My Kind of Country

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

Monthly Archives: April 2010

Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘One’s On The Way’

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Van Lear Rose’

Van Lear Rose was to Loretta Lynn what the Rick Rubin-produced American Recordings were to Johnny Cash: a late-career release that earned almost universal critical acclaim and a resurgence in popularity. Released in 2004 and produced by Jack White of The White Stripes, it blends elements of alternative rock with Loretta’s brand of traditional country, and if nothing else, it is a bold experiment in bucking the mainstream musical trends of the 2000s. Loretta was the sole songwriter on twelve of the album’s thirteen tracks, and co-wrote the remaining track (“Little Red Shoes”) with White, marking the first time in her career that she had a hand in writing every song on an album.

Unfortunately, I can’t include myself in the considerably large camp that loves this album. While I don’t actively dislike it, I don’t share most critics’ opinion that the musical styles of Lynn and White always mesh well. The songs themselves are all solid and well written. The production is both the album’s greatest strength and its greatest flaw. White made a conscious effort to avoid the slick, cookie-cutter type of production that had become prevalent in 21st century Nashville, and for that I applaud him. However, at times the album is not quite polished enough, sounding like it was recorded in someone’s garage, and on a few occasions, White’s production choices are a distraction that overwhelm Loretta’s vocal performance, badly marring otherwise very good songs.

The title track is a perfect case in point. It tells the story of the courtship of Loretta’s parents. It starts off fairly quietly with Loretta singing with an electric guitar accompaniment. By the second verse, drums and some steel guitar licks are added to the mix. While not guilty of overproduction, it’s a tad too loud. I would have preferred a quieter, more acoustic arrangement similar to the treatment that “Miss Being Mrs.”, a song that appears near the end of the album, receives. On this track, Loretta talks about her loneliness that comes with widowhood, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. The stripped-down arrangement is quite effective, and “Miss Being Mrs.” is easily the highlight of the album.

Another track on which the production becomes overwhelming is “Have Mercy”. While not lyrically deep, it’s a good song in which Loretta gives a remarkable vocal performance that finds her sounding much younger than her nearly 70 years, but it is ruined by the loud, indulgent rock-tinged production that dominates the final 40 or so seconds of the song. But perhaps the best example of the production getting in the way of the song is “Little Red Shoes.” On this track, the lyrics are spoken, rather than sung. It recalls a story that Loretta told in her second memoir, about a serious illness she suffered when she was a year old, and a pair of red shoes that Loretta’s desperate mother shoplifted because she couldn’t afford to buy them for her daughter. The poignancy of the story is totally lost due to White’s cluttered production which seems to be competing with, rather than accompanying, Lynn’s storytelling. It’s my least favorite track on the album, along with “Portland, Oregon”, a duet with Jack White that on which Loretta strays farther from her country roots than she ever had in the past. This track is not to my taste at all; it was downright jarring the first time I listened to it, but I’m apparently in the minority since the song won a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 2005.

The remaining songs on the album are more conventional. It’s easy to imagine “God Makes No Mistakes” , “Women’s Prison”, “Trouble On The Line” and “Mrs Leroy Brown” appearing on Loretta’s 1970s albums, albeit in more polished form. “Family Tree” finds her treading familiar territory, confronting the other woman in her husband’s life. Unlike songs like “Fist City” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”, “Family Tree” reveals a more mature Loretta, who isn’t looking for a fight this time around:

No, I didn’t come to fight
If he was a better man I might
But I wouldn’t dirty my hands on trash like you.
Bring out the babies’ daddy, that’s who they’ve come to see
Not the woman that’s burnin’ down our family tree

In addition to the aforementioned Grammy for Best Country Collaboration for Vocals, Van Lear Rose won the 2005 Grammy for Best Country Album. It reached #2 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, making it Loretta’s highest charting album since 1977’s I Remember Patsy, which also peaked at #2. Van Lear Rose also reached #24 on the Billboard 200, becoming the most successful crossover album of Loretta’s career, despite receiving no support from mainstream country radio.

Though Van Lear Rose is not my favorite Loretta Lynn album, both Loretta and Jack White deserve credit for their willingness to experiment instead of delivering a phoned-in performance, as many artists at this stage of their careers might have done. I have never tried harder to like an album than I have with this one. I thought that with repeated listenings, I’d come to appreciate it as much as everyone else seems to, but I’ve come to accept that many of the production choices are just not to my taste. If “Little Red Shoes” and “Portland, Oregon” could have been thrown out, and Owen Bradley brought back from the dead to produce the remaining tracks, I probably would have loved it. However, despite its flaws, it is an important entry in Loretta’s discography and stands as a testament to the fact that it’s never too late to break the mold and experiment a little.

Van Lear Rose is readily available from Amazon and iTunes.

Grade: B-

Classic Rewind: Marty Robbins – ‘Some Memories Just Won’t Die’

Album Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter – ‘The Age of Miracles’

Mary Chapin Carpenter fits in with a certain class of country artists: those who skirted the Nashville machine during or just after their commercial hit-making days. For most artists – any worth their weight in salt – loosing themselves from major label expectations has allowed them to fully shine through as artists. It’s always this practice that weeds out the chaff from the wheat.  Recent seasons have found Mary Chapin Carpenter producing bumper crops since she partnered with Rounder/Zoe in 2006.

If you go into this album hoping to hear the artist who endeared herself to country radio with beat-driven romps like ‘I Feel Lucky’, ‘He Thinks He’ll Keep Her’ and ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’, you’re going to come away disappointed. That artist is largely absent here, save for a handful of reminders she ever existed. In her place is a woman with emotions. She also has views on literature, politics, and the state of the world. But it’s the basic human emotions of love, fear, and hope that make up the bulk of The Age of Miracles.

Opening the set is’We’ve Traveled So Far’, which speaks of maturity and stopping to appreciate the road you’ve traveled.  At 52, Mary Chapin Carpenter is in the second stage of her career and exploring the folkie that was hidden underneath the radio-friendly star all along.  This album finds her all but completely shedding her country identity – the last glimpses of which we saw on 2007’s The Calling.  In its place though is a more world-wise, sometimes moody, yet always intelligent and thoughtful woman surrounded mostly by rock and folk sounds.

Infectious melodies have always been a strong suit for Carpenter, and the ballad-heavy album doesn’t include many. Casting off your cares and making the road and the radio your company in ‘The Way I Feel’ allows the set’s most intriguing melody, while making up after a fight makes the basis for ‘I Put My Ring Back On’, with its rocking guitars and rolling drums recalls Carpenter at her own rocking best vocally.

‘June 4, 1989’ recalls the Tiananmen Square massacre through the eyes of a 17 year-old Chinese soldier sent in to control the protesters. This is Carpenter at her story-telling best. Likewise ‘Mrs. Hemingway’ recalls the life of the author and his first wife during their time in Paris. The Celtic-flavored ‘I Have a Need For Solitude’ finds the songwriter offering bits of her psyche while relaying the simplest yet most primary of our desires.

I like to think I am intelligent enough to keep up with the metaphors that riddle the lyrics of Mary Chapin Carpenter songs, especially her recent work, but even I don’t understand exactly what she’s talking about in ‘Holding Up The Sky’. The plodding melody finds a song filled wishes like ‘I want to feel what the wind feels like’ set against an overall mundane take on life: “all you can do is watch it go”. The narrator is also in love with someone and wishes the same for them. In the nearly five minutes this song takes, nothing is really said, and what is said, sounds more like support group jargon than any kind of memorable lyric. Alison Krauss provides harmony vocals for ‘I Was a Bird’. This and the superb musicianship behind the singers makes the track an elegant treat.

The Age of Miracles certainly isn’t an attempt to recapture her days in country radio’s grace – there isn’t a hit among the set. And it’s not Mary Chapin Carpenter at her introspective songwriting best. It’s somewhere in the middle. She’s surrounded by a first-class backing band that brings the music to life with their tight playing throughout. Likewise, the singer is in fine voice, gently speaking the narratives and wringing her rocking vibrato for all its got at times. It’s the selection of material – so much of it merely repeating itself – that’s lacking and not up to par for Mary Chapin Carpenter. There’s certainly much to be appreciated, but with a talent as great as hers, there could certainly be much more too.

Grade: C

Buy The Age of Miracles at amazon.

Classic Rewind: Oak Ridge Boys – ‘Ozark Mountain Jubilee’

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Still Country’

Loretta’s first solo album in a decade was recorded in 1998 and released two years later released on the independent Audium label. Her voice was, sadly, not quite what it had been, but the songs are stronger than they had been on her last MCA album and the production from Randy Scruggs is exemplary throughout.

The heart-wrenching piano-led opening track ‘On My Own Again’ sounds as though it must be autobiographical addressing Loretta’ own experience of widowhood following Doolittle’s death in 1996, but it was actually written by Randy Scruggs, who produced the album. The woman in this song, unlike Loretta, is childless, but in other respects this must have felt very close to home. It is definitely a highlight, filled with intense emotion.

She did write one personal expression of her loss in ‘I Can’t Hear The Music’ credited as a co-write with Cody Jones and Kendal Franceschi, who finished it off when the weight of emotion overwhelmed Loretta herself from doing so. Tears audibly fill her voice as she talks about her feelings for Doolittle, and the effect is genuinely moving:

He showed me there was more to me
When I thought I had nothing else to give
God knows he wasn’t perfect
Ah but then again nobody is
He always told me the truth
No matter how hard it was to hear
When he’d say “I believe in you”
That was music to my ears

Oh each word’s like a note,
Like a beautiful tune
The kind that inspires
And helps you get through
Oh if I said “I can’t” he’d say “you can”
He was my toughest critic
Oh, and my biggest fan
Now he’s gone to a distant shore
And I can’t hear the music any more

By all accounts, including Loretta’s own in her two unflinchingly honest autobiographies, he was a bad husband in many respects – constantly unfaithful and an alcoholic, but her love for him is undeniable.

Her other composition here is the bouncy gospel-cum-tribute to Kentucky (“the closest place to Heaven that I know” of ‘God’s Country’, with hoe-down style fiddle and Earl Scruggs on banjo. The decline in her vocal powers is all too obvious, but her personality comes through engagingly, as it does on ‘Country In My Genes’, written by Larry Cordle, Larry Shell and Betty Key, and the other track featuring Earl Scruggs. This was the single released to support the album, but perhaps unsurprisingly it failed to chart. Here Loretta defies attempts to change her image; it’s a bit shouty at times but still enjoyable:

I got country in my genes
Country in my blood
It goes back generations
It’s something I’m proud of
It’s something I was born with
Whatcha get is what you see
I’m just an old hillbilly with a country song to sing
Lord I’ve got country in my genes

Yeah country’s hit the big time
Me, I’m still the same
I ain’t above my raising
And I ain’t about to change

Max D Barnes and Vince Gill wrote the pretty but mournful look at lost-love, ‘Table For Two’ which has the best vocal and is one of my favorite tracks. I’m surprised that Vince never recorded this beautiful song himself. Another favorite track is the poignant ‘Hold Her’, the third-person tale of a woman planning to leave the husband she wrongly thinks doesn’t love her, and the man who could keep her if he only showed her he did, written by Don Wayne and Irene Kelley:

All he’d have do to hold her is to hold her
Tell her how he feels down deep inside
All he’d have to do to hold her is to hold her
There’s no way she would ever leave his side

I enjoyed the sprightly cover of John Prine’s charmingly optimistic ‘Somewhere Someone’s Falling In Love’, with its almost-Caribbean rhythms, and the closing track, a version of ‘The Blues Ain’t Workin’ On Me’, previously recorded by Rhonda Vincent on her underrated 1996 release Trouble Free. ‘Don’t Open That Door’, written by Jerry Salley, Coley McCabe and Robin Lee Bruce, is a great song about struggling to resist the temptation to get involved again with a bad-news ex, but Loretta’s voice sounds strained on the sustained notes in the chorus.

The least successful track is ‘Working Girl’, a Matraca Berg/Randy Scruggs song with Matraca and Carolyn Dawn Johnson on backing vocals, a disastrous attempt at sounding contemporary. It just doesn’t work, with Loretta sounding very strained vocally, and is actually painful to listen to. It was covered more successfully a few years later by Terri Clark.

Loretta had been out of the limelight for some years, due in part to Doolittle’s illness, and this record was largely ignored. Unfortunately, despite the high quality of the material, it is a little disappointing, revealing Loretta had passed her best vocally.

Grade: B-

Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘You’re Lookin’ At Country’

Album Review: Jamie Richards – ‘Sideways’

Jamie Richards is one of those solid Texan country singers who has been forging a regional career without troubling national radio. He is signed to the Daily family’s Houston-based D Records, which has just released his fourth album (the earlier ones are well worth checking out, too). He has a rich voice full of character with a distinctive slightly grainy tone, excellent relaxed phrasing. He spent some time as a staff songwriter for Curb in Nashville and wrote all but three of the songs here, most of which are very good. He also produced the record with Greg White.

