My Kind of Country

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

Monthly Archives: January 2019

Classic Rewind: Joey + Rory – ‘Lord Help My Man If He’s Running Around’

BREAKING: Harold Bradley passes at 93

Guitarist Harold Bradley of Owen Bradley’s Studio, here in the studio May 10, 1961, is one of six local musicians taking part in a demonstration of Nashville’s music as a part of the upcoming Nashville Arts Festival. Joe Rudis / The Tennessean

Bradley’s daughters announced on Facebook this morning their father passed peacefully in his sleep. Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, Bradley was a key member of Nashville’s “A-Team” of studio session musicians. As a guitarist, he played on legendary records from “Stand By Your Man” to “Crazy” and “Battle of New Orleans.” He was the younger brother of country music legend Owen Bradley, the famed record producer, who died twenty years ago.

Stephen L. Betts of Rolling Stone magazine wrote this about Bradley’s life and career:

Born in Nashville in 1926, Harold Ray Bradley was the younger brother of fellow Hall of Fame member Owen Bradley, who produced records by Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and many others. Although he first played banjo, the younger Bradley was given a six-dollar guitar purchased by his father in a junk store. By high school he was playing well enough to earn a spot in Ernest Tubb’s band the Texas Troubadours and also played in his brother’s popular dance band. Bradley served in the Navy and after his return began playing in the Grand Ole Opry house band, while also doing session work playing lead and rhythm guitar as well as bass. It was on the latter instrument that he popularized the “tic-tac” method, a muted style of playing that involved doubling a melody on six-string bass. Bradley’s first session took place in Chicago, playing on Pee Wee King’s “Tennessee Central No. 9” in 1946.

In the early Fifties, Owen and Harold opened several recording studios in Nashville, the most famous being the Quonset Hut on 16th Avenue South, part of the city’s then-burgeoning Music Row. Bradley would be among the most recorded musicians working in the style that would be known as “countrypolitan” or the “Nashville sound,” a blend of smooth pop and traditional country music. Among the more notable songs that include his work are the holiday classic, “Jingle Bell Rock,” which opens with his distinctive guitar riff and “The Battle of New Orleans,” which kicks off with a memorable banjo lick. Bradley also recorded a trio of instrumental LPs for Columbia Records in the early Sixties.

In 1978, Bradley was one of the organizers of a concert at the White House, given by Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and Tom T. Hall to honor the Country Music Association. In 1999, he co-produced Mandy Barnett’s second LP, I’ve Got a Right to Cry, which featured four tracks produced by Owen Bradley just prior to his death in January 1998.

Bradley served as president of Nashville’s American Federation of Musicians from 1991 to 2008 and was the AFM’s International Vice President from 1999 to 2010. The first president of Nashville’s chapter of the Recording Academy, he was honored with a special Grammy Trustees Award in 2010.

Click here to read what Barnett had to say about Bradley’s passing.

Ray Stevens had this to say, as well.

Classic Rewind: Martina McBride ft The Time Jumpers – ‘Heartaches by The Number’

In Memoriam: Country legends we’ve lost already in 2019

As our friend Razor X pointed out to me, January has been a cruel month for fans of historical country music. Before we flip the page into February, I wanted to note the legends who are, sadly, no longer amongst us. I’ve chosen to eulogize them in descending order.

Maxine Brown Russell (1931-2019)

Russell passed away January 21 at age 87 following complications from heart and kidney disease. Along with her siblings Bonnie Brown Ring and Jim Ed Brown, she was a member of the trio The Browns, who were active from 1954-1968. The trio scored their biggest hit “The Three Bells” 60 years ago, spending 10 consecutive weeks at #1 from August 7-November 2, 1959. The trio was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015. Jim Ed, who went on to have a successful solo career with hits such as “Pop a Top” and “I Don’t Want to Have To Marry You” with Helen Cornelius, died in 2015 following a battle with lung cancer. The disease claimed their sister Bonnie in 2016.

