Showing posts with label vince gill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vince gill. Show all posts

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Nineties Roll On


If an artist releases one great track in their career, he can hold his head high. He can't necessarily tour on that, but it seems to me that fans remember that one recording because it was superb, yet forget about all the artist's other marvelous music simply because it all pales in comparison. So, yes, at least a half-hour show, I'm calculating.

Country music today is...? I don't know exactly what happened to country; where it went wrong. I know when it went wrong, which precisely matches the time that I gave up on it entirely. I don't think there are any great songs released nowadays. If there were, I would have read about them and checked them out, for curiosity's sake. I saw a clip today of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and some dude I assume is country (because of his over-pronounced drawl) was singing something about "shut up", and I thought, "good advice". Let's just be honest ~ today's country is awful.

In the late eighties and especially the nineties, however, great, great country music was bountiful. I've already featured many of the standouts, but there are many others. They didn't all produce 60 number one hits like George Strait, but who has?

Tonight, I'm featuring some of the "great" songs released in the nineties.

Let's start here:


 

"Blue" was written by legendary WBAP disc jockey Bill Mack. Bill wrote other songs, too, that became hits. He wrote this one for Patsy Cline, which is evident. It is a throwback for sure, but fans in the nineties were obviously still hankering for good country music. I don't know what happened to LeeAnn Rimes. I sort of know that she became a bikini-clad publicity whore, but as far as music is concerned, I guess she wasn't all that interested. Too bad, because she is a talented singer.

I know, I know ~ Alan Jackson deserves his own post. But much like I've written about Dwight Yoakam and George Strait ad nauseum, I'm not going to rehash all of Jackson's hits here. Again, this is most certainly a throwback; a remake. Jim Ed Brown had a hit with this song sometime around 1968. I'm sensing a theme here, but not purposely. I just love great songs.


 

I am aware that most everyone disagrees with me on this (most everyone is wrong), but for the best pure country voice since Patsy Cline, one need look no further than Trisha Yearwood. I saw Trisha once in concert. It was one of those expo's that small cities used to sponsor to draw folks in to sample local merchants' goods, who had booths set up around the perimeter to sell modular phones (yes, it was the nineties) and I guess, life insurance. The arena featured various acts on a small stage periodically throughout the day, acts that had to compete with the throng of old ladies carting their plastic "expo bags" from booth to booth, stuffing them with giveaway pens and refrigerator magnets. My friends and I claimed seats up in the balcony and gossiped while awaiting the next act to make her way to the stage. I admit I didn't pay much attention to Trisha at the time. I think she had a song called "X's and O's", which was her only claim to fame at the time. Too, I remember my hairdresser lamenting about a Garth Brooks concert she'd attended, which featured an unknown opening act named "Trisha Yearwood". "What big star goes on tour and brings some unknown girl singer with them?" my hairdresser fumed. "Should have been someone like Reba McEntire; not some girl I never heard of!"

My hairdresser and I were sadly ignorant. Feast your ears upon this:



One of the most bad-ass country songs ever was recorded by Foster and Lloyd. However, that was in 1987, so since I'm dedicating this post to the nineties, I will resist the powerful temptation to include the '87 song. Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd, were, too, a throwback, only updated. For being unrelated, their harmonies were almost as spot-on as the Everly Brothers'. Radney went on to do some solo work, but let's not dismiss Lloyd. It was his telecaster that gave the duo its delicious sound.

This is an unfortunate video, an example of the artists letting a dumb-ass producer frame the story. Regardless, this song will keep Foster and Lloyd on tour:



Apparently, 1987 was a landmark year in country. Steve Wariner had "Lynda", which was a track that invariably got people up and dancing in the honky tonks. In 1990, though, he also had this one, which I like. I don't know exactly why I like it; just that I do:



People misconstrue this song. It's certainly not a feminist anthem. To me it's the story of a young girl burdened with a life she never chose, one of whiskey and violence and trying to escape for one brief moment to pretend she was the same as all her friends. Maybe you had to live it to "get it":


 

There was a triad of superstar country artists in the nineties: George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Vince Gill. It seemed that every minute or so, Vince Gill was releasing a new track. If you have any doubt, take a gander at his discography. It's funny; one minute no one knew the name Vince Gill; the next, he was inescapable. This one is my favorite for sentimental reasons. I assigned myself the task of creating recorded music for my mom and dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration, and this was the very last song on the two-volume cassette:



I haven't forgotten Patty Loveless. She's getting her own post. She deserves her own post.

Joe Diffie, Little Texas, Lorrie Morgan, The Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack...

When folks look back on the nineties, they talk about Garth and Shania; maybe if they aren't brain-dead, they remember to include George Strait.

I remember this:



I don't live in the past, but I dare...nay, challenge...today's country artists to match these songs.

Please.












Saturday, October 5, 2019

Ken Burns "Country Music" ~ Episode 8 ~ "Sorry, We Don't Have Time For You"

Some Guy


"George Strait racked up sixty number one hits, more than any artist in any genre, so here's a thirty-second clip about him."

I don't want to let my disappointment with Episode 8 of Ken Burns' "Country Music" sour me on the entire series. The documentary truly was a relevatory event. However, aside from the sixties, this was the episode I was anticipating the most, and....well, wow.

I'll do a summation of the series in a subsequent post, but for now, let's address the time period of 1984 to 1996.

The good:  Dwight Yoakam. 'Bout time, is all I can say. Dwight has been snubbed by the Nashville community for...well, forever; inexplicably. I thought the industry liked hits, and Dwight certainly racked up those. Yoakam, however, was "different", and we can't have that. Unlike some of the obscure artists and songwriters Burns spent too much time chronicling, Dwight Yoakam has bona fides.

Kathy Mattea: Although Ken didn't feature any of Mattea's best tracks, I was still heartened that she was included. In a previous post, I noted a few of the female artists from the era; and Burns could have highlighted any of them ~ Pam Tillis, Paulette Carlson ~ at least he picked one of the good ones.

Vince Gill:  Vince's music resides in a special chamber of my heart. It's all tied up in memory, naturally, as music is; and "Look At Us" is the last song on a special 50th wedding anniversary cassette I created for my mom and dad (I still have that cassette somewhere.)

The bad?

Ken Burns is a country music neophyte. However, as a documentarian, he was obligated to do his research, and he either didn't or he had predetermined agenda.

How impactful was George Strait in country music? I came back to country in the mid-eighties, and if George Strait hadn't existed, I probably would have stayed, but my eighteen CD's (and one box set) attest that he deserved more than an obligatory nod. Much more.

I was so disturbed by George's diss, I couldn't drive it from my mind. I contemplated adding a comment to Burn's "Country Music" site, but what was the point? What was done was done. Ken wasn't about to undertake a do-over.

Randy Travis ~ Burns seemed more interested in Randy's hard-luck early life than the fact that he created the neo-traditionalist movement. Back of the hand, Randy! On to Garth!

Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Mark Chesnutt, Travis Tritt ~ ppsshhh ~ mere footnotes.

I like The Judds; I like Reba to an extent; I'm not a big Garth fan, but okay ~  I'll give him his due. But we can quarrel 'til the end of time over which artist had the biggest impact on country music in the eighties and nineties; and if you want to argue that it wasn't George Strait, you lose.

One major component Burns missed was that, while he was so focused on songs with "deep meaning", that's not all that country music is. Sometimes music is FUN. In fact, MOSTLY music should be fun. I don't want my musical life to be a job. While "Go Rest High On That Mountain" is a stirring song, you can't exactly dance to it. And maybe that was Ken's innate bias and downfall. He thinks country music fans are sitting at home, soberly contemplating the cryptic message in every song. Maybe that's why he dismissed George Strait in favor of Cash's prison laments.

Sad songs can be fun, too. Not fun in the sense that listeners are dancing on a grave, but stunning in the searing pain that punches them in the gut. That's what Burns, as a non-country chronicler, didn't grasp.

I've read that Ken might do an "addendum" to his series. I say, too late. "Oh, there was George Strait and Randy Travis, too." No thanks. George, Randy, Alan, Clint, Mark, et al, aren't after-thoughts.

If you don't know country music and are relying on Ken Burns to provide you with the essence, let me offer another perspective:





 





 

Oh, gosh. This track doesn't say one word about prisons...or trains. It doesn't talk about a hardscrabble life. It's just fun, and we can't allow that.



 

Ken, you tried. Mostly you did well. I don't want to come across as a stern school marm, but frankly, for this episode you didn't do your homework. I'll get over it, truly. I won't ever watch Episode 8 again, but I'm pretty okay with the others. And let me say that no one else would ever do it, would ever even try. You did it.

This series in many ways was the highlight of my year. I know that if I had the resources to create a series about country music, a bunch of people would be mad at me, too; for too much focus on somebody and not enough on somebody else. But really, Ken? You don't get George Strait?











 







Saturday, December 22, 2018

Have Yourself A Merry Little...


I began blogging in 2007 and I have undoubtedly written a Christmas post every year since. In 2007 my band was writing and recording and feeling exhilarated about the musical riches to come. It was all so long ago. After Red River's debut album release, I went on to write far better songs. Until I didn't. Until I stopped writing completely. It wasn't so much a decision to stop writing as it was an exhausted sense of futility. In 2007 there was a community of songwriters on a site called Soundclick. We were virtual friends who shared our latest recordings with one another, but like all families, the forged relationships eventually became dysfunctional. Interlopers bullied their way in and found ways to manipulate the Soundclick charts. Tussles ensued. An unexpected boon resulted ~ in an effort to compete with the cheaters, I learned how to make music videos, a skill I have since perfected. Today Soundclick no longer has a community forum. The friends I made there have scattered; disappeared. I note this simply to demonstrate how my world has changed in eleven years.

What do I do now? Well, this.

I also wrote two novels and one memoir, but you won't find them anywhere, at least not under my name. I started a third novel and then realized that writing is a whole lot of work for zero reward.

My blogging has transformed from simply a silly diversion to documenting music and the times they represent. Write what you know. I know music.

I used to have blog followers, but an unfortunate Google snafu resulted in everyone disappearing. Fortunately, however, my blog was salvaged, but I had to change its name and now nobody knows me. I'm actually okay with that. If someone finds me, awesome. If no one does, I'll still write.

I'm always going to do something creative because that's who I am.

Now it's the end of 2018 and I don't have much to say for myself. I find myself missing my family more and more. Little things, like a corny song, will remind me of my little sister. The envisage of family surrounding me slows my heartbeat and feels like a warm, comfy blanket around my shoulders. Alas, I won't be with them, again, this year.

Dad and Mom are a memory. As the years tumble, I remember the good parts of them ~ the bad are only stories to be recounted; not heavily felt.

So, as I sit here tonight, wistful, have yourself...well, you know.







Thursday, November 22, 2018

1990 Music...And A "Career"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I didn't get a callback.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luckily for me, Eddie Rabbitt was still around:


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




A pristine country voice, Patty Loveless:


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


Tanya Tucker and T. Graham Brown:


Gotta love Steve Wariner:


My lord, Marty Stewart:



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



 Some dude named Garth appeared on the scene:


Ricky Van Shelton:


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



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

Stay tuned...




















