My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Linda Davis

Classic Rewind: Linda Davis and the Whites – ‘Do You Know My Jesus’

The songs starts almost three minutes in.

Album Review: Chalee Tennison – ‘This Woman’s Heart’

Chalee Tennison released her second album, This Woman’s Heart in October 2000. Her second and final record for Asylum, it was produced by Jerry Taylor, the man who helped her score her record deal.

The album produced two low-charting singles. “Makin’ Up With You” is a rocker, with a slightly controversial chorus:

Slam the door if you want to

Throw the telephone across the room

Kick everything up against the wall

Let’s make ourselves some room

Yeah, let’s fight it out baby

‘Cause I love making up with you

The song peaked at #56. It was followed by “Go Back,” a very strong story song typical of the era. Despite the ballad lacking bite, it matched her highest peak, #36.

Tennison had a hand in writing seven of the album’s songs. “Yes I Was” is an upbeat rocker about being a fool in love. The self-explanatory “Somebody Save Me” is a nice ballad I rather enjoyed. The title track is an excellent power ballad that would’ve worked well as a single. “Break It Even” also would’ve worked at radio, it’s an uptempo and very engaging rocker.

“We Don’t Have To Pray,” about a single mother dealing with the end of a relationship, is another truly excellent meaty ballad. “You Can’t Say That” continues the trend of wonderful ballads from the album. Her final co-written song, “I’m Healing” was written with Dean Dillon. It’s brimming with traditional ache, from a woman is slowly getting over the man who left her.

“What I Tell Myself” is a typical turn-of-the-century rocker, albeit one that’s perfectly executed. “I Ain’t,” has some promise but the rocker lacks finesse and a quality lyric to hold it together. “Under Your Skin” is more of the same.

Although it’s far from perfect, This Woman’s Heart excels wonderfully in places. Her songs are surprisingly above average to excellent and her voice brings to mind echoes of Reba, Linda Davis, and twangy Faith Hill. I liked this one a lot.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: The Scott Family – ‘Love Remains’

Album Review: Dawn Sears – ‘What A Woman Wants To Hear’

Dawn Sears’ debut album on Warner Brothers Records was released in 1991. Barry Beckett acted as producer. ‘San Antone’, her very first single for Warner Brothers, having failed to chart the previous year, it was removed from consideration for the album, but if you want to hear this very retro Patsy Cline style ballad, you can check it out on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIAyvGo_-DQ

However, the label retained the second single, although it too had made no chart impact. ‘Till You Come Back To Me’ was another beautifully sung slow ballad, but slightly more contemporary in style, and was written by Mike Reid and Troy Seals. Dawn’s vocals soar on this big ballad.

Dawn showed she was as good with up-tempo material with a committed cover of Highway 101’s ‘Good Goodbye’ (a track on that band’s debut album a few years earlier and co-written by Paulette Carlson). Dawn’s version uses the same arrangement as the original, but she delivers the attitude believably. Warner Brothers’ last unsuccessful attempt at getting Dawn on the radio came with ‘Tell Me I’m Crazy’, another Mike Reid tune (co-written this time with Rory Michael Bourke). This sophisticated loungy ballad is exquisitely performed, and was later covered in very similar style by Shelby Lynne.

‘Odds And Ends (Bits And Pieces)’ had most recently been recorded by Lynne on her own 1989 debut album, but was an older classic, written by Harlan Howard. It is another slow paced ballad which was ideally suited to both artists’ vocal ability.

A number of the other tracks were either covers or were later picked up by other artists. The classic Hank Williams hit is treated very authentically and highly enjoyable. ‘He’s In Dallas’ was recorded by Reba McEntire on her 1991 album For My Broken Heart, and was later covered by fellow Spotlight Artist Linda Davis. A mournful ballad about the failure of a relationship and the collapse off all the protagonist’s dreams for her future, as she returns home to her mother in Minnesota, disconsolate. Dawn’s vocal is exceptional.

The title track (coincidentally a song co-written by Davis) is another excellent ballad yearning to be treated well, which should have been a big hit for someone. This is another of the highlights on this album. ‘Old Fashioned Broken Heart’ is a great traditional country heartbreak ballad written by Donny Kees and Terri Sharp, is superb, and one of my favorite tracks here, assisted by some nice fiddle.

She delivers up some western swing on the assertive ‘No More Tears’, and sultry blues on ‘Could Be The Mississippi’, showing her range.

This was a very good album which slipped beneath the radar.