The album opens with a five–song sequence of sad, mainly mid-tempo, songs about failing to get over an ex, and as he mentions some lows and highs in his personal life in the liner notes, these may be autobiographical. My favorite track is the chugging ‘Half Drunk’. This solo composition has the broken-hearted protagonist regretting his inability to drown his sorrows due to lack of cash:

You were too good to be true
I guess that’s why you weren’t…

It takes more than just a few of my favorite ice-cold beers
Hell, I’ll break out the Jack and Coke and I’ll make you disappear
Oh but you’ll be back when I come down and remember how it could have been
So for now I’ll do my best to forget you once again

I’m sittin’ here half drunk
Cause I ran out of money
Yeah I would’a been all the way
If I’d’a had just one more 20

Almost as good is ‘A Whole Lot Lonely’ (embarrassingly misspelt ‘Lonley’ on the cover), another intensely honest post-breakup number involving the protagonist talking to a drink-induced hallucination of his ex, and apologising to her shade for that real-life call at 3 a.m., explaining sadly:

I was a little drunk
But a whole lot lonely

The equally downbeat ‘Easier By Now’ (another excellent song) finds the singer still struggling with the memories despite the passage of years:

It should be easier by now
I should have long forgot that smile
Even after all this time and all the love I pushed aside
I always come back to you somehow

The title track seems to date back to Jamie’s time writing for Curb, and is a co-write with former Curb artist Ken Mellons. It’s a fine song with a resigned feel about struggling to find equilibrium after the end of a relationship; he knows drinking isn’t the answer, but it’s the only option.

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Classic Rewind: The Louvin Brothers – ‘I Can’t Keep You In Love With Me’

Honky Tonk Angels and Texas Troubadours, a look at Loretta Lynn’s singing partners

In the mid 1980s, Dolly Parton came up with the idea of an album pairing herself with her contemporaries Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.  But for one reason or another, it just never came together for nearly a decade.   Finally, during the country boom of the early 90s, the project came to life. Produced by Dolly Parton and Steve Buckingham, Honky Tonk Angels was a celebration of the sounds of yesterday and a less-than-subtle reminder of the abundance of talent being overlooked by country radio at the time. One single from the album stalled at #68 on the country singles chart in 1993 (a second failed to chart at all), but the album itself would land at #6 on the sales-based albums chart, and would go on to be certified gold, proving the continued demand for legendary stars.

Honky Tonk Angels opens with a graceful take on ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels’, the song that made Kitty Wells a star.  Kitty is even featured as a vocalist here in the song’s second verse, and provides harmony for the rest of the track, to great effect.  Another country female vocalist standard, ‘I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know’, originally a hit for the Davis Sisters, is given the rootsy treatment of a scaled back arrangement and resonant harmonies.  Wells isn’t the only star to make a guest appearance on the album.  Patsy Cline’s vocal is added electronically to a cover of ‘Lovesick Blues’, allowing the departed songstress to take the lead vocal while the trio of Parton, Lynn, and Wynette provide harmony vocals as well as a few cat calls and ad-libs to give the track a live feel.

A music video was made for the punchy version of ‘Silver Thread and Golden Needles’ to promote the album, featuring a veritable who’s who of Music City and beyond as potential suitors turned away by the ladies.  You’ll see Ricky Skaggs, Rodney Crowell, Charlie Chase, Ralph Emery, Bill Anderson, Jim Nabors, Little Jimmy Dickens, Marty Stuart, and Ronnie Milsap all make cameo appearances.  Chet Atkins is the only visitor finally allowed in. A rousing version of the country-gospel standard ‘Wings of a Dove’, originally a hit for Ferlin Husky in 1960, provides some of the disc’s best harmony moments.

All three contribute an original song here as well.  Loretta offers up the optimistic ‘Wouldn’t It Be Great’ while Tammy contributes ‘That’s The Way It Would Have Been’, a melancholy tale of chances lost and unrequited love.  Dolly’s song is the gospel-tinged ‘Let Her Fly’, a song mourning the death of her mother, but celebrating her reunion with God.  Such is the spirit of Dolly Parton, and all three of these exceptional women, and their three sole-compositions tell you volumes about them, just as the maker intended.  Closing with another country standard, an updated take on Tex Ritter’s ‘I Dream of a Hillbilly Heaven’, complete with recitations and plenty of shout-outs.

In true form, all three legendary ladies deliver the goods on Honky Tonk Angels, and offer their own unique input to the sound and the material.  This provides not only an album of traditional country music listening pleasure, but a lesson in how to do it from the architects of the modern country music sound.

