My Kind of Country

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

Week ending 7/20/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

johnny cash - at folsom prison1968: Johnny Cash – Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (Columbia)

1973: Jeanne Pruett – Satin Sheets (MCA)

1978: Willie Nelson – Stardust (Columbia)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Reba McEntire – Reba (MCA)

1993: Billy Ray Cyrus – It Won’t Be the Last (Mercury)

1998: Various Artists – Hope Floats: Music from the Motion Picture (Capitol)

2003: Buddy Jewell – Buddy Jewell (Sony)

2008: Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift (Big Machine)

2013: Florida Georgia Line – Here’s To the Good Times (Republic Nashville)

Classic Rewind: Pam Tillis – ‘Spilled Perfume’

Week ending 7/13/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

lonestar greatest hits1968: Bobby Goldsboro – Honey (United Artists)

1973: Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors (Epic)

1978: Willie Nelson – Stardust (Columbia)

1983: Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson – Pancho & Lefty (Epic)

1988: Reba McEntire – Reba (MCA)

1993: Billy Ray Cyrus – It Won’t Be the Last (Mercury)

1998: Various Artists – Hope Floats: Music from the Motion Picture (Capitol)

2003: Lonestar – From There to Here: Greatest Hits (BNA)

2008: Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift (Big Machine)

2013: Florida Georgia Line – Here’s To the Good Times (Republic Nashville)

Week ending 7/6/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

charlie mccoy - good time charlie1968: Bobby Goldsboro – Honey (United Artists)

1973: Charlie McCoy – Good Time Charlie (Monument)

1978: Willie Nelson – Stardust (Columbia)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Reba McEntire – Reba (MCA)

1993: George Strait – Pure Country: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCA)

1998: Various Artists – Hope Floats: Music from the Motion Picture (Capitol)

2003: George Strait – Honkytonkville (MCA)

2008: Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift (Big Machine)

2013: Hunter Hayes – Hunter Hayes (Atlantic)

Week ending 6/29/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

alabama - the closer you get1968: Bobby Goldsboro – Honey (United Artists)

1973: Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors (Epic)

1978: Willie Nelson – Stardust (Columbia)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Reba McEntire – Reba (MCA)

1993: Wynonna – Tell Me Why (MCA/Curb)

1998: Various Artists – Hope Floats: Music from the Motion Picture (Capitol)

2003: George Strait – Honkytonkville (MCA)

2008: Jewel – Perfectly Clear (Valory)

2013: Florida Georgia Line – Here’s To the Good Times (Republic Nashville)

Week ending 6/22/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

reba mcentire - reba1968: Loretta Lynn – Fist City (Decca)

1973: Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors (Epic)

1978: Willie Nelson – Stardust (Columbia)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Reba McEntire – Reba (MCA)

1993: Wynonna – Tell Me Why (MCA/Curb)

1998: Various Artists – Hope Floats: Music from the Motion Picture (Capitol)

2003: Lonestar – From There to Here: Greatest Hits (BNA)

2008: Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift (Big Machine)

2013: Blake Shelton – Based on a True Story (Warner Brothers)

Single Review: Dierks Bentley featuring Kacey Musgraves – ‘Bourbon In Kentucky’

Dierks Bentley - Bourbon In KentuckyOne of the best things about mainstream country today is they haven’t forgotten the drinking songs. Dierks Bentley is one of a handful of artists who consistently hits the top of the charts and still consistently hues more to the traditional side of things. Bentley’s latest single finds the singer lamenting that there’s not enough liquor to numb his heartbreak, already well-mined subject matter for country songwriters.

The track opens with a moody distortion to the music and builds to an arena rock-style crescendo. The juxtaposition of all that bombast and Bentley’s fretful performance of a tried and true classic country music theme actually works very nicely here and Kacey Musgraves provides a fitting smoky harmony part. Continued kudos to Dierks Bentley for keeping the quality high even when he’s obviously aiming for country radio airplay.

Grade: A-

Week ending 6/15/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

willie nelson - stardust1968: Loretta Lynn – Fist City (Decca)

1973: Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors (Epic)

1978: Willie Nelson – Stardust (Columbia)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Reba McEntire – Reba (MCA)

1993: Wynonna – Tell Me Why (MCA/Curb)

1998: Garth Brooks – The Limited Series (Capitol/Pearl)

2003: Toby Keith – Unleashed (Dreamworks)

2008: Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift (Big Machine)

2013: Blake Shelton – Based on a True Story (Warner Brothers)

Classic Rewind: Emmylou Harris – ‘I Don’t Have to Crawl’

This is an early concept video – a precursor to music videos – from 1981 to promote Emmylou’s album Evangeline. The song was written by Rodney Crowell and later recorded in by Crowell’s then-wife Rosanne Cash for her 1987 album King’s Record Shop.