Grade: A-

Album Review: Linda Davis – ‘Some Things Are Meant To Be’

Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Linda Davis was beautiful, a talented and versatile vocalist and had two stints on major labels but basically nothing ever really worked out for her. Ironically, her daughter Hillary Scott, a far less talented vocalist, would have a big career as part of the band Lady Antebellum.

This album, her second for Arista Records would prove to be her highest charting album reaching #26 on Billboard’s county albums chart. Released in January 1996, three singles were released from the album, including the title track, her most successful solo single reaching #13.

“Some Things Are Meant to Be” is a nice contemporary ballad from the pens of Michael Garvin & Gordon Payne. It strikes me as more adult contemporary than country but it is a great performance. Since this song couldn’t get Linda into the top ten, it figures that nothing else could either.

 I know that you’ve got feelings

For me like I got feelings for you

So shouldn’t you be reaching

For me like I keep reaching for you

Save yourself a lot of trouble

Trying to fight it

There’s just no way you can

 

No, you can’t stop the river from rollin’ to the ocean

It’s a destiny that the good Lord put into motion

Like a baby’s tears and a mother’s devotion

Some things are meant to be

And one of them is you and me

“A Love Story in the Making” by Al Anderson & Craig Wiseman is a decent ballad that Linda sings well. The song was the second single from the album reaching #33 (our Canadian country neighbors liked it more, sending it to #22). The song sounds much more country than the title track and should have been a much bigger hit.Jenny’s got a trailer on the county line

Jenny’s got a trailer on the county line

Satellite dish working overtime Watchin’ those movies on a

Watchin’ those movies on a 30 inch screenDreamin’ about places she’s never seen

Dreamin’ about places she’s never see

 

She’s in the diner by five o’clock

Playin’ Elvis on the old juke box

Staring out the window at nothing in sight

As she sings ‘Are you lonesome tonight’

 

Every time some stranger walks in through that door She can’t help but wonder if he’s the one she’s been waiting for

She can’t help but wonder if he’s the one she’s been waiting for

It’s a love story in the making

It’s a love story in the making
Something that was meant to be
A heart patiently waiting for a little bit of destiny
A sweet love story is all she needs

“Walk Away” by Marc Beeson& Robert Byrne was the third single from the album and it stiffed completely, not even charting (the Canadians had it reach #80). The song is a bland ballad that wasn’t really single-worthy although Linda sings it well

What do I do now that our love’s come to such a bitter end
We’ve been through too much together for me to be your friend
And I can’t pretend
I’m sure I’ll see you, but when I do I will

Walk away
And hope my feet don’t fail me
Walk away
As far as they will take me
Long before you have a chance
To look into these eyes
I’ll be gone and you won’t see me cry
If I walk away

Harry Stinson is a very talented fellow, singer, songwriter, drummer, who I think could have been a big star if only he had wanted to be,   “Always Will” is a terrific song that I would have released as a single:

If time is a train rollin down the tracks
Every minute is a box car that don’t come back
Take a look around you it’s all gonna change
Whatever you see ain’t neve gonna stay the same
Except for the rain and the wind in the trees
And the way I feel about you and me

And the way I feel when I’m with you
It’s like the roll of the ocean
And the calm quiet of the moon
And when you hold me time stands still
It always has and it always will

“Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)”by Jim Weatherly was a big po[p hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips back in the early 1970s. It was covered as a county hit by Bob Luman, reaching #7 while the Knight version was on the pop charts. Linda sings the song well, but it is strictly an album track

Nancy Lee Baxter ‘s “She Doesn’t Ask” is a typical ‘wronged woman waiting for her man to show up’ song – in other words, nothing special

“Cast Iron Heart”, written by Dennis Linde had been a single twice – for Pearl River in 1992 and for Blackhawk in 1995. Since neither of the above two bands released this song as a single, it might have been a decent single for Linda. it would have been grittier than anything else she had released as a single

 Go on and cry, but you won’t change my mind

Your pain and troubles don’t concern me

I gave you my love, but it was not enough

I was just your bridge and girl you burned me

 

So don’t hand me no hard luck story

Hopin’ I’ll just fall apart

Remember you’re the one who left me

With nothin’ but this cast iron heart

The album closes with “There Isn’t One” (writers Cathy Majeski, Sunny Russ, Stephony Smith), “What Do I Know” (another Majeski, Russ, Smith collaboration) and “If I Could Live Your Life”(writers Tim Nichols, Mark D. Sanders), all competently performed (the latter song with Reba McEntire) but none of them especially singles worthy .

