My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Amy Grant

Album Review: Beth Nielsen Chapman – ‘UnCovered’

UnCoveredBeth Nielsen Chapman was one of the finest songwriters in Nashville in the 1990s, getting a lot of high-profile cuts (and hits), particularly among female artists. More of a genreless singer-songwriter than a purely country one, she enjoyed several hits herself on Adult Contemporary radio in the 90s. Her writing style nonetheless fitted in well with the diversity of 1990s country radio, with her songs running the gamut from sensitive ballads to commercial pop-country. Here she revisits a number of her songs recorded by country artists, focussing on those she never recorded herself.

My favourite song here is the excellent ‘Five Minutes’, a one-last-chance ultimatum delivered by a wife about to leave. Back in the late 80s this was recorded separately by Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, becoming a big hit for the latter, and in a nice touch, both women help out on backing vocals on Beth’s version. Her lead vocals are great and the intimate arrangement works perfectly.

I also really enjoyed her version of ‘Nothin’’ I Can Do About It Now’ (Willie Nelson’s last chart-topper). Beth’s version of the Tanya Tucker hit ‘Strong Enough To Bend’ is also attractively done, mixing vulnerability and strength.

She recruits occasional tour partners Gretchen Peters, Suzy Bogguss and Matraca Berg to provide call-and-response backing vocals on ‘Almost Home’ , which she wrote with and for Mary Chapin Carpenter. The sunnily positive mid-tempo ‘Here We Are’ was a #2 country hit for Alabama in 1991. I hadn’t realised Beth wrote this one with Vince Gill, but so it appears. Vince makes an appearance to sing the high harmony on this version. Beth wrote the moody ‘Sweet Love Shine’ with the late Waylon Jennings, and it was originally recorded as a duet between Jennings and Andy Griggs. Jessi Colter and Duane Eddy guest on Beth’s cover.

The pretty good piano led mid-tempo ‘Simple Things’ was an AC hit for pianist Jim Brickman with country artist Rebecca Lynn Howard on vocals, and it could have easily been covered in a mainstream country version. The sensitive Maybe That’s All It Takes’ (a late minor hit for Don Williams) is tastefully performed in an AC style with Darrell Scott on harmony. ‘Pray’ is a beautifully sung contemporary Christian song with an ethereal Celtic arrangement and backing vocals from co-writer Muriel Anderson and Amy Grant.

But while Chapman is a fine songwriter, she has some less stellar copyrights to her credit. I always hated Faith Hill’s monster hit version of ‘This Kiss’, and I don’t care for this one much more. The bluesy ‘Meet Me Halfway’ (written for Bonnie Raitt) is a bit bland. She wrote ‘One In A Million’ for the ill-fated Mindy McCready, and it too is poppy and lacking in depth.

I always enjoy hearing songwriters reveal their own take on songs they have written for other artists, and while this is not particularly country, the arrangements are generally tasteful while Chapman’s rich, warm vocals work well on most of the songs included.

Grade: A-

Album Review: Various Artists – ‘Christmas Grass: The Collection’

christmas grassThis two-disc compilation of the best tracks from a series of three Christmas Grass albums released in 2002, 2004 and 2007 respectively comprises equal parts instrumentals and vocal tracks, and mixes the reverent with the fun/nostalgic side of the season. Most of the material is fairly well known, but the impeccable, cleanly played arrangements and excellent vocals make these versions a welcome addition to your Christmas playlists.

Dolly Parton gets things going to a bright and cheery start with her perkily irresistible reading of ‘Christmas Time’s A-Comin’’, backed by the harmonies of Dailey & Vincent. The duo also back up Russell Moore on the briskly cheerful ‘Christmas Time Is Near’.

A charmingly nostalgic look back at Christmases past in Tom T Hall’s likeable ‘Oh Christmas Candle’ is attractively sung by the trio of Jamie Dailey, Barry Scott and Doyle Lawson. Rhonda Vincent is warm and tender on Amy Grant’s Southern-themed ‘Tennessee Christmas’, while the Larkins take on a bluegrass version of Alabama’s ‘Christmas In Dixie’, which is quite nice.

