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

Monday, December 13, 2021

Fake Country Band Album Reviews ~ Americana Edition



As commercial country veers ever-headlong into a concrete wall, it's no surprise that fans have turned to Americana music for sustenance. What's a better balm for the Strat guitar shredding so commonplace in today's country than the soothing strum and unamplified vocals of Americana?

Americana music hearkens back to a simpler, more depressive time, when nothing was good and when there was always a well-scuffed fiddle or a dented dulcimer propped up bestride the front porch, the better to capture life's stark bleakness.

With that in mind, in this episode I will review a few of the best (or in their words, worst) current Americana releases.

#3 ~ Worn-Out Farmers ~ Plow

Decatur, Arkansas phenoms Worn-Out Farmers burst onto the Americana scene this year with their debut release, "Plow". Sick and tired of cotton-pickin', three local boys, DuWayne Tubb (no relation to Ernest) and brothers Cosgrove and Mosgrove Fritts, gathered nightly at the local tavern to conjure a way out of their tiny township and toward the blinding neon of big city Fayetteville, though they knew the bright lights would never ease their dead-eyed melancholy. Nevertheless, after six Bud Lights Moss found that he could strum three chords on the proprietor's guitar, and DuWayne and Cos were able to approximate two-part harmony. 

"How dang hard can this songwriting be?" DuWayne pondered. "Shoot, that dad-gum Tracy Lawrence made it big. I remember my grandpa playin' his tapes when I was a little tot, when he'd take me in his pickup to the feed store." 

With that touchstone in mind, the three pals set off to make their mark. "Write what you know, boys!" Hank, the tavern's owner admonished them as he slid beer cans down the bar in their direction. 

And so they did.

Their first release, "Plow", gained some traction on local radio. A relatable dirge, Plow resonated with local boys (and girls!) who appreciated the mournful lament for its authenticity. 

Nashville label Walnut Paneling caught wind of the local boys' success and quickly signed them, with the proviso that the group needed to add a brush-snare drummer to round out its sound. Designated leader DuWayne wasn't keen on incorporating "modern" touches, protesting that his "artistic vision" was being compromised, but the inclusion of Marty "Mutt" McNair proved to be the missing piece of the fame puzzle. From that day on, the hits dribbled. 

"Ham Sandwiches Again?" struck a chord with fans who were sick to death of wives slapping together ham and mayo sandwiches on white bread for their noonday field lunch. The line, "at least stick a little lettuce in it" became a clarion call for fans who pumped their fists and shouted it out at the boys' weekend concerts.

Other standout tracks on Plow include the melancholy "I Can't Get Parts For It" and the surprisingly upbeat "Gonna Take A Little Cat Nap". Fans are eagerly anticipating the release of Worn-Out Farmers' sophomore album, "Polled Hereford", due to drop sometime in the spring, around calving season. 


#2 ~ Abandoned Radiators ~ Unfortunate Leakage

The Abandoned Radiators exploded out of nowhere with the release of their first album, "Unfortunate Leakage". The LP burst onto the Americana scene and generated real steam among fans parched for an eruption of authentic, combustible music.

The Radiators first fizzed in clubs around their local Clovis, New Mexico hometown. Co-lead singer Johnny Bobe spent his teenage years picking garbage at the town dump, where he scored a nice porcelain bathroom sink and three wire-wheel hubcaps, among other treasures. The dump is also where he met the love of his life, Cindy Havarti, whose specialty was plucking bourbon-stained, damp jazz albums out of the pungent debris. Johnny took Cindy home to his packed storage shed, where she eyed his collection of discarded auto parts and fell madly in love. Eventually the two began to combine their bounty, gazed up into each other's eyes, and knew they'd found their life's calling. 

Neither of them had ever touched or even seen an acoustic guitar, not to mention a mandolin, but the scepter of Dizzy Gillespie convinced the couple that riches were theirs for the taking. They began collaborating at the Crimson And Clovis Inn on karaoke nights, and the besotted barstool patrons' enthusiastic clapping convinced Johnny and Cindy they had nowhere to go but up ~ to the stratosphere.

After a couple of months, Cindy spied a smashed guitar ~ at least she was pretty sure it was a guitar ~ atop a gaseous heap of smoldering junkyard Pampers and that sealed the deal. Cindy never did actually learn how to play the mysterious instrument, but hours of practice and jamming her fingers against random strings produced an original, otherworldly sound that made strangers at the C&C stop and stare. Desperate local record producer Ruben Rococo caught the duo's act one night when he stopped in for one last sip of liquor before he put an end to it all, and the (albeit) amateurs' act gave him one last straw to grasp onto. And the rest is history.

Ruben added his own on-key accompaniment to the duo's first recordings and slipped the completed disc across the local radio station's transom with a twenty-dollar bill, and voila! 

Purists will quibble about the discordant notes and off-key vocals on Unfortunate Leakage, but New Mexicans erupted with joy upon hearing tracks like "Psssssssstt" and the lament, "Honey, Do You Have Roadside Assistance?" 