“If I Could Live Your Life” is a melodramatic pop ballad, without much of anything to make it a standout track

 You jet from coast to coast

Dressed in designer clothes

When you appear somewhere

Your chauffeur drives you there

I would think twice

If I could live your life

 

You see your friends at the store

Your sister lives next door

You kiss your babies goodnight

Your husband’s there at your side

I’d love to give it a try

If I could live your life

Linda would issue an album on Dream Works about three years later, and then a few albums on independent label Center Hill from 2003-2007, before disappearing from recording for a decade. She can sing anything and perhaps she could have become a major adult contemporary star if promotional efforts (and record production) had been pointed in that direction. As it was she was caught somewhere in-between without being given her best chance at stardom.

On the whole, I like this album. While it teeters between adult contemporary and country, it is a pleasant album to listen to (it could use more fiddle and steel and a few more up-tempo tracks) and I have listened to this album a few times over the last few years and would give it a B.

Album Review: Linda Davis – ‘Shoot For The Moon’

Linda Davis released her third album Shoot To The Moon in the wake of the massive success of “Does He Love You.” It was her first of two releases for Arista Nashville.

The album employed the technique of maximizing exposure from a superstar collaboration, a ploy that honestly never works (just ask Ashley Monroe and Cassidee Pope). The album was a modest hit for Davis, though, peaking at #28.

I’ll be honest and say I only had access to have the album’s tracks courtesy of YouTube, which I’ll be using to assess the project. I dislike making that admission, but the record has yet to be made available digitally.

Lead single “Company Time” is an enjoyable uptempo number written and previously recorded by Mac McAnally. The song tells the story of an employee facing a reprimand by her boss. It’s good, but lacks punch and feels weak for a track so upbeat. t unsurprisingly stalled at #46.

The second and final single “Love Didn’t Do It” is a much stronger song and far more inviting than its predecessor. Going back and watching the video, it’s hilarious how much Arista was attempting to morph Davis into Reba McEntire, with the hair ‘jacked to Jesus’ performing to an arena crowd with one of those microphones on her head. The “live” video is entertaining but a bit presumptuous. The track stalled at #48.

Speaking of McEntire, Shoot for the Moon includes a cover of “He’s In Dallas,” which comes from For My Broken Heart. I’ve always loved Davis’ natural twang and she shines here perfectly.

“When You Took Your Love Away” is a nice rootsy surprise that breaks up the somewhat AC-leaning aspects of the album. I love the heavy dose of mandolin and dobro.

The final of the five songs, “In Pictures,” is best known as the title cut from Alabama’s 1995 release. They released as a pretty successful single. I’m not sure how many people know Davis’ version of it, but it was included as one of the seven previously released songs on her 1998 I’m Yours album, which is how I got to know it.

The track tells the story of a father estranged from the mother of his child. He does his best to support them from afar and as a reward has to watch his child grow up through photographs and thus miss all the important milestones:

He missed her first steps

Her first words

And “I love you daddy” is something he seldom heard.

Oh, it hurts him so…

To watch his girl grow…

Up in Pictures

Davis’ vocal on the song is a revelation. You can hear the ache in her throat as she sings the tune, especially the final verse. It’s a record for the ages.

From what I heard of Shoot On The Moon, this is a fabulous album. I can see why it didn’t make her a star — the songs just didn’t have that extra radio friendly punch Davis’ needed to push her over the top. But she always had the goods, that much is true.

Grade: A-

Album Review: Linda Davis – ‘Linda Davis’

In 1992, Linda released her second album. Like the first it was produced by label boss Jimmy Bowen, with Linda getting a co-production credit, but it was uninspiringly self-titled. Where her earlier singles had failed to make much impact, the singles from this record were resoundingly ignored by country radio.

The reason why is clear when you listen to ‘There’s Something ‘Bout Loving You’, an upbeat but thoroughly forgettable pop-country song which now sounds very dated. It was written by hitmakers Chris Waters and Tom Shapiro, but was one of their poorest efforts, and a really bad choice for a single for an artist hoping to make her breakthrough. The follow-up, Dewayne Blackwell’s ‘He Isn’t My Affair Anymore’ is a much better song, an emotional ballad which Linda delivers with conviction, although it has a bit of a musical theater vibe.

The best song on the album is a cover of John Conlee’s 1982 hit, ‘Years After You’, which Linda manages to make her own with a lovely, emotionally invested vocal, although the production has not aged well, and the backing vocals are curiously old-fashioned for an album made in 1992. But the song itself is a great Thom Schuyler song about an enduring love which long survives a breakup:

I knew that it wouldn’t be easy
For my heart to find somebody new
But I never thought
It still would be broken in two
These years after you

They tell me time is a natural healer
It kinda smooths the pain away
But this hurtin’ within hasn’t yet given in
And it’s been over 2000 days
I still remember the taste of your kisses
And your eyes that were beautifully blue
I can still hear the sound of your voice
When you said we were through

There’ve been mornings when I couldn’t wake up
There’ve been evenings when I couldn’t sleep
My life will be fine for months at a time
Then I’ll break down and cry for a week
‘Cause when I told you I’d love you forever
I know you didn’t think it was true
But forever is nothing compared to some nights I’ve been through
These years after you

‘LA To The Moon’, another emotional ballad, is a fine song written by Susan Longacre and Lonnie Wilson about a country star and the hometown sweetheart left behind:

You were always different
Had a big dream in your heart
This old cowtown couldn’t hold you down
Once you caught your spark
I stood out on the runway
And watched you taxi past
I would’ve gone anywhere with you
But you never asked

You went from Beaumont to LA
And LA to the moon
An overnight success
You put a lot of years into
You tell me nothing’s different
I’m just a call away from you
But it feels more like the distance
from LA to the moon

‘Isn’t That What You Told Her’ is another excellent song, written by Karen Staley and Karen Harrison, with a barbed lyric addressed to a man with a questionable past record in love by his new love interest, who is understandably dubious. It is very well sung, but once more with dated backings.

‘Tonight She’s Climbing The Walls’ is a story song about a neglected wife ready to make a break, written by Craig Bickhardt and very well sung by Linda. ‘The Boy Back Home’, written by Gary Harrison and Tim Mensy, is another ballad, about nostalgia for a first love, and is quite nice in a more contemporary style.

Of the up-tempo material, ‘Just Enough Rope’ (later cut by Rick Trevino) is fun. ‘Love Happens’ and ‘Do I Do It To You To Too’ are both forgettable pieces of filler.

As a whole, this album is hampered by some of the production choices, but it did show Linda was a great singer given the right material, and some tracks are definitely worth downloading.

The commercial failure of this record was to lead to an unexpected second chapter in Linda’s career. Released by her label, she signed up as Reba McEntire’s backing vocalist, and the result would make country music history.

Grade: B

Album Review: Linda Davis – ‘In A Different Light’

Released on Capitol-Nashville in February 1991, In A Different Light was Linda’s first major label album. Released nearly a decade after her moderately successful duets with Skip Eaton as “Skip & Linda”, this album was Linda’s first opportunity to shine as a solo act.

As it happened, the album itself failed to chart and none of the three singles released from the album make much of an impact on the country charts.

By my lights, this is not at all a country album. I think it should have been marketed to the easy listening/middle of the road. Don’t get me wrong, Linda Davis is a fine singer but the singles from this album received virtually no airplay on county stations around Central Florida.

The album opens with “In A Different Light,” an overwrought ballad from the pens of Ed Hill and Jonathan Yudkin. This song was released as the first single and died at #61.

Next up is “Some Kind of Woman” by Annette Cotter and David Leonard. This song was released as the second single from the album, and died only reached #68. I think this gritty up-tempo ballad was the best track on the album – similar to something Brooks & Dunn might have released, but I suspect that country radio was so disgusted with the previous single, that they simply did not give this song a chance

 Well, I guess you’re showing me a thing or two

Loving with a vengeance every night with someone new

And I got this funny feeling, it’s for my benefit

So I’m gonna take it as a kind of compliment

 

Oh, I must be some kinda woman

Look how many women you seem to need

To take the place of one good one

And give you what you had when you had me

Oh, I sure must be some kinda woman

 

Since you need a different girl each night

There must not be a one of them, knows how to do you right

So add them little numbers, try and equal me

Meanwhile I’ll just take it as a form of flattery

Next up is “Three Way Tie” (written by Mary Beth Anderson, Lisa Silver, and Carol Grace Anderson) was the third single released. Another overwrought ballad, this song failed to chart, and frankly, it sounds like something any cocktail lounge singer might tackle.