Week ending 6/8/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

loretta lynn - entertainer of the year1968: Glen Campbell – Hey Little One (Capitol)

1973: Loretta Lynn – Entertainer of the Year: Loretta Lynn (MCA)

1978: Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson – Waylon & Willie (RCA Victor)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1993: Wynonna – Tell Me Why (MCA/Curb)

1998: Garth Brooks – The Limited Series (Capitol/Pearl)

2003: Jo Dee Messina – Greatest Hits (Curb)

2008: Julianne Hough- Julianne Hough (Mercury)

2013: Darius Rucker – True Believers (Capitol)

Conway Twitty remembered

Conway Twitty died on this day in 1993, just months shy of his sixtieth birthday. When he died, Conway’s 40 trips to the top of the charts was the most of anyone in country music, and he held on to that record for another 13 years until George Strait eventually eclipsed him.

After Harold Jenkins took his stage name from two points on a map of the southern United States, he spent the decade between 1956 and 1966 having spotty success on the U.S. Hot 100 chart. 1958’s “It’s Only Make Believe” went to #1, but Conway would have only two more songs to crack the pop top 10. Interestingly, his #10 placing of the Irish standard “Danny Boy” is the song’s highest ranking on the Billboard chart among dozens of recordings over the years. In 1966, Conway switched his focus and began recording country music. His first country single, “Guess My Eyes Were Bigger Than My Heart”, reached #18 and 1968’s “Next In Line” was Conway’s first country #1.

Here’s Conway singing his #1 pop hit from 1958:

Conway’s chart dominance in his time was legendary. Between 1971 and 1989, every solo Conway Twitty single released – 58 in all – reached the country top 30. Meanwhile, he and duet partner Loretta Lynn took 5 singles to the top, and placed 7 more in the top 10.

Here’s Conway and Loretta singing my favorite of their duets, “After The Fire Is Gone” on WSM’s Opry Almanac in 1971:

In a that career stretched 35 years, Conway was still a relevant hit maker right up to his death. In his recent piece remembering George Jones, Paul Dennis noted the 1960’s were his favorite era for Jones hits. The 1980’s era Conway Twitty songs are my favorites: “Tight Fittin’ Jeans”, “Don’t Call Him a Cowboy”, “Saturday Night Special”.  The 1982 album, Southern Comfort, in particular, got me hooked. The album’s two singles aren’t really special – though I like “The Clown” – but there are two tracks that sum up Conway Twitty and his song selection to me. “She Only Meant to Use Him” is an example of the wry storytelling and golden-rule-vindication that makes country music superior to other genres. “Something Strange Got Into Her Last Night” is the perfect country cheating song: a mid-tempo waltz with a layer of steel guitar and a winning double entendre in the title. (A bit of trivia about Southern Comfort: a young Naomi Judd is the model featured with Conway on the album’s cover.)

Conway was called the High Priest of Country Music and “the best friend a song ever had”. I’ve always been drawn to singers with big, emotive voices, and Conway Twitty’s sturdy and nimble baritone hits my ears just right. It doesn’t hurt any that he’s singing some of the best songs ever written.

Here’s another of my favorite Conway Twitty hits, 1975’s “This Time I’ve Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me” (written by Earl Thomas Conley and Mary Larkin):

Week ending 6/1/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

kenny rogers dottie west - everytime two fools collide1968: Bobby Goldsboro – Honey (United Artists)

1973: Johnny Rodriguez – Introducing Johnny Rodriguez (Mercury)

1978: Kenny Rogers and Dottie West – Everytime Two Fools Collide (United Artists)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1993: Wynonna – Tell Me Why (MCA/Curb)

1998: Garth Brooks – The Limited Series (Capitol/Pearl)

2003: Toby Keith – Unleashed (Dreamworks)

2008: Toby Keith – 35 Biggest Hits (Show Dog/UMe)

2013: George Strait – Love Is Everything (MCA)

Classic Rewind: Mary Chapin Carpenter – ‘I Take My Chances’

Mary Chapin Carpenter performs at the 1994 ACM Awards. Introduction by Reba McEntire.

5 questions with Dakota Bradley

dakota bradleyDakota Bradley has already caught the attention of talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, country star Tim McGraw and hit-making producer Byron Gallimore, who were all instrumental in the eighteen-year old’s eventual signing to Streamsound Records.  In a quick phone chat before his show at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Phoenix last week, we talked about his first single, “Somethin’ Like Somethin'” and the celebrity connection to his claim to fame.

J.R. Journey: You first appeared on the Ellen show as a duo. Now you’re a solo artist. How did that come about?

Dakota Bradley: Everything happened so fast after I was on that show. I literally just hit my eighty-fifth city on my radio tour. I just finished an album – produced by Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw.

J.R.: How did that appearance lead to the Byron Gallimore/Tim McGraw connection? 

D.B.: Well, right after I was on Ellen, I got to meet some really cool people in Nashville. I got introduced to writers and everybody. And I got introduced to Byron. He gave me a publishing deal and a record deal right away, which was pretty unbelievable. And he introduced me to Tim. I played a couple songs for Tim and the next day we were cutting records. And I’ve been on a radio tour ever since then. It’s pretty wild out here.

J.R.: So, in addition to those guys producing your record, I see your first single was co-written by Shane McAnally (who is one of the hottest writers on Music Row right now) with Josh Kear and Mark Irwin. You’re keeping pretty good company for a teenage newcomer. Tell me about how came to record that song.

D.B.: Oh, I feel very lucky. Mr. Gallimore – Byron Gallimore – and Missy, Byron’s wife, have been instrumental in finding songs for Tim over the years, over his entire career. Missy found that song and brought it to the studio. Tim loved it, and we cut it. And Tim is actually the one who picked it for the first single.

J.R.: Anybody else you’d like to work with?

D.B.: Keith Urban. John Mayer. Taylor Swift. Just anybody who loves good music.

J.R.: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

D.B.: Hopefully still touring and making music, if I can be that lucky. It’s hard to see where I’m gonna be tomorrow. I just hope I’m still making music.

Week ending 5/4/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

elvis presley - aloha from hawaii1968: Eddy Arnold – The Everlovin’ World of Eddy Arnold (RCA)

1973: Elvis Presley – Aloha from Hawaii: Via Satellite (RCA)

1978: Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson – Waylon & Willie (RCA Victor)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: George Strait – If You Aint Lovin’, You Ain’t Livin’ (MCA)

1993: Billy Ray Cyrus – Some Gave All (Mercury)

1998: Shania Twain – Come On Over (Mercury)

2003: Darryl Worley – Have You Forgotten? (Dreamworks)

2008: Lady Antebellum – Lady Antebellum (Capitol)

2013: Blake Shelton – Based on a True Story (Warner Brothers)

Week ending 4/27/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

george strait - if you ain't lovin1968: Eddy Arnold – The Everlovin’ World of Eddy Arnold (RCA)

1973: Elvis Presley – Aloha from Hawaii: Via Satellite (RCA)

1978: Kenny Rogers – Ten Years of Gold (United Artists)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: George Strait – If You Aint Lovin’, You Ain’t Livin’ (MCA)

1993: Billy Ray Cyrus – Some Gave All (Mercury)

1998: Shania Twain – Come On Over (Mercury)

2003: Dixie Chicks – Home (Open Wide/Columbia)

2008: George Strait – Troubador (MCA)

2013: Brad Paisley – Wheelhouse (Arista)

Classic Rewind: George Jones – ‘A Picture of Me (Without You)’

This time, he’s over her for good…

George Jones. September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013

Week ending 4/20/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

ricky van shelton - wild eyed dream1968: Eddy Arnold – The Everlovin’ World of Eddy Arnold (RCA)

1973: Elvis Presley – Aloha from Hawaii: Via Satellite (RCA)

1978: Kenny Rogers – Ten Years of Gold/a> (United Artists)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Ricky Van Shelton – Wild Eyed Dream (Columbia)

1993: Billy Ray Cyrus – Some Gave All (Mercury)

1998: Shania Twain – Come On Over (Mercury)

2003: Chris Cagle – Chris Cagle (Capitol)

2008: George Strait – Troubador (MCA)

2013: The Band Perry – Pioneer (Republic)

When the dead roam the country charts: posthumous hits and manufactured “duets”

brad paisleyWhen Brad Paisley’s Wheelhouse was released last week, everybody was talking about “Accidental Racist”, the controversial duet with LL Cool J. Late night shows like Saturday Night Live and The Colbert Report were merciless in taking apart the song’s misguided message. And the discussion isn’t likely to be over anytime soon.

Another track on the album stood out to me too. “Outstanding In Our Field” features guest vocals from Dierks Bentley and the late Roger Miller, and Hunter Hayes on guitar. Miller’s contribution is used mostly to beef up the rhythm section of Paisley’s latest loud party anthem list song.  Paisley’s track rips off the entire ten-second opening of Miller’s “Dang Me” – the part where Roger sings  “boo doo boo ba ba bum bom” – but any similarities between the two songs ends with that sampling. If Paisley’s song charts, it could be Miller’s first showing on the Country Songs list since 1986.

Country music has a long history of singers hitting the charts after their deaths, with solo hits and with “duets” pieced together using studio master tapes. Hank Williams had 4 #1 hits and a handful of top 10’s after his death on New Year’s Day 1953. (Even though it was on the charts in 1952, because “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” hit the top shortly after the singer’s death it is counted in Billboard as a posthumous hit.) In 1989, Hank Williams Jr. took a demo recording of his father singing “There’s a Tear In My Bear”, beefed up the production and added his own vocals to create a top 10 hit single, which would go on to win both Williamses a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration. The music video for that song featured old television footage of Hank Sr. performing merged with Hank Jr. and made for a cool illusion of the two singing together. It took home Video of the Year awards from the CMA and the ACM’s that year.

In May 1989, country music lost another great talent when Keith Whitley died. He too would hit the top spot after his death, with “I Wonder Do You Think of Me” and “It Ain’t Nothin'”. Whitley charted two more top 20 releases as a solo artist after his death, and two more in duets with wife Lorrie Morgan – “Til a Tear Becomes a Rose” – and with Earl Thomas Conley, on “Brotherly Love”. Unlike the duet with his widow, Whitley and Conley had recorded their song two years before, so it’s not an example of an electronic duet.

Gentleman Jim Reeves is country music’s biggest posthumous hit-maker. His string of hits after death is as impressive as what he charted during his lifetime. Reeves racked up 6 #1 country hits after he died in 1964, as well 13 top 10s, and over two dozen total country top 40 chart outings stretching to 1984 – two full decades later. He also consistently hit the top 10 on the charts in Norway and the U.K., Reeves even topped the U.K. singles chart with “Distant Drums” in 1966. Partly because of his continued popularity on the radio and in the record stores, Jim Reeves was also one of the first artists to have his vocals isolated and then remixed with another singer’s to form a duet. In 1979, Deborah Allen kickstarted her short solo career when she contributed to RCA’s unfinished master tapes of Reeves – which resulted in  3 consecutive top 10 hit duets. The Gentleman was then paired with his contemporary Patsy Cline – the two had recorded a number of the same songs – for a pair of albums on MCA and RCA, and they hit the top 5 with “Have You Ever Been Lonely” in 1982.

Those are just some highlights in country music’s history of posthumous duet creations. There are lots more, and some weren’t as well-received. Anita Cochran controversially added Conway Twitty to her “I Wanna Hear a Cheatin’ Song” in 2004. Several other artists and even the late singer’s family spoke out when Twitty’s vocals were spliced from former performances and interviews and added to the song, in what has correctly been called a case of “musical necrophilia“.

roger millerIs Paisley guilty of the same musical necrophilia? I say he is. Unlike all the hit duet creations I mentioned above, Conway Twitty and Roger Miller didn’t record a version of either “I Wanna Hear a Cheatin’ Song” or “Outstanding In Our Field”. These are songs that were written years after their deaths. And while Brad Paisley’s sampling of Roger Miller’s distinct and well-known song opening  works better as an homage than Anita Cochran’s creepy robotic-sounding creation, it still seems like a cutesy way of paying tribute to Miller. How about covering “England Swings” or “Old Toy Trains”? Or better yet, why not write an original song that sounds like it was inspired by Roger Miller?

Roger Miller is not here today to say whether or not he’d like to add his trademark scatting to a song all about a party in a field, with a tractor tire as a cooler for the beer and a bonfire to light up the night. A song with all the subtlety and charm of a drill sergeant at six a.m.  Roger Miller – a man renowned for his quick wit and quips like “Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” – would likely object to it. But that’s not really my call to make. None of us – music blogger or platinum-selling country star – should be making that call for Roger Miller.  Dang you, Brad Paisley. Dang you.

Week ending 4/13/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

merle haggard willie nelson - pancho and lefty1968: Buck Owens – It Takes People Like You (Capitol)

1973: Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell – Dueling Banjos (Warner Brothers)

1978: Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson – Waylon & Willie (RCA Victor)

1983: Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson – Pancho & Lefty (Epic)

1988: K.T. Oslin – 80’s Ladies (RCA)

1993: Billy Ray Cyrus – Some Gave All (Mercury)

1998: Shania Twain – Come On Over (Mercury)

2003: Dixie Chicks – Home (Open Wide/Columbia)

2008: Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift (Big Machine)

2013: Blake Shelton – Based on a True Story (Warner Brothers)