There Goes", which happens to be my favorite Alan Jackson song, but I also like this one a lot:

Quite a stellar group indeed. All five of these gentlemen are deserving of this honor. And it was fun to stroll down memory lane and revisit some of these songs. I find that there are so many great, great songs that have been almost forgotten, that when I get a chance to hear them again, they sound almost new. That's one of the joys of music.

So, out of these five songwriters, two are my favorites. You already know who one of them is, and I'm not revealing my other. I wouldn't want the other guys to feel like "runners-up". (And yea, I'm positive it would really, really hurt, considering that they just got inducted into a hall of fame and they're rich and they get to accost visitors to their mansions with an ipod filled with songs they've written). But still, I don't want to be uncouth.

I will note, however, that points have been deducted for the sparseness of available music videos. Just sayin'.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Six Lines

One of the many nuggets of advice a songwriter often receives is to go away from a song for awhile. Come back later, and voila! Inspiration arrives!

I've never been a proponent of leaving a song alone. It's usually there or it isn't.

Sure, it doesn't come out fully formed! Unless you're some kind of idiot savant. But, I mean, the basic song is "there". You need to mess with some lines and switch things around, and bang your head against the desk a few times, but there it is!

So, here I am. I haven't written a song since February (during FAWM), when I wrote 14, thank you very much.

Long weekends are great opportunities for me to get some "me time" (ha ha), meaning, time to work on something other than laundry and housecleaning, so I thought, geez, I really should write a song.

Therefore, I sat down with my acoustic, dusted it off (literally), and waited to see what would come out. And then I waited.

I always like A minor, so I tried some chord progressions around that. (Okay, truth be told, most of my songs are written in the key of G. Most? How about 96%? It's some kind of weird compulsion I have, I think. Plus, it fits my voice. Okay, we'll go with that).

And A minor isn't that far away, vocally, from G. But I really wasn't looking to write a "happy" song (therefore, not "G"). I wanted something a bit...I don't know, wistful. We'd just returned from a trip to the North Shore, where we'd spent a foggy rainy weekend, with the waves of Lake Superior crashing against the rocks. Ahh, heaven. So, since I had absolutely no inspiration on which to base a song, I thought, how about something foggy and rainy, with waves crashing? And make it a song about lost love (duh).

I got a bit of melody going (Was it a verse or a chorus? Don't know!) Then I tried writing some words to go with it.

I got SIX LINES! Six! Then I was done for the night. As the title of one of my FAWM songs says, "I Got Nothin'". (That song, by the way, came about because I really did have nothing; nothing to write about. It was number 13, and thus quite late in the game. Turns out, I had somethin', because that song turned into a nice, quirky little bit of somethin'/nothin').

I just tonight opened up Audacity to listen to what I'd done. All six lines. And you know what? I don't like it.

The measly six lines of lyrics, okay. The chord progression, no. All wrong. I don't know what I was thinking. The song needs to be restarted. Am I inspired to restart it? No. I'm not inspired, period.

Writers always want to credit the "muse" for their inspiration. Well, I'll tell you what. I can honestly say that the muse maybe visited me ONCE, but as I recall, she made me put a whole lot of work into the damn song, so apparently the muse is a practical joker. And as I've mentioned in the past, only three people even LIKE that song, and I'm one of the three! So, she's cruel, too.

So, muse shmuze. Call it what you will. In my experience, writing songs is having an idea or a chord progression, and sitting down and WORKING. I prefer to call it Imagination. When songwriters are talking about some magical "muse" that happened to visit them, I think I'll say, oh, I know exactly what you mean! My IMAGINATION visited me today! Why the heck do I want to give someone else credit for my work anyway? SHE didn't sit down and hammer out the chords. SHE didn't play around with and move lines and try to come up with stupid rhymes, changing a line I liked for something else, because I couldn't find a good rhyme for "praying". I did that. She just sat on my window sill, chain smoking, and throwing out little cynical insults every now and then. "Boy, it's sure taking you a long time to get that chorus right", "Maybe you should just give up, loser". Muse is really worthless, and just an annoyance. I should have pushed her out the window, really.

Songwriting isn't "magical" anyway. Ideas are. Well, good ideas.

I wonder if it's only songwriters who depend upon the muse. Do other types of artists talk about her endlessly, in hushed tones, as if she gets all pissy about loud talking? "Oh, you know, I was going to write that chapter of my book today, but THE MUSE didn't visit me. I think she was down at the corner convenience store, buying lottery tickets or something. Damn! And I have a deadline!"

Which leads me back to this most recent pseudo-song. I can, without a doubt, state that the muse did not visit me on this one, and I think she's just bored by the whole thing, as am I. In fact, I don't even think she's around right now, or else she'd be sitting here, flicking her ashes at me. But I've noticed she only tends to do that on the songs that could actually turn into something. She's callous.

So, the song isn't written, and maybe won't be. But songs are like blog posts, or something. Sometimes you sit down and find that you have something to say. Sometimes you just sit down.

Since this tends to be a "video blog", I looked for some videos of songwriting advice, and found this one by Tony Arata, who wrote "The Dance" for Garth Brooks. What I like about what he says is, and this is really key: ENJOY THE PROCESS. Because really, if you don't like what you're doing, why even bother? The fact is, you'd damn well better like it, because it's probably going nowhere, but tucked away in your hard drive, and the only person who will listen to it is YOU, and you really should revel in the fact that YOU like it. Because YOU (not the muse) put a bunch of work into it, and you're the only one who knows and appreciates that.

Sorry for the poor quality of this video, but Garth, like Prince, is apparently afraid that....gasp!.....someone might actually want to WATCH his videos, and we just can't have that! So, I grabbed this one, after much searching, from some obscure site, and this was the best I could do. But I figured, after Tony Arata's advice, it might be nice to actually see the song performed.