My Kind of Country

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

Category Archives: Playlist

Favorite country songs of the 1970s: Part 5

For part five of this series, as always, just some songs I liked, one song per artist, not necessarily the biggest hit, (although I feel free to comment on other songs by the artist).

Let’s All Go Down To The River” – Jody Miller & Johnny Paycheck (1972)

A nice country cover of an old gospel song – how could you go wrong with this duo? Jody Miller would have a number of hits during the 1970s, although her single biggest record was in 1965 when “Queen of The House” (an answer song to Roger Miller’s “King of The Road”) went #12 pop / #5 country. I don’t know that Jody viewed herself as a country singer, but she had a sassy & sexy voice and was quite easy on the eyes.

Tom Green County Fair” – Roger Miller (1970)

Roger Miller’s career had largely run out of steam by this time, but the imagery in this song makes it one of my favorites. Alas, this song only reached #38. Roger would experience a significant renaissance in the mid-1980s writing the music for the Broadway play Big River.

Music Box Dancer” – Frank Mills (1979)

I have no idea why this song charted country as Frank Mills was an orchestra leader and this instrumental song was no more country than Lady Gaga. It was a huge pop hit reaching #3 and selling millions in the process.

Pure Love” – Ronnie Milsap (1974)

Written by Eddie Rabbitt, this was Ronnie’s first #1. How can you not like a song that contains a line like “Milk and honey and Captain Krunch and you in the morning?”

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Favorite country songs of the 1970s: Part 4

For part four of this series, I’ll be using the same criteria as before – just some songs I liked, one song per artist (although I will feel free to comment on other songs by the artist). This part stops in the middle of the letter M.

“Joy To The World” – Murray Kellum (1971)

A nice country cover of a #1 pop hit for Three Dog Night, this reached #26 and was Murray’s biggest hit. He died in a plane crash in 1990 at the too-young age of 47. Hoyt Axton wrote this song.

Honky Tonk Wine” – Wayne Kemp (1973)

Wayne Kemp was better known as a songwriter who penned major hits for the likes of George Jones (“Love Bug”), Conway Twitty (“The Image of Me”) and countless others. This song reached #17, and was Wayne’s biggest hit.

Sweet Desire” – The Kendalls (1978)

A father and daughter duo, Jeannie took on most of the lead vocals while father Royce sang harmony. The Kendalls kept the radio airwaves safe for real country music during the middle and late 1970s. I liked everything the Kendalls ever sang, and have no idea why the new traditionalist movement of 1986 failed to re-ignite their career.

Mama’s Got The Know-How” – Doug Kershaw (1974)

For someone as famous as he is, Doug Kershaw had only seven chart hits as a solo act, to go with his five hits as part of Rusty & Doug. This one got to #77, a fairly normal placing for his solo efforts. Although I liked this song, his Warner Brothers albums of the 1970s were mostly laconic efforts. Read more of this post

Favorite country songs of the 1970s: Part 3

The 1970s were not my favorite decade for country music but it was the decade in which I did my largest amount of listening to country radio, having the good fortune to have such country giants as WSUN AM- 620 in St. Petersburg, FL, WHOO AM-1090 in Orlando and WCMS AM-1050 in Norfolk, VA for my listening pleasure, plus I could tune in WSM AM – 650 in Nashville at night. I did a lot of shift-work during this decade so my radio was on constantly.

    

This list is meant neither to be a comprehensive list of great country songs from the 1970s, nor any sort of ranking of records. It’s just a list of some songs that I liked and remember. See if you recall any of these records

Silver Wings” – Jim & Jon Hager (1970)

Since Hag issued the song as a B side (“Workin’ Man Blues” was the A side), this version is the only charting version of Hag’s classic. The Hager Twins do a nice job with the song, although it only reached #59 on the charts . Fans of Hee Haw will remember this duo well.

I Can’t Be Myself” – Merle Haggard (1970)

My all-time favorite Merle Haggard recording, this song went to #1 on Cashbox. Frankly, picking an all-time favorite Hag song is a hopeless proposition as he is the most consistently great artist of all time. Hag wrote about fifty #1 songs, the most of any songwriter. The flip side of this record “Sidewalks of Chicago” also received a lot of airplay and likely would be in my top ten favorite Haggard recordings.   Read more of this post

Favorite country songs of the 1970s: Part 2

The 1970s were not my favorite decade for country music but it was the decade in which I did my largest amount of listening to country radio, having the good fortune to have such country giants as WSUN AM- 620 in St. Petersburg, FL, WHOO AM-1090 in Orlando and WCMS AM-1050 in Norfolk, VA for my listening pleasure, plus I could tune in WSM AM – 650 in Nashville at night. I did a lot of shift-work during this decade so my radio was on constantly.

    

This list is meant neither to be a comprehensive list of great country songs from the 1970s, nor any sort of ranking of records. It’s just a list of some songs that I liked and remember. See if you recall any of these records:

Everybody’s Reaching Out For Someone” – Pat Daisy (1972)

Beautiful and blessed with a great voice, she never did break through as a major star since she was buried at RCA behind Connie Smith, Dolly Parton, Dottie West and Skeeter Davis for promotional attention. This song reached #20 on the country chart and #112 on the pop chart and was covered on albums by many country artists. Pat pulled the plug on her own career to raise a family. Read more of this post

Favorite country songs of the 1970s: part 1

A revised and expanded version of a post first published on The 9513:

The 1970s were not my favorite decade for country music but it was the decade in which I did my largest amount of listening to country radio, having the good fortune to have such country giants as WSUN AM- 620 in St. Petersburg, FL, WHOO AM-1090 in Orlando and WCMS AM-1050 in Norfolk, VA for my listening pleasure, plus I could tune in WSM AM – 650 in Nashville at night. I did a lot of shift-work during this decade so my radio was on constantly.  This list is meant neither to be a comprehensive list of great country songs from the 1970s, nor any sort of ranking of records. It’s just a list of some songs that I liked and remember. See if you recall any of these records:

