In these times of un-fulfillment for the country music fan, I’m finding myself turning to my other favorite genres and artists for comfort. The country fan that listens only to country music is rare, even among listeners like me for whom country is by far the primary source for music. My tastes run to the extreme sometimes: from Alice Cooper to Amy Grant and from zydeco to the blues, and a lot in between. I’m certainly not one of those ‘I’ll listen to anything’ fans; my preferences, while eclectic, are strongly defined. And I would think that’s the case with all of us passionate music fans.
So, on to my original thought: finding great music outside country’s umbrella when the mainstream – and even the indies – just aren’t doing it for you at the moment. Last Fall, I bought an impulse collection – a 3-CD collection from Linda Ronstadt. I had only heard her own singing a couple of times, but I knew her songs from covers by the likes of Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, and Martina McBride. Terri Clark had a hit with Linda’s ‘Poor, Poor Pitiful Me’ early in her career. Trisha Yearwood, especially, speaks very, very highly of Ronstadt. And I know Hank Williams Jr. once name-checked her in one of his many hits. But Hank Jr. name-checks everybody. But with all that high praise from some of my favorite artists, I figured a bargain Linda Ronstadt collection would be worth my money. After all, with 40 songs, I was bound to find something I liked. Needless to say, like so many others before me, I was instantly drawn to Linda’s really big, really emotive voice. Further listening to her catalog has also shown me that she has an incredible ear for material as well.
Linda Ronstadt’s catalog is possibly the most diverse among her contemporaries, and I readily admit that I don’t fully appreciate her forays into jazz and traditional Mexican music, among other styles she’s tackled. However, I do find her to be an able performer of opera, rock, pop, and even country. Linda charted 5 top 10 country singles in the ’70s, along with 3 #1 country albums. That’s a better country track record than a lot of artists, but her real commercial success came in the mid to late ’70s when she was hailed ‘the highest paid woman in Rock’, and the genre’s ‘first lady’. Not many singers or musicians from outside the country world have been as accepted by the country music industry as Ronstadt was. I’ve now acquired a box set and 7 studio albums from Linda.
I’m still finding new music to add to my collection these days. Admittedly, a lot of it is only new to me. But I’m also finding that the more new artists that I add to my library lately, the fewer and fewer decidedly country artists I am adding. Linda Ronstadt is just the brightest and best among many new non-country additions to my rotation. And even when I do add a country artist, it seems to be one whose charting days are well behind them.
Are you digging deep into the catalogs of country’s older hit-makers? Or, are you seeking out independent music or looking to other genres for your musical fix?
Here’s two of my favorite finds so far in the Linda Ronstadt collection:
‘Willin’, a real, old-fashioned trucking song, complete with nods to uppers and illegal backroad hauls.
‘It’s So Easy’, a 1977 hit for Ronstadt written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty.