Showing posts with label willie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label willie. Show all posts

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Me and Country Music in 1977

Music wasn't foremost in my mind in 1977. My son was born in November of 1976, so I was busy. I had known nothing about babies, but the old adage is actually true -- babies are resilient, despite their parents' ignorance. Unless, of course, you can actually kill them with love (you can't).

I had quit working -- which is sort of amusing. As if one can just quit and magically be able to sustain their family. It would be more accurate to say that I took a break. Considering that we were pitiably poor, taking a break was either a selfless act of motherly love or a dimwitted blunder. Honestly, though, how many material goods does one need? Most every newly-married couple I knew lived in a mobile home (it was the seventies -- thanks to Jimmy Carter, nobody could afford anything).  It's funny how people love to throw around the term "trailer trash", but much like commenters on news sites who are instant experts on health insurance, people in general are ignorant. My house was nice. It was new, for one thing. I guess people are put off by the "shape" of mobile homes. Inside, however, it's a regular home. Morons. I had actual appliances and everything -- a washer and dryer; not a washboard. I will grant you that heating and air conditioning costs were astronomical. That was thanks to the paper-thin walls. But it was a mobile home. If I'd wanted good insulation, I guess we could have rented an apartment -- if we could find one. Apartments in the seventies in my town were practically unheard of. Some homeowners had little apartments on the upper floors of their houses. There were a couple of squat brick buildings that were "apartment houses". They were generally situated in the less-than-desirable areas of town. And they were meant for singles; not for families. The working girls, the State employees who hadn't yet found a husband.

I bought baby clothes at Woolworth's. I was a big Woolworth's consumer. We had a TV and a stereo and a stroller. The drawback of living in a mobile home park was the habitat -- long, long streets that went on forever. And yea, there were undesirable people I encountered while pushing my baby in his stroller down that interminable street. The park was a conglomeration of regular working people, those on their third divorce and their fourth batch of kids, upwardly mobile couples who held their nose and padded their savings accounts until they could afford to get the hell out, groups of party-bros sharing the rent. Yet, in 1977 there was a pastoral horse pasture across the street from my home. A white picket fence and lazy mares sidling up for a snack. That didn't last long -- progress and more lots to develop -- but it was there for a while -- and my baby boy and I saw it.

Music hovered between background minutiae and rare gems. Country music was in flux in 1977 -- the Outlaws and the In-Laws. Sixties holdovers, urban cowboys, and new jewels. I was nearing the end of the line with country music, yet I wouldn't give up on it completely until 1984. I hated most of it, but I kept holding out hope that something magical would happen.

This is what I remember:

Apparently Waylon and Willie saw no need to do a live version of this song. This was the best video I could find, and all in all, it's not bad:

After a time, I grew tired of Crystal Gayle and her hair. I mean, how many times can one watch a girl flipping her four-foot-long tresses? It was odd and led to many questions, such as, how much did she pay for plumber visits? And how much must the plumbers hate getting that call? "Oh, it's Long Hair again. You wanna take this one, Bob?" Nevertheless, this was a nice song the first fifty times I heard it.

George and Tammy got back together briefly in 1977, because they knew a good thing when they heard it. And when we heard it. It's so nice to hear Tammy again. There are two female singers who knew, really knew, how to sing country -- Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette. It's that indefinable, know-it-when-you-hear-it quality. Tammy had it:

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, many of the hits I remember from 1977 are unavailable on YouTube, so I will forego "The Wurlitzer Prize" Instead, let's take a look at a track that was truly country, and sustained my puny faith in country music. Unfortunately, no performance from 1977 can be found (and Emmylou had long black hair then -- not as long as Crystal Gayle's -- just sayin').

If one was to tick off the top singles from 1977, there would be these two. One is catchy -- really really catchy. The other is stuck in time. I'll let you be the judge:

But you know me. I'm a sucker for real country. This song, to me, will always represent 1977. My baby boy won't remember it, but I do:

If one is to remember the good times, music provides that nudge. When I hear these songs, I'm back in my mobile home kitchen with its frilly curtains, the FM radio blaring out of my faux-walnut console stereo, my baby nodding off in his play swing in the living room as I watch him from my perch in front of the avocado GE range. I was but a child then, playing at being a grownup. 