Cowboy Convention” – Buddy Alan

A silly record with some great trumpet work, “Cowboy Convention” is a cover of a Lovin’ Spoonful record from the mid 60s, about the villains of the silent movie era who were always tying Sweet Nell to the railroad track. The Buddy Alan title credit on the label is misleading as this is really a Buddy Alan/Don Rich duet with the Buckaroos. Buddy Alan, of course, is the son of Buck Owens. Read more of this post

Razor X’s Top 10 Albums of 2011

2011 was actually a slightly better year for country music than the past several years, though you’d never know it from listening to country radio. A lot of my old favorites released new albums this year, so it was a little easier than usual for me to find new music to listen to. Here are my favorite releases of 2011:

10. Working in Tennessee — Merle Haggard
While the material was not quite up to the standards of last year’s I Am What I Am, Haggard shows that he’s not ready to hang up his guitar just yet. Though he’s well past his vocal peak, his music is still worth listening to. An eclectic set that runs from Dixieland Jazz to more contemporary fare, with some social commentary and Hag’s views on the current state of country music, this set deserved more attention than it received. It is currently available for download for $4.99 at Amazon.

9. Remember Me, Volume 1 — Willie Nelson
This set picks up where last year’s Country Music left off, and even includes a re-recording of a track (a cover of Porter Wagoner’s “Satisfied Mind”) that appeared on that 2010 release. The album consists entirely of cover material, some of which Willie had recorded in the past, and none of which are his original compositions. It is to traditional country music what his Stardust collection was to pre-rock-and-roll pop. As the title suggests, a second volume is planned for sometime in 2012.

8. Neon — Chris Young
Chris Young is easily the best of the new male singers to emerge in the past few years, but his material has tended to be somewhat inconsistent. Neon is a huge step in the right direction.

7. Better Day — Dolly Parton
I was little skeptical when I first heard about this release, thinking that the last thing country music needs is another set of accentuate-the-positive songs, but Dolly pulls off this project quite well. She wrote all 12 tracks (one is a co-write with Mac Davis), and the lead single “Together You and I” is a remake of one of her old duets with Porter Wagoner. Overall, it’s a much stronger and more consistent set than her previous studio release, 2008’s Backwoods Barbie.

6. Where Country Grows — Ashton Shepherd
I really wanted to love Ashton’s debut album, 2008’s Sounds So Good, but found the material lacking in a lot of cases. After three long years, she finally released her sophomore disc, which is much more to my liking than the first. She’s tweaked her sound just enough to appeal to current commercial tastes, but sadly, the marketplace doesn’t seem to be paying much attention. If you haven’t heard this album yet, “Look It Up”. It’s currently available for download for $4.99 from Amazon.

5. Guitar Slinger — Vince Gill
The follow-up to These Days was long overdue but well worth the wait. As usual, Gill covers a wide range of musical territory from blues and contemporary Christian to adult contemporary and more mainstream county fare. But no matter what the label, it’s excellent music from start to finish.

4. Here For A Good Time — George Strait
I can’t remember a time when George Strait wasn’t at the top of the country charts. He’s been a constant presence for 30 years, and as such he is sometimes taken for granted. He hasn’t gotten a lot of critical acclaim in recent years, and admittedly, his last couple of albums didn’t compare with most of his earlier work. Here For A Good Time is his strongest effort since 2005’s Somewhere Down In Texas, and despite the title, is not a collection of party tunes. There is upbeat fare to be sure, but there are also darker and more serious offerings, such as “Drinkin’ Man”, “A Showman’s Life”, and “Poison”. For most of his career, Strait was well known for not writing the overwhelming majority of the songs he recorded, but he and his son Bubba wrote seven of the eleven tracks here, usually collaborating with Dean Dillon and Bobby Boyd.

3. Your Money and My Good Looks — Rhonda Vincent & Gene Watson
Two of country music’s best and most underrated artists teamed up for this project, which is a pure delight to listen to from beginning to end. It mixes a little bit of the old with a little bit of the new, but it is 100% pure country from beginning to end. No fancy studio trickery will be found here, just some excellent, well sung songs. My favorite tracks are the covers of Vern Gosdin’s “Till The End” and “This Wanting You”, which appeared on George Jones’ 1999 album Cold Hard Truth.

2. Hell on Heels — Pistol Annies
This collection from Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angeleena Presley has got to be the year’s most pleasant surprise. I really wasn’t expecting much but this ended up being one of my most-played albums of the year. Despite Lambert’s current popularity — or perhaps because of it — the album isn’t getting a lot of attention from radio. Hopefully radio’s tepid response and the demands of the group members’ solo careers won’t prevent another Pistol Annies collection from being released before too long.

1. Long Line of Heartaches — Connie Smith
I rarely get excited about upcoming album releases anymore, but this was a definite exception. It’s difficult not to get excited about a new Connie Smith album, since they are such infrequent events; Long Line of Heartaches was her first new album in 13 years, and prior to that there was a 20-year gap between albums. It was produced by Smith’s husband Marty Stuart, and like his Ghost Train (my #1 pick of 2010), it was recorded in the famous RCA Studio B, where so many of Connie’s classic hits from the 1960s and 1970s were laid on tape. Half of the album’s songs were written by Smith and Stuart, with the remainder coming from the pens of legends such as Harlan Howard, Dallas Frazier and Johnny Russell. It simply does not get any better than this. It is currently available for download for $4.99 at Amazon.

25 Greatest Live Country Albums

All readers of this website are fans of recorded music. I would assume that most also enjoy seeing and hearing music performed live. After all, there is electricity which permeates a live performance, the interaction of performer and audience coupled with the ambiance of the venue. Tempos are usually faster, there is banter between the performer and the band and/or audience, and often songs are performed that never are recorded by the artist.

That said, it can be very difficult to capture that electricity and the landscape is littered with poor live recordings, victims of either poor recording technology, poor venue acoustics or sub-par backing bands (I had a cassette copy – probably a bootleg – of a live Chuck Berry performance in France where he was backed by what was essentially a polka band, complete with tuba and accordion). Below is my  listing of the greatest live country albums.  My list is solid country, without too many fellow travelers such as Americana or alt-country artists. I may admire John Prine and Townes Van Zandt as songwriters but I cannot stand to listen to either of them sing. The less said about the Eagles and Gram Parsons, the better.  In putting my list together, I’ve limited any given artist to one album, although I may comment on other live albums issued by the artist.

Yes, I know that bluegrass and western swing are underrepresented in my list as are modern era artists, although if I expanded to a top forty list, I’d have albums by Alabama, Tracy Lawrence, Tom T. Hall, Brad Paisley, The Osborne Brothers, Glen Campbell, Bob Wills, Hank Thompson, Rhonda Vincent and Hank Williams to include. Moreover, over time there have been improvements in recording technology and the sound of live recordings has improved, so sonically, some of the albums I’ve left off will sound better than some I’ve included.

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Occasional Hope’s Top 10 Albums of 2011

2011 wasn’t the best year for country, but there was still some very good music to be found if you looked for it.  Just missing the cut for my personal top 10 were fine records by the excellent Sunny Sweeney, country chart debutant Craig Campbell, independent artist Justin Haigh, blue collar bluegrass newcomer Scott Holstein, the compelling close harmonies of the Gibson Brothers,  and an enjoyable if not groundbreaking live set from Amber Digby which flew under the radar.

So what did make my cut? Read more of this post

Occasional Hope’s Top Ten Singles of 2011

While it wasn’t a great year for country music, there were some definite signs of life, and some very good songs made their way across the airwaves. A few were even hits. Here are my favorite singles this year:

10. ‘Look It Up – Ashton Shepherd’
Ashton comes across like a modern Loretta Lynn in this scornful rejoinder to a cheating spouse. Forgiveness is not an option. Although it was a top 20 hit and just about her biggest to date, I expected more commercial success from this sassy number, written by Pistol Annie Angaleena Presley with Robert Ellis Orrall.

9. ‘Colder Weather’ – Zac Brown Band
The Georgia band is one of the most artistically adventurous acts in country music, and this is one of their finest records. A complex lyric depicts a couple separated by the man’s driving job; she seems keener than he does on their being together. It was inspired by co-writer Wyatt Durrette’s own thwarted romance with a girl who struggled with the travel demanded by a music career. The production neatly marries an understated piano-led first verse with rock elements as the protagonist’s emotions rise. It was another #1 hit for the band.

8. ‘In God’s Time’ – Randy Houser
Rich-voiced singer-songwriter Randy Houser released his finest effort to date this year with this gently understated expression of faith in God, whatever may happen. A gentle piano-led accompaniment provides effective support. This was intended to be the lead single for Houser’s third album for Show Dog Universal, but it did not do as well as hoped, and Houser has now left the label. He has since signed to indie label Broken Bow, so hopefully he will be able to continue releasing mauic of this caliber.

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Razor X’s Top Ten Singles of 2011

It seems like every year it gets more and more difficult to find new single releases that I actually like. There were a few — but only a few — gems this year. Here are some of my favorites:

10. Northern Girl — Terri Clark. Clark’s homage to her homeland, co-written with former Sugarland member Kristen Hall, is her first single that I’ve truly liked in quite some time. Sadly, it failed to gain any traction on either side of the border.

9. Drink Myself Single — Sunny Sweeney. Currently at #36 on the charts, the third offering from Sunny’s Concrete collection has already out-performed its predecessor and hopefully will become her second Top 10 hit. It reminds me of the type of song radio regularly played back in the 90s during the line-dancing craze.

8. Home — Dierks Bentley. Finally, a song about love of country that manages to avoid jingoism and combativeness. It was written in response to the shooting incident that critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six other people in January of this year.

7. Cumberland Rose — Sylvia. The former 80s star returned in January with her first single release in 24 years. Often unfairly dismissed as a minor talent, Sylvia delivers a lovely vocal performance on this folk ballad written by Craig Bickhardt and Jeff Pennig. I couldn’t find anyplace online to listen to it in its entirety, but it’s well worth the 99 cents to download it from iTunes or Amazon.

6. Tomorrow — Chris Young. The latest in a long tradition of country songs about clinging to one more night before finally ending a relationship that’s run out of steam. Chris Young is one of Nashville’s finest young talents and is destined for great things if he can keep finding material as good as this.

5. In God’s Time — Randy Houser. This introspective number provides a much better showcase for Houser’s vocal ability than his more popular Southern rock-tinged work. It’s the best thing he’s released so far.

4. Here For A Good Time — George Strait. After a couple of rocky years, George Strait finally got his mojo back with this fun number that he wrote with Dean Dillon and his son Bubba Strait.

3. Look It Up — Ashton Shepherd. This blistering confrontation of two-timing spouse deserved more airplay than it got. It may not have been a tremendous commercial success, but I’ll bet Loretta Lynn is proud.

2. Colder Weather — Zac Brown Band. Reminiscent of Dave Loggins’ classic “Please Come To Boston”, the Zac Brown Band continues to push the boundaries of country music without diluting it beyond recognition.

1. Cost of Livin’ — Ronnie Dunn. This tale of a down-on-his-luck veteran is a sad testament to the current economic difficulties in much of the world and a plight to which too many people can relate. Beautifully written and performed, it’s by far the best thing played on country radio this year. It failed to garner any Grammy nominations, but hopefully it will get some recognition by the CMA and ACM next time around.

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“.

Country Heritage: Gary Stewart – A Short Life Of Trouble (1944-2003)

Readers of The 9513 will be familiar with Paul W. Dennis’ excellent Country Heritage (aka Forgotten Artists) series. We are pleased to announce that Paul has agreed to continue the column for My Kind of Country:

A few years ago, the venerable Ralph Stanley issued an album titled A Short Life of Trouble: Songs of Grayson and Whitter. Neither Grayson nor Whitter, a musical partnership of the late 1920s, lived to be fifty years old. Beyond that I don’t know much about the duo, but the title certainly would apply to the life of Gary Stewart.

Gary Stewart was a hard rocking, hard drinking artist who arrived at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Often described as “too country for rock radio and too rock for country radio”, Gary simply arrived on the market at the wrong time for his rocking brand of hard-core honky-tonk music to achieve general acceptance, for his music was neither outlaw nor countrypolitan, the two dominant strains of country music during the 1970s.

Gary Stewart was born in Kentucky, the son of a coal miner who suffered a disabling injury when Gary was a teenager. As a result Gary’s family relocated to Fort Pierce, Florida, where Gary learned to play guitar and piano and started writing songs. Playing the clubs at night, while working a full-time job in an airplane factory, Gary had the good fortune to meet Mel Tillis. Mel encouraged Gary to travel to Nashville to pitch his songs. While early recording efforts for minor labels failed to interest radio, Gary achieved some success pitching songs to other artists. Among the early efforts were “Poor Red Georgia Dirt”, a 1965 hit for Stonewall Jackson and “Sweet Thang and Cisco” a top ten record for Nat Stuckey in 1969 . Other artists also recorded his songs, most notably Billy Walker (“She Goes Walking Through My Mind,” “Traces of a Woman,” “It’s Time to Love Her”) and Cal Smith (“You Can’t Housebreak a Tomcat”, “It Takes Me All Night Long”).

In 1968 Gary was signed by Kapp Records where he recorded several unsuccessful singles. Disheartened, Gary headed back to Fort Pierce, again playing the skull orchards and juke joints.
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Emmylou & Friends: Sweet Harmonies

From the very beginning, collaborations with other artists have been an integral part of Emmylou Harris’ career. Over the span of nearly 40 years, she is perhaps as well known for supplying harmony vocals to other artists records and championing promising newcomers as for her own solo work. It would perhaps be easier to list the names of the artists with whom she has not worked; like Willie Nelson she has worked with a variety of performers from both within and outside the country genre. It isn’t possible to do justice to such a large body of work in a single article, but I’d like to touch on some of my favorites.

Emmylou was performing in small venues in the Washington, DC area when she was discovered by Chris Hillman, who was then the bandleader of The Flying Burrito Brothers. It was he who recommended her to Gram Parsons, who hired her to be his duet partner and introduced her to the world of country music. She sang prominent harmonies on Parsons’ 1973 solo debut album GP, as well as on the follow-up Grievous Angel, which was released in 1974 after Parsons’ death from a drug overdose. Both albums were re-released on a single disc by Reprise. They are also available digitally and are well worth a listen. Emmylou later covered many of the songs on these two volumes on her solo albums. One of the best is a rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Love Hurts”, which also appears on Emmylou’s Duets compilation, which was released by Reprise in 1990 and is an excellent sampler of her non-solo work.

Duets also includes such hits as “We Believe In Happy Endings” with Earl Thomas Conley, “If I Needed You” with Don Williams, and “That Lovin’ You Feeling Again” with Roy Orbison, which won a Grammy in 1980 for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Two new tracks were recorded for the project: “The Price I Pay” with Chris Hillman’s Desert Rose Band and a beautiful rendition of Nanci Griffith’s “Gulf Coast Highway” with Willie Nelson.

After the death of Gram Parsons and before she secured her solo deal with Reprise, Emmylou had sung backup on some of Linda Ronstadt’s records, and formed what was to become a lifelong friendship. Ronstadt eventually returned the favor, singing backup on Emmylou’s solo records, as did Dolly Parton, whose “Coat of Many Colors” Emmylou had covered on her Pieces of the Sky album. The three women formed an alliance and recorded together sporadically over the next several years. For many years, legal issues and record label politics thwarted their attempts to release an album together, but their collaborations occasionally turned up on Emmylou’s albums, notably “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” from 1979’s Blue Kentucky Girl and “Mister Sandman” from 1981’s Evangeline. Parton and Ronstadt also both contributed to 1980’s Roses In The Snow. Eventually the three women released Trio and Trio II in 1987 and 1999, respectively. Emmylou and Linda teamed up again in 1999 for Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions. Dolly wasn’t available to participate this time around; let’s just say that her presence is sorely missed as this particular album is not one of my favorites.

In 2007 Rhino Records released the four-disc boxed set Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems, which includes a generous sampling of Emmylou’s lesser-known solo and non-solo efforts. Some of the highlights include “Spanish Johnny” with Waylon Jennings, “One Paper Kid” with Willie Nelson and “Here We Are” with George Jones. It also contains some of the outtakes from the Trio sessions with Ronstadt and Parton, as well as some of their earlier recordings that had not previously seen the light of day, including 1978’s “Palms of Victory” and an exquisite reading of “Softly and Tenderly” from the second Trio sessions. Also of note are some of Emmylou’s contributions to tribute albums, such as the title track to the 1994 Merle Haggard tribute Mama’s Hungry Eyes, which she sings with Rodney Crowell, and “Golden Ring” from 1998’s Tammy Wynette Remembered, on which she is joined by Linda Ronstadt and Kate and Anna McGarrigle. “Mary Danced With Soldiers” from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Volume 2 also makes an appearance, as does “I Don’t Love You Much, Do I” with Guy Clark and “Sonny”, sung with Ireland’s Mary Black and Dolores Keane. The third and fourth discs of Songbird rely heavily on duet material, including collaborations with artists such as Sheryl Crow, Patty Griffin, Mark Knopfler, Carl Jackson, Randy Scruggs, Iris Dement, The Pretenders, and The Seldom Scene. Songbird is a somewhat pricy collection, but it is one of the best music purchases I ever made.

In addition to the artists previously mentioned, Emmylou has lent her voice to recordings by Terri Clark, The Judds, Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood, and countless others. As someone who became interested in country music during the Urban Cowboy’s heyday in the early 80s, Emmylou’s music was something of an acquired taste for me. It took a few years for me to fully appreciate her artistry, and it was primarily through her work with others that I became a huge fan.

Messin’ with my mind

Music has always been a very personal experience for me. And if that sounds a bit redundant or hokey to you, I cannot apologize. I’ve never been one to wear my heart on my sleeve, but you better believe it doesn’t hang out far from my ear. My current state of mind is usually pretty easy to decipher from the recent songs on my playlists. Yeah, I’m pretty transparent like that. My brain has been wired to seek out melodic poetry to state my feelings. I don’t lock myself in a room and blast the twang from my speakers, even when emotions hit harder than usual.  When I begin to feel a little overwhelmed, I like to think I strike a nice medium somewhere in between insane and indifferent. But I guess that’s for the people around me to call.  Still, there are times in life when only your favorite songs will understand the way you feel.

With all that in mind, I invite you to join me on this trip to ex-lover-land with these quintessential country songs.

Dolly Parton – Here You Come Again

Dolly’s husband Carl Dean first recognized the potential in her first pop hit, telling her “that song right there is a million seller.”  Sure enough, when Dolly released it in 1977, it became her first million-selling single.   A somewhat cheesy electric piano intro first grabs your attention, but it’s not long before Parton is pouring one of her strongest vocals ever onto these lyrics that tell of a ex-lover’s effect on her state of mind.  ‘All you gotta do is smile that smile, and there go all my defenses‘ she sings, as her mind stays completely aware of the dire situation her heart is putting her in once again.  But she doesn’t care, her senses are all full up, and the mind will just have to suffer the consequences of the heart’s decision.

Randy Travis – Diggin’ Up Bones

Even though others started the New Traditionalist revival of the 1980s before him, no one better exemplified the sound than Randy Travis.  His debut album Storms of Life is essential listening for any country fan, and personally, I can’t get enough of it.  His second #1 single finds him revisiting a failed marriage through pictures, old love letters, the rings, and even a negligee’, all of which he finds while going through the ‘lonely bedroom of our recent broken home‘.  Allowing the rhythm section to the front separated this kind of traditional country from its old-school counterparts, and created a template for modern traditionalism that has yet to be reestablished.  This was not your father’s country music, but you can both sure enjoy it together, and I dare you not to sing along with those repeating harmonies.

Ronnie Milsap – Back On My Mind Again

I cannot say enough about Ronnie Milsap and his influence on my listening habits.  As one of the first out-of-my-generation acts whose catalog I fell headlong into, his smooth crooning and the diversity of his songs gave me my first real footing into the deep well of country’s backlog of superlative artists.  This contemporary gem is a hybrid of a country shuffle and Urban Cowboy-era countrypolitan.  Following another failed relationship, Milsap sings of recharging his batteries, pulling himself back together, and even starting over with someone new.  Yet none of this can keep thoughts of his ex off his mind.

Emmylou Harris – Blue Kentucky Girl

Loretta Lynn also recorded this Johnny Mullins-penned track, but Harris’ has been in my library lately because of our spotlight artist coverage this month.  Featuring one of the most memorable choruses in memory, this sweetly demure song simply says ‘I don’t care why you left, just come on home’.

Trisha Yearwood – Woman Walk The Line

Even if it didn’t have a cold opening – those get me every time, I swear – this Emmylou Harris co-write would still have grabbed me immediately.  It’s got the kind of immediate one-two punch most ballads only hope to deliver.  In the first couple of lines, we’re instantly transported to the barside table of our narrator as she attempts to ‘do some drinking’ and ‘listen to the band’ to forget the man who’s out doing her wrong.  But that’s all she’s there to accomplish.  Any attempt at picking her up, or even keeping her company, is an exercise in futility. Behind a stone-country arrangement (maybe her most traditional country recording), Yearwood’s masterful vocal breathes new life into this song inspired by Johnny Cash’s signature hit.  Bringing Harris along on harmony, Yearwood proves she’s ‘as good as what you’re thinking‘.  Better, even.

Patty Loveless – Here I Am

Jesus said “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  Patty Loveless said “Don’t do it darlin, don’t you dare look in there … Cause you know I’m right there waiting for you in the bottom of your glass”  And while they were probably speaking of different life situations, both speak of the folly in looking back.  Playing the part of the all-knowing and all-seeing jilted lover, Patty’s soaring song paints her as the perfect pragmatist, before concluding that pride diminishes with age, oh, and by the way, come back and get me if you want to.

Travis Tritt – Anymore

Power ballads don’t get much more powerful than Travis Tritt’s 1991 mega-hit that also spawned a video trilogy sequence about the life of disabled veteran Mac Singleton and Annie.  Chomping at the bit from the beginning, the acoustic guitar leads the verses as Tritt lets his feelings flow out.  By the time the big, big chorus begins, he’s resolved that he’s ‘got to take the chance or let it pass by‘.  Electric guitars ring and drums bang as Tritt admits ‘I can’t keep pretending I don’t love you anymore‘ in his most passionate vocal.

Random playlist 3

After all the mental inventory-taking of the end of the year lists was finally over, I began to cruise through my media library again. Ballads have been in higher rotation than anything else right now, and that’s partly because of that nostalgia feeling that comes from having a fresh snowfall each morning. But it’s also because ballads are usually my favorites anyway. Here’s a few I’ve really been enjoying lately.

Zac Brown Band – ‘Colder Weather’ … Wanderlust drives the narrator in the Zac Brown Band’s current single, and he readily admits it to this lady. ‘And I love you but I’ll leave you, I don’t want you but I need you‘, he confesses. Still, some relationships are too complicated to follow the rules. These two keep it together when he’s in town; otherwise, not so much. The swaying melody is brought to life here with the help of a gentle piano track and Alabama-ish harmonies from the group.

Sara Evans – ‘Three Chords And The Truth’ … Her first album was a lesson in 90s new traditionalism, and though none of the songs were hits, the title track to the set has taken on a life of its own. Evans’ Missouri drawl wrings out every ounce of emotion in this conflicted woman’s day of events, as she sings of the music doing just the same for the character in her own song.

Martina McBride – ‘Strangers’ … This track from Martina’s second album was included on her Greatest Hits album, listed as a fan favorite and concert staple; and for good reason. Songwriter Bobby Braddock penned a telling tale of two people and their journey from, and back to, being strangers to each other. Martina’s bigger-than-your-house voice hammers it home.

Mark McGuinn – ‘She Doesn’t Dance’ … This guy’s got the perfect gal at home. So what’s she doing in this smoky bar in that black dress, and in another man’s arms? But wait, that couldn’t be her. She doesn’t own a dress like that, and besides, she doesn’t even dance. Especially like that. McGuinn hit bigger with that infuriating ‘Mrs. Steven Rudy’ song. But not only was ‘She Doesn’t Dance’ tolerable, this 90s-style country ballad proved better at showcasing his dry wit without even trying.

Sunny Sweeney – ‘Amy’ … Just like her breakthrough single, Sweeney’s self-penned ‘Amy’ is a confessional from the other woman. This time it’s directed at the wife and she’s asking her to please stand aside, if that’s at all convenient. Tight and light, the acoustic-driven production is the perfect score for the story unfolding before us.

Johnny Cash – ‘Cry, Cry, Cry’ … Maybe it’s Cash’s deadpan delivery of these scathing lyrics, or maybe it’s the Signature Cash dominating back beat. Either way, I can’t get enough of Johnny’s first single.

Alan Jackson – ‘I’ll Try’ … Warm, traditional sounds complimenting Jackson’s crooning vocals make the song a real pleasure to the ears, but it’s the no-frills message in this song I like best. No promises of forever or of good times to come, this guy takes a realistic approach. Sweetly optimistic in all he does, he’s aiming for the long haul. Here’s hoping.

So, what’s your pleasure these days?  Are you spinning the ballads in the colder weather?  Share your current favorites with us in the comments.

Some hidden treasures of 2010

I restricted my top 10 singles list for the year to tracks which were formally released as singles, but a lot of the best music of the year was hidden away on albums. So to finish up our review of the year in country music, here are my favorite tracks from albums released this year. I’ve restricted the selection to one per artist (not counting duets), and I’ve excluded the albums which made it to my top 10 albums list to avoid too much duplication and to prevent the list being too long.

20. Trace Adkins – ‘Still Love You’ (Cowboy’s Back In Town)
Moving to Toby Keith’s label seems to have encouraged the talented but often artistically misguided Trace Adkins to give in to his worst instincts, but there is still some decent material on his latest album. This ballad swearing enduring love (written by love song specialist Jeff Bates with Robert Arthur and Kirk Roth) is a little heavily orchestrated, but has a great, understated vocal from one of the best voices around. It’s a shame the rest of the album wasn’t up to the same standard.

19. Gretchen Wilson – ‘I’m Only Human’ (I Got Your Country Right Here)
Gretchen has just scored an unexpected Grammy nomination for ‘I’d Love To Be Your Last’ from her self-released I Got Your Country Right Here, prompting general bewilderment from country fans online. But while that track isn’t bad, this song is rather better, a plaintive bar-room tale of a woman trying to resist the temptation of dalliance with a married man, which Gretchen wrote with Vicky McGehee, Dave Berg and Rivers Rutherford.

18. Jon Wolfe – ‘Play Me Something I Can Drink To’ (It All Happened In A Honky Tonk)
If you think Easton Corbin sounds like George Strait, you need to check out the Strait stylings of Jon Wolfe on his strong independent debut album. I particularly liked this classic country style bar room song (written by Kevin Brandt and Bobby Terry) about a guy seeking to get his broken heart temporarily cured by whiskey and a jukebox stocked with Hank and Jones.

17. Jamie Richards – ‘Half Drunk’ (Sideways)
A great song from a Texas-based artist about trying to get over an ex by drinking, but running out of money halfway through.

16. Miss Leslie – ‘Turn Around’ (Wrong Is What I Do Best)
A lovely steel-led heartbreak ballad written by honky tonker Miss Leslie herself, but sounding as though it could be a forgotten classic from the 60s.

15. Shawn Camp – ‘Clear As A Bell’ (1994)
This lovely song was my favorite from Shawn’s “lost” album which was resurrected from the Warner Bros vaults this year.

14. Zac Brown Band – ‘Martin’ (You Get What You Give)
Jamey Johnson personified a guitar in the title track of The Guitar Song, but Zac Brown sang a love song about one on their latest release. Charming and unusual.

13. Gary Allan – ‘No Regrets’ (Get Off On The Pain)
I’ve been disappointed by Gary’s musical direction over the past couple of albums, but the heartbreaking honesty of this touching song expressing his feelings about his late wife (which he wrote with the help of Jon Randall and Jaime Hanna) was a reminder of his excellent early work.

12. Jolie Holliday – ‘I’ll Try Anything’ (Lucky Enough)
A gorgeous cover of a sad song previously recorded by its co-writer Amber Dotson about struggling to cope with lost love. I can’t find a link for you to listen to the studio version, but here she is singing it live (after a nice version of ‘San Antonio Rose’. And as a bonus, here she is singing ‘Golden Ring’ live with Randy Travis.

11. Curly Putman – ‘Green Green Grass Of Home’ (Write ‘Em Sad – Sing ‘Em Lonesome)
The songwriter’s own version of his classic prisoner’s dream is as convincing as any version I’ve herd of this celebrated song.

