Showing posts with label tom t. hall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tom t. hall. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Country Hits From this Week In 1975

In my quest to review the top country singles from this week in years past, I realize I've neglected the seventies. Part of the problem lies with the limitations of available data. It seems the charts (the only historical charts I've found) only date back to 1975. Thus, as in previous posts, I will be reviewing the top ten singles as if I've never heard them before. As always, there are some I've never heard before or don't remember, so they will truly be new to me.

Given the fact that these singles are forty-seven years old, actual performance videos will be hit or miss.

Let's find out if today's hit are truly the worst ever created, by comparing them to yesterday's.

#10 ~ City Lights ~ Mickey Gilley

It's a bit unfair to throw a classic song into the mix. Obviously I've heard it before -- by a better singer. Staying objective is impossible when one is familiar with the original. I will say that, for Mickey Gilley the arrangement is fitting, highlighting his honky tonk piano. I'm not a fan of the female background singers. Clearly this is a solid song, written by Bill Anderson. It seems, however, that the singer could have given it the reverence it deserves.


#9 ~ Great Expectations ~ Buck Owens

Well, the first line is just ick. It immediately colors my impression of the song. That aside, the lyrics are pedestrian and the melody is overly familiar. I predict this track will be quickly forgotten, obscured by actual good songs recorded by Owens. This seems like more of a deep album cut than a single released to radio.


#8 ~ I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) ~ Linda Ronstadt

This is one of those instances in which a classic song can be improved upon. Obviously this is a Hank Williams hit, but I prefer this more updated sound. Ronstadt is a superb singer and she stays true to the country vibe. Great performance, nice harmonies from Emmylou, lovely steel guitar. I only deducted a half letter grade because this is a remake.



#7 ~ Wrong Road Again ~ Crystal Gayle

I like the chorus. Allen Reynolds wrote this song, among many, many other hits. He was also Crystal's producer. The song is solid, the singer's voice still exudes country, without the machinations that will plague her later tracks. Props to the unencumbered arrangement.


#6 ~ The Ties That Bind ~ Don Williams

While this song is not bad, there's something about it that's hard to get hold of. The verse has an elusive melody. This might simply be the way Williams chose to sing it or the simple acoustic arrangement. A drum beat might have helped. I would like the track more if it wasn't so frustrating. That's the drawback of acoustic songs. They allow for a bit too much introspection -- nice for the singer; annoying to the listener.


#5 ~ Rainy Day Woman ~ Waylon Jennings

Well. This is destined to be a Jennings classic. He has redefined country to his liking. Ralph Mooney is playing those classic Wynn Stewart steel licks, and the zydeco accordion is a nice touch. Waylon is one of the few artists of any genre who has a presence. He can't be ignored. Solid, classic track, written by the man himself.


#4 ~ I Care ~ Tom T. Hall

What's worse than a recitation? A half recitation. Granted, this is a children's song, which leads me to wonder how it made the country charts, which are not normally determined by children. I forced myself to listen to the entire track, since those are the rules I've imposed. It was, however, nerve-grating. Now I'm a mom, so I know that if I'd ever played this for my kids, they would have retched into the toilet, then wandered away to pursue more mature interests. There's nothing worse than pandering to kids.



#3 ~  It's Time To Pay The Fiddler ~ Cal Smith

Does this have the exact same melody as Country Bumpkin? I guess Cal is very attached to this particular chord progression. I like the singer, but Country Bumpkin has, at least, a more compelling story. This is, honestly, a country song any novice songwriter could pen. Cal can do better.


#2 ~ Devil In The Bottle ~ T.G. Sheppard


There's something about T.G. Sheppard that's kind of insidious. Songs I really shouldn't like (because they're not great songs) I find myself liking. I give the artist credit for mostly choosing compelling songs to record. No, I wouldn't purchase this single, but it's not something I would turn off if it streamed out of my car's speakers. What is the mark of a good song? My theory (as a failed songwriter) is -- a memorable chorus. Other sins can be forgiven. Sheppard doesn't have the country cred that Waylon has, but he's actually pretty good.