AB has a full slate of concerts scheduled for the greater New Mexico area. Rumor has it they're adding a maracas shaker to the lineup.

#1 ~ Bingo Hall Bastards ~ Four Corners

The first time Penny Pinchet drove her grandma to the local bingo hall, she shook her head in disgust. "Gram, how can you spend your Social Security check on this lame time waster?" she asked as she pulled Grandma's walker from the trunk. When Grandma shuffled back to Penny's car later that evening with three hundred smackeroos clutched in her gnarled fist, Penny had second thoughts. Thenceforth Beulah, North Dakota's favorite diner waitress was hooked. The clack of the bingo numbers whirling inside their wire basket, the thunk of fifty daubers stamping paper cards in rhythm, the "ahhhs" of blue-haired wanna-be's when some old lady jumped up and shouted "Bingo!" were sweet music to Penny's ears. She even heard heard these reverberations in her dreams ~ on Tuesday and Thursday nights ~ and on early-bird Saturdays.

When Penny's boyfriend Glenn Brokaw started complaining and accusing her of cheating on him, she dragged him along to the bingo parlor. Glenn was a harder sell, but when he won fifty dollars by completing a letter X (thank you, B12!) he had to admit this bingo lark was kind of a rush. 

Before long Penny was ditching her shifts at Ewald's and Glenn starting calling in sick to his Massey Ferguson boss and slipping off to the midday Eat & Feat event, where they munched on nachos and searched the master table for exactly the right combination of cards. At last Grandma had to sit the two of them down. "Kids, I know you really love bingo, but to be honest, you're embarrassing me in front of my friends. Bingo is an old-timer's game. We like having a place to go where you hipsters can't find us. We like a little peace. No offense." 

Penny and Glenn exchanged chagrined glances. Grandma, sensing their unease, suggested, "How about you make a band?"

And that's how Bingo Hall Bastards came to be. Sure, the two of them tried one last time to return to the backlit building, but they found a hand-lettered sign on the door telling them, "Penny and Glenn are prohibited from entering these premises." Grandma had a lot of pull, it seemed.

One August night, still mourning their loss, Glenn picked up his brother Galen's guitar and began lazily strumming. Penny chimed in, emitting a low wail, a desolate cry. Thus, the hit "Blackout" was born. Before long Penny and Glenn found their new obsession. Songs tumbled out, like "Daubing My Heart" and the heart-wrenching "Oh 73".  

They packed up Glenn's Kia Sorrento and headed down the highway to the big city of Fargo, where they met with punk record head Kitty Pau, who figured, what the hell, what've I got to lose? She brought in her nephew Tom to tap a cymbal and before long The Bingo Hall Bastards were the toast of the greater Fargo-Moorhead area. And the rest is history.

Now their liquor lounge concerts are near sellouts, with girl fans sporting black mantillas and men doffing ebony armbands. Americana is nothing if not really, really, really sad. And the band's depressing ditties really spike the bars' alcohol sales.

So, there you have it ~ the top three Americana albums, in this humble critic's opinion, of 2021. Search out Spotify to sample these bands' formidable wares. 

Keep a Kleenex handy.


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Oblivious Listener Samples Today's Country Hits


I visit Saving Country Music every day ~ not sure why ~ because I generally just shrug and move along. I don't know any of the current artists like that "Moonpies" band or Ernest Tubb and his Turnpike Troubadours. I guess I mostly just log on to see if any country artists have died (honestly).

I'm woefully incurious. The minuscule number of videos I've sampled are awful ~ something that apparently passes for "music", but has no definitive genre, and definitely no soul. And the Americana artists are the worst. Strum-strum-strumming on an acoustic guitar and a sad, sappy vocal. And those are supposedly the good artists. Has everyone forgotten what country music is?

But, open-minded as I am 😉 I've once again decided to give a listen to the top ten hits of the week. I might be missing something. I hope I am. Maybe country music has magically regenerated after two decades in limbo (and all good Catholics know what the next step down is after limbo).

Ready? I'm not sure I am, but here we go:

#10 ~ You Probably Should Leave ~ Chris Stapleton

Apparently there is no "official" video of this track, because...damn, nobody cool, like those codgers Alan Jackson or Rodney Crowell, makes music videos anymore. That's like, so eighties, man.

Okay, this is a blues jam. No offense, but with the right (standard blues) chords anybody can do the blues. I don't find this any better than anything done by Lee Roy Parnell, and certainly not as interesting. I understand that Stapleton has won a ton of country awards, so maybe this is where we are now in country.

I give this a B- just for not incorporating hip-hop and fake drums.


#9 ~ Tequila Little Time ~ Jon Pardi

Surprisingly, I kind of like this one. Hell, George Strait did a few flamenco-flavored songs in his day, too. And the Tijuana Brass accompaniment is actually right up my alley. 

I think Jon Pardi is one of those artists that Saving Country Music touts, but his voice is kind of weak. Perhaps he sounds better on other tracks.

