My Kind of Country

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

Random playlist 4

In the months that I’ve been compiling these lists of my current listening habits, I’ve noticed that a core group of acts have remained in my ears, though the material I’ve chosen from them has been different.  I’ve been neglectful to the new music in my collection this summer so you won’t find any reflections on new releases this time. Still, yet another season goes by and I’m left with another set of recent heavy-rotation tracks in my music library, and I’d like to share them with you.

Alan Jackson – “There Goes” … This comes from one of Jackson’s best albums yet, 1997’s Everything I Love. Hard as it may be for another artist to top the title track from that set, Jackson did it just two releases later with “There Goes” – and has since hit a new high-water mark countless times.  The barroom-inspired easy sway of the melody here draws the listener in much the same way the narrator sings about the woman who’s hooked him.  A rolling steel guitar accompaniment and crying fiddles keep with the melancholy nature of the song, even when the lyrics – “I’m still pretendin’ I don’t need you/I won’t let you know you’re killin’ me” – make you smile.  This is genuine country music pathos at its finest.

Reba McEntire – “Please Come To Boston” … Like her earlier hit with the Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown”, Reba does a gender-reversal, and of course a narrative reversal in the process, when she tackles Dave Loggins’ 1974 #1 pop hit.  Singing from the other side of the wanderlust, the singer here plays the role of the sensible hometown girl with invitations aplenty from a rambling man, who summons her from Boston, Denver, and finally L.A. Each time she says no. But it’s in flipping pronouns on the song’s powerhouse bridge that McEntire changes things around, and becomes a pining-for-him protagonist when she reveals “Of all the dreams he’s lost or found and all that I ain’t got/He still needs to lean to, somebody he can sing to“.  She continues to turn down his calls to join him, but the tenderness of her tough love opens up the possibility for a happy ending – something the Loggins version never had.  Joan Baez and other females had done all this before, but none came close to Reba’s believability.

Rosanne and Johnny Cash – “That’s How I Got To Memphis” … Maybe it was the allure of Memphis over Boston or L.A. that changes the story, as the singer here elects to follow her love interest to destinations far away.  But she didn’t come here by his side. In this oft-recorded Tom T. Hall narrative, she’s followed the only trail she knows. Returning to the life her love interest knew before her knew her, she’s sure she’ll find him and be able to tell him all the things she wanted to say all along, and of course rescue him from his troubles.  Not just the engaging story told, it’s the elder Cash’s commanding vocal on the final verse and a walking bass line melody that keep this track repeating on my players.

Wynonna Judd- “No On Else On Earth” … Even the most brazen of us have a weakness. After all, the Texas Ranger himself finally succumbed to Alex Cahill. Rocks, fences, and keeping your senses are futile defenses sometimes. Wynonna Judd’s third single as a solo artist quickly introduced her with a signature sound that was all her own and an attitude never heard on those old Judds records.  Even 19 years later, no other tune in the singer’s catalog recalls what her fans would come to know Wynonna for in later years: rocking guitars, cool-as-ice lyrics, and her falsetto-into-growling vocals.

Jo Dee Messina – “Heads Carolina, Tails California” … Like Wynonna, Jo Dee Messina captured her musical essence with an early single. This – Messina’s first out of the chute and a #2 hit in 1996 – caught the lightning of the singer’s effervescent and spunky personality in a bottle, and combined it with an irresistibly reckless spirit.  The in-your-face mix of instruments that makes up the production here went out with the new millennium, which is a shame since this sounds as fresh today as 15 years ago. As was intended, it still leaves me feeling ready to pack a bag and hit the road.

Fleetwood Mac – “Dreams” … “Thunder only happens when it’s raining …”  Saying that line out loud 34 years after the rock supergroup hit the top of the Hot 100 with this Stevie Nicks-penned track, the words fall flat on the tongue in the most sanctimonious way. And certainly the production, heavy with synthetic bass lines and distorting harmonies, has lost a lot of its original sheen, leaving the song a dusty chestnut in the annals of classic rock.  But it’s in Nicks’ bemused performance and the all-inclusive theme that makes it worth repeating. No matter if you’re the one who says “you want your freedom” or the one giving it, after listening, you’ll never again call it quits without listening carefully “to the sound of your loneliness“.

8 responses to “Random playlist 4

  1. Michael A. September 29, 2011 at 11:09 am

    A great list. I always love me some Reba. I’ve been listening to some Alan Jackson this month too and, ironically enough, Fleetwood Mac (“The Chain” more than “Dreams” though). It seems that radio, when it does remember Wynonna, only remembers that song. Shame about that.

  2. southtexaspistolero September 29, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    The Alan Jackson song has always been a favorite of mine from Everything I Love. “A House with No Curtains” was that album’s best song, IMO.

  3. tandoc October 1, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I love Reba’s version of “Please Come To Boston” as well. I love how she can make the song her own.

  4. Adam Price Country Music October 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I have to say that Alan Jackson is still my favourite singer of all the country artists next to George Strait, love all their songs and went to see Alan in Sydney when he toured here, but would be great to see George come over also… I do a lot of their songs, and their style of singing influences writing and songs their flat our brilliant!!!

  5. Ben Foster October 5, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Nice list. Always loved me some Fleetwood Mac. Big fan of “Heads Carolina” and “No One Else On Earth” also.

    My current big’ns:
    Alison Krauss, “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” – Can’t stop listening to it. At all. Sixties pop hit or not, this song was made for her voice.
    Reba McEntire, “One Last Good Hand” – Picked up a copy of the ‘It’s Your Call’ album and instantly fell in love with this track. It’s now my go-to happy song.
    Shania Twain, “Up!” – One of my favorite Shania tunes (tied with “Any Man of Mine”)
    Dixie Chicks, “Heartbreak Town” – Vintage Dixie Chicks in all their beautiful, sad, fiddle-laden glory. One of my favorites from the ‘Fly’ album.
    Faith Hill, “This Kiss” (No blurb necessary here)
    Sugarland, “Stuck Like Glue” – Uh-oh. It’s come back!
    Connie Smith, “Pain of a Broken Heart” – The entire ‘Long Line of Heartaches’ album is amazing, but this and the title track are probably the two I’ve been coming back to the most.
    LeAnn Rimes, “16 Tons” – This remake is a fine example of the amazing interpretive abilities Rimes has developed over the past few years.
    Lacy J. Dalton, “Hard Times” – “Hard times is a daddy and a mother livin’ in a mansion and hatin’ each other.” Love that line.
    Suzy Bogguss, “Ol’ Dan Tucker” – Fiddle, banjo, catchy folk tune, Suzy’s voice… What more can you ask for?
    Randy Travis, “Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart” – Great lyric, cool melody, awesome performance. Classic Randy Travis.
    Pam Tillis, “It’s Lonely Out There” – I love the slow build-up nature of this song. One’s of Pam’s best.

    • J.R. Journey October 6, 2011 at 11:04 am

      Nice list yourself there, Ben. I’ve been playing “Stuck Like Glue” quite a bit myself since the radio has stopped beating me over the head with it.

    • Jonathan Pappalardo October 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      Yes! Great lists from both J.R. and Ben. You’re getting me thinking about my own.

      “It’s Lonely Out There” led me to “Deep Down” which led me to “I Said A Prayer.” It’s never a bad day when you listen to all but forgotten Pam Tillis songs. What struck me when listening to “Prayer” was how cool it sounded. I hadn’t heard it in forever, and didn’t love it when it charted in 1998. But being older now, I’m able to appreciate it more. And now that the era is long gone, I love anything with well showcased fiddle.

  6. Ben Foster October 6, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    “Deep Down” is a strong contender for being my favorite Pam Tillis song. I love “I Said a Prayer,” party because of how it stands out among most of Pam’s work. It sounds so cool, quirky, and different, not to mention catchy.

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