#1 ~ Then Who Am I ~ Charley Pride

When one records scores of songs, it's inevitable that they all won't be winners. It's not that this song is bad; it's simply forgettable. I've certainly forgotten it. I just played it and it's already erased from my memory. The late great Dallas Frazier and A.L. "Doodle" Owens co-wrote it, but again, they all can't be winners. I would like to give this a better rating, because I don't want to be harsh, but I can't in good conscience elevate it. Thus ~


It's impossible to recognize a classic song in real time. This particular chart wasn't the most brutal, but it was close. However, we found a Waylon track that will be with us forever.

Maybe that's all we can wish for.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Tom T. Hall

 The first time I became cognizant of Tom T. Hall was via a hit record that I quickly grew to hate:


It was one of those tracks that intrigues you the first time you hear it, but over-exposure bakes in its more annoying features, like the dobro riff that completely devalues a wonderful instrument like the dobro.

Nevertheless, I don't even know how I knew that Tom T. Hall wrote the song, nor did I have a clue who Tom T. Hall was. Radio in 1968 didn't exactly tout the writer of a hit song. Maybe his name stuck in my head because he, like Jeannie C. Riley, incorporated his middle initial into his name.

As I became more cognizant of him as a pre-eminent country songwriter, I noticed something odd -- his songs rarely included choruses. They were a series of verses, prose; a narrative story. They didn't fit the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure that everyone in music understood was the norm. Yet somehow they worked. Often the listener didn't notice there was no chorus. The most one could claim about Hall's songs was that they included a "refrain".

I suspect Tom T. was a frustrated novelist. Yet he had the magic spark that spun his songs into gold. 

I've written before about the first country song I actually swooned over the first time I heard it late one night on a scratchy signal from Ralph Emery's WSM:

It may have been simply because it was Faron or perhaps it was the arrangement, or both; but I can't deny that this track clutched my heart. And Tom T. Hall wrote it.

Then I found out that Hall also wrote this:

 And this:

(This one actually does have a chorus)

And this:

I bought a Tom T. Hall album. Not sure why, but I bought a lot of albums, basically whatever was available in J.C. Penneys' basement in 1968 - 1971. I think it might have been because I liked this track:

I confess I never understood Hall's songwriting method, but no one can deny that it worked. Somehow. Few can go against the grain and yet produce something timeless. 
And I'll always be in his debt for giving me my first country music swoon.
RIP, Tom T. Hall, who passed away on August 20, 2021.
"Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes
God bless little children while they're still too young to hate"
When he moved away I found my pen and copied down that line
'Bout old dogs and children and watermelon wine


Friday, March 30, 2012

More Great Country Singers From The Seventies ~ Johnny Rodriguez

Remember when country music was readily identifiable?  Unfortunately, we've now homogenized it, which is apparently great for milk, but not so great for music.

I don't really get the allure of making all music sound the same.  What if we don't like that sound?  Well, too bad, because we have no other choice.  It's all McMusic; take it or leave it.

Country music has always suffered from an inferiority complex, all due to the put-downs of people who never actually listened to it, or did hear one song, but hated the cry of a steel guitar (because those people were heartless), but we long-term fans got used to the barbs long ago, and we just shrugged them off.

So, country music, at least since the seventies and Kenny Rogers, tried hard to shed its true self, and become more like, let's say, the Bee Gees.

This self-loathing had a brief respite in the mid-1980's, when the neotraditionalist movement took hold, thanks to artists like Rodney Crowell and Dwight Yoakam.  That trend, unfortunately, did not last long, and look now what we're stuck with.  And I'll admit (again) that I don't actually listen to country radio, because, frankly, the few times I've had the courage to flick that dial over to a country station, I've wanted to pull my car over to the side of the road and regurgitate.

The argument is that new artists emulate the sounds they grew up hearing.  Fine.  Then why are these guys in country music?  The answer is simple; country music is easier to "make it" in than any other genre.  It's pure commerce.

Unfortunately, we, the fans, are the ones who suffer the consequences of their commercial aspirations.  

I used to live by the sage that the pendulum always swings back.  I lived through various bad times in country music, and it always eventually got better.  I don't think that's true anymore.

But I guess that's why we now have Americana.  Americana is country music, but we can't call it country music anymore, because that term has been appropriated by the new guys (I want it back).

A true Americana artist is Johnny Rodriguez.

1973 was one of those schizophrenic years in country music.  The established stars were kind of waning, and their output reflected that.  Their singles weren't what they once had been.  We still heard some real country songs on the radio, like "Satin Sheets", but we also heard Olivia Newton-John, and Dottie West's recording of a Coca-Cola commercial.

Probably the biggest star in 1973 was fifteen-year-old Tanya Tucker, and I liked her and hated her.  Hated her just because she was fifteen and she was so good.  I was eighteen and I could barely sing on key.  One likes to aspire to something; thinking, "I'll get better; just give me time".  But it's kind of a rude awakening when somebody younger than you is miles better, and you realize you just need to give up.

So, with the established stars on the wane, and with the pop world knocking on country's door, a new single by a guy named Johnny Rodriguez made us all perk up our ears.  This song was country, but it also was a new, young voice; and a good really good voice.

Tom T. Hall discovered Johnny, and he wrote his first big hit.  Tom T. is an iconic country writer, but the interesting thing about Tom T. is that he never wrote a song with a chorus.  I don't know how he got away with it, but he did.  I guess talent trumps, huh?

The debut single was called, Pass Me By:

Johnny followed that smash single with three more in 1973, all from the album, "Introducing Johnny Rodriguez".  Yes, I have the album, of course.

Ridin' My Thumb To Mexico:

Here's Johnny with his mentor, Tom T, doing, You Always Come Back To Hurtin' Me:

You know, and I know, that Lefty Frizzell wrote this next song, and that Merle Haggard recorded it, too.  But Johnny had a big hit with it; That's The Way Love Goes (sorry for the bad video quality, but this was all I could find):

Johnny also recorded We Believe In Happy Endings.  I always remember the Emmylou Harris/Earl Thomas Conley version, but Johnny did it first:

I'm always finding little surprises when I search out music videos.  I have this album (as I said), but I completely forgot that Johnny did a version of Easy Come, Easy Go.  This song is rather seminal for me, because, as a recent high school graduate, on a pre-summer trip with my best friend, Alice, I (and she) sang along to the radio to the Bobby Bare version, which will always live in, not infamy, per se.  What is the opposite of infamy?  Famy?  By the way, Bobby's version was called, Ride Me Down Easy.  I didn't know you could just change up song titles, willy-nilly.  But I guess you could back then!

Johnny had other great songs, including Down On The Rio Grande.  But alas, there is no video to be found of this recording (not even a static album cover with the song playing over it).  So, I guess you'll just have to hum it.

I'm posting this next song again, just to prove that Johnny is still out there; still performing.

You can't keep a good great artist down.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pass Me By

I could make all kinds of comments about Johnny performing at the Old Entertainers Home, but dang! He still sounds great!

This is one of my all-time favorite country songs, written by Tom T. Hall, and sung by Johnny Rodriguez.

I'm enjoying this, and I hope you do, too. Here's Pass Me By:

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Country Music Hall Of Fame 2008

The 2008 inductees into the Country Music Hall Of Fame were announced this week.

A new twist this year is that the inductees will not be announced during the CMA awards telecast. They wouldn't want to waste valuable time that could be better used to showcase the latest eighteen-year-old sensation, or to feature another performance by someone like that country music stalwart, Sheryl Crow.

It's actually better for the inductees that they get their own separate ceremony. Frankly, most people who watch the CMA awards would have no clue who these people are, and these viewers would be irritated by having to endure such minutia. Bring on Bon Jovi!, they'd scream. Someone who's really country!

But, for those who might care, the inductees this year are:

Emmylou Harris
Tom T. Hall
The Statler Brothers
Pop Stoneman (posthumously)

Emmylou, as everyone is aware, has been a champion of country music for many, many years.