Nevertheless, I give this one an A-. I wouldn't download it, but the video is cute and for a current country song it's inoffensive.


#8 ~ Buy Dirt ~ Jordan Davis ft. Luke Bryan

This track is innocuous. It won't stand the test of time, because country songwriters today have a compulsion to cram as many words into a line as humanly possible. Slow down! But the message is sweet and it draws upon the listener's yearning for an America that no longer exists. I've never heard of Jordan Davis, but I think I've watched a video of Luke Bryan doing a really putrid song. So, he's moved up in the world! 

I'm not sure what rating to give a song that is clearly pandering, but again, it's non-offensive, albeit pretty forgettable.

I'll go with a B+.


#7 ~ Chasing After You ~ Ryan Hurd with Maren Morris

Okay, I don't know what this is. Is that Kim Kardashian? This is just embarrassing. 


#6 ~ Whiskey And Rain ~ Michael Ray


This is definitely a country song, so plus-plus! I'm rather surprised it's hit #6 on the charts. I've never heard of Michael Ray. He's an adequate singer, although I abhor the tendency today to sing in an exaggerated southern drawl. Just sing in your normal voice, boys! That said, I like it. I wouldn't download it, but I like it.


#5 ~ Knowing You ~ Kenny Chesney

I had a hard time getting through this, but from the video comments it apparently has touched a lot of people. I'm not sure why. The same message has been delivered countless times in much better songs. All I can do is shrug and give it a:

C (and that's being generous)

#4 ~ Cold As You ~ Luke Combs

Truth be told, I never listen to a song I don't like all the way through. I know pretty quickly not to waste my time, but for the sake of this exercise, I forced myself to play the entire track. This is a guy whose voice I actually like, but this song pretty much reeks. I can't think of any aspect of it to recommend. Someone today who actually can sing needs to pick better songs, not squander his talent.

#3 ~ If I Didn’t Love You ~ Jason Aldean & Carrie Underwood


Carrie Underwood is a great singer. Too bad she doesn't do country songs. The other guy? Nah. On the plus side, this isn't as bad as that Kim Kardashian/Other Guy song. Sadly, though, it's not much better.



#2 ~ Thinking ‘Bout You ~ Dustin Lynch ft. MacKenzie Porter

Eeek. All all current duets just bad? I don't know who either of these people are, nor do I really care to know. This track is definitely noisy, I'll give it that. There's a lot going on it, none of it good.


#1 ~ Same Boat ~ Zac Brown Band

Not bad. Catchy, though a heavily borrowed melody. The unexpected chord changes help, as do the fiddles. A good sing-along. I can't say anything bad about it except that it's unoriginal.



Well, on the whole, this was a depressing exercise. Bottom line, stop recording duets, people! 

The Jon Pardi song rated highest, and this Michael Ray guy shows some promise. I'm a bit taken aback that a couple of actual country songs made the top ten, so this time around I'm seeing a smidgen of movement toward actual country. Now if labels could only sign some good, standout singers.

It'll be a while before I attempt this analysis again. Trust me, it's torture.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Happy Happy Christmas Music


I try to listen to Christmas music at least once each year before the big day arrives. Sometimes I forget until Christmas Eve -- because I'm not a holiday music fanatic who tunes my car radio to the local oldies station on Thanksgiving in order to experience thirty days of Christmas tunes. Face it, even though a few great Christmas recordings exist, they're best doled out in small bytes. I'm not humming along to Holly Jolly Christmas in the dawning days of May.

And truth be told, Christmas tunes make me melancholy -- for days long gone, souls long gone. For a home that no longer exists except in winter-churned memories. Why do I want to remember? I can't recapture those days. I cry at least once every year when I push play on those tracks.

So as I am wont to do, I search out holiday tunes that are either quirky or cheesy. Those make me feel better. 

I also don't want to hear how certain songs are "overplayed". They're played once a year!  How sick of them could anyone be? "Oh, I heard that last December. I'm so over it." Buck up! I've played Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" every December for fifty years and I still like it.

Christmas gets special dispensation.

As a matter of fact, I've discovered Christmas songs that've become favorites only in the past few years. So it's all new to me. 

Like this one:


 And a different take on a classic:

And if you don't like these, may the lord have pity on you:

And speaking of cheesy, there's nothing like a sweaty Elvis in the middle of June hunka-hunka bumping out Blue Christmas:

To clean your palate:

For country flavor:

I try to keep my Christmas music light. It's really for the best. But if I'm gonna cry, there's no better song to cry over than this:

As you can tell, I'm ambivalent about Christmas. I'm always happy, or relieved, when the new year comes. That doesn't negate the fact that the day comes around every December 25, and the music featured here makes it mostly "jolly".

