My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Monthly Archives: February 2010

Classic Rewind: Ferlin Husky – ‘Wings Of A Dove/Country Music Is Here To Stay’

Another of the new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame with his biggest hit – followed by a performance by his comic alter ego Simon Crum featuring parodies of Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb and Kitty Wells:

Week ending 2/27/10: #1 singles this week in country music history

1950: Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy — Red Foley (Decca)

1960: He’ll Have To Go — Jim Reeves (RCA)

1970: It’s Just A Matter Of Time — Sonny James (Capitol)

1980: Years — Barbara Mandrell (MCA)

1990: On Second Thought — Eddie Rabbitt (Universal)

2000: My Best Friend — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2010: Why Don’t We Just Dance — Josh Turner (MCA)

Week ending 2/27/10: #1 albums this week in country music history

1985: Ricky Skaggs – Country Boy (Sony)

1990: Clint Black – Killin’ Time (RCA)

1995: Garth Brooks – The Hits (Capitol)

2000: Dixie Chicks – Fly (Sony)

2005: Various Artists – Totally Country, Vol. 4 (BMG)

2010: Lady Antebellum – Need You Now (Capitol)

Classic Rewind: Jimmy Dean – ‘Big Bad John’

The signature song from new Country Music Hall of Fame member Jimmy Dean:

Classic Rewind: Don Williams – ‘(Turn Out The Light And) Love Me Tonight’

A #1 hit from 1975 from one of the new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame:

Classic Rewind: Gary Allan – ‘Watching Airplanes’

Classic Rewind: Carlene Carter – ‘Unbreakable Heart’

Single Review: Jessica Harp – ‘A Woman Needs’

Written by Jordan Stacey.  – J.R.

Jessica Harp was once one half of The Wreckers along with Michelle Branch. After one successful record they decided they’d go back to pursuing their solo careers. Jessica looked to be off to a good start last year with her first song, ‘Boy Like Me’, climbing nicely when it suddenly died out at #30 on the charts. She comes back this time with the title track to her delayed debut album A Woman Needs. Much like her first single this one is an uptempo song with a catchy driving beat. What probably killed ‘Boy Like Me’ was that while catchy it was a little hard to relate to it. The first verse was inventive if hard to follow. This song sounds much less convulted while sacrificing some of the inventiveness.

Girl power anthems were all the rage back in the 90’s with Shania Twain and Jo Dee Messina leading the way. They’ve more or less gone away at this point with the last one in recent memory being Bomshel’s ‘Fight Like A Girl’ which also peaked at #30. However this one feels like a hit, it has the same clear voiced performance that drove most of Twain and Messina’s biggest hits, it’s catchy as hell, and just judging by my little sister and her friends singing along to this one I can see the target audience eating this up.

Jessica sounds fun and lively on it, the music doesn’t blend together for the most part, and it’s relatable, all the things hit songs are made of. Is it a great song that’ll be remembered in ten years? Probably not. It’s a good sounding single that should get Jessica the hit she’s been looking for.

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Ray Price – ‘City Lights’

Moonlighting

They’re gonna put me in the movies,
They’re gonna make a big star out of me.
We’ll make a film about a man that’s sad and lonely,
And all I gotta do is act naturally.

— Buck Owens, 1963

I’ve been watching a lot of classic films lately, revisiting old favorites that I haven’t seen in a long time, as well as finally watching a few that I hadn’t gotten around to yet. I caught a showing of True Grit on cable the other night; I’d seen it once when I was very young but I had forgotten most of it. The 1969 Western earned John Wayne the only Academy Award of his career. It also marked the first major silver screen appearance by Glen Campbell, who had been hand-picked by The Duke to be his co-star. Although he garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer, I found Campbell’s performance to be unimpressive. In fact, Campbell’s unconvincing portrayal of a Texas Ranger, combined with a very irritating lead female character played by Kim Darby, made it nearly impossible for me to enjoy the picture.

Of course, one tends to cut Campbell some slack when taking into account that he is primarily known as a singer, and not an actor. It made me realize that while many singers have dabbled in acting (and many actors have attempted to become singers), people who actually excel in both fields are few and far between. There is no doubt after watching Pure Country, that George Strait’s decision to to pursue a music career instead of an acting career was a wise one. Ditto for Clint Black, who turned in an embarrassing performance in the 1998 made-for-television film Still Holding On: The Legend Of Cadillac Jack. Randy Travis’ decline on the music charts is partially blamed on the amount of time he spent away from Nashville, trying to break into the movies. Dwight Yoakam, on the other hand, earned critical acclaim for his performances in Sling Blade and South of Heaven, West of Hell, and a handful of other pictures.

Kris Kristofferson is somewhat of an anomaly in this category, since he is a much better actor than singer. With nearly 90 theatrical and television films to his credit, he is probably Nashville’s most prolific ambassador to Hollywood.

Overall, the women of country music seem to have fared better in Hollywood than their male counterparts. Dolly Parton made her film debut in the 1980 comedy 9 to 5. She seemed perfectly at ease on the big screen, though admittedly, the role of Doralee, like most of the other roles that followed it, was not a huge stretch for her. Barbara Mandrell experienced some modest success after being bitten by the acting bug when her music career was winding down. In the 90s she had a recurring role in the daytime drama Sunset Beach and she made several guest appearances on other television shows of the day, such as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Walker, Texas Ranger.

However, with the possible exception of Kristofferson, Reba McEntire is arguably the country singer with the most successful acting career. Her first foray into film was 1990’s Tremors. That was followed by a string of television movies, including a co-starring role with Kenny Rogers in The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw. Eventually she earned critical acclaim on Broadway and then went on to star in her own sitcom for five and a half years.

Still, at the end of the day, all of these people will be remembered for their contributions to music, rather than as great actors. Some day we may see one of Nashville’s finest thanking the Academy as he or she accepts his or her Oscar, but I think that day is still in the distant future.

What country singers do you feel have done a particularly good or bad job moonlighting as actors?

Classic Rewind: Cal Smith – ‘Country Bumpkin’

Album Review: – Gary Allan ‘Tough All Over’

Written by Jordan Stacey.  – J.R.

Album number six for Gary Allan should’ve been a much happier proceeding than what it turned out to be. He was coming off of two platinum albums, and three number one hits. For most artists this would be a cause for celebration. While recording his sixth studio album Gary was dealt a really bad hand in life. His wife of 3 years took her life. Reports said he had no idea what led her to make that decision and throughout this album Gary is still questioning what happened.

The album opens up with the title track, a rocking little number called ‘Tough All Over’. Written by Odie Blackmon and Jim Lauderdale, this is the happiest we’ll see Gary for the remainder of the album. It’s one of the weaker tracks, but serves its purpose of getting you ready for a really heavy and hard to listen to album.

For the lead single and second track Gary chose to cover frat-rock band Vertical Horizon’s ‘Best I Ever Had’. It’s a testament to his vocal talent that he’s able to turn such a song into a heartbreaking ballad. The lyrics to this one always struck me as a perfect fit for his situation. There’s been a lot of rock songs covered by country singers but this is one of the few that actually merits some listening. The song continued his streak of hits making it into the top 10 peaking at #7.

As we move deeper into the album the pain Gary was in while recording starts to become clearer. ‘I Just Got Back From Hell’, written by Gary with Harley Allen, has a stripped down feel without actually being stripped down. This is the song that most obviously deals with his wife’s death. With lines like “Well, I’ve been mad at everyone, including God and You / When You Can’t Find no one to blame you just blame yourself” and Forgive me if I had any part / if I ever broke your heart in two / forgive me for what I didn’t know / for what I didn’t say or do” we find Gary still doesn’t know what he did wrong.  A missed opportunity for a great single here, but it was probably too personal to Gary to be released.

The next two tracks speak of the end of marriages. The first, ‘Ring’, sounds bleaker than if it had been recorded by any other artist. It’s not meant to be a happy song really, but due to the circumstances it was recorded in, it sounds almost haunted. The way Gary sings the lyrics it almost sounds like he’s going crazy.  The second song, ‘Promise Broken’, is referencing marriage vows and other broken promises. It’s a good song but on this album it gets caught between two of the stand out tracks and seems to get lost.