The first time I remember hearing Emmylou was when she did a duet of an old Louvin Brothers song, with Charlie Louvin himself ("If I Could Only Win Your Love"):

Of course, Emmylou was around long before that. She is indelibly linked to the late Gram Parsons, who in essence launched her career.

Through the years, she has recorded many classic songs, in addition to introducing fans to older songs that they may have forgotten.

Here is one of my favorites, from my favorite Emmylou album, "Elite Hotel". This song was written by Rodney Crowell, who is prominently featured in this video. The performance takes awhile to get going ~ there's a lot of, I guess, technical maneuvering prior to the song actually beginning, but it's worth watching, so stick with it. The song is, "Til I Gain Control Again".

Here's one more from Emmylou. This song was written by the late Townes Van Zandt. It was later recorded as a duet by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, but Emmy did it first. This performance is from 1977. The song is "Poncho And Lefty".

Tom T. Hall is probably better known as a songwriter than as a singer, although he had a string of hits on his own.

I found this video of Tom, along with Johnny Cash, performing a medley of his hits. (You will notice that Johnny plays a prominent role in this particular post).

As I said, Tom was probably better known for the songs he wrote for other artists, including, "You Always Come Back To Hurting Me", recorded by Johnny Rodriguez and "(If I Ever Fall In Love With A) Honky Tonk Girl", which was a hit for Faron Young.

Of course, Tom's best known song is this one:

It just struck me that this song actually has no chorus. It's all verses. So, it's the AAA (verse-verse-verse) song structure, as opposed to AABA (verse-verse-chorus-verse). It seems that most of Tom's songs didn't have choruses. That's sort of quirky. Of course, the song structure that's in style now looks something like A/#$!//B%-** (or something). And you'd better follow this rule, or you will never get a cut in Nashville!

The next inductee is (are?) The Statler Brothers.

I find it difficult to remember a time when the Statler Brothers weren't around. It seems like they've been on the country music scene forever.

They got their first career boost by becoming part of Johnny Cash's road show, and later his television program. And oh, by the way, they took their name from a brand of toilet paper.

Here's the Statler Brothers' first hit song (featuring the late Lew DeWitt):

Here is another Statlers hit, this one is from 1970. "Bed Of Roses":

I always loved when Johnny would do one of his gospel songs on his show, and would feature the entire cast. This performance not only includes the Statlers, but the Carter Sisters and Carl Perkins:

It's difficult to find a YouTube clip with Jimmy Fortune (who replaced Lew DeWitt). This is one of the few I could find, and poor Jimmy is reduced to singing June Carter's part. (On the actual recording of this song, it was Jan Howard who sang the female part, not June Carter. Just some useless trivia that I recall. I can barely remember my own name; yet, this I remember).

By the way, I should probably list the members of the Statler Brothers: Don Reid, Harold Reid, Phil Balsley, Lew DeWitt (originally), and Jimmy Fortune.

And now, for something completely different, here are the Brothers' alter egos, Lester (Roadhog) Moran & His Cadillac Cowboys, appearing on Nashville Now with Ralph Emery:

The posthumous inductee is Pop Stoneman. I don't know much about Mr. Stoneman, but I did manage to unearth some interesting facts:

In July and August 1927, Pop Stoneman helped Ralph Peer conduct the legendary Bristol sessions that led to the discovery of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Ralph Peer was a talent scout, recording engineer and record producer in the field of music in the 1920s and 1930s, working for RCA Records. In August of 1927, while talent hunting in the southern states with Victor Records, Ralph Peer recorded both Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family in the same session at a makeshift studio in Bristol, Tennessee.

But back to Pop Stoneman, he and his wife had 14 children, and the family went on to form the Stonemans, a group that became popular in the bluegrass arena.

So, Pop Stoneman is being honored as an early pioneer of country music.

Next, I will be lobbying to get Bobby Bare inducted into the Hall Of Fame. I actually had to go to the Hall Of Fame website to make sure he wasn't already there. Couldn't believe it. Geez.