Showing posts with label tammy wynette. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tammy wynette. Show all posts

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Ken Burns "Country Music" ~ Episode 6 ~ "Non-Country Country"


My guess is that Ken didn't find the period 1968 - 1972 very interesting, country-wise. In between clips of the Viet Nam War, we got to learn a lot about non-country artists traveling to Nashville to record.

Burns did begin strong, with the stories of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. We see Loretta Lynn remarking that when she first heard Tammy on the radio, she said, "Boy, I've got me some competition", and she was so right. In the silly games of "either or" we all play, I was definitely team Tammy, rather than Team Loretta. Loretta was gritty; Tammy was soul. Jeannie Seely remarked, rather cattily, that while Tammy was singing about standing by her man, she was on her third marriage, while Loretta, who was penning feisty odes about her man doing her wrong stuck with Doolittle throughout their fifty-year union. Catty, but you kinda gotta admit, it was true. Nevertheless, songs are not required to be autobiographical.

While I'll probably never spin a George Jones record, I see, through the eyes of the session musicians and his fellow artists why his voice is so revered. Every fan has her preferences, and while Jones' voice doesn't resonate with me, I do feel the emotion in his singing and understand why some consider him the best country singer of all time. I also saw the innate sadness in him, much like that of Hank Williams.

The storytellers glossed over the parts of George and Tammy's early story that weren't exactly PG-13, but I happened to witness their budding relationship from the front row of a concert in (I believe) 1968. Tammy was the girl singer on the roster, and she was performing with her then husband, Don Chapel on guitar and Don's daughter singing harmony. George, of course, was the headliner, and in the middle of his set, when he called Tammy out on stage to sing with him, it was sort of awkward (for Don ~ I imagine). Even through my thirteen-year-old eyes, the chemistry between Tammy and George was evident....and there was Don standing behind them strumming his guitar. It wasn't long after that my local DJ mentioned that Tammy was divorcing her husband and hooking up with George Jones. Shocked! Not.

Kris Kristofferson garnered a large chunk of story time, and rightfully so. There was no better lyricist in country music; poetic yet accessible. Kristofferson's songs paint a scene that the listener can slip inside. Turns out that after Kris abandoned a promising military career to become a janitor at Columbia Studios in Nashville, his mother disowned him via a letter. Country music was too embarrassing for the Kristofferson family to be associated with. I wonder if all Kris's royalty money was, too. 

Merle Haggard got a brief mention for the controversy over "Okie From Muskogee", which I had heard was written as a joke, but according to Merle (when he was interviewed for the series), it was an homage to small-town life. I'm not sure what I believe, but boy, I guess his fellow artists were really pissed at him over the song. It's a song, people! See: Tammy Wynette above.

I did a double-take when Bobby Bare showed up on screen! What?? Of course, he was talking about Shel Silverstein and novelty songs, but still. And of course the Silverstein story directly related to...guess who? Why, Johnny Cash! I will say that to his credit, Johnny had a network television show at this time, when no other country artist could have landed one. It wasn't the greatest show ever, but I did like the weekly gospel finale with the Statlers and the Carters and Carl Perkins.

An artist who pretty much dominated the charts in the late sixties got a teeny tiny mention ~ Glen Campbell. Oh, I hated his pop, heavily-stringed songs back then; don't get me wrong, but to overlook his reign during this era is plain unfair. (For the record, I grew to like Glen Campbell, although the only Webb song I like is Wichita Lineman).

The Byrds, of which Gram Parsons was a member, went to Nashville to record Sweetheart of the Rodeo and apparently when they appeared on the Opry, the audience didn't feel the love. Maybe they were ahead of their time. Their songs from the album sound totally country to my ears, especially Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere". And speaking of Dylan, well, I guess this episode should have been titled, "The Saga of Cash and Dylan". My husband liked it, naturally, but when exactly did Bob Dylan make his mark in country music?

Hee Haw got its own little segment. There was a time in the late sixties when CBS loved to laugh at ignorant country rubes, and they developed a whole block of programming to capture that hilarity. The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres with its star, Arnold the Pig, and Hee Haw. I really hated Hee Haw, but you can bet I watched it every week, because the opportunity to see a country performance on TV was rare to non-existent. So I gagged through the corn pone jokes until the featured artist of the week got to do his or her numbers. The hosts, Buck Owens and Roy Clark were vastly different from one another. Buck couldn't pull off the lines with any authenticity, so he awkwardly mugged through them. Roy, on the other hand, was good at being silly, so he just went with it. It was an odd pairing and a bad show, but oh, those performances.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's album, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" was heavily featured at the end of the episode. Here's the deal ~ this album is a loser. I don't know who, except seventy-year-old "hipsters" would put it on their retro turntable and listen to it. I understand that Burns is no authority on country music, but he could have sought advice from someone who is.

I read somewhere that this was the weakest episode of the series. I haven't gotten through all of them yet, but I would say this person is correct.


















Friday, May 24, 2019

Sixty-Four Years of Music ~ Taking a Sharp Turn


Kids are very durable. Flexible ~ sort of like Gumby. The first time a bad thing happens, they freak out, but freaking out night after night is exhausting; so intuition eventually kicks in. It's amazing what a kid can disregard while remaining keenly attuned to her surroundings. It becomes a way of life. I'm not certain that my sense of hearing is sharper than most people's, but it's damn good. It's all those years of practice. Inevitably, bad things would happen at night, because that's when a drunk manages to stumble home. Night is when the screaming brawls occur.

There was a time in my life when I could fall asleep easily. That ended around age eleven and I've been cursed with insomnia ever since. Every little floor creak, even with foam plugs shoved inside my ears, startles me. It's the "fight or flight" phenomenon. My dad was a falling-down, albeit happy drunk, while my mom was enraged, spewing sailor's epithets, her fingernails clawing his face. At ten o'clock at night, with an early morning bus to catch,

I essentially ignored the rows and tried to fall back asleep like my younger brother and sister had done quite effortlessly on the bottom bunk. Still, I had to be on guard for that moment when my mom would scream, "Call the sheriff!" and I would have to slide down from my second-story tower and stumble to the telephone and lie that my dad was assaulting my mother, when in fact, he was deliriously content on his makeshift bed on the shag carpet, and she was the one who was dangerously homicidal.

This new reality began right at the time I'd been uprooted from the only home I'd ever known and plopped down in the middle of the parched prairie with no friends and no lifelines ~ because life would be "better" here.

My pop singles soothed me for a time. If I cranked up the volume enough, I could almost drown out the screaming. Then a completely unexpected thing happened ~ I made a friend. When kids meet other kids, the primary topic of conversation (at least then) was music. "Who do you like?" "What's your favorite record?" I expected to hear The Beatles or at the very least The Monkees, but Alice said, "I like country music." Well, this was an unanticipated response. Country music? My parents owned a Ray Price album and a Buck Owens album. I also knew who Bobby Bare was. That, in a nutshell, was my encyclopedic knowledge of country.

Becoming friends with Alice was like jetting across the ocean to a foreign country for the first time. I had to forget everything I'd ever known and take a crash course in Esperanto, otherwise known as twang. I sat cross-legged on the floor of her living room while she spun records by people I'd never heard of once in my life. Granted, she had some very obscure tastes, like Carl Butler and Pearl (as they were booked) and Porter Wagoner, who wasn't at all good until he teamed up with a blonde bee-hived little girl singer.

The most revelatory artist Alice introduced me to was named Merle Haggard, who was brand-spankin' new on the scene, but definitely had a certain something I could get on board with. This Haggard guy's recordings were heavy on Telecaster, bass, and crying steel. His music reminded me a bit of my parents' Buck Owens albums, only with far superior singing and heart-searing harmonies. This was someone I could claim as my own and stamp myself a country fan. Thank God. Because I was worried I wouldn't like anybody and then I'd lose my new friend as quickly as I'd found her (or, more accurately, as she'd found me).


Adaptability is innate. Once you discover something, then you discover other somethings. The first thing I discovered without Alice's help was Waylon Jennings.


There was a new guy who was being played on the radio (I'd since switched my allegiance from KFYR to KBMR) and both Alice and I liked this song. Later we heard rumors about him that couldn't possibly be true, because he was stone country:


As for female singers, there were a few, but she was the ultimate:



Although this new gal was pretty good:



Yep, I'd become immersed. And it didn't take long. Eventually I saved up my pennies and bought that red acoustic guitar in the window at Dahmer's Music and Alice came over and taught me how to form chords. Now I could play along with my favorite Haggard and Pride songs.

I became even better at drowning out the scuffles happening outside my bedroom door. I'd found a reason to soldier on.

Country music turned into everything for me. Until it wasn't. Until it disappointed me.

But that would take a few years....












Saturday, May 11, 2019

1968 ~ Caught Between Two Musical Worlds

I was thirteen in 1968, transitioning between seventh and eighth grades, which was kind of a dead zone, really. Long gone was the heady anticipation of graduating from elementary school, yet I had a million years to go (it seemed) to finally transition to the new high school building and be "grown up".