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Okay, One More Playlist

In creating my (awesome) Spotify playlists, I suddenly realized I'd completely overlooked the seventies. I have a love/hate relationship with seventies music. I can't pinpoint the reason, other than frustration. It's not that there weren't great singles released in the decade, but there were also so many bad ones. One's memory can become clouded. The seventies actually weren't all cheesy disco songs. In perusing the top one hundred charts from each year, I found tons of tracks I'd forgotten. And yes, there was Barry Manilow, who actually wasn't bad, and the Bee Gees, who actually were pretty great. But there were also a lot of one-hit wonders, whose singles were kind of wonderful.

Just as the sixties were a dichotomy, the seventies, too, were delineated for me by my station in life. From 1970 to 1973 I was in high school, a time when music meant everything. By '76 I had more important priorities -- being a mom -- and music fell to the background, though I was still aware of it. The year 1973 resonates with me most keenly, music-wise. Those are the tracks that occupy prime positions in my playlist.

And a word about classic rock radio: I hate HATE it. I don't even know why it still exists. Guys who still listen to classic rock are at least in their mid-fifties. It's time to move on, boys. My local classic rock station's rotation consists of this: Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. Lather, rinse, repeat. I can barely tolerate most of these bands, and my playlist reflects that. I threw in one or two samples of each, just because people searching Spotify for seventies music (old geezers) will expect to find them on a playlist titled A Decade Of Seventies Hits.

As I've done before, I researched the top one hundred singles from each year and made my selections accordingly. After 300 songs I just got tired. I might revisit my list later, but for now three hundred will have to suffice.




I knew I said I was done with playlists, but it's addictive. Too addictive. 

Who knows where I'll travel next?

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

My Latest Spotify Playlists


Who says I'm a time waster? Okay, me, probably. Regardless, I've been busy creating new Spotify playlists, for those days when there's nothing on TV and I need something playing in the background.

I believe the sixties were the best years for rock (or pop - your choice) music, and thus I formulated a playlist for the entire sixties. This posed some problems, because trust me, 1960 was eons different from 1969. Melding the entire decade together was kind of clunky.

And though my memory is still pretty good, even I couldn't even begin to remember every hit song from every year. So I consulted Billboard's top one hundred hits from each of the ten years and then started selecting.

I ended up with a playlist of 373 songs (yes). I'm not in love with all of them, but my criteria was that I had to at least kind of like the song. The ones I hated were not included.

Side note: 1964 and 1965 were the best years of the bunch.

Here it is:

I've also created a playlist for the eighties. This one only has 124 songs, which I admit is much more manageable. And this one was not based upon any record charts.

One downside to Spotify's playlists is that it doesn't allow one to reorder songs, other than by title or artist. I would like the ability to rearrange songs to my liking. But I can live with that.

I may have exhausted my playlist options, but I doubt it. Now I move on to other distractions (for now).

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Where've I Been?

I used to be so fastidious about updating my blog. Now I realize my last post was on October 3. So, where've I been?

I've taken a lot of winding roads. I started a new novel that I realize I don't care about, I started a podcast that no one listens to, and mostly I've been making playlists on Spotify. It started innocently enough -- my podcast was going to feature a particular year, so I began compiling hit songs from each of those years. Then when I realized (finally) that no one cared, I started making playlists for myself.

Here is mine for nineties country:

It's really good, if I say so myself. And quite comprehensive -- 215 songs, 12 hours and 19 minutes of really good.

Of course, I couldn't stop there, so I created a playlist for the eighties:


Then the seventies:


And who could forget the sixties?


What the heck? The fifties weren't my time, but I was familiar with several fifties hits, so dang, why not?



Where does it end? Well, I can't do the 2000's, because it would be a paltry list of maybe twenty five songs. Sorry, I gave up on country the first time I heard "Breathe" on the radio and realized everything had gone to hell.

You may think this was a needless exercise -- the ultimate time-waster -- but believe me, it wasn't easy! I don't have much to be proud of, but at least I can say I created better country playlists than 99.9% of all the Spotify users who created country playlists.

So, you see, I haven't been wasting my time after all. 

P.S. I'm coming back to my blog full force.



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

2021 Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees ~ Part Three


Watch this:

And this:

No, Don Rich wasn't inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in the Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician category (again). That anti-Bakersfield bias lives strong within the mysterious HOF voters. But is there any other sideman more famous than Don Rich? (answer: no) But of course, Don Rich died in 1974, so those mysterious voters no doubt assume that everyone's forgotten him.

So, we have a tie this year: Pete Drake and Eddie Bayers. Funny how the HOF can sometimes induct more than just a single artist.

Before Lloyd Green came along, Pete Drake was the most famous studio steel guitar player in country music. He played on hits such as Rose Garden, Behind Closed Doors, and Stand By Your Man, among innumerable other tracks, hits and non-hits. His fingers must have gotten awfully sore. 

Drake passed away in 1988, which means Jerry Lee Lewis only has about thirty-three years (at age one hundred and eighteen) until, he, too, gets honored.

I almost didn't include Pete Drake's more creepy side, but any summation of his career would be incomplete without his infamous "talk box". Of course I was a kid when I first heard this on the radio, and it was the stuff of nightmares. Nice little novelty, though, I guess. 