10. Toby Keith – ‘Sundown‘ (Bullets In The Gun, deluxe version)
Toby is always a bit hit and miss for me, but this surprisingly restrained live version of the sultry folk-country classic is a definite hit.

9. Darin & Brooke Aldridge – ‘The Last Thing On His Mind’ (Darin & Brooke Aldridge)
I loved this husband and wife team’s sweet bluegrass album and this somber Easter song (written by Dennis K Duff) was the highlight for me.

8. Teea Goans – ‘I Don’t Do Bridges Anymore’ (The Way I Remember It)
Teea Goans’ retro independent release featured this lovely classic-styled ballad, written by Jim McBride, Don Poythress and Jerry Salley. Her voice is sweet but not that distinctive, but this breakup song is definitely worth hearing.

7. Catherine Britt – ‘Sweet Emmylou’ (Catherine Britt)
The Australian singer’s latest album was a bit hit and miss for me, but there were some very strong moments, including Catherine’s lovely version of her tribute to the healing power of the music of Emmylou Harris, which she wrote some years ago with Rory Feek. It has been released as a single in Australia.

6. Bill Anderson – ‘The Songwriters’ (Songwriter)
My favorite comic song of the year is the legendary Bill Anderson’s celebration (more or less) of songwriters’ lives, complete with the protagonist’s mother’s preference for a career as drug dealer for her son. Bill isn’t much of a singer, but this song (co-written with Gordie Sampson)is irresistible.

5. Randy Kohrs – ‘Die On The Vine’ (Quicksand)
One of the first songs to grab my attention this year was this lovely song warning a son against taking refuges from trouble in alcohol, written by famed dobro player and songwriter Randy Kohrs with Dennis Goodwin.

4. James Dupre – ‘Ring On The Bar’ (It’s All Happening)
I loved this sensitively sung low-key mid-tempo Byron Hill/Brent Baxter song about a man trying to figure out what happened to his marriage from youtube discovery James’s independent debut album, produced by Kyle Lehning.

3. Lee Ann Womack – ‘Liars Lie’ (Country Strong soundtrack)
I’m beginning to get impatient for a new album from Lee Ann, and this soundtrack cut has really whetted my appetite. This excellent song, written by Sally Barris, Morgane Hayes and Liz Rose, and the combination of Lee Ann’s beautiful vocals and the harmony from Charlie Pate, a pure country production (thanks to Lee Ann’s husband Frank Liddell and Chuck Ainlay), and a fine song make this a sheer delight.

2. Chris Young – ‘Chiseled In Stone’ (Voices EP)
Song for song, this young neotraditionalist’s three song EP of covers was the most impressive release of the year, allowing Chris to exercise his outstanding baritone voice on really top quality material – something sadly missing on his two full length albums. This Vern Gosdin song was my favorite of the three, but his takes on Keith Whitley’s ‘I’m Over You’ and John Anderson’s ‘Swingin’ were also great.

1. Alan Jackson ft Lee Ann Womack – ‘Til The End’ (Freight Train)
This particular treasure is not very well hidden, as although it hasn’t been released as a single it gained sufficient attention to get a well-deserved nomination as Musical Event of the Year at the recent CMA awards. This exquisite reading of another Vern Gosdin classic was by far the best thing on Alan’s latest (and possibly last) album for Arista.

Do you have any special favorite album tracks from this year which haven’t gained the attention they deserve?

Late night recommendation: Hank Williams – ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’

Shortly after his death in 1953, ‘Kaw-Liga’ was released as Hank Williams’ first posthumous single. The B-side to that single would go on to have a much longer shelf life, and soon come to define country music in only three notes. The first three strikes of the crying steel guitar in this song would dominate the sound of ‘traditional’ country music for many generations after this song’s release, and these influences still reverberate today. No three notes – A, D, and G notwithstanding – have come to define a format so much since. Only the ‘da dam dum dum’ of old-school blues even comes close. Now, enjoy with me if you will, the groundwork of an entire genre of music.

Random playlist 2

It’s been a month since I posted my last random playlist, so I thought I’d update my new favorites list. These are just a selection of songs I’ve been listening to quite frequently lately. Maybe one or more of them are in heavy rotation for you right now too.

Trisha Yearwood – Drown Me … This is just one of the many, many superb tracks on Trisha Yearwood’s Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love album, in which she created a template for a modern female country album that’s near perfect. Too bad not many are following her design. This funky, rhythm-driven country romp finds two lovers at the end of their time together, with both realizing it, but neither wanting to hurt the other with a goodbye. Yearwood wryly tells her boy, ‘So won’t you give it to me straight/I got a lot of heart to break/And a lot of love for you that needs to die‘, hoping the un-amicable ending will cool any flames that might remain between the two.

Sunny Sweeney –Refresh My Memory … Like a fool, I let all the glowing recommendations of Sunny Sweeney’s Heartbreakers Hall of Fame album pass right by me, mostly because I’ve always got way too many titles on my to-buy list.  But after hearing her stellar new single, ‘From A Table Away’, I finally picked up a copy of her CD – at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville, no less.  On the drive home to Ohio from that trip, I gave the CD two complete listens, and the first track is the one I was drawn to most.  It’s been an awful long time since she felt the spark this guy brings to her, or perhaps since she’s felt any sparks at all, and with ‘Refresh My Memory’, she implores him to jog her memory a bit.  With steel guitar leading her Texas twang, Sunny glides through the song effortlessly.

George Jones – I’m Not Ready Yet … ‘I’ve always said that someday I was gonnnaa leeeeeaaaaavvee you‘.  So begins this classic George Jones hit where he contemplates over and over again the day he’ll finally leave this relationship that’s been dying for quite some time.  More than once, he set a date to walk out, but he’s just not ready yet to be out on his own.  Maybe someday.

