My Kind of Country

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

Category Archives: Everything Else

Christmas Rewind: Terri Clark – ‘O Little Town Of Bethlehem’

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In Memoriam: Mark Gray (1952-2016)

Singer/Songwriter Mark Gray has passed, aged 64. The onetime member of Exile wrote ‘The Closer You Get,’ which was recorded by Alabama and hit #1 in 1983. Another notable recording, ‘Sometimes When We Touch’ paired him with last month’s spotlight artist Tammy Wynette. The song peaked at #6 in 1985. It would be her final Top Ten charting single. His biggest solo single, “Please Be Love” peaked at #7 the same year.

 

In Memoriam: Curly Putnum (1930-2016)

Legendary songwriter Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr passed away yesterday at age 85. Along with Bobby Braddock he co-wrote the country classics ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E‘ and ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ The latter is often considered the greatest country song ever written.

Putnum’s other iconic songs include:

Porter Wagoner, ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ (#4, 1965):

Tammy Wynette and David Houston, ‘My Elusive Dreams’ (#1, 1967):

Tanya Tucker, ‘Blood Red and Going Down’ (#1, 1973): 

In Memoriam: Jean Shepard (1933-2016)

This morning we mourn the loss of the legendary Jean Shepard, who passed away at age 82. Her importance to the history of country music, as Paul W. Dennis pointed out, cannot be overstated. She was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with Bobby Braddock and Reba McEntire, in 2011.

Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar) (#5, 1964):

Slippin’ Away (#4, 1973):

 

 

 

Classic Rewind: Trisha Yearwood – ‘Wrong Side Of Memphis’

Classic Rewind: Emmylou Harris – ‘All My Tears’

Single Review: Dierks Bentley – ‘Somewhere On A Beach’

dierks-bentley-somewhere-on-a-beach-single-coverWe’ve been down this road before. Dierks Bentley releases something intelligent to country radio and it fizzles. He responds with a horrid piece of tripe just ripe enough to please the powers that be without completely alienating the fans who still consider him one of the last remaining good guys in modern country music. So why does the road look and feel so different this time?

It’s because “Somewhere On A Beach” is Bentley’s most shameless attempt yet at fitting in with the cool crowd. He’s been the sideways, drunk on a plane and bat shit crazy. But he’s never gone as far as to literally have sex in the sand. We’ve come a long way from the days when all it took was a white tank top to get him hot and bothered.

But this isn’t solely about Bentley and his image. It’s about a song that’s nothing more than a pile of dog dung left on the side of the road by an owner to lazy to bend over and pick it up. It’s about a brazen attempt at marrying bro and beach bum-country signifiers. It’s about a marriage made in the deepest depths of hell.

Worse, “Somewhere On A Beach” is about a genre where lines like ‘she’s got a body and she’s naughty’ are liquid gold. Where ‘I’m getting sun, getting some, and I ain’t slept in a week’ passes as a good time. Where the theme of summertime has been grossly exploited growing more blatantly graphic with each passing song.

The genre has been changing – the likes of Jason Isbell, Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard and Aaron Watson did score number one albums last year. The phenomenon that is Chris Stapleton is unstoppable. It makes one wonder, is the ‘cool crowd’ the country music fans or the gatekeepers pushing drivel like this on the unsuspecting public?

Like other reviewers, I don’t blame Bentley for this atrocity. He may be co-hosting the upcoming ACM Awards with Luke Bryan, but he knows quality music. I’d be shocked if his new album, Black, fails to deliver. It better live up to expectations.

Grade: F

Christmas Rewind: Chris Young – ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’

Classic Rewind: Dolly Parton – ‘I Wish I Felt This Way At Home’

Classic Rewind: Martina McBride and The Chieftains – ‘I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight’

Classic Rewind: Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn – ‘Feelings’

Week ending 6/20/15: #1 singles this week in country music history

linda-ronstadt1955 (Sales): In The Jailhouse Now — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Jukebox): In The Jailhouse Now — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Disc Jockeys): Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young — Faron Young (Capitol)

1965: Ribbon of Darkness — Marty Robbins (Columbia)

1975: When Will I Be Loved — Linda Ronstadt (Capitol)

1985: Country Boy — Ricky Skaggs (Epic)

1995: Summer’s Comin’ — Clint Black (RCA)

2005: Making Memories Of Us — Keith Urban (Capitol)

2015: Girl Crush — Little Big Town (Capitol)

2015 (Airplay): Sippin’ on Fire — Florida Georgia Line (Republic Nashville)

Classic Rewind: Tim McGraw ft Martina McBride – ‘Angry All The Time’

Classic Rewind for April: Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers – ‘New Star Over Texas’

Review: the early singles of Dean Dillon

gary stewart dean dillon 2 for 1Dean Dillon was signed to a singles deal with RCA in 1979. He released half a dozen singles for the label. Although there was no album, the recordings from this period were made available on a CD release in 2005 with his duet albums with Gary Stewart, which we will also be reviewing.

His debut single, a co-write with Steven Abbot, was released in 1979, and reached #30 on Billboard. ‘I’m Into The Bottle (To Get You Out Of My Mind)’ is a typical honky tonker of the period with Dillon’s unbridled vocal sounding influenced by his future duet partner Gary Stewart. The production sounds a bit dated now (particularly the backing vocals), but the song is solid. The B-side, ‘Tonight’, about going out and getting drunk is more fillerish.
Grade: B

The next single. ‘What Good Is A Heart’, a solo composition, made it two places higher in 1980. It is a pleasant but not very memorable mid-tempo tune about heartbreak with obtrusive backing singers. It was backed with ‘He’s Number One’, a ballad (co-written with Kent Robbins) in which the protagonist looks wistfully on as his beloved is happily in love with another man, “but I love you too”.
Grade: C

The third single was the original version of Dillon’s superb ‘Nobody In His Right Mind (Would’ve Left Her’), a classic in the making. George Strait’s hit version is better, of course, and Keith Whitley’s cut is worth hearing too, but Dillon’s version is sung with a melancholic precision of feeling which is very convincing. This was to make Dean’s best ever chart position as an artist, with a peak at #25. Perhaps it’s lucky it didn’t make more of a splash, as it left George Strait the chance to do so. The B-side, ‘Smelling Like A Rose’ was pretty good too, a lonesome ballad about a breakup.
Grade: A

The follow up was ‘They’ll Never Take Me Alive’, which he wrote with Frank Dycus. A dramatic outlaw-themed lyric about hiding from the memory of lost love is well written, but the vocal lacks dynamics and the result is not as interesting as it should be. Radio programmers, evidently agreed, and the single was not a success. The B-side, the more subdued ‘Tonight One Of Us Is Going Out Of My Mind’, is actually a much better song about battling with a memory.
Grade: C (flipped, it would be A-)

There was a final attempt at selling Dean as a solo act on RCA, with ‘Jesus, Let Me Slide’, which he wrote with Frank Dycus and Al Gore. This is an excellent song about a man torn between sin and salvation, and not quite ready to take the strait and narrow path. He passes that open bar going home in the early hours of Sunday morning and ends up staying there until it’s too late for church.

Jesus, let me slide one more time
My cup runneth over with the wine
That old slick tongued talkin’ devil’s
Got me out of my mind
Jesus, let me slide one more time

I think this was just a promotional single, with no B-side.

Grade: A

After this, RCA teamed Dean up with the older honky tonker Gary Stewart.

‘If You’re Going Crazy (I’m Headed That Way)’ is a good song in conversational vein, which I believe was never released at the time, but is included with the singles in the 2005 CD. It has a 1982 copyright date, so was probably cut after the duo broke up, and was written with Frank Dycus. It is nicely produced with lots of steel underlining the downbeat mood.

In 1983 RCA released another future classic in the form of Dillon’s original take on the masterpiece ‘Famous Last Words Of A Fool’, which he wrote with Rex Huston. This is the best of the Dean Dillon solo singles, with a very tasteful pure country production and a sensitive vulnerable vocal, although it is inevitably now overshadowed by the Strait cut.
Grade: A

By this point, Dillon’s songwriting career was already much more successful than his singing, and he took a break from the performing side for the next few years.

Classic Rewind: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Time Marches On’

Album Review: Trey Hensley and Rob Ickes – ‘Before The Sun Goes Down’

before the sun goes downYoung traditional country singer Trey Hensley has joined forces with bluegrass dobro virtuoso Rob Ickes. They have been performing together as a duo, and have now released an excellent album together.

Hensley’s plaintive voice is at its best on the slower sadder tunes like the downcast breakup ballad ‘More Than Roses’, a beautifully sung song in classic country style.

Also wonderful is ‘I’d Rather Be Gone’, a classic early Merle Haggard ballad about a man, hurt but stoic, letting his loved one go her own way. This is ideally suited to Trey’s voice and is outstanding.

Haggard’s ‘A Workin’ Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today’ also works very well, coming across as heartfelt and believable. I also enjoyed the relaxed ‘When My Last Song is Sung’, a Haggard gospel number delivered with great sincerity and warmth. Hag is a professed admirer of the youngster, and one can see why.

Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘Georgia On A Fast Train’, however, is a bit less successful; while it is played brilliantly and sung with enthusiasm, the vocal, while competent, feels a bit anonymous and doesn’t quite convince. It’s probably one of those songs which works so much better in a live setting. A cover of ‘There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang’ works better, while an unusual but successful choice is the bluegrass-meets-blues cover of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s ‘Pride And Joy’, which works very well, with some truly excellent playing on it.

Bob Wills classic ‘Misery’ is also done well, while Bill Monroe’s melancholy ‘Little Cabin Home On The Hill’ is beautifully sung.

The title track is a nice bouncy tune about the on-off relationship of a young couple who squabble and reunite. ‘Lightning’ is a story song about the narrator’s moonshiner father,
“The most famous outlaw this dry county ever had”. The gently independent rambler’s song ‘My Way Is The Highway’, which Trey wrote, is pretty good.

Trey Hensley is an excellent singer and he is well set off by the excellent playing by Ickes and friends.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: Johnny Bush & Darrell McCall – ‘Pick Me Up On Your Way Down’

Also spot the great Buddy Emmons playing steel guitar.

Album Review: Aaron Watson – ‘A Texas Cafe’

2001’s A Texas Cafe was released two years after Aaron Watson’s eponymous debut. A collection of Texas honky-tonk tunes, it is a stark contrast to the mainstream country music of the day, which was dominated by crossover artists such as Shania Twain and Faith Hill. While firmly entrenched in tradition, it is not a retro or throwback record; it is simply a collection of uncomplicated and unpretentious songs that ought to be a staple of country music in any era.

51GN5QJTwPL._SS500_In many ways, Watson is reminiscent of a young George Strait, and though it’s tempting to speculate that he might have been a superstar had he emerged a decade earlier, the songs on A Texas Cafe are probably not quite commercial enough even for Nashville’s New Traditionalist era. Watson writes most of his own material, and I believe the songs on this album are all originals, and though they are all very good, he album probably could have benefitted from some contributions by outside songwriters. With a few exceptions, the songs are not particularly memorable; their main appeal lies in their simple production, with plenty of prominent fiddle and steel, and Watson’s straightforward delivery.

The album did not chart, nor did it produce any radio hits, but there are a handful of standout tracks, mostly in the second half of the album. My favorite is the uptempo “Charlene Gene”, about unrequited love. Though it takes place in a trailer park among self-professed rednecks, it avoids most of the cliches of today’s redneck anthems. In fact, though the trailer park locale provides some humor and charm, the story could just as easily have been set elsewhere. “When All Those Aggies Move To Austin” is a variation on the well-worn “I’ll take you back when hell freezes over” theme, with plenty of references to the Lonestar state. It is also the one song on the album that has a slight Southern Rock feel, with plenty of electric guitar along with the fiddle and steel.

The Western-swing flavored “Amarillo Fair” is also quite good. The title track is a bit reminiscent of Alan Jackson’s “Little Man”, with its references to mom-and-pop businesses that could not compete with big box chain stores. It differs from Jackson’s song, though, in that the heart of the town — its local cafe — remains resistant to change. But as far as the ballads go, “Every Time I Hear Those Songs” is by far the best. It pays tribute to the late Conway Twitty; the protagonist reminisces about enjoying Twitty’s music with a loved one that is now gone. I assumed throughout most of the song that it was about a lost love, but in the song’s closing lines it is revealed that the loved one is the narrator’s late mother.

A Texas Cafe is a fine listen for anyone who is looking for an alternative to bro-country or any of the other dreck currently on county radio.

Grade: A

Album Review: T. Graham Brown – ‘Forever Changed’

foreverchangedThe newly released Forever Changed, is T. Graham Brown’s first full-length studio album in nearly nine years. Produced by Mark Carman, it is a collection of inspirational songs. Although it is being labeled a gospel album in press releases, most of the songs are not overtly religious, but all of them deliver a positive message. Presumably the project was inspired by his own battles with alcoholism.

As one might expect with a T. Graham Brown album, Forever Changed is heavily influenced by soul and R&B, along with a healthy dose of mainstream pop. It isn’t terribly country, although a number of Nashville’s finest, including Vince Gill, Sonya Isaacs, former Statler Brother Jimmy Fortune, and the Oak Ridge Boys, appear as guest artists.

The album’s lead single “He’ll Take Care of You”, a duet with Vince Gill, was released last August, but failed to make any impact on the charts. It is one of he album’s best tracks, along with the title track (a beautiful ballad), the funky “Soul Talk” and a very nice remake of Charley Pride’s “Power of Love”. The Oak Ridge Boys revisit their own gospel roots on “How Do You Know:”. My least favorite track is “Shadow of Doubt”, which is not a bad song at all, but it is ruined by guest vocalist Leon Russell’s caterwauling.

In addition to the new material, Forever Changed contains two newly recorded versions of songs from Brown’s back catalog. Sonya Isaacs joins Brown on “Which Way To Pray”, about a victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence, and Jimmy Fortune accompanies him on one of his very best songs “Wine Into Water”. Although recycling of material usually annoys me, I didn’t find it objectionable in this case since the album consists of a generous 13 tracks.

Forever Changed has been nominated for a Grammy and I would very much like to see it win. It can be purchased through regular music outlets, Cracker Barrel or downloaded.

Grade: A