But I had my baby...and music.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just To Prove My Point About Critics

If you go back and read the two posts before this one, I listed a gaggle of what I consider to be "essential" country albums.

Well, it seems that good old EW decided to follow my lead! Hey, I love Entertainment Weekly, so I'm just happy that they decided to do a list at all.

25 Country Albums You Need To Hear (Even If You Hate Country Music)

EW is heavy on the more modern albums, but I was pleasantly surprised by some of their choices.

But remember when I wrote this?

"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).

Well, here you go......highlights from their list.....

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

Critics love this album. But, I don't know. I guess if you were actually around in 1968, it may have long ago lost its cache.

I like Johnny Cash. But, to critics, he holds some kind of "original outlaw" status.

I'm not all that concerned with image. I just like good music.

I didn't include this on my essential albums list, and I still stand by that. I will say, however, that anyone just learning to play guitar should just sit and strum/pick along with "Folsom Prison Blues". You'll sound like a virtuoso to yourself in no time.

Home - Dixie Chicks

Well, "Fly" was far superior.

Critics like this album because this was released around the time that the DC just started becoming "political".

Props to "Traveling Soldier". Buy the mp3 single; skip the album.

Unless you really feel like contributing to their "cause". Whatever that may be.

Dwight Yoakam - Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.

No quibbles here. This was Dwight's first album, and it's got
a couple of Dwight classics.

I, however, would recommend one of the greatest hits packages or one of a number of other superior offerings.

Pick any one of them. You can't really go wrong.

Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose

The reason critics like this one is because Jack White produced it.

I bought it. I played it one time.

Pretty picture, though, huh?

Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger

The reason critics like Willie Nelson is that he plays and records with pretty much everyone in the world. I have a shoebox sitting here that Willie will be recording his next album with. Looking forward to it!

This album does have "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain", so that's a plus. It's a stark recording. I just like a little more instrumentation on the songs I listen to. I do like Willie, though. Just kinda wish he was a little more discerning about who/what he records with. But that's Willie.

Buck Owens - Carnegie Hall Concert

Already mentioned it. In fact, it was the first album I listed.

Nice of EW to follow my lead, though.

(EW then listed a bunch of modern-day stuff that you can or cannot buy. Whatever. It's your dollar.)

Gram Parsons - The Complete Reprise Sessions

I'm not overly knowledgeable about Gram Parsons. I basically know him as Emmylou's mentor.

That said, I appreciate his love and respect for older country music.

The reason that critics flock to his music is that he died young. Much like Jim Morrison.

Guys that write EW articles aren't exactly sitting back, grooving to classic country music. But I do give them credit for trying to appear relevant!

Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors

Weird thing about me and Dolly: I like Dolly; I just don't like like like Dolly.

It's hard to explain. While I definitely appreciate her enormous talent, and while I really loved her duets with Porter, I can't actually sit and listen to a whole album of Dolly at one sitting. I guess a little Dolly goes a long way for me.

Why do critics choose one of her albums? Because she crossed over. She recorded with Kenny Rogers, with that godawful, yet catchy! Barry Gibb song, Islands In The Stream. She starred in Nine To Five. You just know the critics aren't cranking up the far superior, Tomorrow Is Forever.

Emmylou Harris - Elite Hotel

Yea, I beat 'em to it again. But compliments from me on their good taste!

I already said that this is Emmylou's finest album. If you don't own it, you really should.

Robbie Fulks - Georgia Hard

Robbie Fulks = Alt Country.

Alt Country = Country That Used To Be Country, But Is Now Too COUNTRY To Be Called Country.

Is that clear? Cuz it seems kind of nonsensical, but that's just the way it is.

I don't actually own this album, but I own a bunch of Robbie Fulks CD's. I think I might have to get this one.

Critics like Robbie Fulks because he's "alt". I like him because he likes country music. And he's unique.