Regardless, Pete Drake deserves his due.

Eddie Bayers, on the other hand, has no creepy proclivities that I'm aware of. Eddie has played on tracks by artists ranging from Tanya Tucker to Reba to Garth to George Strait. He also was a member of the Notorious Cherry Bombs, and played on tracks such as this:

On the plus side, at least Eddie is still alive to enjoy the honor.

Studio musicians, like Hargus (Pig) Robbins (2012) and Lloyd Green (not yet!) absolutely deserve any accolade bestowed upon them. So many of the tracks we love and cherish wouldn't be the tracks we love and cherish without these musicians' contributions. 

Still mad about Don Rich, though.

2021 Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees ~ Part Two


In order to be eligible for the Country Music Hall Of Fame's veteran's category, an artist must have reached national prominence at least forty years prior.

That list of performers thus include artists such as Tanya Tucker, Lynn Anderson, JERRY LEE LEWIS, among others.

So, what did the mysterious HOF members do? They inducted R&B star Ray Charles.

Ray Charles recorded one ostensibly country album in 1962, Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music (first clue that someone is not country: call it country and western).

I was seven years old in 1962 and I do remember hearing a couple of the tracks from the album on the radio:

Even at seven I knew this wasn't country. The second track is how country would sound if Andy Williams tried to sing country (Andy would, no doubt, add the "and western" to his track label). The first track is fine as an R&B version of Don Gibson's country song.

So eighty-five-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis, who devoted years and years to actual country music, can smile down from heaven when he is finally inducted into the hall of fame. Maybe Faron Young who, too, only got inducted after he died, can join him in his celebration.

Ray Charles was a great artist. He just wasn't a country artist. So why was he inducted into the HOF, bypassing actual deserving country stars? 

The Hall Of Fame needs to widen its induction process. Why only one artist in each of the three categories per year? Come on. If they're going to be politically correct, fine, I guess. But how about three in each category? Even then they wouldn't be able to keep up.

Yes, Jerry Lee Lewis deserved this. He absolutely deserved this. 

I've pretty much washed my hands of this "organization".

2021 Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees - Part 1



I admit, I was a year off. That's not bad, though. I had no hope nor expectation that Marty Stuart would be inducted in the Modern Era category in 2020. I simply felt it was The Judds' time.

I readily admit I completely missed The Judds' rise. I'd abandoned country music for about a decade, which was completely country music's fault; not mine. And nineteen eighties pop was really, really good; I don't care who wants to argue the point -- while country music was putrid. Sure, I missed country's renaissance, but how was I to know country that would suddenly heal itself? I'd chalked it up as a lost cause, after too many Sylvia and Billy Crash Craddock singles. 

I sure didn't know about this:

Or this:

Or this:

In fact, I missed the best of The Judds. I did keep up with them via People Magazine, though. Constant drama is a catalyst for bad, and The Judds were nothing if not drama. I scrolled through the articles about Wynonna's marriages and Naomi's and Wynonna's squabbles. They became tabloid fodder and diminished the talent that they were. But living in the spotlight probably changes a person; makes them keen to their public image. 

By the time I learned to appreciate The Judds they were almost over. Their hit-making days didn't last long, basically from 1984 to 1991, but they did score fourteen number ones in only eight years.

A few of their better recordings:

To be eligible for the modern era category, at least twenty but not more than forty years, must have passed since the artist reached national prominence. What this means is that The Judds beat out the obviously most deserving candidate, Dwight Yoakam. The Country Music Hall Of Fame and Nashville in general has long had a bias against Bakersfield artists (Merle Haggard simply could not be ignored), so it will be interesting to witness the HOF twists themselves into knots in the future to NOT induct Dwight.

I rarely agree with the Hall Of Fame choices, but I don't begrudge The Judds. They simply could no longer be ignored by whoever the mysterious HOF voters are. I will say, however, that three superior recordings do not necessarily elevate an artist to hall of fame status. But no one can deny that they left their imprint on country music.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Spotify Beats SiriusXM All To Hell


Well, I made the switch. 

It wasn't easy. Sirius is dedicated to making sure one NEVER cancels their subscription. For those who are wondering, use the chat option and just keep telling the chat bot that you can't afford to continue. It's a hard argument for their reps to counter. "I'm sorry. I'd really like to continue, but I'm pooo-ooo-rrrr." I actually am poor, so that wasn't a fabrication. I can afford one music subscription, and Sirius just wasn't doing it for me. 

I'm not sure, but I'm suspicious that they have some kind of financial arrangement with Juice Newton's management, because "The Sweetest Thing" and "Angel Of The Morning" kept popping up on every country channel I clicked on (and, come on, Angel Of The Morning isn't even a Juice Newton original.) That, and Crystal Gayle. I like some Crystal Gayle songs, but not over and over and over. SiriusXM never swaps out their songs. They take their subscribers for granted. The best channel on Sirius is Willie's Roadhouse, and even then, they like to feature an obscure Kitty Wells single that I couldn't abide. It takes a lot for me to listen to Kitty Wells in the first place. I'm not eighty. Dwight's channel doesn't feature enough Dwight, and besides, I own all his albums, so there's no added value there. 