None of the remaining tracks were released as singles:

“From Him to Here” (Mark D. Sanders, Verlon Thompson) is a pretty good mid-tempo song, that actually sounds like a country song. I think this would have made a decent single

“If Your Greener Grass Turns Blue” (Cindy Greene, Marsha Spears) has a bit of that country cocktail lounge feel to the mid-tempo instrumentation but it is a decent song, that Linda sings well. This would have made a decent single.I had never even been outside the county line

Unless you count the million times I left inside my mind

In my day dreams, I could see

The way the luck would shine on me

When I finally found the wings to fly

As my mama helped me pack my suitcase

She said you know I love you and I’ll say it once more anyway

 

So you’ll know what to do if your greener grass turns blue

If your sunny sky turns gray

Sometimes you gotta run

To see just what you’re running from

Here at home there’ll always be place for you

If your greener grass turns blue

“There’s a Problem at the Office” (Annette Cotter, Kim Tribble) is a bland ballad …

He calls to tell me he’ll be late again

There’s a problem at the office

So don’t wait up for him

And I guess I shouldn’t worry but I do

Cause a woman senses changes

Her man is going through

 

He’s changed the way he’s worn his hair for years

And bought some shirts in colors

I’ve never seen him wear

And when we touch that old time feeling’s gone

There’s a problem at the office

And it’s hitting close to home

… whereas “Knowin’ We’ll Never Know” (Jim Rushing, James Dean Hicks) is a nice ballad of what might have been

What if we’d stayed together
What if we’d really tried
Would we still be in Tennessee
Would I have been your bride
Would we be blessed with children
Lovingly watching them grow
Oh the hardest part of seeing you now
Is knowing we’ll never know

We’ll never know
How much we missed
By not taking love all the way
If we held on just a little bit longer
Where would we be today

“White Collar Man” (Vernon Rust) is a slow semi-acoustic ballad, nicely sung about a husband who places all of his priorities on work and none on family.

“The Crash of 29” (Ron Moore, Billy Henderson) has a very folksy sound to it. The crash of 29 has nothing to do with the great Wall Street Crash of 1929, but rather the self-realization that time is marching on and she is getting bored. This a pretty good album track

“If I Could Only Be Like You” (Kendall Franceschi, Quentin Powers, Reba McEntire) is a slow piano ballad, nicely sung, but ultimately not very interesting.

Linda’s vocals on this album are very reminiscent of Reba McEntire, only not quite as powerful as Reba’s vocals – sort of a Reba-lite. I know Linda Davis can actually sing country music and do it well as I have heard her do it. I don’t dislike this album, but I am not very charged up about it. I regard two of the three singles released as mistakes, with several of the album tracks being more single-worthy.

This album has keyboards, synthesizers and, cello, but no fiddle, steel guitar, mandolin, banjo or anything else to lead you to think of this as a country album.

Grade: C+         

Classic Rewind: Linda Davis – ‘Heart Over Mind’

Classic Rewind: Reba McEntire and Linda Davis – ‘Does He Love You?’

Spotlight Artists : Overlooked Women of the 90s

After our look back at three male artists who emerged in 1996 (Daryle Singletary and Wade Hayes) we’re widening the net a little with our current spotlight. As we all now, it’s often harder for women to make it in country music, and that was the case even in the 1990s which might be regarded as the high point for female artists’ commercial success. For the next two months we will be talking about several female singers who tried to make an impact in the 1990s, and didn’t receive as much attention as they deserved. We hope you enjoy our selection.

Jann Browne was born in Indiana in 1954. She began performing in California in the 1970s, before joining stellar Western Swing band Asleep At The Wheel in 1981. Her heart was in more traditional styles of country music, and in 1989, with the neotraditional movement in full swing, she signed a solo deal with Curb Records. Perhaps she was just a little too late to the party, perhaps she was curbed by her label, or the fact that she continued to base herself on the West Coast, but a pair of top 20 country hits and two underrated albums were all she had to celebrate. A couple of independent albums followed later. She continues to tour locally in California, and her most recent recorded work was a Buck Owens tribute album in 2007. She is planning a new record for release this year.

Linda Davis was born in Texas in 1962. She moved to Nashville in the early 1980, and formed a duo called Skip & Linda with Skip Eaton, which released a few independent singles. Regular work singing advertising jingles and song demos got her noticed, and she secured a deal with Epic Records in 1988. After failing to make a breakthrough, she temporarily gave up her solo aspirations and joined Reba McEntire’s road outfit as a backing vocalist. That put her in the right place at the right time when Reba needed a strong female duet partner for the song ‘Does He Need You’. The song was a #1 hit and won a Grammy for the pair, and it allowed Linda another shot at solo success when she signed to Arista. While she never matched the success of the Reba duet, she has continued to tour and record, releasing several albums on different labels. She returned to prominence recently when she teamed up with her husband Lang Scott and daughter Hillary (known for her band Lady Antebellum) for a very successful country gospel project, billed as the Scott Family.

Dawn Sears was born in Minnesota in 1961. In her late 20s she was signed to Warner Brothers, releasing her critically acclaimed debut album in 1991. When this failed to launch her to superstardom, she became a backing singer for Vince Gill. Decca then picked her up in 1994, again with no lasting success, and she returned to working for Gill. She achieved non-mainstream success late in her career thanks to her role as one of the lead singers of The Time Jumpers. Tragically, she died of cancer in 2014.

Ronna Reeves was born in Texas in 1968. She was on Mercury in the early 1990s, but enjoyed limited radio success despite regular appearance on the Statler Brothers’ TNN TV show which helped her to sell enough records to stay on the label for several releases. Virginia’s Donna Ulisse released a single, excellent album on Atlantic Records in 1991. When her singles failed to gain traction despite her beautiful voice, she gave up on performing and began to concentrate on songwriting. She re-emerged 10 years ago as a bluegrass singer-songwriter, and has been forging a successful career in that vein ever since. Singer-songwriter Bobbie Cryner was born in California in 1961. She released two albums for Epic, and despite stellar vocals and material she too failed to appeal to country radio. She continued writing songs for other artists for a while but has not been active lately.

Ohio-born Kim Richey is an acclaimed singer songwriter who spent the second half of the 1990s as a semi-mainstream country artist on Mercury. She is still actively wriing and recording, and has just released a new album.
Mandy Barnett
, born in 1975 in Tennessee, was a throwback to the era and style of Patsy Cline. She made an impact as a teenager lying Patsy on stage, which enabled her to get a record deal of her own. Perhaps she was too retro for mainstream success in the second half of the 1990s despite massive critical plaudits, but she returned to her stage role with more success.

Julie Reeves, born in Kentucky in 1974, was more on the pop-country side. She had a deal with the short lived country imprint of Virgin Records. Her singles gained some airplay, and perhaps another label would have capitalised on that. As it was, marriage to comedy act Cledus T Judd sidelined Julie’s music career. The marriage ended in divorce and Julie is now a radio DJ. Finally, Chalee Tennison was born in Texas in 1969. A deal with Asylum Records in 1999 saw her touring with Alan Jackson, but her singles were only modestly successful despite strong vocals and material drawing on her varied life experience (teenage motherhood, failed marriages, and work as a prison guard).

These women offered a variety of styles of country music, but they share one thing: none really achieved the level of success they deserved. We hope you enjoy exploring their music.

Classic Rewind: Linda Davis – ‘Burning Memories’

Classic Rewind: Linda Davis and the Whites – ‘Do You Know My Jesus?’

Classic Rewind: Linda Davis with Sharon and Cheryl White – ‘Do You Know My Jesus’

Classic Rewind: Linda Davis – ‘Let’s All Go Down To The River’

Week ending 11/9/13: #1 singles this week in country music history

rebalinda1953 (Sales): I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know — Davis Sisters (RCA)

1953 (Jukebox): Hey Joe!— Carl Smith (Columbia)

1953 (Disc Jockeys): I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know — Davis Sisters (RCA)

1963: Love’s Gonna Live Here — Buck Owens (Capitol)

1973: We’re Gonna Hold On — George Jones & Tammy Wynette (Epic)

1983: Islands In The Stream — Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton (RCA)

1993: Does He Love You — Reba McEntire with Linda Davis (MCA)

2003: Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me — Keith Urban (Capitol)

2013: That’s My Kind Of Night — Luke Bryan (Capitol)

2013 (Airplay): It Goes Like This — Thomas Rhett (Valory)

South of Cincinnati

‘Ahm real glad you could meet me here,” drawled my companion for the night’s Kenny Rogers Christmas show. “Ah had about 10 minutes to get ready, and this is whut ah looked like when ah crawled outta the pile.” He went on to excuse the way he looked and thanked me again for meeting more than halfway at the Ashland Towne Center Mall. But he never made any excuse for his slants on the English language. Once, he told me I ‘talk like the people on T.V.’, but that was about all we ever said about the vast differences in our linguistics. What’s even more interesting is that he and I grew up less than 40 miles apart, myself in Portsmouth, Ohio, and he on the southern side of that imaginary Mason Dixon line that is the Ohio River in these parts, in Judds-country in Ashland, KY. Coincidentally, we were travelling even further into Appalachia that night to see Kenny Rogers and Linda Davis – all the way to Huntington, WV. (The wrong-turn parts of West Virginia make up none of my story here.)

I have an extended family on my mother’s side that live right here in the small state of Ohio – northern Ohioans from the big city of Cleveland, and they too, have a unique speech that separates them from us in the southern part of the state. Their speech is faster, peppered heavily with ‘ums’, and longer O’s. The population of southerners who took to the Rust Belt so long ago has seen their dialect generations removed. That doesn’t mean it isn’t alive and well down where it came from. Accents and their origins are a geek-hobby of mine, and these are what I see up close everyday – there are far more interesting examples outside my tri-state area.

Living right on the border of the Mason Dixon line is really a fascinating thing to watch. Kentucky being a commonwealth state allows for much looser laws regarding almost anything, and that readily breeds a yee-haw attitude, especially for outsiders just down for a visit. And it’s certainly interesting to start hitting seek on your car radio as you go south on U.S. 23 or I-75 from here. Country is still number one in those parts, even as we lose more stations in my market (2 gone in a year now). The geography quickly becomes one of an agricultural area in a hurry southbound as well. And, of course, these are just my immediate surroundings. The south is full of metropolitan places.

All those things are fun to watch, but my biggest thrill when I get to head south is U.S. 23 itself. As soon as I cross the Ohio River, it becomes Country Music Highway, with a designated artist for each stretch until you reach the next hometown junction. First up for me is Billy Ray Cyrus – he’s from Flatwoods, about 20 miles from here. Then we come to The Judds portion through Ashland, on through Ricky Skaggs and Loretta Lynn country. Lynn’s sister Crystal Gayle, Grand Ole Opry star Hylo Brown, Dwight Yoakam, and Patty Loveless round out the highway’s best parts. As you enter into the roughest of the coal-mining counties, Gary Stewart Highway takes you the rest of the way.

Signs along the way will point you to some landmark places in country music, including Van Lear and Butcher Holler. You can even stop by Loretta’s homeplace. Then head on to Pikeville, hometown to Loveless and Yoakam, and the place where Ricky Skaggs and a young Keith Whitley teamed up. Keith Whitley’s omission on the highway’s luminous roster is the one flaw in an excellent tribute to the wealth of talent from the area. If you ever get a chance to drive the 150 mile-stretch, be sure to stop in Paintsville at the Country Music Highway Museum and see Dot. She’s great.

I still want to head down to Montgomery and visit Hank Williams’ gravesite, and there are thousands of things I want to see and do in Texas. But I’m just as proud of the heritage from my own local area, even if those guys in Kentucky do speak a little differently.

Country music comes alive in the birthplace of Rock and Roll

Pork With An Attitude.

It’s impossible to spend any amount of time in Memphis, Tennessee without seeing some reminder that Elvis Presley recorded his first songs there.  The city proudly wears the title of ‘the birthplace of rock and roll’.  But Thursday night wasn’t about the King of Rock, but of country music royalty.  King George and Miss Reba came through town, bringing along Lee Ann Womack and Melissa Peterman for a night of country music hits.  The largest portion of the night was dedicated to the impressive span of hits made by George Strait and Reba McEntire, but the evening’s entertainment was as unique as the neon signs on the many barbecue joints that line Beale Street.

Lee Ann Womack performs 'Solitary Thinkin'.

Lee Ann Womack kicked off the extra-long music extravaganza from the three country music stalwarts with a cover of the western swing standard ‘San Antonio Rose’.  After running through a set list that could have been her greatest hits disc, the singer ended her half-hour on stage with very strong renditions of her own hits, including her take on Rodney Crowell’s ‘Ashes By Now’ and her mega-hit ‘I Hope You Dance’.  I missed her take on Patsy Cline’s ‘She’s Got You’ due to standing in the beer line, but I could see it from the many screens that dotted that halls of the FedEx Forum.

With the longest hit span of any of her tourmates, Reba chose to stick to mostly newer material, with only two 1980s era hits in her entire repertoire this year.  The first of these was the opening number, and Reba’s first #1, ‘Can’t Even Get the Blues’.  Reba hangs onto the syllables a little longer than the original version from 1982 when she sings it today, and the instruments are certainly more amped up 28 years later too.  From that first chart-topper, she launched into her 1996 hit ‘The Fear of Being Alone’ before pausing to chat with the audience.