Friday, February 2, 2018

1994 ~ Country Music ~ And Work


My new career path of "being in charge" became exponentially better in 1994, once Evil Boss From Hell was canned. Connie, as I detailed in my previous post, had committed an error many in the corporate world make; becoming drunk with power. It's silly when you think about it -- a company only wants you around as long as you are useful to them. The corporate bosses don't care how high an opinion you have of yourself.

Our little office being a far-western outpost of the East Coast Insurance Corridor, we'd had little oversight. As long as our numbers were good (really good), as far as our overseers were concerned, everything in Bismarck, North Dakota was peachy. They didn't know, and probably didn't care that Evil Connie had created her own little fiefdom on the prairie. The office dynamic was much like all offices; underlings who gushed over her, their red lipstick prints imprinted on her butt. The rebels, who either didn't know any better (me) or just said "F it". A couple of us thought our charge was to produce results and to treat our employees like "people". Ha. I was desperately naive, but this was my first time being "in charge", so I operated on instinct.

I stepped confidently into Evil Connie's office for my annual review. My unit's numbers were superb. I was expecting a few kudos and a decent bump in salary. Instead, I was accused of "making the other supervisors look bad". I'd brought caramel rolls for my staff one overtime Saturday morning. "LeeAnn didn't bring caramel rolls!" she charged, jamming her bony finger at me.

I was upbraided for not stopping in to say goodnight to Evil Connie on a daily basis.  As the haranguing continued, I began to cry. The evil woman refused to even reach behind her to grab a Kleenex out of the box to quench the ugly snot that was now dripping from my nose.

Evil Connie's parting words to me were, "Either you become part of my team or I'll replace the team."

The only person I ever told (I didn't even tell the person I was married to -- I was too mortified and ashamed for jeopardizing our family's well-being) was my mentor; my fellow supervisor, who I called that evening. She'd endured the exact same diatribe the same day. Carlene was maybe the rebel of the bunch, but not really. She simply had conducted herself the same way I had -- with a modicum of respect toward her employees. It was maybe a bit better to know I wasn't alone, but I still scoured the newspaper want ads that night. It was clear my days at US Healthcare were limited. I would stop in every evening from that point forward and say goodnight to Evil Connie, and hold onto my job as long as I could, or until I could find another source of income. Our town was tiny and open positions were nearly non-existent. I stepped inside my glass-enclosed cubicle at the front of my unit every morning and tried not to break down in sobs.

(FYI -- #metoo isn't just about sexual harassment. Abuse comes in many forms.)

The Philadelphia honchos generally showed up once a year, if they couldn't find a way to get out of it. To us, they were voices over the phone; I barely recognized their faces when they appeared in the office. I'd see strange men tramping through the corridor and it would dawn on me that these were "the bosses". One was named Dave and I don't remember the other man's name. They showed up unexpectedly in the summer of '93 and sequestered themselves in an unused office. We supervisors gaggled about, speculated. This wasn't a scheduled visit. Eventually, around 1:00 p.m. my phone rang and I was summoned. Dave and Other Guy asked me questions about Evil Connie. I have no recollection what I spilled. I do remember telling them that Peg and Inez deserved to become supervisors (they had languished as assistants for far, far too long and they were smart). I must have said things about Evil Woman, but I don't remember. I do remember wondering why, of all the supervisors, I was the one they zeroed in on.

That was the day I sat in my car at 5:00 and watched, before I shifted into reverse, Evil Connie exit the building with two paper grocery bags and a potted plant. I slumped down in my seat and stared. It seemed like she was leaving forever, but I was disoriented; flummoxed.

I will never know how it happened that Dave and Other Guy homed in on me. Carlene was the only one who knew and she professed innocence and I believe her. She had her own story to tell -- she didn't need to use me as a surrogate. Am I sorry I helped to get Evil Woman fired? No. I've learned that karma doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. After all these years, do I feel sorry for Evil Connie? No. I will say that she taught me one thing, though -- always watch your back. There are always more people who'd rather shoot you than shake your hand. And it's all based on their insecurities; their shortcomings. Their inherent flaws.

(Shortly thereafter, both Peg and Inez secured supervisor positions. It remains one of the few times in my life I ever felt listened to.)

Once Evil Bitch was gone forever, some poor decent, capable, professional man got shipped in to take over.

I don't remember his name (alas), but someone back in the home office must have been jealous of him; wanted to get rid of him, so they gave him the least desirous post they could find on the map. New Manager was a good company man, so he (no doubt reluctantly) acceded to his new post (I would soon enough find out how that whole scheme worked).

This man was completely hands-off, which is how a manager should have been. But he did understand that we were all winging it, and he brought in professionals to teach us how to be supervisors. We all met at lunchtime in a conference room and were schooled in management theory. Our new manager passed out paperback copies of "Leadership Secrets of Attila The Hun" and sent us home to read and absorb. This man is now long retired, but as professionally distant as he was toward us, I will never forget what he did for me. I didn't need to get up close and personal with him; I didn't need to shed tears in his office. I needed him to manage and mentor, and that's exactly what he did.

As the soul-crushing cloud of Evil Woman dissipated, life at US Healthcare became sweet. Somebody came up with a "get to know you" game, in which we devised ten questions for each person to answer, and we had to find someone whose answer matched the one on the card in our hand. It was a free-for-all of everyone milling about, trying to notch ten correct responses so we'd win. It was a game without a prize, but that wasn't the point. I remember one of us supervisors came up with, "What kind of car do you drive?" and our aloof manager had answered, "Infiniti", a make of car of which I'd never heard, but I realized this guy had money, and why not? He had a thankless job in a rustic wilderness. He deserved some kind of reward.

