My Kind of Country

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

Finding your fix

In these times of un-fulfillment for the country music fan, I’m finding myself turning to my other favorite genres and artists for comfort.  The country fan that listens only to country music is rare, even among listeners like me for whom country is by far the primary source for music.  My tastes run to the extreme sometimes: from Alice Cooper to Amy Grant and from zydeco to the blues, and a lot in between.  I’m certainly not one of those ‘I’ll listen to anything’ fans; my preferences, while eclectic, are strongly defined.  And I would think that’s the case with all of us passionate music fans.

So, on to my original thought: finding great music outside country’s umbrella when the mainstream – and even the indies – just aren’t doing it for you at the moment.  Last Fall, I bought an impulse collection – a 3-CD collection from Linda Ronstadt.  I had only heard her own singing a couple of times, but I knew her songs from covers by the likes of Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, and Martina McBride.  Terri Clark had a hit with Linda’s ‘Poor, Poor Pitiful Me’ early in her career.  Trisha Yearwood, especially, speaks very, very highly of Ronstadt.  And I know Hank Williams Jr. once name-checked her in one of his many hits.  But Hank Jr. name-checks everybody.  But with all that high praise from some of my favorite artists, I figured a bargain Linda Ronstadt collection would be worth my money.  After all, with 40 songs, I was bound to find something I liked.  Needless to say, like so many others before me, I was instantly drawn to Linda’s really big, really emotive voice.  Further listening to her catalog has also shown me that she has an incredible ear for material as well.

Linda Ronstadt’s catalog is possibly the most diverse among her contemporaries, and I readily admit that I don’t fully appreciate her forays into jazz and traditional Mexican music, among other styles she’s tackled.  However, I do find her to be an able performer of opera, rock, pop, and even country.  Linda charted 5 top 10 country singles in the ’70s, along with 3 #1 country albums.  That’s a better country track record than a lot of artists, but her real commercial success came in the mid to late ’70s when she was hailed ‘the highest paid woman in Rock’, and the genre’s ‘first lady’.  Not many singers or musicians from outside the country world have been as accepted by the country music industry as Ronstadt was.  I’ve now acquired a box set and 7 studio albums from Linda.

I’m still finding new music to add to my collection these days.  Admittedly, a lot of it is only new to me.  But I’m also finding that the more new artists that I add to my library lately, the fewer and fewer decidedly country artists I am adding.  Linda Ronstadt is just the brightest and best among many new non-country additions to my rotation.  And even when I do add a country artist, it seems to be one whose charting days are well behind them.

Are you digging deep into the catalogs of country’s older hit-makers?  Or, are you seeking out independent music or looking to other genres for your musical fix?

Here’s two of my favorite finds so far in the Linda Ronstadt collection:

‘Willin’, a real, old-fashioned trucking song, complete with nods to uppers and illegal backroad hauls.

‘It’s So Easy’, a 1977 hit for Ronstadt written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty.

9 responses to “Finding your fix

  1. Bob March 30, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    I can really relate to this column. Love Ronstadt except for some of the forays you mentioned but didn’t get to see her in concert til 4 years ago when she was just shy of 60. She sounded great. First heard of her as a member of the folk rock Stone Poneys.

    When I’m not listening to country, I mainly listen to rock, doo wop and folk from the mid 50’s to the mid 70’s. Got a few Chad Mitchell trio albums for Christmas. In addition to traditional folk songs, they do some very funny songs like “The Draft Dodger Rag”, “Hang on the Bell Nellie”, “Lizzie Borden”, “Mandy Lane”, etc. Also love the Everly Brothers, Don McLean, Elton John, John Denver, Dan Fogelberg, the Eagles and many others.

  2. Occasional Hope March 30, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I don’t listen to much that’s not country at all, but I’ve been delving more into bluegrass over the last couple of years. I also seek out independent releases,

    Re. Linda Ronstadt: Have you heard the Trio records she did with Dolly and Emmylou, J.R.?

    • J.R. Journey March 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm

      I have the first one, but I don’t listen to it very much. I did like it quite a bit, it’s just one of those forgotten gems. I should load it to my iPod again … I never got around to buying the second Trio collection though.

      Linda also recorded a duets album with Emmylou Harris in 1999 called Western Wall: The Tuscon Sessions. It’s worth seeking out too.

  3. Razor X March 30, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    It’s very rare that I listen to anything but country. I’ve also been listening to more bluegrass over the past few years because I’ve been so bored by most of the mainstream offerings, but I don’t consider bluegrass to be a separate genre from country. I’ve mainly been going back through the back catalogs for artists that I’ve enjoyed in the past, for albums I might have overlooked when they were first released. I’ve also tried to give Americana a try, but that’s been very hit or miss — mostly miss.

  4. Lep March 30, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    I’m also someone who doesn’t listen to a whole lot of non-country music. I respect all genres of music, but since the country umbrella is so wide and I listen to just about every country subgenre to varying degrees, I don’t feel like there’s no variety. I’m always open-minded and am not about to shun something because it’s not country, but the truth is country is by far the genre of music that clicks the most with me.

    Most of the non-country stuff I listen to are random pop or rock songs from the 80s and 90s that either my parents introduced me to or I remember from my own childhood. Def Leppard is a huge guilty pleasure of mine. My mom would constantly play their greatest hits album in the car, and it kind of rubbed off on me. >_>

  5. Blake March 31, 2010 at 12:09 am

    I don’t think we should deride country music for drawing from pop-rock influences, but for doing it badly. I will listen to about anything, honestly, as long as I feel it has artistic value. Using Ronstadt as a jumping-off point, she was a big influence on Patty Loveless and Trisha Yearwood, who were also influenced by pop-rock artists such as Springsteen, Elvis and Ray Charles. You would be surprised what you can pick up when you try something new when the old (in this context, mainstream country music) isn’t work out for you.

  6. Michael March 31, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I’ve definitely been listening to a lot less country lately. The last two country songs that I purchased on iTunes were “Til Summer Comes Around” and “Highway 20 Ride”. Both are nearing the end of their chart runs and absolutely nothing has captured my interest since. Therefore, with not even one song on the radio that I look forward to, I’m considering deleting my city’s lone country station from my presets. I have never been this close to doing that and it makes me sad. The last country album I bought was probably six months ago. The newest acts that have caught my attention are Sugarland and Miranda Lambert and I think they’ve each been around for five years. I used to be a huge country fan and listened to just about every other genre too. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of dance.

    • Michael March 31, 2010 at 12:40 am

      I should add that my love of country goes back twenty years. My first country albums was Reba’s Rumor Has It and Garth’s No Fences, released in 1990.

  7. Paul W Dennis March 31, 2010 at 2:42 am

    My favorite subgenre of country music is western swing, which staddles the line between country and jazz . Accordingly, when I listen to music outside of country I tend to hit traditional and swing jazz artists (think Basie, Goodman, Ellington, Sarah Vaughan,Ella FGitzgerald) or jumping blues artists like Louis Jordan, Bullmoose Jackson or BIg Joe Turner . It bothers me that the jazz and blues influence (other than crap like Kenny G or Jim Brickman style “lite jazz”) is almost absent from modern country music

    I also like classic pop (Sinatra, Martin, Frankie Laine, Peggy Lee) and recently I’ve been rediscovering acts such as Don Cornell and Dick Haymes. My favorite Ronstadt recordings are the three albums she cut with Nelson Riddle. While she really didn’t master the form, she came very close

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