One of the elements of country that music fans like is how the songs are relatable, about real life, no matter where you live.
Then there’s the traditional vs. today’s mainstream country, country/pop music camps. But here’s the thing: Like every other music genre, it has to evolve — “has to” as in the new artists have different life experiences and influences that carry over into their music.
And that’s nothing new, either. In the 1950s, Nashville music producers replaced music’s honky tonk fiddles and steel guitars with string sections and vocal choirs. Fiddles for violins? Twangs for choirs?
That era is known as country’s “golden age,” producing some of the greatest country vocalists of all time, like Patsy Cline (born in Winchester, Va., and lived, played and often visited Frederick), George Jones, Marty Robbins and more. This age of country music was more polished than its predecessor and those artists influenced the next gen country artists, like Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette.
Time Life recently released a 10 CD collection of 150 classic country ballads from the 1950s through 1970s. The collection, “Country Music of Your Life,” is available from Time Life (800-924-6086 or https://timelife.com/products/country-music-of-your-life).
The collection includes classics that defined the era, such a Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors,” “Islands in the Stream,” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, “Always on My Mind” by Willie Nelson, Charley Pride’s ‘Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” by Crystal Gale. Pride and Gale, in conjunction with the CD collection, are hosting a long-form TV program featuring the music and reminiscing about the “golden era” of country music and the performers who laid the groundwork for many of today’s country music stars.
And the collection includes some of those artists from the 1970s who were pop/country (or country/pop depending on your worldview), like John Denver, Olivia Newton-John and Elvis “the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Presley.
The collection comes with a CD-sized booklet with bytes of info on the artists and background on the song and recording.
Did you know:
— “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” was first recorded by Roy Acuff in 1945. But it wasn’t until 1975 when Willie Nelson recorded the song that it became a hit, the first No. 1 single for Willie and it won him a Grammy for Best Male Country Music Performance.
— Dolly Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You” when she left Porter Wagoner’s TV show because her songwriting was heading in a more pop than country direction. It was also a hit for pop music’s Whitney Houston.
— When Patsy Cline heard “Walkin’ After Midnight” she hated the song and the title claiming it was just an ordinary pop tune. It was her first hit, just missing the top spot.
— In the early ’70s, Conway Twitty began to push the envelope in terms of the lyrical content of the songs he recorded. “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” (1973) was actually banned by some radio stations.
— Waylon Jennings didn’t like “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Life).” It wound up being the biggest hit of his career.
— Conway Twitty started as a rock ‘n’ roll singer. He and his drummer Jack Nance wrote “It’s Only Make Believe.” They recorded it with Twitty doing his best Elvis imitation. To keep the public guessing, MGM provided no publicity photos. That little vocal thing he does on the recording became known as his trademark Twitty “growl.”
Listening to all 10 CDS (I did!) will leave you pining for more classic country.
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That was posted last week on Reba’s website. It’s the first single from her new album, “Love Somebody,” which released last month.
It’s my favorite Reba album to date and her first in five years. It sounds fresh, yet still classic Reba. The 12-song CD includes songs penned by some Nashville’s top songwriters (Rhett Atkins, Ben Hayslip, Shane McAnally among them) and some of it’s newer voices (Brandy Clark, Sam Hunt among them) and one by Reba.
“Enough” — duet with Jennifer Nettles. Reminiscent of her 2005 duet with Linda Davis (“Does He Love You”) and the anguish of two women who love one man.
“That’s When I Knew” — Captures that moment when a broken heart is mended and an old love can no longer hurt you.
“Just Like Them Horses” — Written by Liz Hengber and Tommy Lee James), Reba sang this song at her father’s funeral. Tissue please.
“Pray for Peace” — Written by Reba and featuring daughter-in-law Kelly Clarkson, Ronnie Dunn and Caroline Kole, is prayerful plea to pray for peace.
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Like the other “Nashville” series music collections, this one features the show’s stars/artists performing songs from the series.
I missed a couple of episodes this season, so I missed some of the song performances on the album. My favorites (on the show and albums) feature the duo and/or trio of Gunnar (Sam Palladio), Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Avery (Jonathan Jackson), who kick it off with the bouncy “Borrow My Heart,” written by Phillip LaRue and Lia LaRue.
My favorite song is “I’m On It,” penned by Trevor Rosen, Matt Jenkins and Buchanan, Va., native Matt Ramsey. Trevor and Matt are two of the band Old Dominion. Catchy lyrics keep tapping on my mind, like the song says, “It’s gonna be hard to forget me … the only over I’ll be is over your shoulder.” It’s sung by Chris Carmack (Will) who grew up in Derwood, a suburb of Rockville. (Charles Esten (Deacon) was raised in Alexandria, Va., Connie Britton (Rayna) moved to Virginia when she was 7, the Lynchburg area.)
“This Is Real Life,” written by Trey Bruce, Derek Cannavo and Maren Morris, is performed by Connie Britton (Rayna) and real-life sisters Lennon and Maisy (Rayna’s daughters Maddie and Daphne). It’s a mom thing, but it’s also a good reminder that real life is real and don’t miss it.
“If I Drink This Beer” nails the pop country sound, like a Tyler Farr sound. It’s performed by Will Chase (Luke) and was written by Jonathan Singleton and Brad Tursi (another Old Dominion band member).
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I’m a mainstream country fan, and “Mono” isn’t that. The sound (recorded in mono), the catchy lyrics (“Summer time, May be my favorite time, Better than any time, If I’m with you.”) infectious Latin vibe of the opening “All Night Long” and the most rocking song “What You Do To Me” work together to create an album that’s honestly hard to stop listening to. Even harder to not tap the steering wheel, groove in your seat or move on your feet.
In 2013, the re-formed Mavericks (regrouped in 2012) released “In Time,” which introduced music lovers to the band’s genre-defying melting pot of pop music. With “Mono,” guitarist Eddie Perez says they had the luxury of “a very fine-tuned band and the energy from the last two years of touring under our belts. We all believed it was going to be special and I think we would all agree that, our record “Mono” best represents what our band does live.”
There’s “Out the Door” with a vintage country shuffle rhythm, “Stories We Could Tell” a seductive swing, the soulful “What Am I Supposed to Do” and the tender “Fascinate Me.”
Lead singer Raul Malo wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 12 tracks.
“During the writing process, I found myself wanting certain things,” states Malo, the son of Cuban immigrants. “When you hear Cuban or world music of any kind, you may have no idea what the singer is saying, but you can feel it. That was what I wanted: to evoke a feeling so you could feel it. When you’re ready to go out, you put on this album .. and it creates a vibe, a mood for your night.”
And not a beer, truck or girl in a truck in sight.
“All Night Long” and “What You Do to Me” — I dare you to listen to either of these and not tap a foot or break into dance.
“What Am I Supposed to Do” — Soulful, and like a good country song, hearts on the edge of breaking.
“Summertime (When I’m With You)” — Bouncy, fun, light, perfect summer song.
“Let It Rain (On Me)” — About the desolation of the road. A simple, quiet song about the desolation of road life.