Me, being me, devised the question, "What's your favorite song?" That was fun. I soon learned that, out of the one hundred and fifty-or-so of us, one hundred and forty-nine loved country music. That warmed my heart, because country deserved to be loved in 1994. Diamond Rio, Collin Raye, Mark Chesnutt, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Joe Diffie, Little Texas, George, Pam Tillis, Clay Walker, Alan Jackson. It was a country music renaissance in '94.

Life was suddenly good and we had music like this:




Sorry, no live performance video of this one, but come on:


My man:


I confess; I love this song:


I saw Diamond Rio in concert once, in an intimate casino setting, and I also saw the mandolin player, Gene Johnson, eat a steak and baked potato in front of me, bothered by autograph-seeking fans, but while I was seated behind him, I gave him his space. Anything else would have been disrespectful, but I did and do love Diamond Rio:



They used to make heartbreak songs:



Alan Jackson's flame had turned into more of a smolder already by '94 -- he was settling into a real career that would eventually land him in the Country Music Hall of Fame. That doesn't mean he wasn't still making good records; they just weren't Oh Wow! records. I like this one:


This recording did sound familiar, but I didn't know (or had forgotten) that it was a Jackie DeShannon song. In my defense, it had been the B side of another track, and it was released in1963, when all I cared about was Top Forty (though I had no idea what Top Forty actually was). Regardless, Pam Tillis did Jackie DeShannon proud:




I could include tons more hits from 1994, but suffice it to say that it was the tail end of the golden age of country. I was thirty-nine years old and on my way to horizons and heartbreaks I couldn't even conjure.

1994, however, was the last time music played a huge part in my little life story.







Friday, October 6, 2017

Look At Us


In the summer of 1993 my mom and dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary was approaching. Clever as us six kids were, we determined we would surprise them with a secret party. I don't remember who first came up with the idea, but those of us who didn't live far away grabbed the reins of mega-party planning. It wasn't to be a big blowout -- just immediate family, which by that time included grandkids as well. Mom and Dad's brothers and sisters were far-flung, and we weren't about to impose upon them to travel (at their advanced age) the six hundred or so miles to the scene of a party they hardly cared about, because they had their own milestones to celebrate. Besides, we much preferred intimate gatherings. My two sisters who lived in Texas readily came on board. They agreed to show up "unexpectedly" for an impromptu visit. We arranged for a limo to pick up Dad and Mom to chauffeur them to the restaurant that we'd booked for their special dinner.

 I'm a pretty good organizer, and I'm a girl, which immediately deemed me one of the head planners. In actuality, my sister Rosie did the majority of the legwork. My older brother and my little brother no doubt had responsibilities, but I can't imagine or remember what those might have been.

For no logical reason, I decided I would be in charge of the "background" music for the dinner. This task I took very, very seriously. I apparently imagined that someone would actually care (no one did). I would do it again if the opportunity presented itself. Because that's what I do. I am the "music person" of the family. That's my role.

Compiling fifty years of music of someone else's life is not an easy task. And it's rather presumptuous. I can't imagine that anyone could sum up fifty years of my life -- and I know they couldn't. How would they know which songs meant anything to me? It would be such an eclectic list.

However, I researched and scoured lists of music from all the decades. I went to Musicland (yes, it still existed then) and bought CD's that I needed in order to secure my masterpiece.

I had no idea whether this song meant anything to my parents, but if one thinks "forties", what else would they think but:




The fifties were trickier. The fifties were not a sublime decade for music. I was not about to go with "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window". I settled upon this:


The sixties were relatively easier. After all, I had this to fall back on:



Truly, I have no recollection of what I included for the seventies and the eighties. I'm sure, however, that it was awesome.

This, however, is the one that gets me every time:


This song was the coup de grĂ¢ce of my two-tape set. It summed up everything -- fifty years of happiness and heartache. I don't think anyone noticed or heard it that night, but I knew it was there. It was a tough one for me, because I'd witnessed it all when none of the other kids in my family had. I remembered everything. It's easy to gloss over the hard times when one doesn't have to live them. But optimist that I am, I still believed in happy endings. My mom and dad had one that night -- August nineteenth, nineteen ninety-three. 

When my mom passed away, my brother told all of us to take something that had meaning to us. I claimed that two-set cassette tape. I'd poured my heart into the making of it. Those amber ribbons were the only way I knew how to say, "I love you" to two people who were supremely complicated, but who shaped everything that I am.

I miss them. 

George Harrison claims they are still here. I don't know that I know that. I haven't talked to Dad in a long while. I don't think I've ever talked to Mom. Maybe they're still here. Maybe they care about the person I am now. Maybe they are saying, "she turned out okay".  

I'm happy I did what I did for them, on their fiftieth year. 

I did what I knew how to do.










Thursday, June 15, 2017

People Who Don't Like Country Music...


My husband, no country music fan, remarked the other day that the reason early-to-mid-sixties rock was so good was because of the harmonies. "That's when producers were still in charge," he said. His unspoken conclusion was that the rock artists of the late sixties weren't overly concerned with production. It's true. There were exceptions, but the late sixties were an anarchic time; artists were naive in their "let it all hang out" mindset toward music. Unlike now, which is essentially an anarchic time, too, but artists are now willing to bend a knee in worship of dollars and "likes". Perhaps that's why I find modern music tiresome -- it's so blatantly manipulative. I'll gladly take the naive badly produced song. At least it was honest.

But as my husband uttered the word, "harmonies", I thought, exactly! That's country music!

If the Everly Brothers had begun their career only a few years later than they did, they would have been country artists. Because country music is (or was) all about harmony.


There is an innate reason why humans are drawn to harmony. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know the reason for that. Maybe the answer is found in nature -- the way the flutter of the wind through the trees mingles with a bird's trills; and we feel alive and soft, cradled inside the earth's hands.

We're drawn to harmony and yearn to sing along. Even if we do it badly, it doesn't matter because it feels so good, so natural.

When I was sixteen or so, I'd recently purchased my first "real" reel-to-reel tape recorder, and I impressed myself with my wondrous ability to sing three-part harmony to this song, by bouncing tracks (the recording itself only featured two-part harmonies, but I said, let's go all out!):



In the early sixties, country music featured not only two-part, but three-part harmonies, where I no doubt got the idea for my "Silver Wings" rendition.

For example:


The absolute master of harmonies was Ray Price. Ray had his Cherokee Cowboys, of which a guy named Roger Miller was once a part. As an added bonus, Roger wrote this song and added his half-step to Ray's vocals:


And don't forget Buck Owens and Don Rich. In the early sixties, country music basically drizzled down to Buck Owens. The Grand Ol' Opry kept doing its thing, but nobody could compete with Bakersfield, and Nashville keenly knew it. If it wasn't for Don Rich, well...


There is no question what my favorite harmony song from the late sixties was. I know I recently featured this video in another post, but bear with me -- I can't find an original performance video of Mel Tillis doing:


From the Everlys to Porter and Dolly to Restless Heart to Brad and Dolly to Waylon and Willie, to Naomi and Wynonna, up to Vince and Patty, harmony is what country music is known for:



My visceral reaction to harmony singing, when it's good, is that it stabs me in the heart.

Everybody needs that little stab sometimes. That's how we know we're alive.








Saturday, December 3, 2016

CMA 50 - A Look Back - 1995

The thing about the early-to-mid-nineties in country music was that one simply couldn't go wrong. Turn on the radio and you would be smacked in the ears with one good song after another after another. Ahhh, that's when I loved music. If the music pouring from the speakers had any one common denominator, it was that it was...country! Other genres that hadn't yet taken hold didn't seep into the steel guitar twang; didn't interrupt a twin fiddles solo with a sudden record scratch. Classic rock wasn't apparently classic enough yet for country acts to begin re-recording its hits. Country music had an identity. Sure, it was always looked down upon by self-styled hipsters, but country fans were used to that and we tended to mingle with our own kind. And sure, I lived in flyover country and we were "simple folk", but even the young kids coming up begrudgingly admitted that some of that "old-time music" wasn't horrific.

I lived in a relatively small town, even though it was the capital city of my state, and there weren't many distractions. If we wanted to have a summer get-together, it was easy to reserve a shelter in one of the city parks. Teenagers hung out at the sandbar on the Missouri River; adults traipsed the mall. At home after work, we turned on CMT and watched the hot acts perform live on Ralph Emery's Nashville Now. And there was the radio -- always the radio.

The CMA nominee roster in 1995 was ripe with shining stars. It must have been hell for the members to narrow down their picks. I didn't agree with all of the choices, but ask me tomorrow and I could go another way. I loved most of the artists nominated. What do they call it -- an embarrassment of riches? It was.

The nominees and winners:

Female Vocalist of the Year
Reba McEntire
Pam Tillis
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Alison Krauss
Patty Loveless

This is so hard, because I love (love!) three of the five nominees. Couldn't they have had a tie?

Here is the recording that won Alison the statuette:


Here are a couple of alternatives for your consideration:



(Apparently the closest Dwight Yoakam would get to being on the CMA stage until 2016.)

Male Vocalist of the Year
John Berry
Alan Jackson
John Michael Montgomery
George Strait
Vince Gill

People with little knowledge of the past don't understand how huge Vince Gill was in the nineties. Trust me; he was huge. Who on this list has stood the test of time? Well, you can judge for yourself. There was a joke going around about John Michael Montgomery singing live without auto-tune and the result was undesirable. John Berry? Trust me; I'm not trying to be mean, but I have absolutely no cognizance of this man. I'm sure he must have had a hit song.

But back to Vince:  One of my (self-appointed) assignments for my mom and dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary surprise party was to create a tape (yes, tape) of fifty years of music that meant something to them. I made several trips to the record store in order to fulfill that task, but I loved doing it. After Dad, then Mom passed away, I came into possession of those two tapes. I'm afraid to play them, though, for fear I will break down in sobs. I ended the compilation with this:


Now that I've had my cry, let's move on to peppier and sillier things.

Music Video of the Year
Any Man of Mine - Shania Twain
Baby Likes To Rock It - The Tractors
I Don't Even Know Your Name - Alan Jackson
The Red Strokes - Garth Brooks
When Love Finds You - Vince Gill

What else could possibly win Video of the Year? The Tractors never had another hit. They didn't need one.



I don't generally feature the Musician of the Year because the musician nominees usually don't have videos to showcase their talents. But in 1995 they did.

Musician of the Year
Eddie Bayers
Paul Franklin
Mark O'Connor
Brent Mason
Matt Rollings

The winner (as an added bonus, Steve Wariner!):


The Single of the Year was "When You Say Nothing At All" by Alison Krauss.

Song of the Year (award to the songwriter)
Gone Country - Bob McDill
Independence Day - Gretchen Peters
How Can I Help You Say Goodbye - Burton Banks-Collins and Karen Taylor-Good
Thinkin' Problem - David Ball, Allen Shamblin, and Stuart Ziff
Don't Take The Girl - Larry Johnson and Craig Martin

Yup:


Brooks and Dunn won Vocal Duo of the Year and the Vocal Group of the Year was The Mavericks. 1995 wasn't Brooks and Dunn's best year (don't worry; I'll be featuring them; count on it). The Mavericks, boy, let's give 'em credit where it's due, and they were due in 1995:


The Horizon Award, given to best newcomer, went to Alison Krauss, but my heart will always be with David Ball. I loved this song because it was so blatantly country, so "in your face country". My kids hated when the song came on the radio and I would flip the volume up, so I tended to torture them with it, just for fun:




After everything that's come before, it's almost anti-climatic to talk about the Entertainer of the Year, but that's the big one, after all.

I saw Alan Jackson in concert -- he wasn't the most scintillating entertainer -- but for hit records alone, he deserved to grab this award. 




Of all the years I've featured in this CMA retrospective, 1995 has to be one of the greatest. I'm awed by the talent here. Awed and sentimental.



























Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sorry ~ My Mistake ~ I Said 1994, When I Meant 1995

I wrote a whole long thesis a few days ago about how 1994 was a bad year in country music, and lo and behold, as I found various music videos from that year, I realized I was completely insane.  1994 was actually a good year.  What I meant was, 1995.

As the picture above shows, 1995 was apparently the year of "Friends", and some other things, but the pictures are too small to really identify.  Looks like maybe Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock, so I guess we're still partying like it's 1995.

But country music in 1995 was not a party.

And I can prove it.

In scanning the list of hit songs from 1995, the first thing that strikes me is, I don't even recognize most of these titles.  And let me tell you, I was still a pretty big country fan during that time.  So, because most of my memory is still quite intact, the fact is that there were very few memorable hit singles released in 1995.

And even the old standbys, you know, the good guys, were releasing some pretty awful songs.

For example, Collin Raye.  I love Collin Raye as a balladeer.  As they say, stick with what you know.  Because I really dislike this song:



Then there was this next song that was a big hit, and I just hated it.  I don't necessarily have a rational reason for hating it, but music is like that.  I will say, however, that the lyrics seem to be about some old guy leering at a young girl, and really??  Well, that's very family-friendly.

David Lee Murphy:



And here's ol' Tim McGraw again.  I will say that, unlike 1994, at least ol' Tim emerged from the pity party that was "Don't Take The Girl", and amped things up a bit.  However, this song, although catchy!  Is still rather grating, after about 100 10 listens.



John Michael Montgomery had "I Can Love You Like That".  Poor John Michael.  Tagged with the unfortunate reputation of not being able to sing on-key without autotune.  I'm not reporting that to be mean.  I can't sing on-key most of the time, either.  But I'm not a recording artist, now, am I?

This next video is not "I Can Love You Like That", because I can't find it, but it really doesn't matter.  All his songs were pretty much the same; covers of boy band hits, and why he felt this was a good career move, I do not know.



Remember Tracy Byrd?  That's okay.  That's why I'm here ~ to remind you.

Like the David Lee Murphy song, I always had a distaste for Tracy.  That sounds mean.  And it's nothing I can put my finger on, actually.  I'm sure he's a great guy, and he's a good friend of Mark Chesnutt, and I love Mark Chesnutt.  I guess it is that he always came across to me as disingenuous.  He recorded these songs that he thought would make him a star (and they did for awhile), but it was so fakey; artificial.  Hence, "The Keeper of the Stars":



Alan Jackson is better than this.  Better than this corny novelty song.  That's what I mean about 1995.  These guys weren't playing their "A" game.  Nobody remembers this song, nor should they:



So, that's about it.  I do slightly remember some of the other titles, but I'm not really interested enough to search out videos for them.  1995 was rather a blase year.

Some hokey ballads, some hokey novelty songs.  Some boy-band covers.  Kind of shameful, for country music.

But, you know, all is not lost.

Because there were some good songs. 

And I could always rely on George Strait:



From the ridiculous to the sublime; that was Alan Jackson in 1995.  Bless you, Bob McDill.  I love the sarcasm; or is it irony?  And now were are in 2012, and be careful what you predict.........



What's not to love about Diamond Rio?



Not sure what became of the Mavericks, but they should still be around, making music.  Although now, it wouldn't be considered "country" music, of course.



One could pretty much share any video from Mark Chesnutt, and not go wrong.  Let me tell you, Mark ranks right up there.  I don't know why he's been pushed aside, but I also don't know why Gene Watson was pushed aside, either.  It's an enduring mystery.  We live in a disposable society?  We throw away the good stuff in order to experience a new crop of crap?



You may not remember George Ducas; he had one, maybe two albums.  Again, there is no accounting for taste, because this guy should still be a big star.  Watch and listen to "Lipstick Promises":



If you think David Ball was just about thinkin' problems, well, he wasn't.  He also had a follow-up hit, and I like it, because it's country, and I miss country:



I haven't featured Pam Tillis in awhile.  Remember, Pam was huge in the nineties, deservedly so.



I like this Clint Black song.  It's the country equivalent to the omnipresent list of "essential summer songs".




I say, thank goodness for CMT in the nineties.  Because, without CMT, I would never find these songs, and they're worth finding.  Lari White had another good song, this time in 1995, and it was this one:



And now we get to the superstar of the 1990's.  No, it wasn't Garth Brooks.  And you thought it was!  Ah, but you forget!  I doubt that Garth sits home at night, at his kitchen table, nursing an iced tea, ruminating about how some woman outshone him in the 1990's.  But there it is.

And here it is:



And, oh, did I forget to mention her name?  It's Shania Twain:



I leave 1995 behind, but not without this song, by Vince Gill.  



In summation, 1995 had its bad, and it had its really, really good.  As do all years.

I enjoy reliving those times, and while I am quick to disparage, I always come back to the really, really good.  Because that's just me.  I like the good.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bad Years In Country Music ~ Let's Not Forget The Nineties


I've been feeling a bit guilty about honing in on the decades of the seventies and eighties, when, in actuality, all decades have their allotment of bad music.  No doubt the sixties did, too, but that time frame would be more of a history lesson for me, as opposed to a clear remembrance.  (Don't worry; I'm sure I'll get to that decade as well).

Why pick on 1994?

Well, a quick scan of the charts points to the sad fact that a lot of the big names of the late eighties/early nineties had sort of peaked by then.  And thus, they were recording substandard songs.  Vince Gill, Tracy Lawrence, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis, Ricky Van Shelton, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt....their big hits had already happened.  That's not to say that some of these guys didn't go on to record better songs later; but 1994 was apparently a watershed year (I always wanted to use the phrase "watershed year") in their careers. 

Also, in 1994, we saw the first appearances of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, et al, and we all know what that led to.  I don't think I have to paint a picture.

And remember John Michael Montgomery?  He'd had a big hit with "Life's A Dance", and everybody liked it, even though we had that lingering quibble that he didn't actually sing the song on key.  But we chose to overlook it.  By 1994, he, too, was on the downslide, and now he's known as the brother of that guy who sings in a duo about what his hometown looks like.

I'm not saying there weren't good, or even great songs, released in 1994.  Because there were.  But there was a lot of impossible-to-scrub-from-your-mind drivel, as well.  As evidenced by this (which appears to have been the top hit of the year):

TIM MCGRAW:



There are so many things wrong with this song, it's a chore to even begin.  First of all, that thin, reedy voice.  But really, the voice is the least of this recording's issues.  It's the whole smarmy, "am I supposed to cry now?" vibe that it gives off.  One knows where the song is heading, after the middle of the first verse.  I don't know who wrote it (and I could look it up, but I'm not really that interested), and these guys (I'm just guessing it's "guys", plural, because, you know, that's the big fad ~ co-writing ~ as if it is impossible for one to actually write a whole song by oneself) don't really care that I hate this song, nor that anyone with any modicum of taste hates this song, because they made huge dollars from it, and he who laughs last....has the last laugh....or something.

And then there was Garth Brooks with "The Red Strokes".  I barely remember this song, and don't bother looking, because you will never find a Garth Brooks video online (except for a couple of grainy live performance videos), so I'm choosing to just ignore Garth Brooks for the rest of this post.  If and when he decides to stop hording his videos, maybe I'll give him his due.

But, of course, not everyone had horrible taste in 1994.  Just most people.  However, this song was a big, big hit, and it actually deserved it.

I've written about this song before, and you can call it "kitschy"; or call it whatever you want.  I love this song.  And it's a true original.

DAVID BALL



And then we had LITTLE TEXAS.

Little Texas had a couple of really good songs, and this one was the best.  Unfortunately (of course), apparently Little Texas, or what is left of them without Brady Seals, chooses not to share its videos online (they attended the Garth Brooks school of artist promotion).  So, in order to include this song, I had to go with this video, which was created, I'm sure, out of love.  But I'd rather have an actual video of the guys performing the song.



I don't know if VINCE GILL ever recorded a bad song.  This is a song he wrote about Amy Grant, when he really wasn't supposed to, but he did anyway.



Remember MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER?  I always liked her.  I guess she aged too much, and they didn't want her anymore.  Isn't that the way it goes?



You're probably asking yourself at this point, well, where are the actual BAD songs?  I mean, aside from Tim McGraw?  Well, you know me.  I prefer positive energy to negative, so I'm skipping a bunch of bad ones, and featuring the ones I like.

I know that tends to not prove my theory, but would I rather be right, or rather have fun?  I'll take fun.

So, here's one, by ALAN JACKSON:



We also had TRISHA YEARWOOD in 1994.  Trisha, unsurprisingly, adheres to her husband's (Garth's) theory regarding NOT sharing videos online, so, alas, we're stuck with this pale green (and who thinks that's an attractive color?) video of  "Xxx's and Ooo's" (and doesn't that actually read, "X's and ooohs"?  I think the spelling is off here.)



And then there was FAITH HILL.  I've got nothing against Faith.  Okay, I do.  But it's not necessarily because of this song.  Although I read that she'd never in her life heard the Janis Joplin version.  I'm thinking little Faith led a very sheltered life.  No, what I really have against Faith Hill is that she alone caused me to finally give up on country music.  But it was a later song that did it.  Something about breathing.  And one wouldn't think that breathing would be bad.  But it was.

EDIT:  Sorry, I removed this video.  It was kind enough to auto-play, and I like to make up my own mind whether to listen to/watch a video or not.  But you can find it online, if you search really hard (it's not on YouTube).

I don't think I remember where I was the first time I heard any song, except for this one.  I distinctly remember sitting in my parked car, waiting to pick up my kids from school, when this song came on the radio.  Why do I remember it?  I'll guess it was (a) because it was my very favorite singer, GEORGE STRAIT; and (b) because it was so good.  I almost swooned over this song.  Especially when he hit the high notes. 



Speaking of good, what about DWIGHT YOAKAM?



Let's not forget PATTY LOVELESS (she ranks right up there with Patsy and Tammy, really):



I didn't realize this next song was from 1994.  I have a quibble with a popular radio/TV host using this as his theme song, because I wonder if he ever actually listened to the whole song, aside from the tag line.  Because this song is pretty stark and dramatic, and it's not actually a patriotic song (duh).

Here is MARTINA MCBRIDE:



I truly hate songs about tractors.  Because everyone who sings them has no clue about tractors.  They could just as well be singing about jumbo paper clips.  This one, however, seems more authentic; a slice of small-town life.  My dad would like this song, even though he hated John Deere tractors.

Here is JOE DIFFIE:



To help prove my point about bad music in 1994, Tim McGraw makes yet another appearance.  This video is striking, if for no other reason than for the odd way Tim wears his hat.   But I guess that's his "signature", isn't it?  Wearing one's hat like a dork ~ must be Tim McGraw!

And let's not even get into the offensiveness of this song.  Because, where does one start?



I remember getting up early in the morning, shuffling to the bathroom to get ready for work; flipping on the FM radio, and hearing this song, and just thinking about it.  Every morning.

I am an unabashed COLLIN RAYE fan.  I don't know Tom Douglas's work, but I know this song.  And Tom must have had a special, personal insight, in order to write this.  This proves that the best songs aren't necessarily written by the people whose names you know.  The song stands on its own.



Most people (I'm guessing) don't remember LARI WHITE.  I do.  I bought two of her CD's.  I think she was just great.  And here is one that proves it:



Like Lari White, you may not remember THE MAVERICKS  I always found the name, The Mavericks, ironic, because my best friend, Alice, was in a band called The Mavericks, until somebody raised a fuss, and said, hey, we've got that name!  Pick something different!  

But that's neither here nor there.  This Mavericks was headed by Raul Malo.  And here is a 1994 song, and a good one:



Speaking of tractors (you have to keep up ~ that was a few paragraphs back), what about THE TRACTORS?

Never had another hit song; but that's how the old train rolls,doesn't it?

I leave you with Baby Likes To Rock It:



So, my theory is essentially moot.  I thought 1994 was bad, but it really was sort of good.

Okay, I skipped a bunch.  I just couldn't bring myself to relive the bad parts of 1994.  But you can look it up, if you are a masochist.  Trust me, though, there was some bad stuff in 1994.

The thing was, though, the good outweighed the bad.  That's the thing about radio.

One can remember a year as being bad, but if they take a closer look, it's really that the bad stuff was so omnipresent, it obscured the good things.

Maybe it's just that 1994 was a harbinger of the bad times to come.  And believe me, there were bad times to come.

But I must say, I've enjoyed this look back (most of it).  So, it's a win-win.  I'd forgotten most of it, but that's what comes with old age.  One tends to forget things, or bundle them into one big thing; one that has no identifiable parameters, but rather, tends to be something we like to call the "good old days".

Lord, I guess I've finally crossed that threshold, haven't I?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Sad Ones


Since I'm in a pretty decent mood tonight, I thought, why not make good on my earlier promise, and feature some sad songs?

See, one doesn't want to listen to sad songs when they're actually sad, because that might just push one over the edge, you know? I'm not saying I haven't had those moments in my life, when I cried in my beer, listening to the saddest songs I could find in my playlist. Because I have. Hasn't everyone?

And, just for the record, I don't think crying is a bad thing. Of course, I'm a female, and females understand that. Crying is actually cathartic. Men need to learn that.

Anyway, the weird thing to me about so-called "sad" songs is, they don't make me feel sad. They make me feel, which is completely different.

Trying to post sad songs is like trying to find three songs to download for free from your local library (And thanks, by the way. Nice feature). The choices are daunting.

Every songwriter or would-be songwriter (like me!) writes sad songs. They're easy! Who's happy all the time? Only the insane.

And sad is relative, I'll say.

Some of the songs I post here may be considered more "inspirational" than sad. I don't know. You be the judge. They seem sad, or at least wistful, to me.

So, relying on my tiny memory cells and what I can find on YouTube, let's all get sad.

Naturally, the first song that comes to mind for me, when I think of sad songs, doesn't actually have a real video associated with it. But I'm still starting with this one, by Earl Thomas Conley:



Brooks & Dunn:





By way of disclosure, I don't like Rascal Flatts, generally. HOWEVER, I like this one, and this one is sad.



I don't really like the video for this song. That's just my personal preference. Personally, I think they should have left it up to each listener's imagination. Nevertheless, what is sadder than Alison Krauss singing, well, anything?



Nobody features Gary Allen enough. I'm glad I have the opportunity to do it here:



No video for this song, of course, but it's one of my favorite George Strait recordings:



And speaking of George, I didn't really want to double up on singers here, but I think this is a mightily sad song:



Everybody tends to cite the same ones, when they're talking about the saddest country songs. I'm not really aiming for the saddest songs "ever", but more, the songs that make me cry. Yup, everybody has "Whiskey Lullaby" and "When I Call Your Name", but let's face it, they're sad. So, there's no getting around it. I'm not going with "He Stopped Loving Her Today", because everyone lists that as the number one saddest country song. I don't know. Not to me, I guess. But music is a personal thing.

In conclusion, I don't know if this song is supposed to be sad or inspirational, but let me just say that this song makes me cry. Every time. So, I'm including it. And it gets the cherished "top spot" in my list of sad songs, because it's just that good.



If I made you cry with at least one of the videos here, then my job is done.

I'm betting it's the last one. But that's entirely up to you. But you'd be crazy if it wasn't that last one.

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: