Showing posts with label patsy cline. Show all posts
Showing posts with label patsy cline. Show all posts

Friday, September 20, 2019

Ken Burns' Country Music ~ So Far

I unfortunately don't have two hours to devote to watching a documentary each night. I have a full-time job, and I'm frankly tired by the end of the day. That said, I wish I could keep up with Ken Burns' Country Music. I'll catch up eventually. I've watched most of Episode One and most of Episode Four. My husband, who is no country music fan, clicked on the fourth episode last night and rather than quibble that we were out of order (which generally makes me out of sorts), I decided to just be thankful he was willing to watch at all.

The first episode recounted the (ancient) history of the genre, and it was fascinating in an historical way, rather than a musical way. I like history, and the photographs reminded me of Burns' other series, Civil War. That said, I could easily enjoy the rest of the installments without finishing Episode One.

Episode Four was more up my alley. It covers the time period 1953 - 1963, when things in country became interesting. I'm not quite old enough to remember much before 1960, but I do know the music ~ Marty Robbins, Ray Price (who was lucky to get a ten-second clip!), Patsy Cline, of course; the emergence of Loretta Lynn. Aside Patsy, the most fascinating star of the episode is Brenda Lee. Brenda began her career at the age of nine, and was there to witness it all. I relished watching Mel Tillis recount stories of driving the touring car and little Brenda keeping him awake on late nights leaning over the car seat, telling him corny kid jokes.

As expected, the installment leaned heavily on Johnny Cash tales ~ Cash, the country singer those who dislike country always cite as their favorite country artist. I'm okay with the emphasis on Johnny; it was pre-ordained. A documentarian who isn't seeped in the subject matter would naturally feel obliged to exalt him. We country fans know he was essentially inconsequential, at least during the time period. What was unexpected was the time eaten up by Elvis stories, to the exclusion of actual country artists. Yes, Sun Records produced stars, but of the quartet of Cash, Presley, Orbison, and Perkins, the only real country artist of the bunch was Cash. My readers know that I'm not an Elvis fan ~ let's face it, the guy was strange and only a middling vocalist. What he most certainly was not was country. I would have rather, given a choice between the four, watched a segment about a true phenomenon, Roy Orbison, even though he wasn't country, either.

The Nashville Sound was talked about, rightfully. Wrongfully, Chet Atkins, who invented the term, ruined country music. Owen Bradley was Atkins' competition. The difference between the two was that Bradley played to the artists' strengths ~ he didn't try to citify Loretta Lynn, and he steered Patsy Cline in a direction she didn't even know she needed to travel. Chet Atkins made every recording sound exactly the same. The only recording Atkins got right was "Detroit City" (which, by the way, wasn't referenced).

It was appropriate to highlight the Everly Brothers. Their music was country ~ I don't care how they were labeled; it was country. Felice and Boudleaux Bryant can take credit for that (The Bryants, by the way, had more than 900 of their songs recorded!)

We got to see Faron Young doing Hello Walls, which introduced the Willie Nelson segment. I was sad to learn that Willie had sold some of his songs, including Night Life, just to survive. A songwriter should never have to sell his songs. Faron, though, even though Willie offered, wouldn't buy Hello Walls. He instead loaned Willie five hundred dollars and let Nelson retain his copyright. (Oh, that dastardly Faron Young, they always say.)

The Willie introduction naturally led to a segment about Patsy recording Crazy (which was originally titled, "Stupid" ~ a fortunate change). My husband said, "So you like that song?" Uh, yea. Crazy is the best country song of all time. "But what about the 'cosmopolitan' sound?" I said, there's a difference between doing it wrong and doing it right. Crazy was done right.

One of Merle's favorites, Lefty Frizzell, was mentioned. Rosanne Cash talked about her dad, Mel talked about Roger Miller (who hopefully gets his due in Episode Five). A lot of people, including Brenda Lee, talked about Patsy. Cline was before my time, so stories about her fascinate me. Merle also thought Honky Tonk Girl was Loretta Lynn's best song (I agree ~ I generally agree with Merle).

It's the stories, the reminiscences, that fascinate me. I know the bare details. I know Merle was in the San Quentin audience when Cash appeared there in 1959, but hearing Merle recount it brings it to life. I cherish the memories relayed in these episodes, because they will eventually be gone (like Mel and Merle are gone).

Ken Burns has accomplished a remarkable feat. Yea, I have my quibbles, but who else but Burns would even endeavor to tackle country music?

Based on my limited viewing (at this writing), I'm giving Ken Burns a million thumbs up.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

September Is Country Music Month ~ Oops, Let's Go Back

I was so excited to begin country music month, I realize I gave short shrift to the decade of the sixties. Granted, for part of the sixties I was too young to remember much, but the wonder of music is, one can hear songs from eons before and fall in love with them still.

When I embraced country around 1967, I knew I had a lot of catching up to do. It wasn't that I was oblivious to country music entirely; my mom and dad's tastes had seeped inside my brain. But I was a sixties kid ~ I liked The Beatles and other assorted British Invasion groups. I'd had a brief interlude in the mid-decade of residing at my uncle's restaurant/bar establishment, and what else was there beside the radio and the jukebox? My uncle Howard stocked his machine with the latest country hits of the day, because that was expected by couples who stopped in to sip beer and whiskey sours and chance onto the dance floor for a two-step. So I knew who Buck Owens was, and I was familiar with exactly one Bobby Bare song.

As I researched "old" country, however, I found some gems; so let's stroll through the decade, shall we?

1960. This is not just the best song of 1960, it's one of the best country songs (er, instrumentals) ever. No one records instrumentals anymore ~ they died when the decade ended. It's quite a feat to grab one of the top twenty-five "best country songs ever" slots with a song that has no words. Words equal emotion. How can an instrumental do that? Here's how:


'61 is tough, because there is more than one song that tops the year. There are, in fact, three; and two of them were written by Willie Nelson:

1962. '62 is tough. It wasn't the best year for country singles (sort of like 1981). One looks for songs that later became classics, and there really weren't many. I'm going to pick a couple that I either like for my own reasons or were later re-recorded and became even bigger hits:

Things started getting interesting in 1963. Suddenly Bakersfield was giving Nashville a run for its money, but never fear ~ producer Chet Atkins was on the case, especially with a song written by Mel Tillis:

June wrote a song for Johnny:

Then there was Buck:

Something happened in 1964 ~ a phenomenon. This new guy who was sorta weird, but sorta mesmerizing, suddenly appeared. He was all over every network TV show, and none of the hosts actually spoke to him, because they were too busy having a laugh at his expense. Turns out Roger Miller was no flash in the pan and no joke. He'd written a lot of classic country hits before he embarked on a solo career. But what did network people know? Who's laughing now, idiots?

Take your Lorettas; take your Norma Jeans. This new girl singer (with the songwriting assistance of Bill Anderson) started racking up a string of number ones in 1964, and didn't stop for another decade:

I'm not one of those "George Jones is the greatest country singer of all time" adherents, but this song was pretty cool:

Truly, Roger Miller and Buck Owens dominated 1965, but since I've already featured them, let's find a few other gems.

1966 was rather a transitional year. Buck and Roger and Johnny were still dominating, but a few new voices appeared, such as David Houston and some guy named Merle. A young kid who called himself Hank, Junior, first appeared on the charts. There are those who worship Hank, Jr.; one of those people is not me. The fanatics are unaware of his early recording history ~ not me. But I digress.

You know that Ray Price holds a special place in my heart, and he had three hits in the top 100 in '66. Here's one:

Then there was this new girl singer:

1967 is where I come in, which is a weird time to show up, considering that the charts were dominated by yucky Jimmy Webb songs and pseudo-folk protest tracks like Skip A Rope. The first country albums I bought were by Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and Charley Pride. Even at age twelve I had good taste.

Here's a bonus:

By 1968 Merle was a superstar, Glen Campbell was still churning out pop hits, Tammy had the hit that would define her career. Johnny Cash had a network TV show.

I've been trying not to repeat artists, but this particular hit has special meaning to me ~ not because I was in prison or anything ~ but because this was a hit the year I actually "met" Merle Haggard:

Just because live performance videos of David Houston are infinitesimal doesn't mean he wasn't huge in the sixties, because he was ~ I was there. It bothers me that simply because an artist died years ago, we tend to erase them from history. I would feature one of Houston's hits, but I can't find them. This phenomenon also applies to Wynn Stewart, who, if you don't believe me, none other than Dwight Yoakam cites as one of his early influences. Here he is, with none other than Don Rich:

Something interesting happened in 1968 ~ a rock 'n roll icon decided he wanted to go country. And if you know anything about Jerry Lee Lewis, you know he does exactly what he wants. I love Jerry Lee:

This new duo showed up in 1968, featuring a girl singer with impossibly high blonde hair. I wonder whatever happened to her:

Lynn Anderson was more (much more) than Rose Garden, a song I came to truly hate after hearing it on the radio one bazillion times. Lynn is another somebody who should not be forgotten. Before her then-husband got his hooks into her and moved her to Columbia Records, she was truly country, and her Chart albums prove it. Here is a hit from '68:

No disrespect to Merle, but this is the best song that came out of 1968. On the rare instances when I hear it on Willie's Roadhouse, I am right there croaking along (he sings higher than I can). Johnny Bush:

1969 was Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. And Merle. You might not know that there were others, and there definitely were. Faron Young was my favorite country singer for years, until George Strait showed up. And speaking of sing-along country songs, well, here you go:

Maybe it was my pop roots peeking through, but I played the hell out of this '45, recorded by a former member of Paul Revere and the Raiders and written by Joe South (curse you, Joe, for Rose Garden).

Freddy Weller:

Yea, the sixties ~ that decade became imprinted on my musical mind and never left. Maybe it was my age; maybe it was simply that country was so good; so pure. So new? The sixties were a renaissance. The nineteen eighties were an epiphany, but they couldn't have happened without the sixties.

And so the river flows...

Friday, October 19, 2018

Yay For Women Artists?

So CMT (which used to be a network), in a shameless publicity grab, decided to anoint all women as "artists of the year". First of all, if you've got about twenty of them, that kinda dilutes the artist of the year moniker. Secondly, who is CMT to decide anything? The only admirable thing CMT has done in the past thirty years is pick up the series Nashville after ABC canceled it.

I remember CMT when it was actually watchable. That's when the great Ralph Emery had a nightly talk show that featured real country artists, and when videos were broadcast that one could distinguish from crappy pop. Everything doesn't get better with age.

Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, and Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town were the honorees. I know what you're thinking ~ who now? I know Carrie Underwood from watching American Idol all those years ago, and I know Miranda from the tabloids. I didn't watch the telecast, but it seems that the gals honored those time-honored country artists Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight.

I understand that Carrie is a true country girl at heart, but she's a slave to radio and has to record the stuff that people (apparently) buy, but I don't really admire an artist who sells out. Doesn't she have enough cache now to record whatever the hell she wants? The gals paid lip service to Loretta Lynn and...apparently that's it....and sang a bunch of songs written by guys, which rather undermines the whole #women rule meme.

The problem I have with women who claim they're all powerful is that they seem desperate to prove it by whining a whole lot. That's not powerful; that's pitiful.

For those "artists of the year" who don't know country history (which seems to be all of them), here are some women who didn't whine:

The number one non-whiner was a broad who didn't give a damn that Roy Acuff and Faron Young were on the same bill. She knew she commanded the stage, and she didn't need a hashtag to tell the world she had arrived.

So, for all you Aretha and Gladys fans out there, here is some real country music:

But just keep thinking you're "all that". Those who don't know better will believe you. 

I am one who knows better.



Saturday, October 17, 2015


(Nope, just me!)
Why are so many songs written about being crazy? Crazy isn't a desirable state, is it? Or IS IT? I don't personally know any crazy people, but it's probably very peaceful. Crazy people don't get annoyed by driving over potholes or their neighbor leaving their garbage can on the curb for approximately three months. Or by relentless TV commercials for Australian Dream or some dweeb standing in front of the Statue of Liberty grilling them about, "Why do you have that car insurance?"
Hence, I think "crazy" might actually equal "serene". 
And with that thought forcing out any coherent concerns from my brain, I have decided to do a "crazy" countdown. (Oh, that's another annoying ad -- "The Final Countdown" performance while some poor working dude is just trying to nuke his burrito in the microwave -- I watch far too much cable news.)
So, wheeeee! I'm ready to be crazy!
10. I Go Crazy -- Paul Davis (The ultimate 70's song - no offense to the seventies. P.S. Love the hair.)
9. Crazy Love -- Poco (Know the song; didn't know this was the name of it.)
8. Still Crazy After All These Years -- Paul Simon (Filler, to be honest. Never really was enamored of this song.)
7. Crazy For You -- Madonna (I always enjoy returning to the 90's)
6. She Drives Me Crazy -- Fine Young Cannibals (Always go with the falsetto, I say)
5. I've Always Been Crazy -- Waylon Jennings (WAY better!)
4.  Crazy Little Thing Called Love -- Dwight Yoakam (Okay, yea, I know it's a Queen song - don't care.)
3.  Crazy Arms -- Ray Price (Yes! Music!)
2. Mama He's Crazy -- The Judds (The Judds basically rescued country music, in case you forgot.)
1.  Crazy -- Patsy Cline (C'mon - you know it's probably the best song of all time.I have nothing more to say.)

 Thank you for going crazy with me. After listening to Patsy Cline, I've decided that crazy isn't so bad.



Why, you ask, didn't I include Prince? Well, His Highness is rather "protective" (let's say) of his videos. I don't know why; I don't understand exactly why a performer wouldn't want to be seen, but that's his gig. I often don't even understand my own thought processes, and I would say I know me pretty well.

I did find one, though (a video; not a brain wave). Let's see how long this can remain here before I receive a cease and desist letter


Saturday, June 13, 2015

No Women On The Radio!

Some guy, apparently a "programming consultant", recently made waves when he proclaimed that if one wants to build a successful radio station, one needs to stop playing women, dammit!

 Naturally that got some feathers ruffled (ooh, is that sexist? I guess male chickens have feathers, too.) But aside from the predictable outrage, this man's proclamation is just asinine. Is he at all familiar with country music?

Now, I'm not really "hip" to the latest in country warblings - my husband flipped the channel to the CMT Music Awards the other night, and I didn't recognize anyone except the two guys from the TV show, Nashville, and Reba. And I still don't know who the dude was who was dressed as a hospital orderly. But I do know the history of country music - the soul of country music. And you and I can thank the women for that soul. Need I remind everybody?

Oh, wait:

Did you forget:

What a wimp:

Oh, I forgot:


Damn those women singers!


 Ridiculous to think that women could...

OMG, not two women!



I still remember this:

Well, I could go on...and on...but you get my drift.

So, radio programmer guy, I think you know where you can stick your "bro" records. You can stick 'em on the turntable, if you want, but c'mon. Let's not pretend.



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Which Artist Do You Wish You'd Seen Live Before It Was Too Late?

Entertainment Weekly posed this question after the passing of George Jones:  Which artist do you wish you'd seen live before it was too late?

I can giddily say that I"m not very deficient in the concert category.  I've seen a whole bunch.  I've seen so many that I've forgotten some of them.

I've seen Dwight Yoakam twice.  I've seen Marty Stuart.  I finally (finally!) got to see George Strait.

I saw artists in their prime, which is the best way to see them:  Merle Haggard, George Jones, Buck Owens, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Faron Young, Marty Robbins.

Alan Jackson, Ronnie Milsap, Vince Gill, Gary Stewart (although hardly anyone even, sadly, remembers him), The Oak Ridge Boys, Highway 101, Gordon Lightfoot; Garth Brooks.

Paul McCartney.

Brian Wilson.

I, too, though, have a list of artists I wish I'd seen.


When John Lennon was killed, I realized my chance would never come.  Up until 1980, I'd held out hope that the four lads would reunite; maybe for a final goodbye tour.  I've read that their brief foray into live performing was unsatisfying for both the band and the fans.  Too much screaming; too little actual sound.  A goodbye tour, though, could have been different.  More efficiently managed.  I think I would have mortgaged my house to buy Beatles tickets.  Some bastard put a swift stop to all that, though, didn't he?


Granted, I don't smoke anything besides nicotine cancer sticks; and one probably needs to be smoking something else to fully appreciate a live concert performance by Jim Morrison and the Doors; but wouldn't that have been something to talk about?  They all say that Jim Morrison wasn't a good singer, but I don't get that.  I think he was as good a singer as anybody; and he most certainly had a stage presence that could not be denied.


Admittedly, I would have had only a short window of time to see Buddy Holly live, since he died in 1959.  And, had I seen him between ages one and four, I may not have had a lucid recollection.  I bet the teens, then, though, had a rockin' good time, jitterbugging in the aisle during his concerts.


I was what you'd call an early Waylon adapter.  Way back in 1967, I thought Waylon Jennings was an undiscovered fruit just waiting to be plucked.  Weirdly, it took until about 1975, when Waylon had let his hair grow out, and had visited Willie in Austin a couple or three times, for people to acquire some common sense and notice him.  I wasn't keen on the scraggly Waylon, but my son sure liked him showing his hands and not his face on TV, during the Friday night Dukes of Hazzard opening.


As a non-cool kid listening to country radio in the late nineteen sixties, I heard a few records by a guy named Charlie Rich.  I liked him.  He was soulful; a standout from the regular country fare.

Little did he, or anybody else, know that all it would take was a six-bar piano intro to turn him into a huge star.  

Charlie Rich was a bit dangerous.  I remember him as a presenter on the CMA Awards, announcing John Denver as Entertainer of the Year; and pulling a cigarette lighter out of his pocket and setting fire to the envelope containing Denver's name.  We all felt a bit of catharsis when Charlie did that.  I wonder what the hell Charlie would make of somebody like Taylor Swift.  Don your hazard-mat suit, Taylor!


Just because Eddie Rabbitt died young is no reason to forget him.  In a short span of time, Eddie created songs that are earworms to this day.  Drivin' My Life Away; I Love a Rainy Night.  Those were the eighties hits.  Eddie Rabbitt, though, had other songs that nobody but country fans would know.  Better songs.   He was a New Jersey boy who must have aimed his radio antenna toward WSM in Nashville on late school nights; because he sure did get it right.


Nope, I never saw him.  But one has to put it all in perspective.  Sure, Johnny had a hit TV show starting in, what?  1969?  That's when the Man in Black persona took root.  Before that, though, Johnny Cash was just a guy who did three-chord songs, backed by a three-piece band; and mostly, all the songs sounded the same.  Johnny Cash was famous for who he was; not for what he sang.  More power to him.

I still wish I could say I'd seen him live, though.  I think (in the recesses of my memory) I actually had the chance to see him live once.  I don't know why Alice and I passed up the opportunity.  We weren't exactly picky about who we would see.  Maybe the fact that even I could strum Folsom Prison Blues on my acoustic guitar led me to an attitude of disdain.  I can't speak for Alice.


Granted, Hank Williams died in 1953; two years before I was born.

That doesn't make me wish any less that I'd seen him in concert, though. 

The absolute biggest, best thing that ever happened to country music; when the farmhands were contenting themselves listening to Hank Snow and Red Foley; was Hank Williams.

Finally!  Somebody who could write a decent song; and who had the balls to perform it properly!

Yea, I would have liked to see him.  I believe he would have put on a hell of a show.


I was nine years old when Patsy Cline was killed in a plane crash, and I didn't even know who she was!  (Granted, I was a kid.)

I think it must be hard for girl singers.  Everybody wants something to aspire to.  Something they can do better than anybody else.  But when the bar was set about 60 years ago, that has to be disheartening.  "No matter how good I do, I'm never gonna be better than Patsy Cline."

Well, sometimes life sucks.  And sometimes we have a video record like this:

One would think that I could come up with an even ten; but I honestly can't.  

Funny, I never wanted to see Elvis.  I guess it was a different generation.     

There are performers still alive that I haven't seen; and wish I could.  Time's running out, though:

Ray Price
Jerry Lee Lewis

I think maybe I should look at the glass as half full.   I've been damn lucky; or I was in the right place at the right time.

I honestly need to appreciate those experiences more.



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The 1960's in Country Music ~ When Everything Changed

People may have selective (or rather, "limited") memories about the nineteen sixties in country music.

I was there.

Let me tell you about the 1960's in country music.

First of all, everything EXPLODED.   Sure, it started out quite sedate and unobtrusive.  But even at the beginning of the decade, something was different.  The most obvious difference was that Nashville no longer had a stranglehold on country music.  No, a town called Bakersfield was making itself known, whether Chet Atkins liked it or not.

Nobody (mostly) remembers Wynn Stewart, but I bet Merle remembers him, because, aside from Lefty Frizzell, Merle sounded like no one more than Wynn, who also wrote one of Merle's first hits, "(Sing Me A) Sad Song".

The top hits of 1960 were the somnambulistic, "He'll Have To Go",  by Jim Reeves, of whom I never understood the attraction; frankly;  Even as a five-year-old, I recognized that this song was sort of "icky"; and it disturbed me.  

On the more righteous side, Ferlin Husky had a hit with "Wings of a Dove"..  

And, in a continuation of the nasally-voiced singers of the 1950's, Hank Locklin had a hit with "Please Help Me, I'm Fallin'".

But, frankly, not too many people cared about Jim Reeves, or even Ferlin; and if they recognized Hank Locklin at all, it was only for a minute.

No, it was Bakersfield that the true music lovers latched onto.  And here is Wynn Stewart, starting it all off:

1961 dropped a couple of monstrous hits on us.   

Willie, in essence, sold this song to the highest bidder.  And luckily, Faron Young was the winner of the lottery.

Willie's song was great, but if not for Faron's my-eye-eyen'd , the song would have been rather pedestrian.  Clever, sure.  But not heart-tugging.  Faron did that.

Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard (bow down before them) wrote this next song for Patsy Cline.

I don't know what can be said about Patsy Cline that hasn't already been said.  I say, just watch and listen:

Sure, 1962 may have been the year that Hank Snow created a hit with a song that I, in a fit of utter boredom, memorized the words to:

But let's face it:  1962 was Patsy's year.  

This song, naturally, is at the top of my list of the Twenty Best Country Songs of All Time.  And here's Willie again.  I bet he didn't auction off this song, and if he did, he was a blithering idiot.

1963 was rather ripe with country hits.  There was Ring of Fire, of course; written by June Carter and Merle Travis.  There was Abilene, recorded by a guy who deigned to call himself George Hamilton IV (the first time I learned about Roman numerals).  

There was this, and I dare you to not include it on your top twenty list:

I've decided to throw out my predetermined format and post a bunch of 1963 songs, because, speaking of ripe, 1963 in country music is the essence of ripe.  

Here is Skeeter Davis:

I had absolutely no idea who Ned Miller was; never even saw a picture of him; but my dad loved this song.  I'm guessing Ned was a recluse, which is fine, and completely acceptable to me.  Even if he was in his basement, recording this song on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, that doesn't negate the fact that this was a huge hit in 1963; and mostly, it doesn't negate the fact that Dad loved it:

Dave Dudley had a hit with a song that he had absolutely no idea would become an alt-country lover's guilty pleasure, when re-recorded by Steve Earle in the eighties.  No, Dave was an innocent traveling musician when he did this:

I could go on (and on and on and on) about the year 1963 in country music. I have no idea why everything went BLAM! that year.  But it did.

Be that as it may, 1963, for me, is represented by Bobby Bare (and Mel Tillis) with this (and thank you, my good friend Alice, for teaching me how to play this intro on my guitar):

I'm plum exhausted, and exhilarated, from enumerating just the first four years of the sixties, so I think it's time to take a breather.

1964 will come later (and I'm thinking there will be a whole lot of Buck Owens and a bunch of Loretta Lynn; but who knows?  I may surprise myself.) 

Recalling the nineteen sixties in country music is exhilarating for me.

Maybe you had to be there.






Friday, July 20, 2012

Kitty Wells ~ A Good Life

Kitty Wells, the queen of country music, died Monday, July 16.  She was 92 years old!

It's hard, now, to imagine a country music world without female singers, but there was a time.  1952, to be exact.

To say that Kitty Wells opened doors for women singers is an understatement.  Without Kitty, there would be no Loretta, no Tammy, no Dolly, no Shania; certainly no Carrie or Taylor.

Apparently, in the world of country music, in 1952, women weren't only to be seen and not heard, they weren't even supposed to be seen!

Kitty only recorded her signature song in order to earn the $125.00 that the recording session paid.  She was a wife and a mom, and was looking forward to getting off the road, and staying home.

If only she'd known.

How many girl singers have covered that song?  Which ones haven't?

This is my favorite cover.  Why?   Well, there are four legends on this recording (sorry, no video to be found):

Tonight, I thought I'd let a couple who have followed in her footsteps pay their own tributes to Kitty:

Rest in peace, Kitty.  What an admirable life.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Golden Voices

NPR (one of my faves?) has an online article, titled, "50 Great Voices".

Lists such as these are always interesting, but are generally consensual ~ a group of individuals gets together and hashes out their mutual top 50; weeding and eliminating and ranking artists as they go.

Music, however, is personal, emotional, and, I believe, mostly biographical.  Perhaps most of us can agree that certain voices are technically superior.  That does not account, however, for each of our life stories, and the way certain singers have influenced our own lives.  It's not necessarily the vocal prowess; often it's the way they have laid their hand upon our shoulder.     

And who, really, can even think of their own top singers, without first hearing them and realizing, hey!  This is one of my top singers!  Truly, one cannot even narrow the list to 50.  Somebody else is inevitably going to pop up; someone we hadn't even thought about.

I do know who my ultimate favorite singer is, but, in fairness, I have had almost 60 years to ponder the question (although I don't think I actually ever pondered it.  Maybe I did, when I was around 13, but what did I know then?)

But, for fun tonight, I thought I would search out some video performances of singers I really like.  All of them may not be the world's greatest singers, but don't forget the emotional and biographical aspect of this exercise.

There is no order to this, so I'm not ranking anybody.  I will, however, save the best for last (at least my best).

Steve Perry

Burton Cummings (and the Guess Who)

Art Garfunkel

Sam Cooke

Gordon Lightfoot

Daryl Hall (Hall & Oates)

Al Green (yea, the real one)

John Lennon (and the Beatles)

Eddie Brigati (and the Rascals)

Brian Wilson (and the Beach Boys)

Bill Medley (and the Righteous Brothers)

Connie Smith

Gene Watson

Tammy Wynette

Patsy Cline

Merle Haggard

George Strait

Dwight Yoakam

Roy Orbison

I know I have left out a bunch.  Inevitably.  I'm one of those people who is all about the songs, more so than the singers, usually.  I mean, if I was just going to list songs, I'd include Sheena Easton here.  Seriously. And ABBA.

I did try, however, to include the singers whose bodies of work are, to me, indisputable.

And yes, Alex, ultimately, I will go with Roy Orbison for the win.  I've heard a bunch in my 57 years, but I have never, and will never, hear one better.

But the question remains....Who are your golden voices?  Let me know, please.   I would love to discover artists I've missed, or don't even know about.

What's better than sharing music?  Nothin'.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Swiftification of Music

Oh, just call me "mean".

I'm frankly tired of surfing over to Entertainment Weekly's website or to my local newspaper's site and having to read yet another glowing story about Taylor Swift. (Okay, I guess I don't have to read them, but the masochist in me just can't seem to resist).

Even our local music reviewer, Jon Bream, has now labeled Taylor the "artist of the century", and I really used to respect Jon's common sense. I don't know for sure, but Jon looks to be about 62 (sorry if I'm wrong, Jon!) So, really? What 60'ish person is running out to buy Taylor Swift CD's? If they're even able to run.

I'm younger than 62, and I don't know anyone my age, or even ten years, or twenty years younger than me, who's buying her music. Jon, are you trying to hold onto your lost youth, the relevance you had when you were reviewing Led Zeppelin back in the seventies? Is Taylor really on your ipod? If you know how to work one of those new-fangled contraptions, I mean.

Sorry, but call me skeptical. The same way I seriously doubt that the legends of country music (and I'm not talking about stars from the fifties - how about stars from the last decade?), like Vince Gill or Patty Loveless, are comparing notes about which Taylor Swift song is their absolute, number one fave. "Ooh, I like 'Fifteen'! I can totally relate to being a freshman in high school, and all the boys are telling me how cute I am!", says Patty, or Vince.

Sure, ask them in public, stick a microphone in front of them, and they'll say, "Oh yes, we just LOVE her!" They know better than to rock the boat.

Privately, they're probably whispering to each other, "Can you believe this crap? What the....? Where did country music go?"

Well, Patty and/or Vince and/or the rest of you, how about coming clean about how this chick is ruining country music? Stop this politically correct garbage, Jon!

As a supreme sacrifice to my ears, and in the interest of this blog post, I clicked on over to Taylor Swift's official YouTube page tonight and listened (sorry, couldn't watch) to an assortment of her songs. Oh sure, now I'm number 28,512,234. Great. Just what I want to be known for.

This girl has remained on the outer edges of my consciousness for lo these past few years, for the simple fact that I really hate everything her songs stand for.

From my extensive (10-minute) research, I have found that the things Taylor stands for are these: boys, sparkly things, martyrdom, ballerinas, snowflakes, boys, glitter, canopy beds, lip gloss, boys.

Not that I have anything against snowflakes (or boys, I mean, you know, if they're my sons.)

Try posting a critical comment on one of these online stories, though, and the predictable retort magically appears, as if arriving on the tip of a snowflake: "Well. I'll have you know, I took my 12-year-old daughter to Taylor's concert, and she just loves her!"

Exactly! I'm not twelve!

You know, it wouldn't be all that bad, if every new act wasn't mimicking her. Thus, the "Swiftification of Music". Oh, you can hear it in practically every song now (if you dare listen). The same vocal cadences. The pop phrasing. The breathiness of the vocals (and then there are the female singers). I'm thinking they're afraid to speak in anything other than a whisper, because apparently there is a shortage of oxygen now (blame global warming!), and one really needs to save what little breath they possess in their eighty-pound bodies, because, who knows? Oxygen might come in handy one day!

Tammy and Patsy, I'll bet, are turning over in their graves. "What? I can't hear her!" "Get her a bigger microphone!" "Is she lip-synching?"

Then, of course, there are the run-on lyrics, like these:

This is looking like a contest,
Of who can act like the careless,
But I liked it better when you were on my side.
The battle's in your hands now,
But I would lay my armor down
If you said you'd rather love than fight.
So many things that you wished I knew,
But the story of us might be ending soon.

Now I'm standing alone in a crowded room and we're not speaking,
And I'm dying to know is it killing you like it's killing me, yeah?
I don't know what to say, since the twist of fate when it all broke down,
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now, now, now.

The devil-may-care, who needs a song to rhyme, when you can just jot down your stream of consciousness ramblings that really don't need to make any sense, except to tweenagers, which makes the songs so much easier to write, because, if you've ever listened to a tweenager talk, she just goes on and on and on and on about nothing, until you really have to go into another room and shut the door quietly, in order to regain some sense of equilibrium and sanity.

There! See? I just wrote me a modern country song!

I like the term, "Tween Country" (which I have just now coined). I say, let's differentiate this stuff from real country music. And then I'm fine. Just stop calling it country music. In fact, while we're at it, can we stop calling all this current stuff country music?

Jon Bream, I know you have good taste. I've read your stuff for years. I know that you know what good music is. Stop pandering.

It's time that somebody, or a lot of somebodies, puts a stop to this.

Yea yea; why do I have to be so mean?

I leave you, as I generally do, with a video, since this is a video blog. Here's what a singer can do when she's not trying to hoard her oxygen supply:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hank Cochran

One thing that troubles me about amateur songwriting boards is that most of the people posting on them seem to have no knowledge of music history.

How do you know where you're going if you don't know where you've been? This goes for Nashville, too, and its so-called songs. You know, the ones that are tuneless and soulless.

