My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Aaron Tippin

Classic Rewind: Aaron Tippin – ‘You’ve Got To Stand For Something’

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Album Review: Aaron Tippin – ‘You’ve Got To Stand For Something’

you've got to stand for somethingAaron Tippin burst onto the scene in 1990 with the self-penned title track to his gold-selling debut album, offering listeners some life advice from his father about living with integrity. This sub-genre has become something of a cliché these days, but this example is pretty good, and Aaron’s honest sentiments shine through. It’s no surprise it was a big hit for him, and it stands up well today:

You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything
You’ve got to be your own not a puppet on a string
Never compromise what’s right
And uphold your family name
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything

Tippin’s raw hillbilly whine is certainly an acquired taste, but his sincerity on this song is entirely convincing and the song’s positive self-reliance message was a hit with radio listeners, peaking at #6.
The song’s success led to the release of a full-scale album followed in 1991, produced by Emory Gordy Jr, which was gold-certified even though the subsequent singles flopped.

One of those failures was actually my favorite track on his debut album (and probably my all-time favorite Tippin recording), the desolate ballad ‘I Wonder How Far It Is Over You’. The protagonist finds out the hard way he can’t outrun the memory of his lost love, even walking across most of the United States when his car runs out of gas:

I was deep in California when I finally made a friend
It was me and that old hobo til you showed up again
But he ran out of liquor and I’ve run out of time
I’m standing by the ocean and you’re still on my mind
I’m staring at the water
So blue and deep and wide
And a man could lose a memory
Over on the other side

I wonder just how far it is over you
Is there no place I go
That you don’t come too?
Cause when I left Tennessee
Honey, I thought we were through
Now I wonder how far it is over you

A lonesome fiddle underlines the melancholy mood, and Aaron’s vocal sells the pain the protagonist is feeling. Maybe the song’s bleakness a little too depressing for radio, because it only just crept into the top 40, but it’s really worth listening to.

The third and last single ‘She Made A Memory Out Of Me’ performed even more poorly, although it is another good song. It makes good use of Tippin’s wailing whine, and almost sounds like a Hank Williams song, which may have been a step too far even in the neotraditional early 90s. ‘The Sky’s Got The Blues’ has a similar lonesome feel, with his voice almost shading into a yodel.

The finger-snapping ‘Ain’t That The Hell Of A Note’ tells the story of a man coming home from work to find his wife’s farewell message, casually mentioning in the middle of a numbered list of information points that she has decided to leave him (with no obvious reason, unless her reminder to take out the trash is a clue). It is appropriately followed by the regretful confession of a husband who made all the wrong choices, admitting that ‘The Man That Came Between Us (Was Me)’, which is one of the best tracks on the album. Either of these two might have made a good single.

‘Many Many Beers Ago’ is a likeable drinking through the heartbreak number, with solid pace and energy. The opening ‘In My Wildest Dreams’ is a pleasant mid-tempo love song about meeting the woman of his dreams; it offers nothing special but is decent enough, and was later covered by Kenny Chesney on his debut album. Also enjoyable but unexceptional is the brisk ‘I’ve Got A Good Memory’, bemoaning the lasting power of memories of an old love but with less emotional impact than the infinitely superior ‘I Wonder How Far It Is Over You’.

At the time the album was released, Tippin’s label RCA was notorious for trying to boost sales of CDs, then a relatively new format, and one which was priced higher than the more popular cassettes or vinyl, by adding bonus material. ‘Up Against You’ is the ‘bonus’ track, but it is pretty forgettable.

Overall, this was a strong debut by an artist whose unique voice stood out from the crowd, full of solid songs all written or co-written by Tippin himself.

Grade: A-

Spotlight Artist: Aaron Tippin

aaron tippinBorn in Pensacola, Florida, on July 3, 1958, Aaron Tippin grew up in the small town of Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina, in the shadow of the mountains. He began playing guitar aged 10, and sang in the church choir, but his boyhood ambition was to be a commercial pilot like his father, and he earned his licence aged just 15. But his love of country music grew, and he began playing rhythm guitar in local country and bluegrass bands. When the gas crisis if the 1970s meant his dreams of a flying career had to be put on hold, he turned the whole of his attention to music. He honed his skills playing the honky tonks and writing songs alongside a series of day jobs.

He moved to Nashville when he was a contestant on TNN’s You Can Be A Star in 1986, but this was no overnight success. The next few years were a struggle, but he managed to get a publishing deal, started getting cuts as a writer (including one by Charley Pride). When the neotraditional revival was encouraging all the major labels to seek out more traditional-sounding singers, a demo tape Aaron had submitted to RCA with the aim of getting his songs recorded by other artists caught the attention of the label executives, who were struck with the raw hillbilly stylings.

He burst onto the scene with his breakthrough hit, ‘You’ve Got To Stand For Something’ in 1990. The song’s message persuaded Bob Hope to invite his to entertain US troops serving in the First Gulf War, and he has toured US bases extensively ever since.

A string of hits followed in the 90s, with Aaron’s piercing voice setting him apart from his peers. His music typifies blue-collar country, with favorite themes including the hardworking blue-collar American, patriotism and self-reliance, as well as more conventional songs about love and loss. He has written almost all of his own material.

His career began to wind down in the later 90s, with a brief resurgence in the period after 9/11 when his patriotic material fit the mood of the times.

His latest venture is a joint tour with fellow 90s stars Joe Diffie and Sammy Kershaw, and the trio are releasing an album together at the end of this month.

We will be taking a look back over Tippin’s career throughout May.

Week ending 5/5/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

1952: Easy on the Eyes — Eddy Arnold (RCA)

1962: She’s Got You — Patsy Cline (Decca)

1972: Chantilly Lace — Jerry Lee Lewis (Mercury)

1982: Mountain Music — Alabama (RCA)

1992: There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With The Radio — Aaron Tippin (RCA)

2002: My List — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2012: Drink On It — Blake Shelton (Warner Bros.)

Week ending 4/28/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

1952: (When You Feel Like You’re In Love) Don’t Just Stand There — Carl Smith (Columbia)

1962: Charlie’s Shoes — Billy Walker (Columbia)

1972: Chantilly Lace — Jerry Lee Lewis (Mercury)

1982: Crying My Heart Out Over You — Ricky Skaggs (Epic)

1992: There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With The Radio — Aaron Tippin (RCA)

2002: My List — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2012: Drink On It — Blake Shelton (Warner Bros.)

Week ending 4/21/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

1952: (When You Feel Like You’re In Love) Don’t Just Stand There — Carl Smith (Columbia)

1962: She’s Got You — Patsy Cline (Decca)

1972: My Hang-up Is You — Freddie Hart (Capitol)

1982: The Clown — Conway Twitty (Elektra)

1992: There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With The Radio — Aaron Tippin (RCA)

2002: My List — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2012: A Woman Like You — Lee Brice (Curb)

Country Heritage Redux: Dick Feller

An expanded and updated version of an article originally published by The 9513.

About eight years ago I was attending a performance by the late great Vermont singer/songwriter Bernie Whittle when he launched into “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore.” I wasn’t familiar with the song but it seemed to me that it could have come from the pen of only one writer – Dick Feller. A little research confirmed my assumption.

Dick Feller was never a big recording star, but during the 1970s he provided numerous hits for other people. Possessed of rare wit and sensitivity (a product of his rural Missouri upbringing), Feller could write poignant ballads and novelties with equal facility. For a period of time, he was a staff writer for Johnny Cash. Prior to that, he was the touring band leader/lead guitarist for Warner Mack. He even played lead guitar on most of his own recordings and appeared as guitarist on sessions by a number of other artists, including Mel Tillis and Mike Auldridge. From my exposure to Dick’s guitar playing, I rate him just barely below the Chet Atkins class as a fingerpicker guitarist.

Among Feller’s serious songs, John Denver hit with “Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)” (#10 Country / #36 Pop), Johnny Cash had success with “Any Old Wind That Blows” (#3 Country) and “Orleans Parish Prison” (#52 Country), and Ferlin Husky recorded “A Room For A Boy – Never Used,” (#60 Country) a song that should have been a much bigger hit than it was.

I’m not sure whether to classify Dick’s biggest copyright as serious or humorous, but there are few songs more familiar than “East Bound and Down,” a huge country hit (#1 Cashbox /#2 Billboard) for co-writer Jerry Reed that was featured in the 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit, and received continuous play by country bands everywhere for at least the next 25 years. I know of at least 33 cover versions, most recently by the Road Hammers.

Despite his facility with the serious songs, Dick Feller seemed to prefer looking at the humorous side of life with his music. Songs such as “Lord, Mr. Ford” (a #1 Country hit for Jerry Reed) and “The Night Miss Nancy Ann’s Hotel For Single Girls Burned Down” (a minor hit for Tex Williams) seemed more in keeping with that outlook.

He issued three albums during the 1970s with four songs charting on Billboards Country charts : “The Credit Card Song” (#10), “Makin’ The Best of A Bad Situation” (#11), “Biff, The Friendly Purple Bear” (#22 – a song that appeals to all ages), and “Uncle Hiram and the Homemade Beer” (#49). The first three saw some action on Billboards Pop charts, as well.

Feller mostly wrote on his own, but when he did co-write, it was usually with writers who shared his humorous outlook on life, such as Sheb Wooley (a/k/a Ben Colder), Jerry Reed and most notably the late, Atlanta humorist Lewis Grizzard. Dick toured with Grizzard and was the opening act for the “Evening With Lewis Grizzard” stage show. Their most notable musical collaboration was “Alimony,” a subject Grizzard knew well.

In addition to the aforementioned artists, Dick Feller’s songs have been recorded by a diverse group of artists that include Bobby Bare, The Kingston Trio, Ray Stevens, Earl Scruggs, Mac Davis, Lee Greenwood, Ed Bruce, Burt Reynolds, Julie Andrews, Arthur Godfrey, Hank Snow, Hank Thompson, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Aaron Tippin, June Carter Cash and countless others.

Wouldn’t you love to hear Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley or George Strait tackle these lyrics:

I stepped out of the shower and I got a good look at myself
Pot bellied, bald-headed, I thought I was somebody else
I caught my reflection in the mirror of the bathroom door
I just don’t look good naked anymore!

So… I’m goin upstairs and turn my bedroom mirror to the wall
I hung it there back when I was trim and tall
I’d stand there and smile and flex and strut until my arms go sore
But I just don’t look good naked anymore!

From “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore”, available on Centaur Of Attention.

Discography

The Dick Feller discography is pretty slim but each album is filled with wry (and sometimes silly) humor, clever lyrics and songs full of profound thoughts, sometimes disguised as humor

VINYL
All vinyl, of course, is out of print but worth hunting down. To the best of my knowledge Dick Feller issued only four vinyl albums

Dick Feller Wrote… (United Artists, 1973)
No Word On Me (Elektra, 1974)
Some Days Are Diamonds (Elektra/Asylum, 1975)
Audiograph Alive (Audiograph, 1982)

DIGITAL
Centaur Of Attention (Cyberphonic, 2001)
Although originally released as a CD, it currently is available only as a digital download from http://www.cdbaby.com. The album contains versions of all four of Dick’s charted hits, plus some other humorous songs

Check out www.dickfeller.com for more information on Dick Feller.

Week ending 10/23/10: #1 singles this week in country music history

1950: I’m Movin’ On — Hank Snow (RCA)

1960: Alabam — Cowboy Copas (Starday)

1970: Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1980: I Believe In You — Don Williams (MCA)

1990: Friends In Low Places — Garth Brooks (Capitol)

2000: Kiss This — Aaron Tippin (Lyric Street)

2010: All Over Me — Josh Turner (MCA)

Week ending 10/16/10: #1 singles this week in country music history

1950: I’m Movin’ On — Hank Snow (RCA)

1960: Alabam — Cowboy Copas (Starday)

1970: Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1980: Loving Up A Storm — Razzy Bailey (RCA)

1990: Friends In Low Places — Garth Brooks (Capitol)

2000: Kiss This — Aaron Tippin (Lyric Street)

2010: The Boys Of Fall — Kenny Chesney (BNA)

Album Review: Zona Jones – ‘Prove Me Right’

Prove Me RightThere must be something in the water in Beaumont, Texas. Not only was it the hometown of George Jones, Mark Chesnutt was born there, and the city was once also home to Tracy Byrd. Another Beaumont resident, Zona Jones, put his career as a lawyer on hold a few years ago when he released his excellent first album Harleys & Horses on indie label D Records. I enjoyed that record enough to keep a eye out for his follow-up, which has at last appeared on his friend Tracy Lawrence’s Rocky Comfort Records. Zona is not quite in the same league as the aforementioned sons of Beaumont, but he does have a good voice very much in the George Strait style, which is particularly effective on mellow ballads like the majority of the material on this album. Half the songs were produced by no less than James Stroud, the remainder by Zona himself with Mike Jones, but the overall feel of the album is fairly consistent, and it is solidly country from start to finish.

He opens with a cover of Aaron Tippin’s ‘Could Not Stop Myself From Loving You’, which he delivers nicely enough, but his phrasing is too reminiscent of the original while lacking Tippin’s hypnotic quality. Tippin’s co-writers on that track, Mark Nesler and Tony Martin, also wrote my favorite song on the album, ‘Go Away’. This excellent song feels like a sequel to Steve Earle’s modern classic ‘My Old Friend The Blues’, a link I think is made explicit in the salutation, “my old foul-weather friend”. The protagonist is tired of feeling bad about his loss, and begs:

“Go away, blues don’t hang around
Let me love again somehow
I tried but I could not make her stay
So be like her and go away”

Another really enjoyable number is ‘Drinkin”, a drinking song (obviously) from the pens of John [Scott?] Sherrill and Neal Coty, which sounds cheerful even as the protagonist tries to drown his miseries:

Damn it, I think I drank myself sober
And I still can’t drink myself over you

At least I’m a couple sheets to the wind
With any luck, honey, I’ll forget again
That I don’t know where you are or where I am”

The title track (a Radney Foster/Stephanie Delray composition) is a hopeful look at the prospects for love. Also good is ‘She Showed Me’, written by Troy Olsen and Kerry Kurt Phillips, neatly set around a conversation with an ex. The narrator smugly thinks she’ll be begging for another chance, but as it turns out he could not be more wrong – she is happily married with two children (underlining the guy’s cluelessness given the time that must have elapsed since they were together).

One of the songs which stands out the most is the uptempo jerky rhythm of ‘Never Took My Eyes Off You’, written by Dave Frasier, Ed Hill and Josh Kear, and although this track (alone on the album) feels a little over-produced and the lyric is rather slight, it is still fun with definite singalong potential as the protagonist can’t pay attention to the football game or great view on his dates with his love interest.

Similar but better is ‘Day Off’, a lively paean to relaxation time written by Al Anderson, Bob DiPiero and Leslie Satcher. For such a heavyweight writing team, the lyric verges on the absurd at times – while it is indeed true that we all welcome a check in the mail, few of us are in the need to break out of a Mexican jail. But as fluff goes, this is entertaining fluff, as Zona tells us with a little growl in his voice:

“Everybody needs a little too much fun
Everybody needs a little coming undone
Take a brain vacation, I’m telling you, hoss
Everybody needs a day off”

The love ballad ‘You Should’ve Seen Her This Morning’ is nice enough if not very memorable, as the protagonist boasts the joys of domestic bliss to his bar friends whose heads are turned when his woman walks in, claiming sweetly, “If you’re thinking ‘Wow, she looks beautiful now’, you should’ve seen her this morning.” ‘Two Hearts’, another pleasant love song, is repeated from Harleys & Horses.

The album is rounded out by three more covers, Strait’s ‘Blame it On Mexico’ and ‘When You Love ‘Em Like Crazy’ (recorded as ‘When You Love Her Like Crazy’ by Mark Chesnutt are both sung well but not as ood as the originals. I am not as familiar with the sweetly delivered ‘Bluer Than Blue’, written by Randy Goodrum, which was a big pop and AC hit in 1978 for Michael Johnson, who was to go country in the 80s. This last song (for which there is a video) has a very pretty tune and has grown on me over repeated listens.

I think the songs were a little stronger on Zona’s first album, but nonetheless this is an enjoyable record. It is available on iTunes or from Zona’s website.

Grade: B

Album Review: Kim Williams – ‘The Reason That I Sing’

williamskimI’ve mentioned before that I always enjoy hearing songwriters’ own interpretations of songs which they have written for other artists. The latest example comes from Kim Williams, a name you should recognize if you pay attention to the songwriting credits. Kim has been responsible for no fewer than 16 number 1 hits, and many more hit singles and album tracks over the past 20 years. Now he has released an album containing his versions of many of his big hits, together with some less familiar material.

The album is sub-titled Country Hits Bluegrass Style, although the overall feel of the record is more acoustic country with bluegrass instrumentation provided by some of the best bluegrass musicians around: Tim Stafford (who produces the set) on guitar, Ron Stewart on fiddle and banjo, Adam Steffey on mndolin, Rob Ickes on dobro, and Barry Bales on bass, with Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford providing harmony vocals. Kim’s voice is gruff but tuneful, and while he cannot compare vocally to most of those who have taken his songs to chart success, he does have a warmth and sincerity which really does add something to the songs he has picked on this album.

Kim includes three of the songs he has written for and with Garth Brooks, all from the first few years of the latter’s career. ‘Ain’t Going Down (Til The Sun Comes Up’), a #1 for Garth in 1993, provides a lively opening to the album, although it is one of the less successful tracks, lacking the original’s hyperactivity while not being a compelling or very melodic song in its own right. ‘Papa Loved Mama’ is taken at a slightly brisker pace than the hit version, and is less melodramatic as a result – neither better nor worse, but refreshingly different. ‘New Way To Fly’, which was recorded by Garth on No Fences, also feels more down to earth and less intense than the original, again with a very pleasing effect.

The other artist whose repertoire is represented more than once here is Joe Diffie. The lively western swing of ‘If The Devil Danced In Empty Pockets’ (written with Ken Spooner) with its newly topical theme of being well and truly broke is fun. Although ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ (from the 1992 album Regular Joe) was never released as a single, this tender ballad about separation from a loved one has always been one of my favorite Joe Diffie recordings. Kim’s low-key, intimate version wisely avoids competing vocally, but succeeds in its own way.

One of my favorite hit singles this decade was ‘Three Wooden Crosses’, a #1 hit for Randy Travis in 2002, which Kim wrote with Doug Johnson. A movie based on the story is apparently in development. I still love Randy’s version, but while Kim is far from the vocalist Randy is, this recording stands up on its own terms, with an emotional honesty in Kim’s delivery which brings new life to the story.

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Album Review: Josh Logan – ‘I Am What I Am’

joshlogan2_smallKentucky-born Josh Logan was one of those artists who fell through the cracks of a major (or almost-major) label deal when he was signed to Curb in the late 80s. His excellent 1988 album Somebody Paints The Wall included the first version of the title track, later a big hit for Tracy Lawrence and also recorded by George Jones, and Aaron Tippin’s ‘I Was Born with A Broken Heart’. Another early single was pulled when Conway Twitty released the same song. For whatever reason, Josh Logan never made any impact at radio, and was unceremoniously dropped by Curb. He has released a handful of independent albums in the years since, and the latest has just come my way.

Josh has a big deep baritone voice which could never be anything but country. His approach is normally solidly traditional, but this album is unfortunately produced by Del Gray, drummer for the group Little Texas, and I’m afraid I’m not over-impressed by Gray’s production skills, as the sound is a little muddy at times. The vocals are good, though, and some of the songs are excellent, making this a worthwhile purchase overall.

Josh is not a songwriter himself, but producer Gray has provided some of the material himself. Regrettably, some of these are the most dispensable and lyrically cliched moments on the record, such as the forgettable ‘I’d Be Good At Lovin’ You’. The unconvincing southern rock/outlaw posturing of the title track gets the set off to a disappointing start, as this is just not a style suited in any way to Josh’s voice. The worst of Gray’s songs is ‘BFE’, an overproduced and boring paean to the country lifestyle whose hook is incomprehensible. There are 13 tracks on the album, so cutting these three would have been a much better decision.

As a writer, Gray redeems himself with two offerings, both co-written with Zack Turner. ‘Old Die Hards Like Me’ lauds the honky tonk lifestyle to a slightly melancholy tune, and I thoroughly enjoyed honky-tonker ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’, which is, of course, “straight down to the bar” when love falls through. Neither song breaks any new ground lyrically, but they are both enjoyable. The same goes for ‘Dead & Gone’, a song about the appeal of country music written by another Little Texas member, Porter Howell, with Paul Jefferson and Johnny Slate – you’ll know it’s dead, Josh sings in rather melancholy tones, when no one falls in love or walks the floor with a broken heart – or when Hank Williams is no longer played on AM radio. It is not quite clear how ironic the lyric is intended to be.

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An early look at Reba the comedienne