Larry Sparks lends an unexpectedly wistful melancholy to ‘I Heard The Bells Ring On Christmas Day’ (with a lyric comprising a Longfellow poem), which I liked very much. My favourite track is the most downbeat one, ‘Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho’, about a man facing his first Christmas alone, sung with a gentle sadness by Ronnie Bowman with supporting harmonies from Darrin Vincent and Sharon White.

John Cowan provides some variety by contributinga sultry soul-style vocal on ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’, which works surprisingly well with the bluegrass instrumentation.

On the religious side of things, Dailey & Vincent sing a quietly reverent and beautifully harmonised version of ‘Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem’, set to a simple guitar and mandolin backing. This must be one of their earliest recordings together. Sonya Isaacs sounds lovely on ‘Mary, Did You Know?’, while Sarah Jarosz is pleasantly soothing on ‘One Bright Star’.

3 Fox Drive get two tracks, both rather forgettable: ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ and ‘The Christmas Song’, which I usually find boring anyway.

Approximately half the tracks are instrumental versions of well-known Christmas tunes (the first of the three albums this compilation draws on was all-instrumental). I was initially a little disappointed by this, even though they are all flawlessly played, but they make for contemplative interludes. My favourite is a gently melodic performance of ‘What Child Is This’ (the Renaissance tune ‘Greensleeves’), featuring Alison Krauss on fiddle and Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, which is quite lovely. The stately melody of ‘Silent Night’ (one of my favourite carols) is also very fine, while a bouncy ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ is fun.

This is a very tasteful bluegrass collection, leaning more to the mellow and contemplative sides of Christmas than to revelry. I would recommend it to all fans of bluegrass and acoustic music at this time of year.

Grade: A

Album Review: Restless Heart – ‘A Restless Heart Christmas’

restlessheartChristmas albums can tricky to get right. There are certain standards that audiences expect to hear, but it can sometimes be difficult to get all but the most diehard fans to part with their hard-earned cash for the same old songs they already have on dozens of collections by other artists. On the other hand, if the artist gets too adventurous, the results can be very off-putting; SheDAISY’s obnoxious version of “Jingle Bells” comes to mind. For their first Christmas album, which is also their first new studio release in nine years, Restless Heart has chosen a little of each approach. A Restless Heart Christmas contains some old favorites — some with some innovative new arrangements — as well as some lesser-known contemporary numbers, and two brand new songs.

The set opens with one of the new numbers, “Season of Harmony”, which I would have used as a title track, because great harmonies were what made Restless Heart’s music special, and nearly thirty years after they made their chart debut, the harmonies are sounding as good as ever. Lead singer Larry Stewart is in fine vocal form. The song is very much in the same vein as the music the band made in their commercial heyday, yet it does not sound retro. It is followed by “Tennessee Christmas”, which was first introduced to audiences in 1983 by Amy Grant, who wrote it with her then-husband Gary Chapman. It’s been recorded a number of times since then, but Restless Heart’s version of this underrated chestnut is possibly the finest I’ve heard. Roger Miller’s “Old Toy Trains” and a faithful-to-the-original reading of “The Little Drummer Boy” are also among my favorites.

As far as more traditional carols go, the band does a very reverent version of my favorite Christmas hymn “O Holy Night”, while “Silent Night” and “Angels We Have Heard On High” are given updated arrangements. “Silent Night” is performed a cappela with a doo-wop arrangement, which on the surface may sound sacrilegious, but surprisingly, it works well. “Angels We Have Heard On High” also lets the band show off their harmonizing, and performing the old carol with modern instrumentation gives it a contemporary feel. “Jingle Bell Rock”, while not a carol, is also given a new arrangement, with some big-band flourishes, but this experiment doesn’t work as well. It’s my least favorite song on the album.

The closing track “Santa’s Prayer” is a very fine song that finds St. Nick lamenting the over-commercialization of Christmas, and praying that people will rediscover the true meaning of the season.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t a hardcore country Christmas album, but neither are there any over-the-top performances, with “Jingle Bell Rock” being the only production misstep — and a minor one at that. Longtime Restless Heart fans will not be disappointed, and the collection is just middle-of-the-road enough that non-country fans who may be visiting over the holidays should enjoy it as well.

Grade: A

Christmas Rewind: Vince Gill and Amy Grant – ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’

2012 Grammy predictions

The Grammy awards are probably the world’s most prestigious cross-genre awards in the word of music, although within country music the CMA and ACM awards hold greater weight. The significance of the Grammies has been further affected this year with the contraction in the number of categories of interest to country fans. But awards shows offer a way of taking stock once every few months regarding the genre as a whole, particularly the more mainstream end. In a few days, we’ll learn who has won this year’s awards. In the meantime, here are our predictions:

Best Country Solo Performance

This new category combines the former nods to performances by male and female vocalists.

‘Dirt Road Anthem’ – Jason Aldean
‘I’m Gonna Love You Through It’ – Martina McBride
‘Honey Bee’ – Blake Shelton
‘Mean’ – Taylor Swift
‘Mama’s Song’ – Carrie Underwood

Razor X: I can’t remember the last time I came across a more underwhelming list of nominees. “Honey Bee” is the only one on the list that I can tolerate, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of song that usually wins Grammys. I think Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood are the two real contenders here; I’ll predict that Underwood will win.

Occasional Hope: A remarkably uninspiring lineup in this category. I suppose by default my vote (if I had one) would have gone to Blake Shelton. Carrie Underwood’s song is well-meaning but bland; Martina McBride’s is the epitome of emotional manipulation; Jason Aldean’s record is horrible; and Taylor Swift’s song has nice production for once, but the lyric collapses into juvenile namecalling (and I’m afraid I’m still unimpressed by her vocal ability). That leaves Blake Shelton with a slight but not unlistenable song, making it my lukewarm favorite by default. Who will actually win it? The Grammy voting pool is a bit different from the specialist country awards shows, so I’m going to predict Taylor Swift as although Aldean has had a big breakthrough over the past couple of years, I think his lack of cross-genre name recognition will limit his appeal to voters. He, Swift and Blake Shelton all have performance slots on the show (Blake as part of a Glen Campbell tribute and Jason Aldean revisitng his duet with Kelly Clarkson), which could be an indication that the battle is between these three.

Jonathan Pappalardo: It seems as though the Grammy organization can’t win. If they go by artistic merits they’re deemed out of touch with reality. If they go with what’s popular, they’re deemed too mainstream. For my tastes these nominees are awful. There isn’t a song here I can get excited about, apart from Taylor Swift’s “Mean.” If she has to win an award this year, let it be this one.

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Classic Rewind: Vince Gill and Amy Grant – ‘Tennessee Christmas’

Album Review: Vince Gill – ‘These Days’

As we’ve often noted here, it was common practice in the 1960s and 1970s for artists — inside and outside of country music –to release three or four albums a year, unlike the present day when most artists release one album every two or three years. While preparing to work on a new album in 2006, Vince Gill was inspired by The Beatles’ prolific output and decided to put a 43-track four disc collection instead of a single album. Released to tremendous critical acclaim in October 2006, These Days was an ambitious project that showcases the depth and breadth of Vince’s musical taste. It encompasses a variety of genres from rock, pop, jazz, and blues to traditional country and bluegrass. Vince wrote or co-wrote all 43 songs and produced the project himself, with some help from John Hobbs and Justin Niebank. The production team put together a impressive roster of guest artists from both within and outside country music.

The first disc, titled Workin’ On A Big Chill: The Rockin’ Record, is as the title implies, a collection of ten rock and rockabilly tunes. Though the songs are all well performed, I’m not much of a rock fan, so this is my least favorite disc in the collection. I do like the rockabilly number “Nothin’ For a Broken Heart”, on which Rodney Crowell is a guest artist, and even better is the bluegrass-tinged collaboration with the Del McCoury Band, “Son of a Ramblin’ Man”. The rest of the songs on this disc don’t interest me very much, and consequently this one has been played less than the other three.
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Album Review: Vince Gill – ‘Next Big Thing’

Vince wrote or co-wrote all 17 of the songs on 2003’s Next Big Thing, and produced the album himself. It represents a marked return to form after the gloopy lovefest that was Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye, inspired by Vince’s second marriage to contemporary Christian singer Amy Grant.

He might have had a top 10 hit from his last album, but this album sees him apparently (and presciently) accepting that his time in the spotlight might be over. The beaty and surprisingly upbeat title track (written with Al Anderson and John Hobbs and featuring horns) and the more resigned ‘Young Man’s Town’ (with Emmylou Harris on harmony) both take a look at the fleeting nature of the music business and its fascination with youth and good looks. Both were released as singles, with the brassy party sound of ‘Next Big Thing’ providing Vince with his last top 20 hit and the more reflective ‘Young Man’s Town’ not making the top 40; perhaps the accuracy of the lyric hit a bit too close to home for country radio.

‘This Old Guitar And Me’ is an old musician’s love song to his first instrument and fond memories of his early career. The Leslie Satcher co-write ‘Old Time Fiddle’ is an enjoyable love letter to Cajun music, with appropriate fiddle solo and Leslie herself on harmony. Leslie also co-wrote the tenderly delivered ballad ‘Two Hearts’, where Lee Ann Womack provides the harmony vocal.

‘Someday’, the album’s second single (peaking at #31) is a delicately pretty AC-influenced ballad written with former pop star Richard Marx, wistfully dreaming of the possibility of future love. ‘These Broken Hearts’, written by Vince with his keyboard player Pete Wasner, is a sad ballad about breaking up with someone, with blue-eyed soul man Michael McDonald on harmony. Both songs are set against a string arrangement courtesy of John Hobbs and the Nashville String machine, and are pleasant listening without being truly memorable.

There are a few other less inspired moments, like the throwaway ‘The Sun’s Gonna Shine On You’. The mid-tempo ‘Don’t Let Her Get Away’, written with Anderson, is OK filler which sounds like some of Vince’s RCA recordings with banked but thin harmonies.

A number of the songs brood about failed relationships past. In the contemporary ballad ‘She Never Makes Me Cry’, Vince prefers an unexciting life with his new wife to the ups and downs of a passionate past love. ‘We Had It All’ is a mid-tempo plea to rekindle an old flame with a subtle Tex-Mex feel to the instrumentation. The bouncy and solidly traditional country ‘Without You’ delivers a more cheerful reaction to being single again, with Dawn Sears on harmony.

Dawn also sings a piercing harmony on the best song on the album. ‘Real Mean Bottle’ is a standout tribute to Merle Haggard, with a high lonesome feel and Bakersfield guitars:

It must have been a real mean bottle that made you write the songs that way
A real mean bottle
Poured straight from the Devil
It’s a miracle you’re standing here today

‘From Where I Stand’, written with Anderson and Hobbs, is a classic declaration of fidelity in the face of temptation, set to a beautiful tune with a bluesy harmony from Bekka Bramlett. This is another highlight, which could have been a big hit if released a few years earlier in Vince’s peak commercial period.

‘Whippoorwill River’, written with Dean Dillon, gently recalls childhood memories of life with his father. Vince’s daughter Jenny keeps things in the family by singing the harmony. A fictional look at family comes from the fiddle-led ‘You Ain’t Foolin’ Nobody’, written with Reed Nielsen, is addressed to the protagonist’s motherless daughter who is running wild in a small town.

The album closes with the mellow and reflective farewell to a dying friend, ‘In These Last Few Days’, with wife Amy Grant on harmony. It was the fourth and last single to be released, but did not perform very well.

Sales were disappointing, with the record his first not to reach at least gold status since he signed to MCA, but that is no reflection on the quality of the music. The album could perhaps have done with a bit of weeding, as there are a few forgettable songs, but overall this was a strong release with a lot of worthwhile material. It’s easy to find, and well worth adding to your collection if you have previously overlooked it.

Grade: A-

Album Review: Vince Gill – ‘When Love Finds You’

Vince Gill’s seventh studio album hit shelves nearly two years after his landmark I Still Believe In You. Once again co-produced with Tony Brown, When Love Finds You continued to build on Gill’s newfound superstar status, selling 4 million copies and spawning 6 hit singles, it also built on the singer’s knack for striking the perfect balance between his pop-tinged and traditional country sound.

Meant to recapture the mega success of “I Still Believe In You”, the adult contemporary-leaning ballad “Whenever You Come Around” was showcased as the lead single, and found its way to #2 on the country singles chart in the Summer of 1994. The title track – a #3 hit – follows much of the same electric guitar and synthesizer love song format. The former features Trisha Yearwood singing harmony.

The best showcases for Gill’s fast-fingers guitar playing comes from the album’s pair up-tempo singles. Proving that a lusty ode to womankind can be done right, “What The Cowgirls Do”, written by Vince with Reed Nielsen, rocks hard with a healthy dose of piano and guitar, and the charm of the lyrics – “they love to go all night, and treat you right” – fall just short of chauvinism. Even better is the contemporary country sounds of “You Better Think Twice”, which finds the singer urging a would-be notch on his buddy’s belt to rethink her feelings. Layers of piano and hard-hitting bass playing by Michael Rhodes make it a good time top-tapper. Both songs hit #2 on the country chart.

As good as those up-tempos are, two other singles steal the spotlight on When Love Finds You. The stone country weeper “Which Bridge To Cross (Which Bridge To Burn)”, co-written with the legendary Bill Anderson, tells of a man in love with two women and at a loss over which one to choose. Here, a tinkling honky-tonk piano and a crying fiddle frame Gill’s high lonesome delivery of a stellar lyric. Best remembered today is the perennial “Go Rest High On That Mountain”, featuring Patty Loveless and Ricky Skaggs on harmony. Gill began writing the eulogic ballad after the death of Keith Whitley in 1989 but didn’t finish it until 4 years later following the death of his brother.

There are really no songs here in need of skipping. On the roadhouse-flavored “South Side of Dixie”, co-written with Delbert McClinton, Gill again kicks up his heels and showcases his guitar skills. “If There’s Anything I Can Do” hits just the right groove of pop-country perfection as does “Maybe Tonight”, which Gill co-wrote with his then-wife Janis. Coincidentally, another of the album’s tracks was written with Amy Grant, who would become Vince’s second wife. “If I Had My Way” is a more spiritual and humanitarian love song than a foreshadowing of a romantic relationship, and features a stripped down production.

When Love Finds You found an artist in his commercial prime, and delivering the goods to as many people as he ever would. Vince Gill does not disappoint the masses with this release, be they neo-traditionalist or converted rock and roll fan.

Grade: A-

Buy it at amazon.

Album Review: Vince Gill – ‘Guitar Slinger’

It’s been half a decade since Vince Gill released a new album. On that occasion, he came out with four at once, with the critically acclaimed box set These Days. This time around the same team of Vince, John Hobbs and Justin Niebank has created a more concentrated effort with 15 tracks, recorded in Vince’s home studio. Vince’s vocals sound thoroughly energised and invested in the material, all of which he wrote or co-wrote, and which I feel is more consistent in quality than that on These Days. It is definitely a mature work, with a number of the songs focussed on the prospect of death, but never a depressing one.

The joyous and amusing title track opens proceedings with a bang with many references to Vince’s life ranging from his “contemporary Christian singer” wife to last year’s Nashville floods (“half my stuff’s in the Cumberland River”. This really conveys the sheer joy of making music. In the equally lively up-tempo ‘All Nighter Comin’’ (written with Chris Stapleton and Al Anderson, and only on the deluxe version) a newly unemployed truck driver sets aside his troubles for the evening. Despite the depressing background, the mood is uplifting, and either of these songs would sound great on the radio.

The beautifully sung lead single ‘Threaten Me With Heaven’ is a tender but confident gospel ballad written with Vince’s wife Amy Grant, Will Owsley (who tragically committed suicide last year) and Dillon Osborn. Owsley and Amy also co-wrote the mid-tempo AC ‘When Lonely Comes Around’, which is pleasant but forgettable. Amy and Vince duet on their song ‘True Love’, an AC ballad which pays tribute to their relationship, “true love that found us in time”. It isn’t a particularly interesting song, but the authenticity of the emotions make it touching beyond its merits. Amy’s daughter Sarah Chapman sings harmony.

Talented singer-songwriter and now a Pistol Annie, Ashley Monroe wrote two songs with Vince. The excellent ‘If I Die’, a beautifully constructed reflection on mortality and what comes after, is one of the best tracks on a fine record. Her other contribution, ‘Who Wouldn’t Fall In Love With You’ is a low-key, tender love ballad with a pretty melody and Ashley’s distinctive voice evident on harmony.  Lee Ann Womack, meanwhile, provides tasteful backing vocals on ‘Lipstick Everywhere’, a retelling of a passionate one night stand with no subsequent regrets or repercussions. Another fine artist, Texas traditionalist Amber Digby co-wrote ‘One More Thing I Wished I’d Said’, dwelling with regret on the missed opportunities in a failed relationship. Sadly, she doesn’t sing on the track, but Dawn Sears makes a good substitute. These two are only included on the deluxe version, which is well worth the additional cost.

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Spotlight Artist: Vince Gill

The son of an appellate court judge and part-time musicians, Vincent Grant Gill was born in Norman, Oklahoma. His honor taught the younger Gill to play guitar at an early age, and by the time he was in his teens Vince was playing in local bluegrass bands like the Bluegrass Alliance and later Boone Creek, with Ricky Skaggs. In 1978, an audition with the California-based country-rock band Pure Prairie League. Vince would sing lead on the band’s lone hit single “Let Me Love You Tonight” before exiting and heading to Nashville to pursue a solo career. While in California, Gill met and married Janis Oliver, one half of the 80s hit-making sister duo Sweethearts Of The Rodeo. The couple divorced in 1998 and Gill married contemporary Christian singer Amy Grant in 2000.

In 1984, Vince signed with RCA Records and issued his debut album, Turn Me Loose, which didn’t produce any hit singles but helped earn the singer the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist award that year.  The latter half of the 1980s provided spotty chart success for Gill. It was only after signing with Tony Brown at MCA Records in 1989 that his career took off. When I Call Your Name, his first album for MCA was released in November 1989 and within a year was a platinum-selling success, thanks in no small part to the winning title track.

The 1990s was a time of watershed success for Gill, as every studio album he released was certified platinum. He would eventually sell more than 20 million albums and win more 18 CMA and 20 Grammy Awards. After a decade of consecutive hit-making, the radio hits stopped coming toward the turn of the century for Gill, though his albums continued to sell well. He’s since emerged as an elder statesmen of sorts and a torch-carrier for traditional country music.  He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

Radio support or no, Gill is as busy as ever these days as an in-demand backing musician and singer and recording his own albums. He issued a 4-disc set of all new music in 2006 and just released his latest album a week ago today. Keep reading as we revisit the career of Vince Gill all month long here at My Kind of Country.

Finding your fix

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.

Classic Christmas Rewind: Amy Grant – ‘Tennessee Christmas’