I read the news about Hank Cochran this morning, and browsed on over to the two songwriting sites that I frequent, to read what others had to say. Someone on each of the sites had mentioned Hank's passing, but very few members even bothered to respond. One poster said, "Wow - he wrote, I Fall To Pieces? I didn't know that!"

Really? You didn't know that? And you profess to be a "country music writer"?

Anyway, enough complaining. Let's celebrate the songs of Hank Cochran, shall we?







UNDO THE RIGHT ~ WILLIE NELSON (The premiere recording was by Johnny Bush)

And my all-time favorite:


Rest in peace, Hank Cochran. Thanks for the songs.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Essential Country Albums - The Classics

What are "essential" country albums?

"Essential" means different things to different people. If one is a music critic, the list will include the usual suspects ("Red Headed Stranger", "Will The Circle Be Unbroken", anything by Gram Parsons or Johnny Cash; you get my drift).

If one discovered "country music" in the 21st century, the list would be, well, sad. To generalize. Which I'm famous for doing.

In Part One, I kind of sifted through my music collection and made my choices by "feel". Which isn't actually a bad way to go, because what do we do, if not "feel" music?

And, in Part Deux, I'm going to continue along that path. I could intellectualize the whole thing, but what fun is that? Kind of takes the soul right out of the music, doesn't it, music critics?

In the late hour and in my zeal to create List Number One, I realize now that I made a really big gaffe.

And the big gaffe was this:

Down Every Road - Merle Haggard

This FOUR-DISC set is currently selling for only $35.97 on Amazon. That's only $8.99 per disc! A bargain, to be sure.

One could try to isolate the best of the best of Merle Haggard (another actual CD title) by choosing only one of Merle's albums, but why do that, when you can have basically his entire career, all in one inexpensively priced box set?

If a listener is starting out "new" to country music, this is THE place to start. In fact, it kind of starts and ends with this guy.

Highlights? Well, gee, this set contains ONE HUNDRED Haggard recordings, so let's see.....

We can start with the early days and "Sing Me A Song" or "(I'm a Lonesome) Fugitive" or the classic, "Sing Me Back Home".

We can move on to the middle years, with one of the all-time greatest country songs ever, "(Today) I Started Loving You Again", or "Mama Tried" or "Silver Wings" or "Workin' Man Blues" or "If We Make It Through December" or "Always Wanting You" or "Runnin' Kind", or one of my other personal favorites, "Everybody's Had The Blues".

We can move on to the third portion of the trifecta, with "Footlights" or "Misery and Gin" or "Big City", or the Townes Van Zandt song, "Pancho and Lefty".

You see? It's kinda hard to choose.

So, yes, I'm an idiot for leaving this off Part One. I guess, if you don't buy any of my other recommendations, buy this one, and I'll be thrilled for you.

Waylon Jennings - RCA Country Legends

While only a two-disc set, this is a bargain at any cost. And the cost happens to be $24.98 on Amazon (or $12.49 per disc, my calculator tells me).

The original Nashville Rebel, Waylon, from all I read, could be a bit of a hell-raiser and an overall less-than-nice dude. Doesn't matter. In 1967, Waylon hooked me with Love of the Common People (not included in this two-disc set).

What is included in this set are songs such as, "The Chokin' Kind", "Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line", the beautiful "Yours Love", the equally beautiful "Dreaming My Dreams (With You)", "Brown Eyed Handsome Man", "Rainy Day Woman", and "Good Hearted Woman" (and that's just disc one).

Disc two has the ever-overplayed "Luckenbach, Texas", "Wurlitzer Prize", "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies...."......well, you know the rest; the lovely "Amanda", Waylon and Jessi's duet version of "Storms Never Last", and, the never to be forgotten, "Theme From The Dukes of Hazzard" (and if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: They keep a'showin' my hands, but not my face on TV.)

Seriously, Waylon ranks right up there in the pantheon. Which is kind of a cool word that one doesn't get to use much in everyday conversation. Yes, the pantheon of country music legends.

Don't leave this one off your shopping list.

Patsy Cline - The Definitive Collection

Yes, girls ALSO sing country music!

One can't really call Patsy Cline a "girl", though. It would be more accurate to call her a "dame".

And, well, wow! Since 1963, when Patsy perished in a tragic plane crash, girl singers have been trying to become "dames" like her, and unfortunately, (in my opinion, of course) only one came even slightly close. But they keep trying!

Beginning with the haunting, "Walkin' After Midnight", and continuing on to the soulful "Leavin' On Your Mind" and "I Fall To Pieces", to the unquestionably top twenty (or is it ten?) of all-time best country songs, written by Willie Nelson, "Crazy", this album will introduce novices to the only queen that country music really ever had.

Don't forget Patsy's version of Bob Wills' "Faded Love" (with that cry at the end) or Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams".

It's sad that we lost Patsy so prematurely. If she were still alive today, she'd be recording "alternative country" albums, which we would have to find in the bargain bins of our independent records stores; and she wouldn't get any press, of course. But at least those who know would still have that voice.

Storms of Life - Randy Travis

$4.97? Really? For Randy Travis's seminal album? Who could afford NOT to buy it?

Released in 1986, this album was a revelation to those who cherished, but dearly missed, real country music.

Here was a guy who obviously loved country, and who had the pipes to pull it off. Not to mention some classic songs.

"On The Other Hand"? Classic.

How about one of my other top twenty country songs of all time, "1982"? That song alone is worth $4.97 in my book. If you care to read a fan's dissertation regarding the genius of "1982", just go here.

Can't say more. Randy Travis is the real deal.

The Essential Marty Robbins

Some people love him; some people don't get him. I am in the camp of "love him". If you want to read my take on Marty Robbins, click here.

I'll admit; I'm puzzled by those who don't get him, because it seems obvious to me. But tastes are tastes.

Maybe it's because he had such an expansive vocal range. Maybe people are used to the monotoned folks of today. I guess it's all conditioning, isn't it?

But if you think that Marty is irrelevant, check this out:

So, if a now, happenin' guy like Keith Urban can get on board with Marty Robbins' music, maybe you should, too.

Missing from Keith's performance is the classic, groundbreaking, Don't Worry. Groundbreaking? Yea. Marty inadvertently gave birth to the fuzz guitar LONG before the Beatles ever did it.

You be the judge:

The Essential Tammy Wynette

There are a lot of pretenders to Patsy Cline's throne. No one comes very close. Tammy Wynette comes the closest.

Donald Eugene Lytle (aka Johnny Paycheck) wrote Tammy's first hit song, "Apartment #9" (and I love that hatchmark for "number", don't you? Gives it sort of a cache all its own).

Tammy, of course, only went on to bigger and more hit-worthy songs from there. We won't really spend any time on "Stand By Your Man". It is what it is. It was good the first 200 times. After that, I was pretty much over it.

But don't forget "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" or "My Elusive Dreams" (with David Houston) or "I Don't Wanna Play House", or another of my top twenty of all time, "'Til I Can Make It On My Own".

Like Patsy, we lost Tammy too soon. Someone may come along one day like Patsy or Tammy. It could happen. I'm just not holding my breath.

Burning Memories - Ray Price

Chet Atkins (God rest his soul) takes a lot of heat, to this day, for the Countrypolitan sound that he made famous.

Sure, sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't.

Here, it worked.

Maybe it took a class act to pull it off. Ray Price is a class act.

At the age of 83, Ray is still touring, and still sounds good! What the heck more can you ask of someone who's 83?

My mom really loved Ray Price; and I think my parents owned maybe two LP's in the early years. One was by Buck Owens. The other was "Burning Memories". Thus, I pretty much have this album memorized, track order and all. But aside from sentimental reasons, you should listen to this album, if for no other reason, than to hear "Here Comes My Baby Back Again", a song written by Dottie West, and done superbly here by Ray Price.

After my dad passed away, I sat in my room and listened to Ray sing "Soft Rain" over and over. "Soft rain was falling when you said goodbye". Actually, rather than being sad, this is a happy memory for me. I think my dad was there listening with me.

Put this CD on your player and sit back and reflect. Really, there are no clunkers here. Every track is a gem.

Buck Owens - Together Again/My Heart Skips A Beat

Okay, if I'm going to talk about "Burning Memories", I have to also talk about this album.

Where do you think Dwight Yoakam got his mojo? Well, it started here, with this album from 1964.

"Close Up The Honky Tonks" - sorry, but two-steppin' heart-breakin' country music just doesn't get any better than this.

And, of course, there's "Together Again", featuring the timeless steel guitar virtuosity of Tom Brumley.

A couple of relatively unknown tracks that I highly recommend on this album are "Over and Over" and "Getting Used To Losing You".

If you like your country real and raw, check out this album.

Faron Young - Golden Hits

I don't know about you, but I like my country with a shuffle beat and a couple of twin fiddles. Call me crazy.

Faron Young initially made his splash recording for Capitol Records. His early recording years produced songs such as, Alone With You and If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin'), later covered by George Strait.

And, of course, there was Hello Walls.

But it was in his Mercury Records years that Faron, to me, really hit his stride.

Classic tracks, such as "Wine Me Up" and "Step Aside" co-mingled with Kris Kristofferson's "Your Time's Comin'". My sentimental favorite here is a song written by Tom T. Hall, called, "If I Ever Fall In Love (With A Honky Tonk Girl)".

And let's not forget, "It's Four In The Morning".

If you've forgotten, or don't even know Faron Young, you're forgetting the history of country music. Faron was relevant in the fifties, and he became even more relevant in the seventies. Faron was a contemporary (and friend) of Hank Williams, and he was a friend to songwriters throughout his many decades of recording.


Martina McBride - Timeless

Surprise! An artist NOT from the fifties, sixties, seventies, or even the eighties!

Why did I include this?

Well, because it's TIMELESS.

Martina normally may be kind of boxed into recording songs that will get radio play, but obviously, her heart is with TRUE country music.

Seems to me that this is a real labor of love, because Martina includes many songs here that made my personal list of the twenty all-time best country songs. So, I guess she has good taste! Songs like, "Love's Gonna Live Here" and "'Til I Can Make It On My Own". And she even dusted off that seventies Lynn Anderson chestnut, "Rose Garden", and it actually sounds kinda cool!

My favorites on this album, however, are lesser-known (or more accurately, forgotten) hits, such as "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" and "I Don't Hurt Anymore".

And she does a killer version of Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways".

If you think you might, sorta, like older country music, but you like it jazzed up a bit with a more modern sound, buy this! You'll get a crash course in country music history, and you will love it!

So, there you go. My list of essential CLASSIC country albums.

I think it's important to not forget. Most of these guys (and gals) are the reason there even IS something called country music (although it would be a stretch to even remotely connect the two now).

But at least we have it on record.