My Kind of Country

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

Monthly Archives: April 2010

Classic Rewind: John Michael Montgomery – ‘Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)’

Album Review: Georgette Jones – ‘A Slightly Used Woman’

I was intrigued when I heard that the only daughter of two of country music’s greatest singers, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, was finally embarking on a music career and releasing an album on traditional country specialist indie label Heart Of Texas. With her genetic heritage, Georgette Jones ought to be a spectacular vocalist herself. She does have an airy sweetness in her voice which is all her own, owing nothing to copying her parents’ styles, but it is one which at times tends to skate prettily over the surface of her material, and is not entirely suited to the hard country songs she has picked, many of which really need a bigger voice.

Georgette first appeared on record as a small child with a cameo on the chorus on the post-divorce ‘Daddy Come Home’, a track on his 1981 release Still The Same Ole Me. An early marriage distracted her from any thoughts of a music career. She had a development deal with RCA in the mid 2000s, which did not come to anything, and there seems to have been some involvement with Curb. She re-emerged last year on the opening track on her father’s recent duets album, Burn Your Playhouse Down, with a rather sweet song which she co-wrote with one-hit-wonder Mark McGuinn, apparently about their real-life father-daughter relationship. ‘You And Me And Time’ reappears here, together with a pleasant cover of George’s hit ‘The Race Is On’. But it is Tammy Wynette who casts by far the bigger shadow on their daughter’s record.

The title track is a cover of one of Tammy’s songs which sounds potentially autobiographical, about a woman who is wealthy but lonely and possibly abused; living “in a mansion fit for a queen”:

But inside there’s a slightly used woman
On her body there’s scars and there’s dents
She’s just waitin’ for someone to love her
And ignore all his deep fingerprints

Georgette herself wrote (along with Ernie Rowell), a deeply touching letter in song addressed to her mother:

Now I wish that I could tell you
All the things you said were true
I wanna thank you for your love
And the little things you used to do

I know God took you for a reason
And I’m sure heaven welcomed you
I still want to say I love you but I can’t
I hope you knew

The delicate, almost fragile vocal on these two songs make Georgette sound vulnerable in a way which make the emotion feel very real and at these moments she really convinces as an artist. Her voice isn’t quite strong enough to convey the unfettered heartbreak of much of the material.

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Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘Fist City’

Single Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘The Pill’

Continuing her style of writing about topics that were considered controversial and taboo among her mostly-conservative fan base, Loretta Lynn took to singing the virtues of the birth control pill for her 1975 hit, ‘The Pill’.  Although birth control pills were made available to the public in 1960, it was more than a decade later that they became widely used in rural areas – to the people presumably listening to Loretta Lynn hits.  Loretta has even said that countless doctors have praised her song, saying it did more to highlight the pill’s availability than all the pamphlets and other literature that had been sent out.

As was the case with several Loretta Lynn hits, ‘The Pill’ was banned by country stations across the nation, and preachers (especially in the south) took to bashing the song in their Sunday sermons.  All this talk only further piqued the public’s curiosity and the album the song came from, Back to Country, was soon flying off the shelves.  Because of the ban, ‘The Pill’ failed to crack the top spot, peaking at a respectable #5 in 1975.  Sensing this controversy might be the case, MCA held the song for nearly 3 years before including it on an album release.  Loretta actually recorded the song in 1972, but the label had held it over.

The self-penned tune kicks off with a snazzy steel guitar lick, now a signature of Loretta Lynn’s sound.  The steel is the driving instrument in the song, but producer Owen Bradley employs a subtle keyboard and rhythm section to give it a chugging pace.  The narrator in the song has been having babies for years while the man is out ‘having all his fun’.  Comparing herself to a chicken and their home to a hatchery, she’s telling her husband she’s ‘tearing down this brooder house’.  We find her singing of all the sexy clothes she’ll be wearing now that her figure will be back to normal, but the biggest outcry from purists perhaps comes from the song’s final verse, in which the woman is looking forward to a night of loving, knowing that getting pregnant isn’t an issue, she sings:

It’s getting dark, it’s roosting time. tonight’s too good to be real
Aw but Daddy don’t you worry none, ’cause Mama’s got the pill

Even though it failed to top the charts, ‘The Pill’ is to this day one of Loretta Lynn’s signature hits, and stands as her highest charting single on the pop charts, charting at #70 from unsolicited airplay.  The controversial nature of these kinds of songs didn’t hurt Loretta Lynn’s commercial success any either.   She would end the 1970s as the most successful female artist in the genre, and eventually be named the Artist of the Decade by the ACM.  I like to think it was real, honest songs like ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’, ‘Rated X’, ‘One’s On The Way’, and ‘The Pill’ that solidified her position as the premier vocalist and ambassador of her generation.

Grade: A+

‘The Pill’ is available on several Loretta Lynn compilations, and can be purchased digitally from amazon.

ACM Rewind: Billy Dean – ‘Somewhere In My Broken Heart’

An acoustic version of the 1991 Song of the Year:

Week ending 4/17/10: #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: Tennessee Bird Walk — Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan (Wayside)

1980: Honky Tonk Blues — Charley Pride (RCA)

1990: Five Minutes — Lorrie Morgan (RCA)

2000: How Do You Like Me Now — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2010: Highway 20 Ride — Zac Brown Band (Home Grown/Atlantic)

Week ending 4/17/10: #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: Lorrie Morgan – ‘What Part Of No’

ACM Rewind: Moe Bandy with Janie Fricke – ‘It’s A Cheating Situation’

A 1988 performance of the song which won the ACM Song of the Year Award in 1979 for writers Curly Putnam and Sonny Throckmorton.

Single Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Rated X’

A country song discussing the double standards of sexuality in gender roles wouldn’t be a novel concept today, but it sure was in 1972.  Coming on the back of the Feminist and Civil Right movements of the mid to late 60s, many of Loretta Lynn’s lyrics were anthems of empowerment for the modern women of the time.  Perhaps none were more direct in their questioning of the status quo than the self-penned ‘Rated X’.

Released as the only single from her 1973 album, Entertainer of the Year, sent out after Loretta became the first woman to ever win the CMA’s coveted trophy, ‘Rated X’ would find itself banned by a handful of country stations.  But like many of Lynn’s earlier banned hits, the controversy only helped to propel the song up the charts all the way to the top, and the talk even sold a few records.

A snappy steel guitar lick opens the song as Loretta launches into her sermon on a woman’s treatment in society.  Here, she’s speaking of divorced women.  The general public thinks of her as an easy woman; just because she’s loved before she must be ready for more.  Loretta’s spit fire delivery tells her disdain for the system as she sings:

And if you’re rated X you’re some kind of goal even men turning silver try to make
But I think it’s wrong to judge every picture if a cheap camera makes a mistake

Whether she knows it or not, today’s modern woman owes a great debt of gratitude to Loretta Lynn and her trailblazing efforts.

Grade: A-

‘Rated X’ is available as a digital download from amazon and other retailers.

Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘What Kind Of A Girl (Do You Think I Am)?’

ACM Awards: My Kind Of Country’s choices

Last week we revealed our predictions for Sunday’s ACM Awards ceremony. Now we’ll let you know who we’d actually like to win. We had a number of unanimous predictions, mainly relating to Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum, but we’re a bit more divided when it comes to our personal choices.

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Kenny Chesney
Toby Keith
Brad Paisley: J.R. Journey, Occasional Hope, Meg
George Strait: Razor X

Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood
Keith Urban
Zac Brown Band

J.R.: I think Brad is about 3 years overdue for an Entertainer of the Year win. He’s one of the best we’ve got.
OH: He apparently puts on a great live show, has a good image, is a popular choice to co-host awards shows himself, and it’s his turn. Actually, as J.R. says, it’s been his turn for a while, and he keeps getting overlooked. Now his commercial star seems to be waning a bit, I hope he doesn’t miss the boat on this award at one of the major awards shows. It’s a shame this category is fan-voted.
Meg: Top tour, great sales & #1s, appearances everywhere – Brad’s been working hard and deserves this.
Razor: This is a pretty underwhelming list of nominees. I don’t think the Zac Brown Band has risen to the level yet where they can be taken seriously as contenders for this award – and the veterans who usually get nominated (Chesney, Urban, Keith, and Paisley) haven’t done anything that spectacular in the past year. For that reason, I’m picking my favorite from this list of entertainers as the person to whom I’d like to see this award given.

TOP MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley: J.R., Meg
Darius Rucker
George Strait: Occasional Hope, Razor X
Keith Urban

Razor: Again, I’m going strictly by personal preference. Strait is the only really decent singer in this group of otherwise weak vocalists.
OH: He’s the best singer of these guys and has the best current album release.

TOP FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Miranda Lambert
Reba McEntire: J.R., Meg, Razor X
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood
Lee Ann Womack: Occasional Hope

Razor: She is simply the best in this group of nominees, and against the odds, has had a resurgence at radio in the past year.
J.R.: Who else would I pick? She did have a great album which was just certified gold and recently released the longest-running chart-topper of her 33 year career and is currently part of the hottest country music ticket on the road right now. This is Reba’s 14th nomination with 7 wins in this category in the past 25 years. That’s impressive.
Meg: She’s had a great year with a super single in ‘Consider Me Gone’ at #1 for 4 weeks, a gold album, and arguably has the best vocals and interpretation out there.
OH: I love her voice the most of the nominees, and although flawed I liked her album the most. I hope her new album is better than the lead single though.

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ACM Rewind: Mickey Gilley – ‘Don’t The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time’

Jerry Lee Lewis’s cousin, and owner of country music’s most famous nightclub, Mickey Gilley swept the ACMs in 1976, winning Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Album, Single and Song of the Year awards.  Mickey’s cover of the 1960s R&B hit ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ was the Single of the Year, while this classic picked up Song of the Year honors:

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Greatest Hits Vol. II’

We’re continuing our survey of Loretta’s career with her second installment of Greatest Hits, released in 1974, and covering her career from 1968 to 1973. Although this compilation covers only some of her hits over this period, and misses out the controversial divorcee-themed ‘Rated X’, it is a good overview of her career in those years, arguably her artistic and commercial peak. She tended to release only one or two singles per album throughout the 1960s and ’70s, but they were usually by far the best songs.

The earliest hit here is ‘Fist City’, another in Loretta’s string of feisty songs inspired by real incidents, in this case addressed to a woman who had been making moves on Loretta’s husband while she was working. Its attitude is more confrontational than the similarly themed ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’ a couple of years earlier – perhaps because it was more personally inspired. Loretta tackles the woman head-on to threaten her with physical violence if she doesn’t back off:

You’ve been a’makin’ your brags around town that you’ve been a-lovin’ my man
But the man I love, when he picks up trash, he puts it in a garbage can
And that’s what you look like to me, and what I see’s a pity
You’d better close your face and stay out of my way
If you don’t wanna go to Fist City

It was Loretta’s second #1, hitting the top in May 1968. Later that year she had a #3 hit with ‘Your Squaw Is On the Warpath’, an idea inspired by her half-Cherokee mother when fighting with Loretta’s father. Apart from the use of Native American imagery and a haunting the lyric is actually a typical example of Loretta’s wronged wife and mother refusing to lie down and take it when her cheating husband comes home drunk expecting a loving welcome. The lyrics might fall foul of political correctness these days, although Loretta has spoken about her pride in, and identification with, this side of her heritage; the album cover with Loretta in Native American costume (pictured left) certainly would be seen as offensive today, although there is absolutely no doubt Loretta intended nothing of the kind. The Jordanaires provided backing vocals on many of Loretta’s recordings, but rarely as prominently as on this track. Incidentally she chose to cover Hank Williams’ ‘Kaw-Liga’ on the same album.

The following year’s ‘Wings Upon Your Horns’, which was relatively unsuccessful, only reaching #11 on Billboard, was written by Loretta with her sister Peggy Sue, an aspiring singer herself. It is the first-person tale of a scarlet woman, once an innocent young country girl seduced under promise of marriage. She accuses her devil-like lover:

You hung my wings up on your horns
And turned my halo into thorns
And turned me into a woman I can’t stand

The autobiographical ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’, which is probably Loretta’s signature song thanks in part to the book and film of the same title a decade later, was a #1 hit in 1970. It originally had twelve verses, which Loretta had to cut down for the recorded version. Intensely honest, this song graphically depicts the poverty in which Loretta grew up, tempered by the love of her parents. The song ends with a nostalgic return to see the ruins of their old cabin; nothing but the floor, and Loretta’s memories survive. But this environment has been preserved for posterity in this song. Like Dolly Parton’s memorialization of her ‘Tennessee Mountain Home’, this is not merely entertainment, or even art, although it is both; it is also oral history at its finest.

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Classic Rewind: Faron Young and Willie Nelson – ‘Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away’

Album Review: Gretchen Wilson – ‘I Got Your Country Right Here’

Gretchen’s first independent release following her departure from Sony sees her taking the producer’s chair herself alongside Blake Chancey (and old friend John Rich on a handful of tracks). The end result is not that far removed from her Sony records, and fans of Gretchen’s rocking side will be happy. Admirers of her way with a ballad (Wilson’s most underrated talent) will be more disappointed.

Current single ‘Work Hard, Play Harder, is set to a relentless rock beat which led to a copyright infringement claim from the rock band the Black Crowes; the case was settled out of court and led to the writers of the latter’s song being given co-writing credit here, alongside the originally credited Wilson, John Rich and Vicky McGehee. This lyrically predictable and musically dull piece about a hardworking “redneck, blue-collar” bartender/waitress is already Gretchen’s biggest hit since 2006’s ‘California Girls’, perhaps because it fits into the pigeonhole Gretchen created for herself with her signature tune ‘Redneck Woman’.

It is one of only two tracks co-written by Gretchen. Dallas Davidson helped her with the other, the rocking sociopolitical statement ‘Blue Collar Done Turn Red’ which mixes a declaration of patriotism with some social criticism of modern changes:

We used to judge a man by the shake of his hand
And his honor and his honesty
Never knocked him down when he stood his ground
Cause it wouldn’t fit the policy now
There’s bailout bills and fat cat deals

Ex-SteelDriver Chris Stapleton and Terry McBride offer a trenchant criticism of modern country radio in ‘Outlaws & Renegades’:

Well, just the other day I was driving down the road
Listening to the stuff coming out of Music Row
I didn’t recognise a single song or none of the names
But it didn’t really matter cause they all seem to sound the same

Where’s all the outlaws and renegades?
Lord knows I miss those days
When they said what they thought
And what they thought was what was on your mind

It seems to veer off course in the last verse when it moves into another political complaint (about politicians and gas prices), and then back to music with a spoken outro namechecking Cash, Jennings and Nelson.

Their era is also recalled in the rather generic Southern Rock-country of the title track, written by consummate hit maker Jeffrey Steele and Tom Hambridge. This pays cursory tribute to various 70s Outlaw and Southern Rock acts – Waylon again, of course, plus the Charlie Daniels Band, Hank Williams Jr, and on the rock side of the border, the Allman Brothers, Z.Z. Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It is one of those tracks that strikes one as being more fun for the musicians to make than for the listener; it isn’t that interesting on record either musically or lyrically; it’s all about the groove and feel, which probably works better live.

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Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘Don’t Come Home a’Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)’

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’

Like most of her contemporaries in the 1960s and 1970s, Loretta Lynn was clearly a singles artist.  Her albums were typically built around one or two hit singles, with cover versions of other artists’ hits and other tunes that weren’t considered strong enough for single release providing the album filler.  This is the approach that was used with 1970’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, but the result was a much stronger album than she usually turned out during this era.

The title track, Lynn’s signature hit, is the only single from the album.  Recorded in October 1969, it tells the story of her poverty-stricken childhood in Kentucky.  Decca had reservations about the song’s commercial viability and did not release it until May 1970.  It slowly but steadily climbed the charts until it reached the #1 spot in December.  It was Loretta’s fourth #1, and her first entry into the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at #83.   The tune went on to lend its title to Loretta’s autobiography and the film it inspired, in 1976 and 1980, respectively.

Five of the album’s eleven tracks are covers of hits by other artists, but Loretta  treats them respectfully and never dismisses them as album filler.  Her rendition of her buddy Conway Twitty’s signature hit “Hello Darlin'” is a by-the-numbers interpretation, as are her takes on Ray Price’s “For The Good Times” (written by Kris Kristofferson), Anne Murray’s “Snowbird” and Marty Robbins’ “Too Far.”  Her version of Glen Campbell’s catchy “A Little Less of Me” is excellent.

Of the remaining five songs, “Any One, Any Worse, Anywhere”, written by Loretta with Lorene Allen and Charlie Aldridge’s “It’ll Be Open Season On You” are the weak links, but the other three are first-rate and one wonders why Decca didn’t make any attempt to market them as single releases.  Possibly “Another Man Loved Me Last Night”,  written by Lorene Allen and Loretta’s sister Peggy Sue Wells and later covered by Amber Digby, was considered too risque for country radio in 1970, though much greater risks were taken a few years later with controversial hits such as “Rated X”, “Wings Upon Your Horns”, and “The Pill.”    “The Man of the House” is a typical Loretta-as-the-put-upon-and-fed-up-neglected-wife song, and along with her original composition “What Makes Me Tick” is one of my favorites in this collection.   The latter in particular had the potential to be a monster hit, in my opinion.  It’s amazing that no other artists ever took advantage of Loretta’s missed opportunity to cover the song themselves.

Coal Miner’s Daughter was one of only a handful of Loretta’s studio albums to be issued on CD.   It was her second studio album and third album overall to earn gold certification from the RIAA.   It is out of print in CD form but used copies can be purchased from third-party sellers on Amazon.  It is also available as a digital download from Amazon MP3 and iTunes.  Please be aware that Coal Miner’s Daughter is frequently used as the title for other compilations and live-in-concert recordings that are often of dubious quality.

Grade: A

ACM Rewind: Donna Fargo – ‘Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.’

Donna won both Female Vocalist of the Year and New Female Vocalist at the ACMs in 1972. Her signature song also won Single and Song of the Year, and the album it came from was awarded Album of the Year.

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

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

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

1970: Tennessee Bird Walk — Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan (Wayside)

1980: Sugar Daddy — The Bellamy Brothers (Warner Bros./Curb)

1990: Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart — Randy Travis (Warner Bros.)

2000: How Do You Like Me Now — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2010: Temporary Home — Carrie Underwood (19/Arista)