My junior high was probably one of the oldest buildings in my little town. Back in 1910 or so, it had served as the high school ~ black and white portraits of stern long-ago high school principals adorned its sanitarium-grey walls. From the outside it resembled a prison.

And yes, this was our gymnasium (minus the fallen plaster, which would have been dangerous for playing dodge ball):

I had to take the city bus to get (almost) to school, because the school district had not yet established bus service all the way out to my home (in its defense, there were only seven kids who lived in my neighborhood). Last stop on the city bus route was the old Prince Hotel, which was one of those post-World War I hostels that featured tufted burgundy armchairs with gold buttons, as well as spittoons in its lobby; and housed derelicts and Spanish-American war veterans who from their vestibule repose liked to ogle adolescent girls; and its lone desk attendant was older than death and just as lively.

The school's dress code prohibited pants (for girls, I mean), and our dresses were audaciously short; so on minus twenty-degree winter mornings, I'd alight the city bus at the Terror Hotel and commence my six-block tramp along slippery sidewalks in my mini-dress, faux-rabbit coat, plastic knee-high snow boots and no hat (hats were for sissies), clutching my US history and earth science textbooks and three spiral notebooks.

All to frost-bittenly arrive at a place I didn't want to visit for six-plus hours, but an argument my parents (such as they were) were not of a mind to debate.

My only saving grace was that I had a best friend, albeit one who crazily loved country music (one has to take their best friends wherever they find them). A year or so before, I was grooving to The Rascals and Three Dog Night, and now here I was, taking a crash course in the idiosyncrasies of honky tonk.

By now I pretty much got it. I'd figured out who I liked (Merle, Waylon, Tammy) and who I didn't (Glen, Conway, Sonny James). I'd long known who Buck Owens was, but I also learned about new artists like David Houston and Dolly Parton.

Unfortunately, 1968 was a weird year in country music. The worst singles hit number one, while (now) classic songs languished far below on the charts.

My best friend Alice and I agreed that this song reeked. I've always hated political songs, especially those that preach (and which ones don't?) Our main objection to this single, however, was that it was barely country. That, and the fact that it was played on the radio all the time. "Stab 'em in the back, that's the name of the game" ~ we enjoyed making fun of that line. Plus the whole, "Daddy hates Mommy and Mommy hates Dad" really didn't need to flow out of my speaker. Unless my speaker was spewing my own personal reality.


And this song garnered way more fame than it deserved. Again, there are so many things to hate about this song, but the old standby, "overplayed" is number one. I never realized until I studied more of Tom T. Hall's songs that he rarely wrote choruses. Sure, he had refrains from time to time; but I think the absence of a chorus has caused his songs to not age well. Listeners like something they can latch onto. Most people who sing along to the radio mess up the verses comically, but they always land the chorus.


Great songs like this only reached #10. Marty Robbins was a conundrum ~ difficult to pigeonhole. On the one hand, he truly loved his western ballads, and on the other, he could be truly soulful. It seems Marty never once gave an insightful interview, so fans will never know why he wrote the songs he did, or if he even ever thought about it.

I came to appreciate this song later. At the time I frankly wanted twin fiddles and steel guitar.


And this was only number twelve? I won't get into the whole history of me and Merle and this song, but you can read it here. If I hadn't looked at the 1968 charts, I would have sworn this was the number one single of the year.


Twenty-one? Really? Tammy had appeared on the scene in 1967 and had many hit singles before alas, "Stand By Your Man" became both a phenomenon and a punchline in '68. In hindsight, one can pinpoint when a promising career began to stagger downhill, although it's not Tammy's fault that she wrote a song everyone latched onto. The same thing happened with Lynn Anderson, who I loved until "Rose Garden" vomited onto the scene.

Regardless, number twenty-one is good:


I found a new favorite singer in '68. I feel like whenever I post a Faron Young live performance, I have to apologize. Faron was a superb singer, but a real drag to watch live. I somehow convinced my dad to drive us up to the State Fair one year to see Faron in person. Dad, and surely Mom, didn't want to go, and sitting in the bleachers during his concert, I wanted to crawl under my seat and hide in embarrassment. It wasn't (I don't think) that Faron was tipsy; I just think he didn't give a damn about singing a song straight. Maybe he'd been around so long, he said, "screw it". But trust me, his live performances and his recordings were eons apart. Nobody was better in that era.



This single wasn't from 1968, but I think David Houston deserves a mention. Nobody remembers him now (well, I do), but David Houston was huge. Not only did he have many top solo singles throughout his career, but he recorded hit duets with both Tammy Wynette ("My Elusive Dreams") and a newcomer, Barbara Mandrell. In 1968 alone, he had four top one hundred songs. As life marched on, I sort of forgot about David Houston, until I learned he had died at age fifty-eight from a brain aneurysm. Houston is one of those artists that this blog is about, because some of us don't forget.


Country duos suddenly became a thing around 1967-1968. There had been duets before, but I don't think the CMA's had a category for Country Duo before these two folks got together  (before then it was "Vocal Group", which was rather awkward when only two people were involved). Then, suddenly, duets were everywhere. I remember hearing a song on the radio for the first time and saying, "I think that's Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty!" And thus duos were off and running. 

But it was these next two who dominated:


Here's another one of those forgotten artists ~ Wynn Stewart. Wynn was a pioneer in the Bakersfield Sound. Buck liked him; Dwight plays him on his "Bakersfield Beat" Sirius channel. I liked him, too, and my dad really liked him. Dad thought this next song was the bomb. It's not from '68, but Wynn had two top one hundred hits that year (and props to this video featuring the awesome Don Rich):


This is most likely my favorite song from 1968. Mom had shipped my little sister and me off to Texas to stay with my big sister while things were "disheveled" at home. I loved it there and didn't want to come back. We'd stay up 'til the early morning hours playing Scrabble, drinking Dr. Pepper, and listening to Bill Mack on WBAP. Johnny Bush was a newcomer and there was a lot of talk that he was trying to be the next Ray Price. I didn't care ~ I loved this song, and I still love Johnny Bush. Unfortunately, I can't find a decent live performance video, but here's the song in all its glory:



Overall, I wasn't too sad to leave my pop world behind ~ it was simply an adjustment. I liked the stability of having a friend with a semi-normal family, and I'd thrown my heart into country music. There was so much to discover ~ like traveling to a foreign country for the first time. In '67 I was still on the fence about music. By 1968, country had claimed me.



Saturday, December 1, 2018

50 Years of Country Albums ~ 1968


I was thirteen in 1968, so you do the math. I was at that desperately awkward stage ~ I'd somehow managed to slither through seventh grade with only a moderate amount of embarrassment, but it was a struggle. Thirteen-year-olds are like alien beings who must learn how to simulate the movements of a human without an instruction manual. It's a wonder most of us survive past our first decade of life.

I bought multiple tubes of Maybelline concealer in an attempt to mask my zits. To complete my look, I slathered green eye shadow on my lids and liberally applied Cover Girl ivory-tone liquid makeup not only to my face, but my neck as well, so I had perpetual grease stains on the collars of all my polyester dresses. I thought I looked neat.

I pulled on pantyhose each morning and a pair of plastic kitten-heel pumps. I hiked up my half-slip to ensure it didn't peek below my thigh-high skirt. My hair was a disaster. I hadn't yet grown it out and thus was yet to endure the nightly torture of brush rollers with plastic pins jabbed into my scalp. I didn't know how to style hair, so I essentially let my mop do whatever it deigned to do. I did have long bangs that unfortunately obscured my carefully-applied lime eye shadow, but had the fortuitous benefit of camouflaging my forehead pimples.

I grabbed my geography and math textbooks and my spiral notebooks and Bic pen and padded out to await the bus. I was never cool and I painfully knew it. All I could pray for was to be was unnoticed. I think I actually prayed for that.

My only savior was music.

Musically, I was still torn between the pop songs played on KFYR AM and the chosen genre of my new best friend, Alice. Alice was unapologetically a country fan and didn't give a damn who knew it. Unlike me. I did my best to cloak my country proclivities by pressing my transistor up against the bus window and flooding the column of cocoa bench seats with Judy In Disguise. I didn't talk to anyone on the bus and certainly no one talked to me, but John Fred and the Playboys conveyed the desired message.

I had dipped my toe into albums in '67 and by 1968 had garnered quite the collection ~ if twenty is a collection. Granted, I had no means of income other than birthday money, and albums cost a whole three dollars and forty-nine cents. But I did my best.

Historically, few of the 1968 albums I owned have made any "best" lists, but you know, it was country. Country albums weren't exactly concept-driven. I feel a need to explain why none of Merle Haggard's '68 LP's made a home in my row of cardboard treasures. I already owned a tri-fold "Best of Merle Haggard" disc that contained all one could wish for, plus I didn't wait for new albums to be released ~ I needed those '45 singles immediately. So if I had a couple of dollars for an album, I wasn't going to waste it on something for which I already owned the prime track.

Critics (and you know how smart they are) will say that "Live At Folsom Prison" by Johnny Cash is one of the very best country albums of all time. Well, I never was a Cash fan. I found his music simplistic and monotonous. Rolling Stone Magazine loves the Johnny Cash mystique; the hell with the actual music. If I never hear Folsom Prison Blues again, my life will be a success.

Here's what I did buy:


How could one go wrong? "Best Of's" were a poor girl's dream. I knew all the songs were good, and as a bonus, the album included "Buckaroo", which was the only song I ever learned how to pick on a guitar.

Okay, this is performed by Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives, because I can't find a decent video of Don Rich:



Like almost all country albums of that era, this album was filled to the brim with covers. So, I'm just going to go with the big daddy of songs:




This was the second duet album by Porter and Dolly, but not their best. "Porter Wayne and Dolly Rebecca" far outshines it. There was a fascination with this new girl singer in '68 ~ we hadn't seen or heard anyone like her before.




There was not one original song on this album! Not even one hit single. I don't know what the people at RCA records were thinking, but if you're going to release an LP, you might want to have one original song on it. With that in mind, I'm just going to cheat and show a video of one of Pride's actual hits:



I don't think I actually owned this album, but Alice did and we played it at her house over and over. Again, we didn't know what to make of this brash young blonde, but we knew she had something goin' on.







Again, "greatest hits" ~ how can one go wrong? I was always equivocal about Loretta Lynn. She'd been around since I was a tyke and saw her perform at Panther Hall in Fort Worth, Texas. I truthfully still haven't made my mind up about Loretta. I wouldn't go out of my way to play any of her tracks, but she paved the way for other, better female country singers, so...



That about sums up my album purchases from 1968. Not really a "classic" among them, but nobody knows at the time or even gives a damn what will endure. 

I do know, however, that this will:








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, June 10, 2017

"It's So Corny"


From the age of thirteen, when I took the deep dive into country music; which, honestly, I never would have done if not for my new best friend, I faced the quizzical, derisive expressions of anyone who ever asked me what kind of music I listened to -- if I chose to respond honestly. The truth was, I was kind of embarrassed, too. If I replied "country", the other person would say, "You mean like 'Folsom Prison Blues'?" Okay, yea, "Folsom Prison Blues", because that's the only country song the other person had ever heard of. Truthfully, I never liked that song. More truthfully, I never liked Johnny Cash, except for "I Still Miss Someone" and "Ring Of Fire". But the general (ignorant) wisdom was that anyone who listened to country music must love the brum brubb-a brum brum of Johnny Cash and his three-piece band. Because country fans were steeped in corn.

Or they'd say, "I really like that song, 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix'." Okay. That's another track on my mental list of songs I never, ever wanted to hear again. That was not country music.

If I'd taken the time to tick off the list of artists I listened to, nobody would have known who they were, so I instead let people think I was a die-hard Johnny Cash fan. Nobody'd ever heard of Merle Haggard, Faron Young, Tammy Wynette, Lynn Anderson, Mel Tillis, Dolly Parton, Ray Price, Charley Pride, or Marty Robbins.

The truth, though I never shared it with anyone, was that I had excellent taste in country music. I understood it was an acquired taste -- shoot, even I had to acquire a taste for it. On first listen, yes, it was corny. The thing about country, though, was that it wasn't the crossover hits that defined it. The crossover hits were watered down to appeal to a wide audience. Thus, they weren't real country. The crossovers were an amalgam of treacly strings combined with a southern accent. The worst of two worlds.

Being a country fan was like being a rock fan in the sixties. You didn't want to claim songs like "Yummy Yummy Yummy" or "I'm Henry VIII, I Am", but they were part of your posse, so if you liked "Strawberry Fields", you were thus tarnished with the stench of "Young Girl" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. It came with the territory. It didn't matter how much you protested, if you were a rock fan, you liked "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro. If you were a country fan...well...you liked "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro (trust me, nobody ever anywhere liked that song).

I included a pic of Loretta Lynn in this post for a reason. She was (is) a really talented artist and certainly knew how to write hits, but her songs were the epitome of corn. And in them she always wanted to start a fight with someone. Loretta Lynn was another of the country stars, like Johnny Cash, that I didn't bond with.

When I was about eight years old, I went with my parents to see Loretta Lynn at Panther Hall in Fort Worth, Texas. It was an odd scene -- folks had to bring their own booze in with them -- the hall only served "mix" (7-UP or whatever other accompaniment one wanted with their cocktail). Dinner was served at long tables with white tablecloths. Patrons shared a table with approximately thirty strangers. The waiters came by to take our orders -- I probably ordered a hot dog or fish sticks -- if they were on the menu. I remember the waiter asking me what kind of dressing I wanted on my salad and I replied, "none". He asked, "No salad?" and I said, "No, no dressing.". Yes, I ate bare lettuce mingled with carrot slivers and radish slices. I was a pathologically picky eater.

Be that as it may, we saw Loretta Lynn and her band perform, I guess in between the garlic bread and the baked potato. Someone in our party (which consisted of my parents and my sister and brother-in-law) went up and got Loretta's autograph. They brought the signed photo back to the table and I remarked, "It looks like it says 'Buffalo Lynn'." Henceforth, Loretta would always be known as Buffalo Lynn to me.

Later I would discover "Blue Kentucky Girl" and wonder why Loretta never sang more songs like that; songs that were plaintive and not pugilistic.

The pugilistic side was what country fans had to try to (or try not to) explain to rubes who scratched their heads when we admitted that we listened to country music.

So, let's rip off the Band-Aid:


I wonder whatever happened to old Henson Cargill:



I really can't convey the number of times this next song was played on the radio. Somewhere in the dark recesses of the stratosphere, there is a little satellite bouncing around, streaming this track. And little aliens are exclaiming, "If I have to hear this song one more time, I'm going to slit the sinewed tendons that attach my arm to my hand".


I give Bobby Goldsboro a lot of (deserved) grief for his 1968 hit, but really, is it any worse than this?


Okay, I know you've been waiting:



Here are the songs I was actually listening to:










But really, no one would get it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Curly Putman


Curly Putman died Sunday.

His name might not be familiar to you, but it certainly is to me. Putman was a songwriter extraordinaire. 

I suppose Curly Putman first entered my consciousness the same way all behind-the-scenes guys did for me in the sixties -- from reading the backs of album covers. I obviously wasn't a songwriter then, but I was fascinated to learn who wrote the songs I liked best. If they wrote at least two of my favorites (I had kind of a low bar) they were "good". Naturally, like most of my country music discoveries, I first found Curly's name on the back of a Tammy Wynette album. He was co-writer, with Bobby Braddock, of this:


And he wrote this one, again featuring Tammy Wynette, with David Houston (sorry, no David Houston live videos exist, apparently):





I just posted this video last week, and here I am again! I mistakenly thought Dolly wrote the song -- I hate when I mess up like that.

Give credit where credit is due:



Tanya Tucker was a revelation to me, at thirteen, because she was thirteen -- and I didn't do anything except go to school and play records, while she made records. Life wasn't fair. I digress, though. Curly wrote this song:




You know me; I like to throw in a few obscure songs every now and then just to flummox everyone. Actually, no, I like to relive songs that I like and haven't heard in decades. Nobody seems to remember Charlie Rich (I do). Here's another Curly Putman song, sung by Charlie:


Songwriters never know which songs will strike a chord. And how could we? We love our babies; we think they're cute as a button, while strangers take one glance and turn their heads away. Instead, they fixate on the mangy cat balled up in the corner of the living room, huddled under the end table, its fur askew. The cat we picked up at the shelter on a whim because we felt sorry for it. The cat that's howling out this melody:


Speaking of ugly children: this song isn't actually a homely child; it's just not the best country song ever, although many think it is (they're wrong). But like the Green Green Grass of Home, it will live forever, and a songwriter will gladly live with that.

Curly, I'm guessing, wouldn't have cited this as his favorite composition (I'd love to know which one he thought was his best), but ten million fans speak louder than pride, or something.

Here is George Jones:


Curly wrote more than two of my favorite songs, so that makes him a great songwriter. One great song makes one a great songwriter. 

Curly Putman cleared that bar easily.







 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Billy Sherrill, Epic Producer


As a kid just getting into country music, I didn't know what a record producer was. I had a vague notion that he was kind of an "overseer", making sure that everything synched up okay; and that the studio musicians rather went their own way, and the singer went his/her own way; and the producer? Well, he sat in the booth and every once in awhile spoke, "One more take" into the mic. Reading my album liners, I was more interested in who wrote the songs, because I figured if I liked one song by somebody, I might want to check out some others. Therefore, I read, "B. Thimble - S. Sanitary" (they never put the first names of the writers on the liner, so I didn't know who these guys - and they were mostly guys - were. And unless he was a songwriting phenom, it was always co-writes - much like now). So I didn't pay much heed to who the producer was; just like I also didn't understand that a movie director was some big deal.