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Album Review: Reba McEntire – ‘If You See Him’

reba if you see himReba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn spent 1997 on tour together as co-headliners.  One night Reba would open for Brooks & Dunn and the next night they’d switch.  At the end of that tour, Reba and Ronnie Dunn would perform ‘You Don’t Know Me’ as a duet before being joined onstage by Kix Brooks for a song I think was called ‘Cotton Fields’.  But Reba and Ronnie’s take on the Cindy Walker classic was really the highlight of the evening. Between them, they possess two of the finest voices in modern country music.  But that 1997 tour was supposed to be a one time deal, and besides, Ronnie Dunn already had a duet partner at the time.

In early 1998, both acts were working on new albums.  Reba and Kix Brooks both heard a song called ‘If You See Him’ (which I guess would become ‘If You See Her’ for the duo) and put it on hold, unbeknownst to each other.  When they found out what happened, they decided to do the song a duet between the two acts, becoming a sort of trio at the end.  Recording that duet set the wheels in motion for another national tour pairing between the redhead and the pair of cowpokes, plus it set the stage for a really innovative cross-label promotion of the albums that would contain the song, now titled ‘If You See Him, If You See Her’.

On June 2, Reba’s album If You See Him and Brooks and Dunn’s own If You See Her would be released.  Meanwhile, Reba and Brooks & Dunn hit the road, taking Terri Clark and David Kersh along this year.  The single shot to the top of the country singles chart and stayed there for 2 weeks.  If You See Him quickly went gold and then platinum. Three other singles hit the top 10, and the disc itself debuted at #2 on the albums chart – while the Hope Floats soundtrack had a solid lock on the top spot. For those interested, Brooks & Dunn’s If You See Her bowed at the #4 position the same week.

‘If You See Him, If You See Her’, with its adult contemporary fare is much more akin to the songs on Reba’s album and in her catalog than Brooks & Dunn’s.  The story of two former lovers confiding in a mutual friend about how they still love each other is well-written, and the addition of Kix Brooks at the end on harmony makes for a very pleasant and interesting listen.  Meanwhile, Reba and Ronnie Dunn turn in killer vocal performances, though it’s obvious they recorded the song in Ronnie Dunn’s key rather than Reba’s as her acrobatics sound like they were more of a chore than usual.

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Album Review: Reba McEntire – ‘For My Broken Heart’

Reba-ForMyBrokenHeartHeartbreak is at the heart of country music. Perhaps that’s because heartbreak is the common denominator for us all. No matter our lot or station in life, we’ve all lost someone or something at some point – a job to the economy, our innocence, a lover to another, a spouse to divorce or death, a child who grows up and away, or even our youth.

But how do you face multiple losses in the midst of tragedy? Alan Jackson’s ‘Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning’ after 9/11 is this decade’s healing anthem grappling with that question. In the 90s, Reba’s album For My Broken Heart as a whole was a healing agent following the tragic loss of her band, tour manager and the flight crew in a fiery plane crash on March 16, 1991 after a tour stop in San Diego.

For Reba and her husband and manager, Narvel, their family, the victims’ families and friends, the fans and the country music community, the world did stop turning. Intense tragedy knocks the breath out of you. How do you go on after such a blow to your heart and spirit?

The album, summed up in the title track, attempts to answer that question: with stumbling steps forward. Though the song ‘For My Broken Heart’ is about a congenial break-up, it traces the beginnings of how one begins to breathe again after loss:

Clocks still tickin’ life goes on
Radio still plays a song as I try to put my scattered thoughts in place
And it takes all the strength I’ve got to stumble to the coffee pot
The first of many lonely mornings I’ll have to face
You called to see if I’m ok I look out the window and I just say:

Last night I prayed the Lord my soul to keep
Then I cried myself to sleep
So sure life wouldn’t go on without you
But oh this sun is blinding me
As it wakes me from the dark
I guess the world didn’t stop
For my broken heart

Not only are the lyrics by Liz Hengber and Keith Palmer beautiful and honest, but so are Reba’s vocals backed by light guitar accompaniment on the verses. As others have said, the restraint in Reba’s voice on many of the tracks on this album is noticeable and adds to the overall sense of tentatively moving forward. This song is a perfect opener for this album, with that in mind, from its subtle quiet synthesizer beginning to the clock “still ticking” in the lyrics of the verse to its quiet ending.

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