Suzy Bogguss – Aces … Guilt is a very unkind and unsettling emotion.  And some of us don’t take criticism very well.  ‘Aces’ addresses both of those topics with candid honesty.  Amidst an elegant backdrop of 90s country production, Suzy Bogguss sings here of the mistakes she’s made, her lover’s reaction, and gives her response to the charges – ‘You can’t deal me the aces and think I wouldn’t play’ – before ending with her declaration of love.  Truly excellent.

Martina McBride – Wrong Again … The continuing countdown of the 400 Greatest Singles of the ’90s at Country Universe brought this song back to my attention again last week.  Since then, I’ve found myself clicking play on it more and more.  One of Martina’s finest and most understated moments, it finds her admitting her own mistakes, and longing to be past making them at this point.  I’m with you, Martina.

Mary Chapin Carpenter – I Put My Ring Back On … The lead single from Carpenter’s latest album didn’t get much attention from country radio, but it’s right up there with the best of her literate and melodic up-tempo tracks.  Finding faith to stay the course in a relationship makes the basis for ‘I Put My Ring Back On’, which, as the title suggests, finds the singer forgiving rather than running away, after a heated fight.

Kenny Chesney – Better As A Memory … Easily my favorite Chesney single from the past decade, ‘Better As A Memory’ is a slow-paced and sparse confessional, and the delivery showcases Kenny Chesney’s ability to wrap into a great lyric, when he’s chosen one.  ‘Never sure when the truth won’t do/I’m pretty good on a lonely night/I move on the way a storm blows through/I never stay, but then again, I might‘.  And so goes the revealing testimony in this track.

Jamey Johnson – Women … With romantic entanglement comes frustration.  Jamey Johnson and co-writer Jim Brown come closer to describing the fairer sex than I ever could with this soon-to-be classic cut.  Another confessional, this time framed by a more traditional country production, Johnson tells of his struggles with commitment, ‘I’ve made a sad one laugh/And I’ve made a good one cry/I’ve made one scream my name to the good lord by and by/I’ve made ‘em go insane and I’ve made ‘em go away/Just can’t ever seem to make one stay‘ before concluding his weakness and the self-realization that ‘with any luck I’ll take one home tonight’.

What songs are you playing the most these days? Any particular reason why you’re drawn to them right now?

Random playlist

I’ve been listening to different songs lately. We’ve all got our evergreen favorites that we always come back to. These are not them.  They’re also not new releases or recent discoveries. These are just 8 songs that have been giving me a lot of satisfaction lately. So I wanted to share them.

Mark Chesnutt – ‘Thank God For Believers’ … This is one of my favorites from our June Spotlight Artist.  Years into a rocky relationship, this guy is still making mistakes, but he’s sure grateful for his good-hearted woman who just ‘wipes her tears away and puts the coffee on’.

Wynonna – ‘Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis’ … Pressures build up and even the best of us feel a little overwhelmed sometimes.  This ‘song about having everything and nothing at all’ features a pair of smart, revealing verses that give way to a soaring chorus.

Reba McEntire – ‘Never Had a Reason To’ … The closing track on Reba’s acclaimed What If It’s You album finds the narrator chasing her own dreams, having never been tied down to any one person, place, or thing – until now, that is.  The bass-line intro, which frames much of the song, recalls classic country songs like George Jones’ ‘Her Name Is…’

Dixie Chicks -‘If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me’ … Natalie Maines rips into this track with a funky vibe in her timbre, complimented by strange but pleasant harmonies throughout the song by her band mates.  She’s on the edge of falling in, but not letting go of his hand.  Nobody wants to be the only one in love.

Reba – ‘Have I Got a Deal For You’ … This is just a fun song, with Reba in full New Traditionalist mode – this time with a western swing number as good as any George Strait has given us.  Reba talks about her heart like it’s a used car, hinting at a bit of wear and tear, but quickly pointing out that ‘it’s a one time only offer’ and she’s letting this one-of-a-kind, life-time guaranteed heart go at basement prices.

Linda Ronstadt – ‘Tracks Of My Tears’ … The Miracles had the first hit with this oft-covered gem.  Ronstadt’s California Rock-inspired recording of the Motown classic went top 5 in 1976 on the pop charts, and just missed the country top 10.

Elton John – ‘Turn The Lights Out When You Leave’ … In 2004, Elton John released Peachtree Road, an album of songs he had recorded in Atlanta.  While it wasn’t billed as a country album, nor should it be, much of the press surrounding it called it country, and an appearance with Dolly Parton on the CMA Awards that year helped cement that classification.  The CMA performance of this song lead me to buy the CD, and I still find myself spinning the lead single – which doesn’t feature Dolly’s magnificent harmonies – quite often.

Patty Loveless – ‘When The Fallen Angels Fly’ … The (almost) title track to Patty’s CMA Album of the Year features one of the singer’s finest vocals, set to a pure country backdrop, while lines like ‘I near drowned myself in freedom, just to feed my foolish pride’ elevate it from other similar-themed songs like Patty’s own ‘Lonely Too Long’ and Trisha Yearwood’s ‘Like We Never Had a Broken Heart’.

What’s new in heavy rotation in your library these days?

Open recommendation

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a plain ole’ recommendation, so I thought I’d throw one together for this morning.  I don’t have a theme for this one, like I usually do.  So I’m just going to call it on open recommendation.  I’ll tell you my song, and a little about why I like it, and then you do the same.

I am choosing Lorrie Morgan’s ‘Standing Tall’.  It was written by Ben Peters and Larry Butler and appears as a new track on Lorrie’s 1995 Greatest Hit album.  The disc contained 3 new songs and all were released as singles.  Though the first two went to #1 and #4, respectively. The final single, ‘Standing Tall’, with its traditional-tinged ‘this is goodbye’ theme, and clever lyrics, stalled just inside the top 40 at #32.  It’s still one of my favorite songs in the Lorrie Morgan catalog, and essential listening.

The choice is yours … what’s your pleasure today?  What do you recommend for our us to listen to?

Listen to Lorrie Morgan – Standing Tall.