What do I like about Spotify?

Simply this: 

I can create my own playlists, so I can listen to the songs I actually want to hear. And there's not one Juice Newton track among them. Seriously, what's with Sirius's infatuation with Juice Newton?

I actually emailed SiriusXM once and volunteered to give them some music recommendations. Of course, they ignored me, but it made me feel better. 

What bugs me about Spotify?

Sometimes the only versions available are remakes. I DON'T LIKE REMAKES. I like recordings to be the way I remember them. I realize this isn't Spotify's fault -- they have to go with what's provided to them. Still don't like it.

I also don't like that Mel Tillis's singles aren't available. Maybe Pam could rectify that; I don't know. 

But overall, I could spend interminable days creating playlists. And love it. I like categorizing things and I like that nobody can stop me from doing it.

It took me way too long to switch on the light bulb. Often we simply stick with what's familiar, even though it sometimes shreds our nerves. If it wasn't for my podcast notion, I wouldn't have even given Spotify a second look. 

Now I'm so busy creating playlists, my podcast idea has taken a back seat.



Thursday, May 20, 2021

Ever Ask Yourself, Whatever Happened To...?

I generally assume the bands I once knew have scattered like the winds, which brings me to Sawyer Brown. I wasn't a big or even middling fan, but I heard "Some Girls Do" on SiriusXM the other day (Sirius plays the same twenty to twenty-five songs over and over again -- it's like classic rock radio) and asked myself, "Whatever happened to...?"

The Google Thing™ is an indispensable tool. I quickly learned that not only is Sawyer Brown still together, but they're still touring. In fact they'll be in my general area of Minnesota this summer. Don't scoff at county fairs or casinos. The best country concert I ever saw in my life was from the second row of a casino stage. To country artists of a certain age (and their fans) casinos have been a gift from heaven. I would definitely buy tickets to see Sawyer Brown perform in a casino. 

SB is kind of an anachronism, much like Alabama. They were everywhere, had their hits, but never quite burst through the glass neon ceiling. In 1983 there was a Saturday night (?) syndicated talent show hosted by Ed McMahon called Star Search, and had eight categories of competition, including the now infamous "spokesmodel" bracket, which...really...models who can actually speak? Anyway, a new group called Sawyer Brown won the very first vocal group award (Mark Miller had hair then).

Sawyer Brown wasn't accepted in Nashville at first, as Mark Miller detailed in an interview, because they were considered too "rock and roll". Seriously? That's not rock and roll. Regardless, it was partially the group's own fault. They didn't do substantial songs. It was all fun, which is okay, but it's kind of like Achy Breaky Heart. Fun songs are okay for a month or two, until they descend into dreck. I get it; they went with their strengths. And now, almost forty years later, I bet fans lap that stuff up (ahh, nostalgia).


They also remade "The Race Is On" (don't remake classics), and I don't know if this is an official video, but the quality is awful.


I never once purchased a Sawyer Brown album until "The Dirt Road". Mark Miller and Gregg Hubbard wrote this one. Maturity? This is when the group ventured into substantial territory. And the song is flat-out good.

Even the "fun" song on the album actually said something:

Subsequently the band incorporated hefty songs into their repertoire:

Those of us who were around watched Sawyer Brown transition from a goofy bunch of kids into a serious band. The years kind of do that, don't they? Sirius kind of tricked me into only remembering the silly stuff, but this retrospective knocked some sense into me.

Yea, I would definitely see Sawyer Brown in

Sunday, May 2, 2021


If I started a podcast, I think I would call it, "The Singles". Of course, since it costs $$$$$ to actually play music on a podcast, I guess it would just be me talking about 45's. Not such a great idea, now that I think about it.

In an effort to establish a smidgen of organization, I've been sifting through all my old LP's and 45's. Its funny, but the singles actually resonate with me more than the albums. Country didn't really become album-centric until around the 1980's, unlike rock. There was an occasional standout, like Emmylou Harris's Elite Hotel and Porter and Dolly's duet albums, but the Nashville producers hawked singles. Maybe they figured the rubes couldn't afford a $3.99 LP, but no thought whatsoever went into producing an album. Generally the album would consist of two hits and eight or nine cover songs. We buyers knew what we were getting into, and even at age sixteen, I could, yes, afford a couple of four-dollar LP's every month. Too bad Chet Atkins, Glenn Sutton, et al didn't try harder.

Thus, I bought a ton of singles. Most of them were purchased at Woolworth's, where the most popular tracks were displayed on an end cap. How much could one lose by picking up a single they "kinda liked"? Going through them today, I couldn't even remember some of the songs, but I must have kinda liked them at the time.

Somehow, included with my 45 collection were a bunch of singles my mom had bought. I'm not sure how those got mixed in. I don't remember her gifting them to me. Bless her heart, my mom wasn't a big music buff, but she tried. She handwrote "this side" on all her singles. I suspect she scooped up a sheaf of records on every shopping trip, sight unseen, then played them at home to determine which side was the best.

I, on the other hand, pressed some of my singles to my heart. There's this one:

(I wrote my name on all my records and included the year.)
This record traveled many miles with me. If you read my memories of Merle Haggard, you will understand. 
Short version: I had a battery-powered record player and when my best friend Alice and I discovered that Merle and his retinue had checked into my parents' motel, we dragged that record player outside, across the driveway from his room, set it up on a little table and whirled this record over and over. In my defense, I was thirteen.
Around 1970 I stopped throwing away the record sleeves like a dolt. Thus, the majority of my 45's still rest inside their original wrappings. (No, I'm not selling them on eBay.)
Looking through them today, I often knew which record I'd picked up simply by spying the sleeve. Just looking at these records I was transported back to a lovely time. Imagine if I actually played them! I have one of those USB turntable thingies, but I also have a kitten. Trying to spin a record would be an exercise in frustration, hurt feelings (on her part), and scratches gouging my previously-pristine singles.

But I will, someday. The temptation is too great, especially now that I've glimpsed those decades-old wonders.

I've always maintained that music is tied up in memories. When I spied "Ride Me Down Easy" I was immediately transported back to the post-graduation road trip Alice and I took, singing along to the radio at the tops of our lungs to drown out the wind whooshing through the open car windows. 

Some of my '80's singles from my MTV days, the singles with the block sleeves and album cover-like artwork, evoke the giddy days of devouring pop music alongside my pre-teen sons. 

(No, I'm not just a country music geek.)

Yes, a singles podcast would be something I'd lap up, but somebody else'll need to do it. I'm poor. (And the Prince estate will slap you down if you even try to spin one of his tracks outside the confines of your own home.)

A whole podcast chapter could be solely devoted to one-hit wonders that nobody remembers -- until they hear the record.

Yea, singles. Those are my ticket.



Sunday, December 6, 2020

About Those Disappearing Music Videos...



I rarely go back and re-read my old blog posts. What's the point, really? I was there when they were written. Today, however, I wanted to recall something I'd blogged about, so I started scanning my posts. Since this blog is primarily about music, I include tons of YouTube videos. Well, looky here -- a bunch of the videos I posted no longer exist!

It's impossible for me to re-add videos to hundreds of past posts. I tried for a while, but the task became too unmanageable. So if you come across something I've posted and you think, wow, this person is a complete moron, least with regard to non-existent music videos, they really did exist when I posted them.

So, feel free to hum a tune to replace the bare spots.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

"An Artist Of His Time"

I read an article today about Joe Diffie's albums hitting the charts again since his tragic death from coronavirus. The story stated that Joe is considered "an artist of his time". I know that was meant as a dis, but what artist isn't considered of his/her time? That's kinda how time and music works.

The intimation is that Joe Diffie could never make it in today's country environment. Absolutely true, but that's more an indictment of new country than of the artist. The Beatles would be dismissed as a garage band today; thus no one should ever listen to their music Sinatra was a flash in the pan.You know how the forties were; people were such rubes.

I fully acknowledge I have a bias toward nineties country music. In my defense, I've been around a long time and I've heard approximately a million songs in my lifetime. I venerate nineties country because it was the best. I have things to compare it to. It goes like this: nineties, sixties, eighties, seventies (which was overall bad), nineties (which was overall worse), and whatever the hell today's music is.

For the most part, music is tied up with our life experiences, but if one takes an unjaundiced look and they're willing to admit it, some musical times were superior. If I solely judged music by the times of my life that were the most momentous, I'd worship seventies country. In fact, I stopped listening to country in the late seventies because it was so putrid.There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the nineties for me, other than the sublime music poring out of my radio speakers.

Unlike some, I'm not a musical snob.I like music that's good, or at least good to my ears. I don't politicize it; I don't subscribe to what's hip or dismiss what's unhip. I have nobody to impress.

So, an artist of his time? I'll simply fold it into my heart and enjoy it, no matter what any "woke" critic dismisses.Music is one of life's few purities.

Friday, July 26, 2019

My Latest Fake Album Has Dropped!

I haven't done this since 2007; and I felt like having some fun tonight. This is an old game that allows one to create their own album. Since my real band is in a dormant period, why not?

I've had to update the links a bit, due to a couple of the former sites dissolving into the ether.

Here are the rules:

The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

The last four words of the first quote is the title of your album.

The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

If you want to get fancy and add track listings, go here:


Tonight my band is called, naturally, Mexico Fed Cup Team, and we've titled our album, "Computer Is A Moron".

One might think our cover art is a bit incongruous, but trust me, we have our reasons:

 Tracks on our album:

1.  Scrumptious Asteroids
2.  The Tall Movie
3.  She Dances Above Wine
4.  They Cleans He
5.  Female Beyond the Painting
6.  The History Come Back
7.  Shining Victor
8.  Speak Players
9.  Incredulous Development
10. Put

Funny story about track #10. The band was sitting around wondering what we should put as the last song, and that's how we came up with "Put". Don't dismiss it ~ it's probably the most profound track on the album. 

My personal favorite is "They Cleans He". I wrote that one and I think it says it all. I was inspired by some of John Lennon's more offbeat songs. 

Naturally we had to lead off the album with "Scrumptious Asteroids". It has such an ethereal vibe and really sets the tone for the tracks that follow.

You can, of course, sample our album on Spotify, but I will point out that "Shining Victor" has a bit of a hidden meaning. Our bass player's name is Victor and he's a bit of an exhibitionist. Everyone in our audience naturally gravitates toward Vic because he's just, well, shiny ~ with his floor-length lemon cloaks and feathered boas. The rest of us have taken to calling him Shining Victor. This song is our tribute to the baddest bass player this side of the Appalachians.

So, give us a try. You'll be "Dancing Above Wine"!



Saturday, January 5, 2019

Red River's Annual Ring In The Old Video

Why so late, you ask? Well, considering all the technical issues I encountered, I'm amazed I managed to produce a semblance of a cohesive video (thanks, Microsoft).

Nevertheless, Happy 2019 from Red River!

Saturday, May 12, 2018


I don't think we recognize the happy times while we're living them; or perhaps we think we'll always feel this way, and therefore, this feeling is normal. We don't even recognize the emotion as happiness. Maybe it's the absence of worry, jitteryness; an embrace of the big blue sky.

I've pinpointed 1985 as my "happy time".  I was thirty, which is actually the perfect age, all things considered. My boys were at the fun age; the world opening up to them and me along for the ride. My job was perfect for my lifestyle. I worked second shift at a job I really liked -- interesting, yet only occasionally stressful. My mornings were my own. I even enjoyed setting up the ironing board in the living room, flipping my TV dial to MTV and pressing my hospital uniform, while this flashed on my screen in the background:

Even the music was optimistic in '85, and why not? We had a president who made us feel like everything was going to be okay. Our country was safe, tucked in. President Reagan had everything under control. And everyone felt it. 

I drove to the local mall with my youngest son, and as I slid into the parking slot, this song came on the radio. Matt knew a few of the artists, but I pointed out some he didn't know; some he needed to know. We made a game of picking out the voices. 

I had a savings account at the hospital credit union, and dutifully deposited twenty-five dollars out of each paycheck -- our vacation booty. Come July, I'd descend the steps to the hospital basement and acquire reams of traveler's checks and sign each one in the presence of the teller. Then, mid-month, we'd pack up our travel trailer with coolers full of New Coke, bologna, and Hostess treats and steer down Highway 83 toward Belle Fouche and ultimately, Rapid City and the exhale of the Rafter J Bar Ranch nestled within the tall pines. 

The campground had an outdoor pool and my boys made a beeline for it before we'd even pounded the camper stakes into the ground. In the setting sun, an Oglala brave would dance in full Lakota regalia as we tourists sat, cross-legged, in the tall prairie grass. At sunrise the next morning, we'd wind along the curvy two-lane logging road on our twelve-mile trip to the tourist town of Keystone so I could buy a Black Hills gold ring and my kids could ride the helicopter for a close-up view of Mount Rushmore.

1985 was the year of bands that have never been heard from since, but their hits are so iconic, it doesn't matter.

And a few who've stood the test of time:

Television was what it always was. Shows were "good" because we had nothing to compare them to. I watched Kate and Allie and Newhart and Family Ties. There was, however, one program that offered a glimpse of how good TV could be. It was on NBC on Wednesday nights, and since I worked second shift, I had to utilize my trusty VCR, because I was not about to miss it. Maybe working in a hospital made the show more special to me, but in reality, it was just a damn good show:

"Okay, smart guy, who's the president in 1985?"

"Ronald Reagan? Is Jerry Lewis Vice President?"

The eighties were the most fun period for movies. This classic was released -- guess when? 1985.

The country was optimistic; I was optimistic. 

I was happy.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Adios Old Friend

Nice (I'm being sarcastic) that this video cuts off before the song has ended, but nevertheless, it's a good song.

As you know, I don't listen to music much (at all). I get my paltry provision of music from the show, "Nashville", because, well, I do watch TV, sometimes.

I used to be a songwriter until I realized that was a loser's game, so I stopped writing songs and started writing novels, and that, my friends, is TRULY a loser's game.

But I can still appreciate a good song, and this is one of those. It was written by Brett Eldredge and Kim Tribble (information, by the by, that is near impossible to suss out. Come on people, let's give credit where credit is due, okay?)

Sure, the TV show Nashville is a soap, and I have always disdained soaps, because they remind me of nineteen eighties big shoulder pads shows that starred Linda Evans and that other chick - the British one - who's name escapes me.

But at least Nashville has MUSIC going for it.

So, I'm good with that.

And this is still a really good song.