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Classic Rewind: Rosanne Cash – ‘Tennessee Flat Top Box’

Week ending 2/20/10: #1 singles this week in country music history

1950: Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy — Red Foley (Decca)

1960: He’ll Have To Go — Jim Reeves (RCA)

1970: It’s Just A Matter Of Time — Sonny James (Capitol)

1980: Love Me Over Again — Don Williams (MCA)

1990: On Second Thought — Eddie Rabbitt (Universal)

2000: Cowboy, Take Me Away — Dixie Chicks (Monument)

2010: Why Don’t We Just Dance — Josh Turner (MCA)

Week ending 2/20/10: #1 albums this week in country music history

1985: The Judds – Why Not Me (RCA)

1990: Clint Black – Killin’ Time (RCA)

1995: Garth Brooks – The Hits (Capitol)

2000: Dixie Chicks – Fly (Sony)

2005: Kenny Chesney – Be As You Are (BNA)

2010: Lady Antebellum – Need You Now (Capitol)

Classic Rewind: Gene Watson – ‘What She Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Her’

Classic Rewind: Trisha Yearwood – ‘Victim of the Game’

Classic Rewind: Dolly Parton – ‘Dumb Blonde’

A young Dolly Parton with her first hit single.

Songwriters sound off

The recent minor Twitter storm elicited by Miranda Lambert’s hurt feelings over singer-songwriter Patty Griffin saying in Entertainment Weekly that she thought the latter’s cover of her song ‘Getting Ready’ on 2007’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was “loud”, has led me to think about the question of whether what writers say in public about covers of their songs is generally what they truly think.

In the original interview, Griffin was asked for her opinion of several covers of her songs:

”It doesn’t have to be loud,” she says of Lambert’s raucous ”Getting Ready.” ”To me, it’s tongue-in-cheek. When you’re younger, forces inside of you are telling you to stand on a table and scream and tell people to look at you.”

This is actually a rather more fundamental criticism than the initial impression that volume was the problem. Rather, this sounds like the writer of a song who feels an artist misinterpreted it, in this case by taking the lyric too much on face value.

I have some sympathy for both parties here; it seems perfectly reasonable for Miranda Lambert to be disappointed that her effort did not meet with the approval of Ms. Griffin, who is (or was) obviously someone whose work she admires, and I have no doubt that she approached her cover of the song with a genuine sense of respect. Yet to me it seems naive, and perhaps even disingenuous of any artist to assume that they have done such a favor to a writer by covering their song that it must be met by nothing but grateful plaudits, which is the impression given by Miranda’s follow-up Tweet, “Sad when your hero’s [sic] let you down”.

I believe an artist should have the freedom to interpret a song as they choose, and not necessarily follow the style or feel of the original. But I also believe that the writer is entitled not to like the results, and to say so if they choose to do so. Professional songwriters whose living depends on getting cuts must feel they should keep a tactful silence should they dislike any particular version of one of their songs. I am sure that many more left-field singer-songwriters are also grateful for the money and the name recognition which comes when a successful chart act covers a song – but that doesn’t mean they should feel obliged to say they love the recording whenever they’re asked.

Dolly Parton, on the other hand, stands on the opposite side of the spectrum. She is a very generous songwriter who has been very open to wildly different takes on her songs, for instance Whitney Houston’s pop-R&B reimagining of her ‘I Will Always Love You’ and the stylistic variety of the covers on the tribute album Just Because I’m A Woman. But she is in a different position to some degree given her own status; these covers, whether successful or otherwise, cannot detract from the success Dolly herself originally had with the song. She rarely speaks negatively about anyone in any case. Similarly, Randy Travis, who made his name reclaiming traditional country from pop influences in the 80s, was politely complimentary about current pop-country singer Carrie Underwood’s version of his 1988 hit ‘I Told You So’, and was rewarded by a cameo on the single.

Do you think songwriters should take the money and shut up, or say only nice things about covers of their songs?  Or should they be free to criticize a singer’s interpretation of their lyrics?

Classic Rewind: Johnny Paycheck – ‘The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised’