My Kind of Country

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

U.S. Supreme Court strikes a victory for the used music market

copyrightFor the past few months, I’ve been reading about Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thailand-born student at Cornell University, and how his idea to offset the costs of college tuition led him to the United States Supreme Court. Kirtsaeng made over $100,000 by selling used textbooks online. These textbooks were purchased by his relatives in Thailand at cut-rate prices, much cheaper than they can be bought for in the U.S.  He bought books that were printed and sold legally overseas. He resold them in the States for a profit. The publisher of the textbooks, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., sued and won a $600,000 judgment against Kirtsaeng, arguing he violated fair use since the copyrighted material was sold outside the U.S. The college student and his lawyer held he did not violate fair use because he bought the books through a third-party – to whom Wiley and Sons had licensed the low-cost copyright – and appealed to the high court.

And it all sounded to me like that old first-sale doctrine argument we heard back when some recording artists got their breeches twisted over the sale of used CDs and vinyl records.

Those old enough to remember know the issued of reselling used media caused a stir in the mid-’90s when used CDs started saturating the market and caused a panic at the labels, who quickly issued cease and desist letters to the record stores, ordering them to stop selling used products. The Federal Trade Commission got involved and the labels backed off, but not before some recording artists – most notably Garth Brooks – could weigh in on the subject. Garth went so far as refuse to release new music to record store chains that sold used CDs. What I’m sure was meant to be his championing of the underdog – the “little guy” – turned out to be one of the first of many times Garth made a jackass of himself in the media, especially since he was railing against what was already a nearly nine decades-old precedent settling the argument of “licensing” versus “sale” of a copyright when you buy a book, vinyl record, DVD, or mp3.

Which is why I was surprised at first to learn that the Supreme Court would even be hearing yet another case about this. But there was a difference here. The big issue regarding The Textbook Case is that the product was manufactured outside the United States. Did U.S. copyright law – particularly the first sale doctrine – apply to works made outside U.S. jurisdiction? The justices say so, in a 6-3 vote last week, overturning the district court’s decision. And while their opinions hinged more on giant retailers like Costco and their ability to sell goods made outside the country, it trickles down to the used music marketplace.

If the high court had upheld Mr. Kirtsaeng’s conviction and fines, the availability of and our ability to purchase used (read: reasonably priced) copies of older and out-of-print albums would dramatically drop. Rejecting third-party copyrights from first-sales exemptions wouldn’t completely shut down amazon.com’s used CD market for U.S. customers – providing we were buying American-bred products. But Bear Family and some other great independent labels could have faced an embargo. So I say the court’s ruling is a victory for the audiophiles even more than the general consumer.

Maybe this will be the final say on the matter, with the court extending the first-sale doctrine’s reach to globally-produced products. Or maybe just until there are extraterrestrial copyrights to legislate.

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

freddie hart - got the all overs for you1968: Eddy Arnold – Turn The World Around (RCA)

1973: Freddie Hart and The Heartbeats – Got The All Overs For You (Capitol)

1978: Dolly Parton – Here You Come Again (RCA)

1983: Alabama – Mountain Music (RCA)

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

1993: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1998: Garth Brooks – Sevens (Capitol)

2003: Shania Twain – Up! (Mercury)

2008: The Eagles – Long Road Out of Eden (Lost Highway)

2013: Taylor Swift – Red (Big Machine)

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

garth brooks - sevens1968: Eddy Arnold – Turn The World Around (RCA)

1973: Merle Haggard – The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1978: Dolly Parton – Here You Come Again (RCA)

1983: Alabama – Mountain Music (RCA)

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

1993: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1998: Garth Brooks – Sevens (Capitol)

2003: Shania Twain – Up! (Mercury)

2008: The Eagles – Long Road Out of Eden (Lost Highway)

2013: Taylor Swift – Red (Big Machine)

Single Review: Miranda Lambert – ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’

miranda lambert - mama's broken heart“Mama’s Broken Heart” was written by some of my favorite songwriters currently working in Nashville. Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark have co-written a handful of my personal favorites in the past few years – LeAnn Rimes’ “Crazy Women”, Reba McEntire’s “Cry”, The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two” – and the song’s third co-writer Kasey Musgraves is currently on the charts with one of the best country singles in the last ten years. When you figure in the reigning three-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Miranda Lambert singing their words, this single is off to a running start with a considerable pedigree. And it almost lives up to all that promise.

Synthetic rhythms and sliding guitar licks frame Lambert as she sings the cheeky verses  – “Word got around to the barflies and the baptists/My mama’s phone started ringin’ off the hook” – that tell of a girl wearing her heartbreak on her sleeve and reacting to it with less than the southern gentility with which she was raised.  It’s off to a good start. But wait for the Wall of Miranda Lambert Sound to blight an otherwise flawless record. The song’s plot is salvaged because the verses are kept to a bare-beat minimum, allowing the quick-on-the-trigger lyric the first draw. Too bad the chorus is beat and whipped until any remnants of what was probably a sweet little melody are long gone.

Production missteps aside, “Mama” will inject a much-needed bit of sinister excitement to country radio’s drab playlists. This is a good thing.

Grade: B

Listen

2012 by the numbers

numbers2012 was a great year for us at My Kind of Country.  Razor, Occasional Hope, and Jonathan shone the spotlight on twelve diverse artists each month including Nancy Griffith, Marty Stuart, Rodney Crowell, Kathy Mattea and Ricky Skaggs. Our resident country music encyclopedia Paul Dennis continued his Country Heritage series and also took you through a fact-filled countdown of his favorite songs from the 1980’s.

In 2012, we published 692 posts, which generated over 230,000 views from some 110,000 visitors. You wrote 1,312 comments this year on our posts.

Top 5 commenters …

Ken Johnson  – 153
Luckyoldsun  – 117
Paul W Dennis  – 108
Ben Foster  – 97
Razor X  – 83

Here’s how how you found us:

More than 80% of our visitors arrived through search engines, and the top five terms leading visitors to My Kind of Country in 2012 were:

kenny rogers
my kind of country
lib hatcher
songs about being the other woman
dolly parton

The top referring sites in 2012 were:

  1. countryuniverse.net
  2. facebook.com
  3. blogs.com
  4. farcethemusic.com
  5. countrycalifornia.com

We launched this blog on December 8, 2008 with a staff of three. Now four years later, 1.2 million pageviews and 10,000+ comments later, it’s still our pleasure to be writing about the country music we all love so much. We hope you continue to be entertained and informed when you visit, and of course we hope you keep coming back in 2013.

Have a safe and Happy New Year from everyone at My Kind of Country!

Click here to see the complete report.

Week ending 12/29/12: #1 albums this week in country music history

dolly parton - here you come again1967: Eddy Arnold – Turn The World Around (RCA)

1972: Merle Haggard – The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1977: Dolly Parton – Here You Come Again (RCA)

1982: Alabama – Mountain Music (RCA)

1987: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1992: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1997: Garth Brooks – Sevens (Capitol)

2002: Shania Twain – Up! (Mercury)

2007: The Eagles – Long Road Out of Eden (Lost Highway)

2012: Taylor Swift – Red (Big Machine)

J.R. Journey’s Top Albums of 2012

Here are my favorite albums from 2012, in no order. Click the links to listen on Spotify.

nashville soundtrackNashville Cast The Music of Nashville: Season 1, Volume 1

The Tennesseean‘s Peter Cooper made a valid case about the music coming from the hit ABC drama being better than most mainstream country hits. I agree with him. While the TV show’s original songs haven’t yet shown much aptitude with traditional country sounds – leaning more toward Americana and pop-country – they’re leaps and bounds ahead of the current top 40 when it comes to content and substance.

Recommended tracks: “Wrong Song”, “If I Didn’t Know Better”, “No One Will Ever Love You”

Kellie Pickler100 Proof

A handful of barn-burning up-tempos, a few clever female-friendly medium tempos, and even more stone country tear-jerkers, served up with heaps of fiddle, pedal steel, and Kellie Pickler’s Carolina twang? Yes, please.

Recommended tracks: “Long As I Never See You Again”, “Where’s Tammy Wynette”, “The Letter (To Daddy)”

jameyjohnsonJamey Johnson – Living For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran

Johnson’s tribute to Music Row pioneer and songwriting legend Hank Cochran features an all-star cast taking on some of Cochran’s big hits and a few well-chosen and lesser known gems.

Recommended tracks: “Make The World Go Away” (with Alison Krauss), “A-11” (with Ronnie Dunn), “A Way To Survive” (with Leon Russell and Vince Gill)

Zac Brown BandUncaged

On their third album, the Zac Brown Band again combines country with bluegrass and the sounds of the islands and the songs this time out are again smart and to the point.

Recommended tracks: “Sweet Annie”, “Goodbye In Her Eyes”, “The Wind”

Alan JacksonThirty Miles West

Jackson’s first album for the EMI Nashville label follows his winning no frills neotraditional formula. Thirty Miles West is a set full of top-notch songs and performances. I can’t stop playing it.

Recommended tracks: “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore”, “Look Her In The Eye and Lie”, “She Don’t Get High”

dwight yoakam - 3 pearsDwight Yoakam  – 3 Pears

Yoakam’s first album of all new material in seven years is as eclectic as the man himself. On 3 Pears, he shares production duties with punk-rock hero Beck and songwriting credit with Robert Richie (aka Kid Rock) and Ashley Monroe on respective tracks on a set that ably combines the sound of rock and roll’s golden AM era with his own distinctive country stamp.

Recommended tracks: “It’s Never Alright”, “Heart Like Mine”, “Long Way To Go”

Annus horribilis: the worst country songs of 2012

wile e coyoteAfter several years of the reign of redneckus maximus, we’re now to the point of trucksong overloadus, way past selfus parody-us, and nearing complete-us crappus.  How does mainstream country music crawl out from under this pile of cartoonish crap it has buried itself in? I don’t know. My fellow writers don’t know either. But we know these are truly terrible songs.

10. “Something ‘Bout a Truck” – Kip Moore

Georgia native Moore first landed on the Hot Country Songs chart last year with “Mary Was The Marryin’ Kind”, a decent little throwback of a song. When that tanked, he came back (and not surprisingly hit big) with this loud, obnoxious and cliche’-laden song, a song so lowest common denominator and devoid of intelligence that even Craig Morgan would have passed on it.

– J.R. Journey

9. “Must’ve Had a Good Time” – Parmalee

No. Thank. You. How can anyone call this mess even remotely country? Just when you think you’ve heard it all, something comes along to make the rest seem like the second coming of Hank Williams, Sr. Every year I think we’ve hit rock bottom and then we go further and further down the black hole. I now understand why people give up listening to country radio.

– Jonathan Pappalardo

8. “Telescope” – Hayden Panettierre

A ridiculously bad pop song like a parody of bad country radio yet somehow it has made the jump from TV’s Nashville (where I gather it’s supposed to be a bad record) to being a bona fide minor hit with both sales and radio play. This seems like the ultimate indictment of modern radio programmers.

– Occasional Hope

7. “Good Girl” – Carrie Underwood

The horrible echoey production and shouted vocals make this unlistenable.

– Hope

Frantic, spastic, shout-y, and a good dose of forced rasp. Couldn’t she have found a better influence than Steven Tyler? He’s clearly no good for this girl. Any chance I can pick up the tab for his goodbye shoes? Please?

– Jonathan

6. “Cruise” – Florida Georgia Line

The only thing worse than this pair of deebags hitting a major breakthrough in their career with a piece of drivel like this will be the countless deebags-in-training that will be inspired to emulate Florida Georgia Line’s success. From the butchered grammar lyrics to the singers’ affected twang and dog tags around their necks, these guys are a legit training manual on how to be scuzzy deebag losers.

– J.R.

5. “Dancing Away With My Heart” – Lady Antebellum

We get it already. You haven’t seen each other in ages. Now move past this chance meeting and see where life takes you from here. Just maybe, there might be an interesting story in there somewhere. That is, if you can get over not having seen each other in ages and move beyond this anti-climatic dance floor run-in. Give it a try, you can’t get much worse. Right?

– Jonathan

This isn’t offensive to my ears like some of the songs on this list, it’s just so damn boring. Aren’t we on the twelfth floor yet?

– J.R.

4.  “She Cranks My Tractor” – Dustin Lynch

For every “Big Green Tractor” we get…this. I want to respect Dustin Lynch, but he isn’t helping his case by writing, recording, and releasing an ode to having an orgy with farm equipment.

– Jonathan

3. “Family Tree” – Her and Kings Country

Features an actual, very bad rapped section, badly constructed lyric. This almost unbelievably terrible song fortunately failed to make any headway for the Warner/Elektra group.

– Hope

2. “Kick It In The Sticks” – Brantley Gilbert

Wow, country radio sure has changed, yeah? The thought that Gilbert could get this pumped up nonsense up the charts (it stalled at 29, thank goodness, but in a re-release – it didn’t chart in 2010, wonder why?) is flat-out disgusting. I can stand my share of pop/country or rock/country type songs, but this is taking it to a whole new level. “Kick It In The Sticks” should be “Kick Him to the Curb.”

– Jonathan

This one was too awful even for country radio, which is quite an indictment. Heavy rock accompaniment to a song about country living, with very bad rock-style vocals from Brantley who sounds as if he has laryngitis. Unfortunately I think he meant it to sound that way. I also do not find the George Strait namedrop remotely credible.

– Hope

1. “Truck Yeah” – Tim McGraw

Don’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case judge a song by its title. When you’ll do anything to stay relevant, like record this junky play on words, you’re nothing more than desperate. “Felt Good On My Lips” and “It’s a Business Doing Pleasure With You” are bad, but this is inexcusable.

– Jonathan

I have no idea what McGraw is thinking. Having escaped the malign clutches of Curb I had hoped he would be free to record some decent material, but instead he comes up with this witless semi-rap trash, which is completely without merit of any kind. Some people don’t deserve artistic freedom.

– Hope

Week ending 12/15/12: #1 albums this week in country music history

shania twain - up 1967: Eddy Arnold – Turn The World Around (RCA)

1972: Merle Haggard – The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1977: Elvis Presley – Elvis In Concert (RCA)

1982: Alabama – Mountain Music (RCA)

1987: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1992: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1997: Garth Brooks – Sevens (Capitol)

2002: Shania Twain – Up! (Mercury)

2007: The Eagles – Long Road Out of Eden (Lost Highway)

2012: Taylor Swift – Red (Big Machine)

J.R. Journey’s Top Singles of 2012

Four veteran superstars, two of country music’s hottest groups, a couple of up-and-comers, and two debut singles make up my top ten singles list this year. Rather than tell you why it’s a damn shame that radio was unwelcoming toward Alan Jackson and George Strait’s respective singles and how they’ll probably cool toward Kasey Musgraves soon and likely won’t give Ashley Monroe a shot either, I’ll just say that six of my ten favorites were big hits. That’s something. And I’ll tell you why I like these songs.

10. Jana Kramer – “Why You Wanna”

One Tree Hill star Jana Kramer made the actress-to-country-singer leap flawlessly with her promising debut on this fiddle-laced plea. (Take note, future wannabes.)  “Out of all of the places in this little town/Yeah, you had to come walking in here and sit down” she mews and wins over millions of country fans, myself included.

kenny chesney - el cerrito place9. Kenny Chesney – “El Cerrito Place”

Kenny Chesney hits a sweet spot with medium-tempo ballads like this one, and he’s gotten a lot better at selecting them recently. (See: “Better As A Memory”, “You Save Me”, “You and Tequila”.) This Keith Gattis tune is more evidence of Chesney’s superior skills for selection and delivery.

8. Easton Corbin – “Lovin’ You Is Fun”

This guy has the vocal chops and the strutting neotraditional sound to keep this kind of country alive for a new generation of fans. I really like the rapid fire verses meeting the toe-tapping chorus here.

carrie underwood - two black cadillacs7. Carrie Underwood – “Two Black Cadillacs”

Underwood’s finest single to date is “Does He Love You” meets “Delia’s Gone” set to an appropriately ominous contemporary sound.

6. Ashley Monroe – “Like a Rose”

As one-third of the Pistol Annies, Ashley Monroe and company gave us one of the best albums of 2011. This year, she attempts solo country stardom once more on a sweet song with smart lyrics. The hook is not original, but its memorable nonetheless. And it sticks in my ear just right.

zac brown band - uncaged5. Zac Brown Band – “Goodbye In Her Eyes”

Their breezy harmonies and snappy songs have made the Zac Brown Band a perennial favorite for me since their debut. And they didn’t disappoint this year with this slow-burning number.

4. George Strait – “Drinkin’ Man”

Thirty years into his recording career, Strait set a new high-water mark for himself with his Here for a Good Time album. This stunning narrative from a man battling his alcohol demons is one of his best singles ever.

band perry - better dig two3. The Band Perry – “Better Dig Two”

This song comes from two of my favorite current writers – Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark – with Trevor Rosen, but fits well with Kimberly Perry’s own clever musings on mortality and love. Continued kudos to the band for sticking with this organic sound following their big breakthrough.

2. Alan Jackson – “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore”

Jackson’s first single from his excellent Thirty Miles West album is stone country at its melancholy finest. It’s similar to those early gut punches in Jackson’s catalog like “Here In The Real World” and “Wanted”. Here, he’s taking all the blame for the end of this love affair and even says he won’t pick up if she ever drunk dials him one night. That’s downright decent.

kasey musgraves - merry go round1. Kacey Musgraves – “Merry Go Round”

The Texas singer and former Nashville Star contestant’s debut is a vivid and sometimes startling yarn about small town life and features a light touch of production well-suited to the lyrics and one of the neatest rhyme schemes I can remember.

Listen to a playlist of my favorites on Spotify.

Week ending 12/8/12: #1 albums this week in country music history

 merle haggard - best of the best of1967: Eddy Arnold – Turn The World Around (RCA)

1972: Merle Haggard – The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1977: Elvis Presley – Elvis In Concert (RCA)

1982: Alabama – Mountain Music (RCA)

1987: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1992: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1997: Shania Twain – Come On Over (Mercury)

2002: Shania Twain – Up! (Mercury)

2007: Garth Brooks – The Ultimate Hits (Pearl)

2012: Taylor Swift – Red (Big Machine)

Keeping your ears warm: a slacker’s playlist

slacker playlist2December means list-making for lots of people. For Christmas shoppers. said list reminds you to buy Aunt Dorothy that bottle of Evening In Paris perfume and to likewise pick up those all-important token trinkets for every friend, relative, and passing acquaintance in your life. It’s the time of year for giving, after all.

And for music bloggers, it means whittling down the year’s releases into a tidy list of the best of the best. If you’re like me, you’ve waited until December to really start the process of putting them in order. I’ve kept a revolving list of my favorites since January, in no particular order. So for the past week I’ve been revisiting, adding new songs, and eliminating the middling music. In the meantime, I’ve found some great songs – new and old – to keep my ears warm when I’m not re-evaluating the best of 2012. Thanks to my handy Spotify account, I’ve got a pre-made list of my top 10 played songs during the past week. I’ll share them with you below – a sort of procrastination edition of the ever-popular iPod check – and invite you to share your own in the comments.

  • Kasey Musgraves – “Merry Go Round”
  • Don Gibson – “Oh Lonesome Me”
  • Lori McKenna – “Sometimes He Does”
  • Elvis Presley – “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”
  • Kelly Clarkson – “People Like Us”
  • Linda Ronstadt – “Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind”
  • Ray Charles – “I Can’t Stop Loving You”
  • Bobbie Cryner – “Leavin’ Houston Blues”
  • Rick Trevino – “Running Out of Reasons To Run”
  • Kelly Clarkson featuring Vince Gill – “Don’t Rush”

Spotify users can listen to my top 10 playlist.

What’s tops on your playlist right now? Share your top 10 (or 20 or 30) tracks with us.

Week ending 12/1/12: #1 albums this week in country music history

dixie chicks - home1967: Eddy Arnold – Turn The World Around (RCA)

1972: Merle Haggard – The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1977: Elvis Presley – Elvis In Concert (RCA)

1982: Alabama – Mountain Music (RCA)

1987: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1992: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1997: Shania Twain – Come On Overs (Mercury)

2002: Dixie Chicks – Home (Sony)

2007: Garth Brooks – The Ultimate Hits (Pearl)

2012: Taylor Swift – Red (Big Machine)

Album Review: Terri Clark – ‘Classic’

The past few years has seen many a covers album by the female country stars of the 1980’s and ’90s. One by one, Lorrie Morgan, Wynonna Judd, Rosanne Cash, Patty Loveless and others have delivered varying sets of their takes on yesterday’s hits. On her latest album for her own Baretrack Records, Terri Clark is singing classic country made famous by greats like Kitty Wells, Hank Snow, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard, and throwing in more contemporary material from Linda Ronstadt, Glen Campbell and Reba McEntire.

With the same five-piece country band, she gives fairly routine renditions on several songs. For the most part Clark swaggers and swings, cries and carries on at just the right moments like the seasoned performer and lifetime country music fan she is. The biggest flaw to be found on this album is the production on some tracks. “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin'” is given the boot-scootin’ treatment, amped up to a breakneck shuffle which saps the spunky, soap-in-your-mouth ultimatum out of Loretta Lynn’s lyrics. While “Delta Dawn” benefits from a breezier production that allows the original Southern gospel sound to remain intact and Tanya Tucker proves to still be at the top of her game and Reba’s bent-note delivery of “How Blue” proves to be as good as ever too, there’s a redundancy to these recordings. Fans of either song will likely stick with the originals.

At her commercial peak, Clark shone brightest because of her confident country-is-cool charisma, and the best tracks here benefit from that. Fiddles cry as she tears into Merle Haggard’s “Swingin’ Doors” with her best back of the throat ache and she likewise summons just the right amount of young naiveté in her voice to sell Emmylou Harris’ “Two More Bottles of Wine” convincingly. Again, Clark’s vocal chops prove to be her greatest strength on “Gentle On My Mind”, which is given a simple acoustic and three-part harmony reading. On it, the singer reveals a storytelling ability yet to be heard on her original material.

The lesser half of Classic comes off as above average karaoke and works more as an homage to their original interpreters. The better half comes when Terri Clark is interpreting the songs herself instead of paying tribute to the her favorite singers. She’s got the goods to sell.  I only wish she had brought the other half.

Grade: B-

Listen on Spotify.

Buy it at amazon.

Week ending 11/17/12: #1 albums this week in country music history

1967: Eddy Arnold – Turn The World Around (RCA)

1972: Charley Pride – A Sunshiny Day (RCA Victor)

1977: Elvis Presley – Elvis In Concert (RCA)

1982: Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind (Columbia)

1987: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1992: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1997: LeAnn Rimes – You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs (Curb)

2002: Rascal Flatts – Melt (Lyric Street)

2007: The Eagles – Long Road Out Of Eden (Lost Highway)

2012: Taylor Swift – Red (Big Machine)

The fine print giveth

There’s a line in Thomas Rhett’s new single “Beer With Jesus” where the singer is asking “tell me how’d you turn the other cheek, to save a sorry soul like me” that didn’t even register when I first listened to the song. While it was playing in the background the other day my ears zoned in on that line and my reaction was to arch an eyebrow in admiration at the songwriters’ simple and direct way of communicating. In the setting of the song – modern-day Southern Baptist fundamentalism  – it would have been easy to reach for a hackneyed phrase straight out of the hymnal and my ear is still half-expecting “wretched soul” or something equally pretentious when I hear it. But they’ve kept it direct – even conversational – enough to effectively personify the narrator in the process, and that plainspoken bit of talk is why I want to hear the rest of what he’s got to say. So I say good on Rhett and co-writers Rick Huckaby and Lance Miller. They’re paying attention to the details.

So I got to thinking about other songs and the importance of just one word or line. Would “Sunday Morning Coming Down” be as important in the annals of country music history if Johnny Cash hadn’t bucked network television executives’ suggestion to substitute Kris Kristofferson’s lyric, and sing “home” instead of “stoned”? Likely it would have still become a hit. And as long as people still find themselves feeling hung over from a Saturday night, the song itself is strong enough to stand alone as a vivid retelling of such mornings. Still, “wishing Lord that I was stoned” reveals a grit and hair-of-the-dog pluck in the singer where wishing to be home sounds like he’s just given up. It changes the entire perspective. Kristofferson is of course a master of imagery, due in part to his attention to the details.

On John Hiatt’s superb “When We Ran”, Linda Rondstadt spends the first three minutes of the song wailing and gnashing her teeth about a lover that got away. She finally concludes “the mind is just a loose cannon and the memories are rollin’ dice“, letting the listener in on the fact that she’s acutely aware of the absurdity of her obsession with the past.  Otherwise, we’d expect to see her walking Main Street, carrying a suitcase, faded rose in her hair.  It’s also near the end of Lori McKenna’s voyeuristic “Your Next Lover” that the singer’s cool sentience is told when she sings in the bridge “I hope she reminds you nothing of me and as crazy as it sounds I hope she’s beautiful“, with no discernible amount of either sadness or bitterness. These are details that round out their song’s characters. If they were one-sided, would we care about these misfits and their lives? Would we relate their situations as easily to our own? I don’t think so. We relate to them because Hiatt and McKenna didn’t shirk their responsibility to the details.

All of these songs are favorites because they give the listener a glimpse inside the psyche of the song’s characters. I believe it’s that attention to detail that separates the good songs from the really great songs. TV Bishop Fulton Sheen’s famous quote “the big print giveth and the fine print taketh away” runs opposite to these and many other great songs in which the fine print giveth.

Week ending 11/10/12: #1 albums this week in country music history

1967: Eddy Arnold – Turn The World Around (RCA)

1972: Charley Pride – A Sunshiny Day (RCA Victor)

1977: Elvis Presley – Moody Blue (RCA)

1982: Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind (Columbia)

1987: George Strait – Greatest Hits Volume 2 (MCA Nashville)

1992: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1997: LeAnn Rimes – You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs (Curb)

2002: Faith Hill – Cry (Warner Brothers)

2007: Carrie Underwood – Carnival Ride (Arista/19)

2012: Taylor Swift – Red (Big Machine)

Week ending 11/3/12: #1 albums this week in country music history

1967: Buck Owens and His Buckaroos – Your Tender Loving Care (Capitol)

1972: Charley Pride – A Sunshiny Day (RCA Victor)

1977: Elvis Presley – Moody Blue (RCA)

1982: Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind (Columbia)

1987: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1992: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1997: LeAnn Rimes – You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs (Curb)

2002: Faith Hill – Cry (Warner Brothers)

2007: Rascal Flatts – Still Feels Good (Lyric Street)

2012: Little Big Town – Tornado (Capitol)

Week ending 10/27/12: #1 albums this week in country music history

1967: Bobbie Gentry – Ode To Biliie Joe (Capitol)

1972: Charley Pride – A Sunshiny Day (RCA Victor)

1977: Elvis Presley – Moody Blue (RCA)

1982: Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind (Columbia)

1987: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1992: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1997: LeAnn Rimes – You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs (Curb)

2002: Elvis Presley- 30 #1 Hits (RCA)

2007: Rascal Flatts- Still Feels Good (Lyric Street)

2012: Little Big Town – Tornado (Capitol)

Week ending 10/20/12: #1 albums this week in country music history

1967: Bobbie Gentry – Ode To Biliie Joe (Capitol)

1972: Charley Pride – A Sunshiny Day (RCA Victor)

1977: Elvis Presley – Moody Blue (RCA)

1982: Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind (Columbia)

1987: Randy Travis – Always & Forever (Warner Brothers)

1992: Garth Brooks – The Chase (Capitol)

1997: LeAnn Rimes – You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs (Curb)

2002: Elvis Presley- 30 #1 Hits (RCA)

2007: Rascal Flatts- Still Feels Good (Lyric Street)

2012: Little Big Town – Tornado (Capitol)