My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Pam Gadd

Classic Rewind: Calamity Jane – ‘Love Wheel’

Album Review: Terri Clark – ‘Just The Same’

Terri’s second album, released in 1996, followed along broadly the same pattern as her debut, balancing high-energy radio friendly entertainment with traditional roots. She co-wrote most of the material, most often alongside the established songwriting team of Chris Waters and Tom Shapiro, and the quality is consistently high. Waters also co-produced with Terri and Keith Stegall.

The first single was, however, actually a cover of the Warren Zevon song/Linda Ronstadt 70s hit ‘Poor Poor Pitiful Me’. Terri’s vibrant version (belying the dark lyrics) peaked at #5 on Billboard and #1 in Canada. The equally lively up-tempo Emotional Girl’ (written with Rick Bowles and Chris Waters) was another Canadian #1 and US top 10 hit. The title track and third single is a gorgeous mellow love ballad with a little more of an AC feel and a subtle string arrangement, which allowed Terri to show off her vocals, but radio was less receptive to Terri’s ballads than to her up-tempo numbers, and this peaked disappointingly low at #16.

The twangy ‘Something In The Water’ was the last single, but while it has a good groove and attacking vocal, it is not particularly memorable, and only just squeaked into the top 40. Equally twangy, but more memorable, is the ironic salute to an old ‘Neon Flame’ (written by Terri and Chris Waters with Chuck Jones), and perhaps this would have been a better single choice. I really like the catchy and uncompromising ‘You Do Or You Don’t’ (one of the few outside songs, written by Bob DiPiero and Karen Staley), and this too would have made a great choice as a single. Terri’s love interest isn’t quite committed to her, and she sets out an ultimatum, telling him firmly he either loves her, or he doesn’t:

Love ain’t followed by a question mark…
We’re not talkin’ brain surgery

The other song not written by Terri is the amped-up bluegrass of ‘Hold Your Horses’, a revival of a song written by Carl Jackson and Pam Gadd for the latter’s former band Wild Rose. ‘Twang Thang’ keeps up the energy levels, but is rather noveltyish. The mid-tempo ‘Not What I Wanted To Hear’ has a rueful admission to herself that the guy isn’t going to call.

My favorite song here is Terri’s solo composition ‘Keeper Of The Flame’, with its beautiful melody, excellent vocal, and downbeat lyric about a neglected wife desperately holding on to hope that things will somehow go back to the way things were:

I am the keeper of the flame
You only helped my build the fire
And it’s getting harder every day
To make our love burn with desire
Cause if I left it up to you
Only ashes would remain

Another outstanding ballad is ‘Any Woman’, where Terri gives us a sympathetic portrait of a woman’s heartbreak, suffered in silence:

Night can be so cold when a memory’s all you hold
Yeah, I know what she’s going through tonight
Any woman who’s been hurt by a man understands
It’ll take some time for her to find a way to love again

There is another great vocal here, balancing sympathetic advice to a man interested in the heartbreak victim, and sisterly empathy with the woman.

Just The Same has been certified platinum in the US and double platinum in Canada.  This is an excellent record, full of fine material delivered with commitment.

Grade: A

It’s still easy to find, both digitally and on CD, with used copies being extremely cheap.

Year In Review: Occasional Hope’s Top Ten Albums of 2009

It hasn’t been a great year for mainstream releases, and none of my top 10 appeared on one of the major labels. There have been some fine albums released across the genre, although this year’s list is more bluegrass-oriented than would have been the case in years past.

10. Benefit Of Doubt – Pam Gadd
A joyful mixture of acoustic country and bluegrass, with duets with Dolly Parton and Marty Raybon. I reviewed it in March, and you can listen to the album on last.fm.

9. 30 Something And Single – Tammy Cochran
This album strikes an almost-perfect balance between contemporary and traditional country, with a sense of humor to boot. I reviewed it in the summer, and you can listen to clips and buy the album at CDBaby.

8. Bigger Hands – John Anderson
John was our Spotlight Artist in July, and his new album (which I reviewed then) found him in great voice with some interesting material, including the apocalyptic title track, and Anderson’s magisterial version of his co-write with John Rich, ‘Shuttin’ Detroit Down’.

7. Mister Purified Country – Shane Worley
There is still great traditional country music being made, and this fine independent CD in the Merle Haggard tradition is an excellent example -with some incisive criticism of the mainstream in the title track as an added bonus. I reviewed it in September, and you can listen to clips and buy the album at CDBaby.

6. When The Money’s All Gone – Jason Eady
Poetic singer-songwriter Jason Eady is more on the Americana side of things, with country, folk and blues elements. This album is full of interesting material, and repays close listening. I reviewed it in September, and you can listen to lips and buy at Amazon.

5. I’ll Take The Fifth – Dallas Wayne
With a voice as distinctive as John Anderson’s, I acclaimed this as my favorite of the year to date when I reviewed it back in March, and it hasn’t slipped that far down the rankings in the ensuing nine months. Buy it here.

4. The Reason That I Sing – Kim Williams
This delightful record is the one I’ve found myself singing along to more than any other this year. Songwriter Kim isn’t technically a great vocalist, but that really doesn’t matter, as he brings a warmth and honesty to his songs. I reviewed it in August, and you can now listen to it on last.fm.

3. Hillbilly Goddess – Alecia Nugent
Alecia has been recording for some years, but it was with this excellent album that she came of age artistically. Very much in the bluegrass/country zone, the youngest of the artists in my top 10 proved herself as a first-rate vocalist with some great material. I reviewed it in May, and you can hear clips and buy at Amazon.

2. Mountain Soul II – Patty Loveless
The only album on my top 10 list I didn’t review, but Razor X rightly called it a triumph of artistry in his review. Sometimes raw-sounding, always authentic and impressive, Patty cemented her credentials as one of the finest singers in country music in her sequel to her first bluegrass-inspired album Mountain Soul. My favorite tracks are the revival of the classic ‘Busted’, with the original coalmining lyrics heard for the first time; Jon Randall’s ‘You Burned The Bridge’; and the new version of ‘Feelings Of Love’. For clips, and to buy it, go to Amazon.

1. Taste Of The Truth – Gene Watson
Honey-voiced Texan Gene is a veteran of the music business, but he is still producing some of the best music out there. This year, in fact, he produced my #1 album, with the lovely Taste Of the Truth. I called it a masterclass in singing country music when I reviewed it in August, and you can hear it for yourself at last.fm.

Album Review: Pam Gadd – ‘Benefit Of Doubt’

pamgadd1I like a little bluegrass mixed in with the straight country in my musical diet, and I was pleased to hear that Pam Gadd was releasing another album.  I first came across Pam back in 1990, when she was the more prominent of the two lead singers of Wild Rose, a bluegrass-infused all-female country band who released three albums on Universal and Capitol Records, and received a Grammy instrumental nomination.  She is not as productive as some artists, having recorded just two previous solo efforts, the excellent The Road Home on Vanguard in 1997, and the not-quite-as-good The Time Of Our Lives in 2001.  Musically, Pam falls in the hinterland where acoustic country overlaps with bluegrass.  Her voice is strong and distinctive with characterful inflections.

Although there are no instrumental tracks, there is some excellent acoustic playing throughout, which complements the material rather than overwhelming it.  Pam herself plays banjo, joined by former Wild Rose bandmate Wanda Vick on dobro, Vick’s husband Mark Burchfield on bass (except on ‘Farewell Wagon Master’), Bryan Sutton on guitar, Andy Leftwich on fiddle and mandolin, and Aubrey Haynie on mandolin.

The tone for the album is set with the opening track, a lively and beautifully played cover of bluegrass great Jimmy Martin’s ‘Hold Whatcha Got’, a song which will be more familiar to country fans as the song which lent the title to Ricky Skaggs’s late 80s album Comin’ Home To Stay.

Pam refers back to previous aspects of her career in a number of ways on Benefit Of Doubt.  The harmony singers include Dale Ann Bradley, with whom Pam worked in the New Coon Creek Girls, another all-female group, but this time a straight bluegrass one.  Wild Rose’s drummer Nancy Given Gardner, also sings harmony co-produces the album with Pam, although she only plays tambourine on one track (‘Applejack’), as there is no room for drums on the record.  Two of the songs Wild Rose recorded are given a new lease of life, namely ‘Home Sweet Highway’, which was one of the group’s better songs, and ‘Hit The Highway’.  I’m not a big fan of repeating songs previously recorded by the same artist, but reviving two songs after 20 years, on an album with 14 tracks is not unacceptable.  Another song, ‘Wrong Wrong Wrong’, was apparently recorded by the group but never released; it’s a catchy, medium-up-tempo number with a funky feel, which would have suited the Wild Rose vibe.

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