But I always knew the name Billy Sherrill. First of all, Billy Sherrill was also part of a songwriting team - with Glenn Sutton (he, the ex-husband of Lynn Anderson, who didn't apparently grasp Lynn's appeal to country music purists. See this.)

So when Billy's name started showing up on Tammy Wynette albums, I noticed. For example, there was this (sorry, no live performance video, naturally). This song, by the by, was written by Johnny Paycheck:


Billy was David Houston's producer, too. Everybody has forgotten David Houston - he died young - but he had monster hits in the sixties. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I can't embed a performance of his song that made the charts cringe in 1967, "Almost Persuaded", which was a really maudlin dirge only rescued by the tinkling piano riff that caused drunks across the USA to drop a tear into their beer mugs. However, so as to not forget David Houston, here's a song he did with Barbara Mandrell:


Billy Sherrill's obituaries pounced on his embrace of the "countrypolitan" sound, but I disagree. Countrypolitan, to me, was Chet Atkins adding the Anita Kerr Singers to every recording that might have been country had it not been for the Anita Kerr Singers. As if Bobby Bare was going to take this group out on the road with him. He had, I'm sure, enough trouble just making the payroll for the actual players in the Bare band.

No, Billy Sherrill didn't forgo the steel guitar. Not at all. And he didn't add a bunch of chipmunks behind the vocalist to "smooth out" the sound. He was too smart for that. Yes, he liked the piano, and he was right. Get a load of this:


Billy also produced Tanya Tucker, who I hated because she was thirteen and I was thirteen, but she could actually sing, whereas I couldn't (I love Tanya Tucker, actually.)


And this, I don't think, is any kind of "politan":


I'm not gonna say that Billy "inherited" George Jones, but I will point out that George had a different producer before he hooked up with Tammy. George was, no doubt, grateful for serendipity.


There are, of course, two recordings that will forever cement Billy Sherrill in the annals of country music. The first one he co-wrote with Tammy:


Historians will debate for eons the cultural impact of "Stand By Your Man". It was a song of its time, and that time was 1968 - 47 years ago! Calm down, everyone! Claudette Colbert is no longer hitching up her skirt and thumbing a ride on a country road with Clark Gable, either! Yes, Tammy divorced George. How dare she, when she sang like an angel about how she'd forgive every one of his transgressions?

Here's the deal - it was a song! I was around and listening to country radio when that song hit the airwaves. Know what I like about it? I like the last chorus, where Tammy slides up the scale full throttle and sells it. The secret about good music is, the lyrics don't mean a fig. That's why they call it music. It's melodic. And if you've got a great singer, the lyrics don't matter. Just ask Sinatra and his dooby-dooby-do's.

And that song will last centuries longer than Rose Garden or Achy Breaky Heart or any other song one can name that wriggled its way into becoming an ear worm.

The other song that Billy Sherrill will be remembered for is one that, in a poll of folks who mimic what everybody else says, is the greatest country song of all time. Ahh, contraire! But I'm not here tonight to argue. This recording was done piecemeal, because George was rather - battered - and couldn't make it through a three-minute song if his life depended on it. Heck, he often couldn't even show up for his own concerts. George was down and almost out before Billy Sherrill saved his career with his patience and persistence.

The key to this song, in my opinion, is the key change, which naturally builds tension. Secondly, the twin fiddle glissando that stabs you in the gut. The recitation? I'm thinking that was George just not being able to sing. A good song is sound. That's what a good producer creates.


Billy Sherrill was a good, nay, a great producer. Now I know what producers do - they create. Create glory. It doesn't matter if the words are a fairy tale; it doesn't matter if the singer had to come back to the studio fifty times in order to splice it together just right. It's the sound that comes out of our radio, or our turntable, or our computer that matters. We don't care how much peptic distress the creation caused. We care about what our ears, what our heart, hears.

Good job, Billy Sherrill.

And thanks for the magic.






























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:


What?


Damn those women singers!


Demure:


 Ridiculous to think that women could...


OMG, not two women!


Scandalous!



 
Okay!


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.

 

 




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, August 26, 2011

Improvement


Yes, I am on a roll with the Beatles references lately, aren't I? I don't know why. It just happened to work out that way.

Nevertheless, the subject of improvement has been on my mind a bit.

Have you ever thought, I will never get better at this? (The "this" being anything, really). I know I have. In fact, I think that all the time.

I don't know why I think that, because past experience tells me that if I keep doing something, I will inevitably get better at it.

Unfortunately, that isn't true of everything. Some things, one actually needs to have a natural aptitude for. For example, I could keep doing math problems over and over (until I had to kill myself from utter boredom), and I am skeptical that I would ever get better at math. But maybe I would.

So, maybe it's a combination of natural aptitude and interest. Perhaps one can get better at anything, as long as it is interesting to them.

I think that's it.

I think maybe the brain shuts off when subjects or tasks are dull. In that case, I am a hopelessly lost cause at:

1. Math
2. Science/natural science/astronomy (including black holes)/physics/chemistry, et al
3. Reality TV shows
4. All sports

And, I'm sure, many more. But the rest are too boring to think about.

Then, of course, there is the secondary list. That is the one that contains items in which I am not interested, but for which disinterest is not an option.

These would include:

1. My job

(ha ha - that's not true. Is it?)

The actual list would consist of:

1. Folding laundry
2. Housecleaning
3. Cooking
4. Balancing my checkbook

And many more. (Yes, I am the quintessential homemaker.)

This secondary list is one that cuts me no slack. I have to do those things, so I might as well get better at them. Although how one gets better at folding laundry, I am unsure. Perhaps there are some "folding" videos I could watch on the internet.

If not "better", at least maybe "faster", so I could get them out of the way, and move on to something that is not as dull as dirt.

Maybe because I'm currently in a training mode, I have thought about this topic. I watch people who come to me knowing absolutely nothing, and I see a light bulb begin to illuminate rather quickly. That is gratifying to me because, they probably are not really that interested, and yet, something still starts to brighten for them. (My motto is, just talk and talk incessantly, and something is bound to catch hold, inevitably. If for no other reason than to just be rid of me once and for all).

But in the creative world in which I choose to live, I find that I have improved mightily in a couple or three areas:

1. Music videos (alias, "slideshows", since I have no video camera, and am thus limited).
2. Songwriting (Yes! I still do that from time to time).
3. Singing, to a degree.
4. Photography (although that is kind of a "feel" thing, so I just let that go wherever it wants to take me).

P.S. The thing about photography, I have found, is that you just need to snap away. You're going to end up with a lot of losers (photos, that is; not people), but you might find one or two gems. Take photos from unusual angles, experiment with lighting, don't be afraid to get in close; that kind of thing. Be creative.

Film is cheap (And yes, I do use film. I am the sole person keeping the film manufacturers in business. However, I don't really need or expect any kudos for that. One day, people will thank me. Just like people are now gravitating toward vinyl music. That same crappy format that we endured for decades, when you'd buy an LP or a single,and find that it was hopelessly warped, and you'd get queasy watching it spinning around on the turntable, but yet you endured it, because really, there were no other options. Or the record would skip, just as it was getting to your most favorite part of the song, and you'd have to put a little pressure on the needle, just enough to get past the "bad part", so the song could continue on its merry way. Of course, this disrupted your so-called "relaxing" evening, because you were constantly getting up and down to nurse the stupid stereo needle along its path. And yet...ahhhh, vinyl. They say.)

So, where was I exactly?

Ah yes, improvement.

So, take heart. If you think you're never going to get better at something, the fact is, you actually will. Unless it's math.

I just finished reading the book, The Three of Us, by Georgette Jones (daughter of Tammy Wynette and George Jones).

The book was interesting (and a fast read), and, as I am wont to do, I today decided to look up YouTube videos relating to the subject.

As a preface, Georgette has, in the final chapter of the book, decided to embark on her own musical career. So, naturally, I was curious as to how Georgette sounds. Does she sound like Tammy? Does she phrase like George?

Well, the deal is this. EVERYBODY can improve.

Here's an early clip of Georgette singing. Quite unremarkable, to be charitable::



Nevertheless, one can improve. Compare that first video to this one:



And this, with her dad:



Notice the difference? I sure do.

So, you see, she improved.

I won't even get into the whole studio enhancement stuff. Sometimes, it's best not to even know about the "magic" that's done in the studio. The fact still remains that Georgette needs to be able to pull this stuff off live, and I'm assuming she does.

It's a funny thing about genes, though. But I really know nothing about science, and don't even care to know.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
As a postscript, and I'm not trying to make any specific point here, so don't leave me any nasty comments, please, but here's how (in a mash-up) it was originally done:



(I like Tammy.)








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:


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.

Classic.

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.

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