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Classic Rewind: Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge – ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’

Week ending 4/24/10: #1 singles this week in country music history

1950: Long Gone Lonesome Blues — Hank Williams (MGM)

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

1970: Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone — Charley Pride (RCA)

1980: It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye — Crystal Gayle (Columbia)

1990: Love On Arrival — Dan Seals (Capitol)

2000: The Best Day — George Strait (MCA)

2010: American Honey — Lady Antebellum (Capitol)

Week ending 4/24/10: #1 albums this week in country music history

1965: Connie Smith – Connie Smith (RCA)

1970: Johnny Cash – Hello I’m Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1975: Olivia Newton John – Have You Never Been Mellow (MCA)

1980: Kenny Rogers – Kenny (United Artists)

1985: Alabama – 40 Hour Week (RCA)

1990: Ricky Van Shelton – RVS III (Columbia)

1995: John Michael Montgomery – John Michael Montgomery (Warner Brothersl)

2000: Dixie Chicks – Fly (Sony)

2005: Larry the Cable Guy – The Right To Bare Arms (Warner Brothers)

2010: Lady Antebellum – Need You Now (Capitol)

Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’

Classic Rewind: Martina McBride – ‘Phones Are Ringing All Over Town’

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Who Was That Stranger?’

Although the movie had brought Loretta mainstream attention, her musical career was winding down in the 1980s. She had enjoyed only one top 10 hit that decade (‘I Lie’ in 1982), and her last single to reach the top 40 was the #19 ‘Heart Don’t Do This To Me’ in 1985. The neotraditional revival of the late 80s may have brought country sounds back to country radio, but older artists were, by and large, jettisoned along with the pop-country stars of the mid 80s. This album, Loretta’s swan song for MCA, was released in 1988. It was coproduced by Loretta herself with label president Jimmy Bowen and Chip Hardy.

She was not as prolific a songwriter as she had been earlier in her career, writing only two tracks here, the very short (just under two minutes) and bouncy up-tempo ‘Mountain Climber’, a look at working your way up the hard way with a tart sideswipe at those who want to start at the top, and the affectionate portrait of a old-fashioned fire-and-brimstone rural preacher, ‘Elzie Brooks’. It should come as no surprise that he was a real person, the preacher whose services Loretta attended as a child in Butcher Holler; she notes in her book Coal Miner’s Daughter that he never took a penny for his ministry, and in this song compares him to TV preachers with their demands for money. These are both bright and entertaining if less memorable than Loretta’s classics.

The title track and lead single faltered at #57 on Billboard. A brightly delivered tale about rescuing a tired marriage written by Curly Putnam, Max D Barnes and Don Cook, the production sounds a bit dated now and I must confess even after a number of listens I’m slightly unclear whether this is intended to depict a marriage which only comes alive after dark, or a complete fantasy. The follow-up single, the gospelly ‘Fly Away’, penned by Frank Dycus and featuring Bela Fleck’s banjo, did not chart at all, and that marked the end of Loretta’s long association with MCA and its predecessor Decca.

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Classic Rewind: Charley Pride – ‘Able Bodied Man’

Coal Miner’s Daughter: Motion Picture and Soundtrack Review

With the recent explosion and deaths of 29 miners in a West Virginia coal mine just a few weeks ago, we’ve been reminded once again of the dangers and sacrificial hard lives of coal miners and their families. We heat our homes, light our streets and offices, and power our computers at the physical expense of those hard-working laborers. That’s the sturdy stock that Loretta Lynn comes from and the difficult beginnings that shaped her work ethic, family and music for the rest of her life.

Coal Miner’s Daughter, directed by British director, Michael Apted (Amazing Grace, Nell) and released in 1980, received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. Sissy Spacek won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Loretta in this film based on her autobiography of the same title.

Loretta hand-picked Spacek to play her based on a photo in a stack of 8×10 glossies and without having seen her films, according to Spacek in an interview on Inside The Actor’s Studio from 2002. Spacek didn’t really want to do the film, partly because Loretta was stating in various television appearances that Sissy Spacek would be playing her and Spacek thought, “I don’t even know you!”

Spacek tells of the time she and her husband drove home to Texas and planned to stop to see Loretta perform on the way in Louisiana somewhere. They missed the performance but arrived in time to watch the theater doors open and Loretta burst out in a red chiffon dress with her band behind her. She was so upset, Spacek says, and going on about, “Bam, bam, bam…Bam, Bam…I couldn’t hear nothin’ but them dad gum drums beatin’ in my ear!”  Spacek says, “I just was struck dumb! I thought, I have to play this woman!”

While working on the film, Loretta encouraged Spacek to sing her songs and helped her. They sang and played together, wrote songs together. Spacek tells of them staying in the Spence Manor in Nashville and pinning sheet music to the lampshades, turning on the lamps and then walking from lamp to lamp to follow the music as they practiced. They even stepped into the shower because the acoustics were so great to practice.

All of her time and practice with Loretta, both in person and with her voice on tape paid off in spades. Loretta says they’re almost like twin sisters. Spacek was the definitive actress to play the part, from her ability to portray Loretta first married at the young age of 15 all the way through her teens, young adult and middle-aged years, to her ability to adopt her spoken accent and do her own vocals so naturally on Loretta’s classic songs.

The film begins with young Loretta riding a mule through the woods of Kentucky, hauling one of her brothers on a wooden sled behind her on their way to town to meet their daddy who is just getting off his shift at the coal mine. While in town, they come across a handsome young soldier just arrived back home, showing off his new red jeep. He’s just sure his jeep can make it up a long, steep bank of dirt and people are betting on whether he’ll make it or not. Loretta can’t take her eyes off of him and he obviously has eyes for her.

Doolittle “Mooney” Lynn, also known as Doo, makes it to the top of the hill to Loretta’s delight and the shaking of her daddy’s head.

It’s a great beginning to a great and amazing story of how these two literally climb what looks like an impossible hill out of the poverty of a mining town, moving to the west coast together and having four children by the time Loretta is 19, and then moving back after her father dies and starting her career from scratch.

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Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘Wings Upon your Horns’

Recommendation: Songs to love

Country music has never been particularly well-known or renowned for our steamy love songs.  Country is at its best when dealing with the less-than-cuddly emotions of heartache, loss, loneliness, etc.  Maybe that’s why Merle Haggard never covered Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ and why the Zac Brown Band won’t be ‘bringing sexy back’.  Still, I’ve managed to corral a selection of country songs designed to get your libido moving.  Here’s a playlist to get you started:

Charlie Rich – ‘Behind Closed Doors’ … Charlie Rich’s breakthrough hit from 1973 topped the country charts before crossing over to the Top 40 on the pop charts.  The swaying number, where the narrator sings the praises of his demure woman, would go on to win Single and Song of the Year honors from both the CMA and ACM as well as a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal.

Conway Twitty – ‘I Want To Know You’/‘I’d Love To Lay You Down’ … Conway Twitty was perhaps the king of the bedroom anthem.  These are just two personal favorites in his repertoire of come-hither tunes.  The former makes a plea to get to know one another before the love-making while the latter simply tells the lady what he’d like to do, and promises he’ll still want to lay her down when her hair has turned silver.

‘Faith Hill ‘Breathe’ … After eight years of scoring major country hits, Faith Hill hit the big time with this sexy song.  The video featured a gorgeous Faith writhing around in silk sheets with the golden desert in the background, and the song itself is just as sexy.  In what is perhaps her finest moment vocally, she purrs the verses before a chorus that would make any man smile.

Alabama – ‘Feels So Right’ /‘Take Me Down’ /‘The Closer You Get’ … Like Twitty, country’s first supergroup Alabama, were masters of steamy love songs. These three come from a two-year run between 1981 and 1983 when Alabama was smoking hot.  The distorted guitar and vocals turned off some purists at the time, but the sound would prove to have lasting effects, and these songs sound the least dated of almost any 1980s country recordings.  This is backseat country at its finest.

Sammi Smith – ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ … This Kris Kristofferson-penned song simply asks for another’s company to help ease the loneliness until the sun comes up.   Simple is almost always best.

Tanya Tucker‘Would You Lay With Me (In A Field of Stone)’ … It incited fury from some upon its release; not just because of its racy subject matter, but because the singer was only 15 years old.  David Allan Coe painted a picture of a tortured soul, seeking comfort from another.

Trisha Yearwood ‘Like We Never Had a Broken Heart’ … When Trisha Yearwood sings, it’s always great.  When Garth Brooks joins her for harmony, it’s almost other-worldly.  This song is one of my first memories of 90s country, but my young mind didn’t comprehend what they were singing about until much later.  When I finally understood the story of two heartbroken lovers who were holding on to each other to ease the pain, I found it was a sweet story set to smart lyrics and a sing-along melody.  Brilliant.

What are some of your favorite country love songs?  What would you recommend as great examples of backseat country?