Listen to Tears Only Run One Way. That sounds like country to me. Do you think maybe Rodney Crowell was influenced by Robbie? I think that's a pretty safe bet.

Hank Williams - Gold

The only reason I didn't include Hank Williams on my lists is because it seems like kind of a no-brainer.

I mean, isn't it just assumed that Hank Williams would be included among the essential country albums?

Just listen to this, and it tells you all you really need to know about country music.

Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard

Okay, if you want to do Merle Haggard on the cheap.

I still say, buy Down Every Road. It's a tremendous bargain. Especially for the successor to Hank's throne.

Shania Twain - Come On Over

Agreed. This is Shania's best album.

When this album was released in 1997, we music fans were supposed to feel stupid for liking it. Poppycock.

This albums stands up. I don't care if you think it's poppy schlock or really, what you think of it. It's good.

I got up, like a drunken fool, with my best friend, at another friend's wedding dance, and sang this song. I had morning-after regret, but you know, it's a really good song! Recorded with Bryan White, I think it's actually the perfect wedding song!

Steve Earle - Guitar Town

It's not that I meant to exclude this album. I just sort of forgot.

Step inside any honky tonk in the nineties, and you would hear the driving strains of Guitar Town, not to mention Hillbilly Highway. All that's missing here is Copperhead Road.

Sadly, Steve Earle pretty much had one great album. He's recorded a lot of them, but I guess one shouldn't peak too soon. It kind of makes everything else you do sound like second best.

Guitar Town has some of the most clever and catchy lines ever written in a country song. It makes songwriters strive to capture that fairy dust. Alas, it's not easy.

Vince Gill - These Days

Okay, I'll admit it. I don't own this album. I know that's it's purported to be Vince's best, and a four-disc set, to boot.

Is this worth purchasing? Let me know.

What track should I listen to from this set, to make me want to buy it?

I'm a Vince Gill fan; don't get me wrong. I just sort of stopped listening to country a few (okay, five) years before this album was released, so I missed it.

I have no doubt, however, that it's as great as all the critics say it is.

Almost Blue - Elvis Costello

Why do critics like it? Well, it's a rock star doing country music.

It's sort of, you know, like how the critics latched on to country music when Keith Richards recorded a country album. It's the unexpected.

Critics don't really give a hoot about country music until one of their icons tells them that country music is cool. Then they'll listen. I'm waiting for Springsteen to record his country album. Oh, and it's coming. Trust me.

I have this album. I'm not one of those Costello worshipers. But I do appreciate what he did here. And if Elvis can get folks (like critics) to listen to country, then God bless Elvis Costello.

Raising Sand - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

This is one of my favorite albums ever!

I didn't exclude it from my list on purpose. I just didn't know that it was a country album!

Killing The Blues is one of my favorite songs from this LP (LP - how much does that date me?)

And, of course, Gone Gone Gone.

Why do critics like this? Well, a critic would have to be a real dunce not to like Alison Krauss. But aside from that, well, it's Robert Plant, after all. Led Zeppelin?

The juxtaposition between Robert Plant doing Robert Plant-like stuff, and Robert Plant doing T Bone Burnett stuff just boggles the critics' minds.

T Bone really deserves the credit here. Sure, if you, as a producer, have two stellar voices to work with, it might seem easy. But it's the production that really cinches the deal.

After all, before he even imagined pairing Alison and Plant, he hooked us with this song, ably lip-synched by George Clooney in the Coen (Minnesota!) Brothers movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

So, yes, I skipped a bunch of EW's recommendations. I really had no comments to make on some of them, since I couldn't really tell you if they're good, not so good, terrible, or pathetic. (I will say, for the record, however, that I do consider Big & Rich to fall into the "pathetic" column.)

My EW grade? Cuz, you know, if you read Entertainment Weekly, the critics love to give a grade to everything they review.

Actually: B+

Nice effort, for someone who is (I assume) playing catch up with country music. Whoever you are, writer, you've done an admirable job.

Those remedial courses are working out nicely!