Reggie Young (1936-2019)

Young passed away January 17 from heart failure at age 82. A guitarist, Young’s signature sound graced hundreds of rock, pop, and country records. He most famously worked with Elvis Presley and Waylon Jennings.

Carol Channing (1921-2019)

Perhaps the most recognizable name in this group, Channing was a Broadway legend who made her mark playing Dolly Gallagher Levi in the musical Hello Dolly, which premiered in 1964. While not known for impacting country music in any significant way, she had a duet with Webb Pierce in 1976, entitled “Got You On My Mind.” Channing passed on January 15 of natural causes at age 97.

Bonnie Guitar (1923-2019)

Guitar, a country singer, guitarist, and business-woman, died January 12 at age 95. Please read our friend Paul W. Dennis’ Country Heritage Redux piece on her to learn more about her remarkable career. One of her biggest hits was “Dark Moon,” which was a #14 country single and peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart:

Classic Rewind: Emmylous Harris with Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers – ‘Making Believe/Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down’

Classic Rewind: Emmylou Harris – ‘My Songbird’

Album Review: Cody Johnson – ‘Ain’t Nothin’ To It’

After half a dozen self released albums since 2006, and building his career in his native Texas, 31 year old Cody Johnson makes his major label debut with this Warner Brothers record. It is an excellent album, showcasing a fine voice, great songs and perhaps offering mainstream country a way forward by mixing traditional country with some contemporary vibes. Cody’s long term producer Trent Willmon helms the project.

The lead single, ‘On My Way To You’ is a warm romantic ballad reflecting on, and not regretting, all the mistakes of the past. It is a very nice song, written by Brett James and Tony Lane, and is sung beautifully.

The title track, written by Leslie Satcher and David Lee, is a slow meditation on life and how to live, with some lovely fiddle.

‘Fenceposts’ is a lovely song about a young man inviting his sweetheart to settle down and make a life with him on their own farm. In ‘Understand Why’, written by Neil Medley and Randy Montana, a jaded Johnson seeks solitude after romantic failure.

A gorgeous low-key cover of Roger Miller’s ‘Husbands And Wives’ (familiar to younger fans from the Brooks & Dunn version) was recorded live. Radney Foster’s ‘Noise’ is a bit busy for my taste, but an enthusiastic take on Charlie Daniels’ ‘Long Haired Country Boy’ is great, with Johnson coming across like a young Travis Tritt. The sultry ‘Nothin’ On You’ (written by producer Willmon with Barrett Baber) channels Gary Allan. The energetic ‘Honky Tonk Mood’ is written by Chris Stapleton and Al Anderson, and is also very good.

‘Monday Morning Merle’, written by Lance Miller, Bart Butler and Brad and Brett Warren. It is a sad song about a man hiding a broken heart during his working week with the help of music:.

Wednesday spins the Beatles
Thursday is the Eagles
“Take It Easy” ’til that Friday rocks his world
After Saturday ol’ Jackson Browne
Is Sunday morning coming down
Then he’s right back to missing that girl
Turns up ‘Misery and Gin’
Here we are again
Monday morning Merle

Monday morning Merle
Lets that ol’ broken heart get back to work
He hides all the holes and the hurt
Under the dirt on his shirt
And the only way that he can get
Through the days and the regret
Is a song full of truth
With some words he never said
With those whiskey remedies
And those old school melodies you can’t forget

Brice Long, Carlton Anderson and Wynn Varble wrote ‘Where Cowboys Are King’, a fond tribute to Texas. ‘Y’all People’, about good-hearted country people, is dedicated to Cody’s fans, and could play well on country radio.

‘Doubt Me Now’, written by Casey Beathard and Mitch Oglesby, is a country rock defiance of those who have doubted the protagonist’s chances:

People like you got nothin’ better to do
Than throw rocks at things that shine
Well, you oughta be chasin’ your own dreams
‘Stead of shootin’ holes in mine

It annoyingly finishes with an electronic fadeout, but is a pretty good song until that point.

Johnson wrote two songs himself. ‘Dear Rodeo’ is a thoughtful retrospective on his first-love former career as a rodeo rider:

Dear rodeo
I’d be lyin’ if I tried to tell you I don’t think about you
After all the miles and the wild nights that we’ve been through
The Lord knows we had a few

Dear rodeo
I’d like to say that I took the reins and rode away
No regrets, no left-unsaids, just turned the page
Oh, but you know better, babe

Between them almost-had-’ems and the broken bones
The dream of a buckle I’ll never put on
I’m jaded
Whoa how I hate it
But somehow the highs outweigh the lows
And I’d do it all again
Even though
We both know
I’d still have to let you go

So dear rodeo
I tried like hell to tell myself it was all your fault
I held on tight with all my might
I just couldn’t hang on
And that’s hard to hang your hat on…

I’d like to think you miss me too
But I know you don’t
Oh, but that don’t change the past
And that don’t change the truth
I’m still in love with you

This is a definite highlight.

The album closes with Johnson’s other writing credit, ‘His Name Is Jesus’, a simple statement of faith.

This is a strong entry onto the mainstream scene, which I hope does well. Do check it out.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: Bradley Walker and the Oak Ridge Boys – ‘Family Bible’

Week ending 1/26/19: #1 singles this week in country music history

1959: Billy Bayou — Jim Reeves (RCA Victor)

1969: Daddy Sang Bass — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1979: Why Have You Left The One You Left Me For — Crystal Gayle (United Artists)

1989: Deeper Than The Holler — Randy Travis (Warner Bros)

1999: Wrong Again — Martina McBride (RCA Nashville)

2009: Start A Band — Brad Paisley feat. Keith Urban (Arista Nashville)

2019: Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

2019 (Airplay): Sixteen — Thomas Rhett (Valory)

Classic Rewind: Kitty Wells – ‘There’s Poison In Your Heart’

Classic Rewind: Crystal Gayle – ‘Cry’

Album Review: Midland — ‘Midland’

NOTE: Occasional Hope reviewed this upon release. Paul’s view of the album appears below: 

I know I’m a little late to the party in discovering this late 2017 release but I rarely listen to over-the-air country stations these days.

Other than my brother Sean, who knows my tastes in folk, jazz & pop standards (but knows little about country or bluegrass music), none of my family or friends give me music as a birthday or Christmas present. So much to my surprise, I received this CD at Christmas from a nephew of mine who claimed this to be “old style” country music. Of course, my nephew is only 18 so his idea of “old style” country might have been Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, and Jason Aldean, whereas my definition differs considerably.

Well, it has been a really busy last few weeks for me so it wasn’t until a few days ago that I got around to popping On The Rocks into my CD player (prompted by the fact that I would see my nephew again in two weeks). Much to my surprise, I found myself listening to a real country record, one actually coming out of Nashville.

No, this is not a country record of the sort that could have been played in the classic country period (1944-1978), but it would definitely have fit into the country playlists of the period 1979 – 2005. Instead of a band whose influences were the likes of Eagles, Marshall Tucker and, James Taylor, I was hearing a band that was influenced by Alabama, Diamond Rio, Bellamy Brothers, Clint Black and perhaps John Anderson or Keith Whitley.

I do not know much about this act and perhaps they would tell you of other influences but I can definitely hear traces of the acts cited above. Moreover, this album has the sound of a country album, with prominent steel guitar, audible lyrics and, strong melodies.

Three singles were released to radio. The first single “Drinkin’ Problem” went to #3 on the US Country Airplay chart and went to #1 on Canadian Country chart. The song is an excellent low-key ballad with a good melody and nice steel guitar.

One more night, one more down

One more, one more round

First one in, last one out

Giving this town lots to talk about

They don’t know what they don’t know

 

People say I’ve got a drinkin’ problem

That ain’t no reason to stop

People sayin’ that I’ve hit rock bottom

Just ’cause I’m living on the rocks

It’s a broken hearted thinkin’ problem

So pull that bottle off the wall

People say I got a drinkin’ problem

But I got no problem drinkin’ at all

The second single was “Make A Little” which reached #15 and #12 respectively on the charts referenced above. The song is a mid-tempo rocker that would make a good dance floor number:

 It’s a hard living, tail kicking

Trip that we’re all on, but I’m betting

We can find a little sunshine in the night

It’s a back breaking, soul taking

Road we walk, so what are we waiting for

Baby let’s turn off the lights

‘Cause girl, there’s just not enough love in the world

 

So we should make a little

Generate a little

Maybe even make the world a better place a little

We could turtle dove, Dixie land delight

You know it can’t be wrong when it feels so right

It all comes down to you and me, girl

There’s just not enough love in the world

So we should make a little

Then make a little more tonight

The final single was “Burn Out” which reached #11 on The US Country Airplay chart but inexplicably just barely cracked the forty in Canada. This is probably my favorite song on the album

Watchin’ cigarettes burn out

‘Til all the neon gets turned out

There’s nothing left but empty glasses now

It’s all flashes now

Smokin’ memory that ain’t nothin’ but ashes

In the low lights

These done-me-wrong songs hit me so right

I was so on fire for you it hurts how

Fast a cigarette can burn out

I think that the following two songs would have made good singles: “Electric Rodeo:”

 It’s a lonely road

Two for the pain and three for the show

You put your life on hold chasin’ layaway dreams

That ain’t all they seem

With a hotel heart just tryin’ to find a spark

 

Electric rodeo

We’re paintin’ on our suits

We’re pluggin’ in our boots

We’re ridin’ high tonight

On Acapulco gold

And the rhinestones shine

Just as bright as diamonds

Underneath the lights

Electric rodeo

and “Out of Sight:”

Clothes ain’t in the closet, shoes ain’t under the bed

I should’ve believed her when she said what she said

“You’ll never change I know you never will”

I just sat there watching tailights rollin’ over the hill

I called her mama and I called her best friend

They said “She called it quits, so boy don’t call here again”

Up and down these streets lookin’ for her car

Tried to make it back home, but ended up at the bar

 

She’s gone (she’s gone, so long) never coming back

So gone (so gone, so gone) the train went off the track

And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put me and my baby back together again

So long (she’s gone, so long) that’s the way it goes

She’s gone (so long, so long) and everybody knows

That I’m going crazy one night at a time

She’s out of sight and I’m out of my mind

The band consists of Jess Carson (acoustic guitar & background vocals), Cameron Duddy – (bass guitar & background vocals) and Mark Wystrach (lead vocals), with all three members being involved in the writing of eleven of the thirteen songs with Carson being involved as a co-writer on all thirteen songs, with an occasional assist from outside sources. The band is supplemented by some of Nashville’s finest studio musicians with Paul Franklin and Dan Dugmore swapping steel guitar duties, often carrying the melody line.

While I do not regard any of the tracks on the album as being timeless classics, I at least liked all of the tracks on the album since I never hit ‘skip’ on any of them. If you wonder whatever happened to that good country music of my early-to-middle adulthood youth (i.e. through the late 1970s and the 1990s), then give this CD a listen. I look forward to their next album.

Classic Rewind: John Anderson – ‘Seminole Wind’

Classic Rewind: Mike Reid — ‘Walk On Faith’

Classic Rewind: Patty Loveless – ‘If Teardrops Were Pennies’

Classic Rewind: Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Gwen Sebastian — ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’

The trio takes on the Dixie Chicks classic, which turns 20 this year:

Album Review: Dolly Parton – ‘Dumplin’

Dolly Parton’s latest project is the soundtrack to a new Netflix movie about a plus-size teen and Dolly fan who enters a beauty pageant run by her judgmental mother.

It is very much the pop side of Dolly’s music, with little country sounding about it. Producer Linda Perry, an extremely successful songwriter and producer from the pop world, perhaps best known for writing ‘Get The Party Started’ for Pink! and ‘Beautiful’ for Christina Aguilera, clearly has little facility for or understanding of country music.

A number of the songs are co-writes with Perry especially for the film. ‘Girl In The Movies’ is a nice but rather repetitive song with a warm lyric about a girl with big dreams which ties into the film themes. ‘Red Shoes’ is charming and passionate. A more country production would have worked better on these songs. ‘Who’ is a pretty song about discovering first love. ‘Push And Pull’ is about a troubled relationship (perhaps, from the film synopsis, the young heroine and her mother).

Willa Amai is a young Californian singer and protegee of Perry. Her duet with Dolly on the latter’s 70s pop hit ‘Here You Come Again’ is a bit over produced, but not bad, and Dolly sounds great on the track.

‘Here I Am’, originally on Dolly’s iconic Coat Of Many Colors album, is performed here as a duet with Australian pop star Sia. Dolly’s voice is crystal clear and beautiful; Sia’s deeper voice is soulful and powerful, and the overall effect is rather good, with a faintly gospel air. It is one of the best moments on this album.

I also really enjoyed ‘Why’, a rhythmic and spiritual duet with gospel legend Mavis Staples. It has a Dolly in the 80s feel to it, with a gospel overlay, catchy melody and a powerful lyric:

I often wonder what I’m doin’ here
There must be a reason
But it’s not always clear
Why was I born,
Wwhat’s my purpose in life
There is an answer to my question why
(Well, well, well)

I wonder why we can’t love and be free
Let everyone be all that they wanna be
Judge not lest you be judged,
Let heaven decide
Still we don’t do it, and I wonder why

I know I’m not perfect but nobody is
There’s things more important topping my list
Acceptance and kindness and doin’ what’s right
We would if we could, whoa, why don’t we try

I wonder why we can’t just love and be free
Let everyone be all that they wanna be
Judge not lest you be judged,
Let heaven decide
Still we don’t do it, and I wonder why

I wonder why we can’t just speak out and say
I see you my brother and I love you that way
Just be who you are with purpose and pride
‘Cause God loves us all and I bet he wonders why
We can’t love one another the way that we are
Why we are blinded from seeing that far
Let’s light the fire
Spread love with the light
We’re walkin’ in darkness, no good reason why

I wonder why we can’t just let them be free
Let everyone be all that they wanna be
My brothers, my sisters, come walk by my side
Oh I will if you will
Oh why don’t we try

You know love is the answer to my question why
But still we don’t do it
And I wonder why

Rhonda Vincent adds harmonies on the urgently optimistic ‘If We Don’t’, another of the Perry co-writes, which encourages making a difference. There is some actual fiddle on the song, from Alison Krauss, but it doesn’t really showcase the vocals. Not bad, though.

‘Holdin’ On To You’, a duet with Elle King, who has previously worked with Dierks Bentley, is very pop indeed, and I hated it. Dolly’s pop hit ‘Two Doors Down’ is very busy in this brassy incarnation; I can imagine it works in the context of the movie.

Miranda Lambert duets on a version of Dolly’s first ever hit, the Curly Putnam-penned ‘Dumb Blonde’, which does sound like a country record. Unsurprisingly to regular readers, I much prefer Dolly’s original version of her classic ‘Jolene’, but the new re-recording is actually very effective. Dolly’s vocal is somber and underlines the sadness of the story of the betrayed woman begging her rival for pity, and the string arrangement is dark and powerful.

So it sounds as if this set of recordings would work well for its main purpose, as a movie soundtrack, and also as an album in its own right for Dolly’s pop and international fans. It has less to offer fans of her more country material, but may still be worth a listen.

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Billy Joe Shaver – ‘You Just Can’t Beat Jesus Christ’

Week ending 1/19/19: #1 singles this week in country music history

1959: Billy Bayou — Jim Reeves (RCA Victor)

1969: Daddy Sang Bass — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1979: Baby I’m Burnin’ — Dolly Parton (RCA Records)

1989: She’s Crazy For Leaving — Rodney Crowell (Columbia)

1999: Right On The Money — Alan Jackson (Arista)

2009: Already Gone — Sugarland (Mercury Nashville)

2019: Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

2019: Good Girl — Dustin Lynch (Broken Bow)

 

Classic Rewind: Zac Brown Band – ‘Colder Weather’