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Archive for the ‘Country’ Category

Don Williams

Posted by purplemary54 on September 8, 2017

It’s been a bad day for Country music, losing both a latter-day star and one of the old timers from the 70s.  While the death of Troy Gentry is more tragic, my own heart is a little heavier over the passing of Don Williams.  My mother wore out the grooves on her copy of his Greatest Hits.  So needless to say, Williams’ beautiful baritone is a fond and familiar one from my childhood.

At least Williams got the chance to live a long-ish and full life.  Gentry’s death at 50 in a helicopter crash seems so much more unfair.  As I get older myself, other people all seem to get younger, and 50 is too damn young.  Traveling is as much of a hazard to musicians as too much drugs and alcohol; they spend so much of their lives on the road it makes a sad sense that that same road claims so many of them.  My brain tells me this is just how it is, but my heart protests.  At least their music will survive for all who loved them.

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Glen Campbell

Posted by purplemary54 on August 8, 2017

He did better songs.  Some of them were truly beautiful and brought tears to my eyes.  But to me, Glen Campbell will always be the Rhinestone Cowboy.

While he will always be best remembered (and rightly so) for his own, numerous hits, I think it’s important to note here that Glen Campbell was also once in the Wrecking Crew.  L.A.’s answer to the Swampers at Muscle Shoals, the Wrecking Crew were a set of crack studio sidemen that played on just about every hit recorded out here in the 1960s.  He was a consummate, versatile musician and singer.  Upon being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago, Campbell embarked on a touring and recording spree to get as much of his extensive musical memory and talent down before he was robbed of it forever.  Alzheimer’s robbed Campbell of himself, and it finally claimed his life today at 81.

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“Devilish Mary”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 14, 2016

Today would’ve been Daddy’s 75th birthday.  That’s the only reason I dug up this chestnut.  I debated using some Wagner or Monk, or a song by one of Daddy’s other favorites.  But then I decided this happy memory from my childhood was a better choice.

I’ve shared before my love of the old Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland (now fated to never return since they’re building Star Wars Land in its area of the park).  The music in that show was the kind of music they call Americana now, but it was the kind of music my father grew up listening to in Iowa.  I remember being very small, not more than five, sitting in Daddy’s lap while he bounced his knee in time as the animatronic bears sang this song.

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Ralph Stanley

Posted by purplemary54 on June 24, 2016

Another music legend is gone.  This song Ralph Stanley performed on the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou? pretty much sums up this year.

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“Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys”

Posted by purplemary54 on June 23, 2016

Just listening to Willie, thinking about my daddy and my grammy.

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Merle Haggard

Posted by purplemary54 on April 6, 2016

We couldn’t really afford to lose Merle Haggard.  There just aren’t that many like him left.  Country music has become an assembly line production of empty, shallow, factory-produced pretty faces.  There’s no style or originality.  There’s no personality.  There’s no danger.  And there’s no emotion left.  Merle Haggard had all of those things in spades.  He lived his music.  That’s what made him so damn special.

I think it’s kind of fitting that Haggard died today, his birthday.  He left this world the same day he entered it.  Maybe that means his work was finished.  I don’t know.  I do know I hope he stops by the great bar of the afterlife and has a drink with my dad.  I think they’d enjoy talking shit with each other.

 

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“Unbreakable Heart”

Posted by purplemary54 on February 23, 2016

One of the sweetest, saddest songs I’ve ever heard.  It doesn’t hurt that the great Benmont Tench wrote it: heartbreak, indeed.  Everyone has felt this way at one time or another.  Have a tissue handy if you’re prone to crying.

It also doesn’t hurt this song that it’s performed by Country music royalty.  Carlene Carter is the daughter of June Carter Cash and the stepdaughter of Johnny Cash, so it’s safe to say she knows how to deliver a great performance.  When she recorded “Unbreakable Heart” in the early 90s, she was happily dating Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein, and that’s probably how she connected with the other members of the band.  This was post-Nick Lowe and pre-heroin, and arguably her best period artistically and commercially.  (She descended into addiction with Epstein, and it eventually led to both his ouster from the Heartbreakers and his death.)  I’ve kind of lost track of Carter’s career, so I don’t know exactly what she’s up to these days, but I know she still records and tours.

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Jason Isbell

Posted by purplemary54 on December 14, 2015

I discovered Jason Isbell a couple of weeks ago while I was up late watching an episode of Austin City Limits.  I tuned in just as he was beginning the song “Live Oak,” and I had pretty much the same reaction I had when I heard Kathleen Edwards for the first time: No one that young should be that sad.

To be fair, I’m pretty sure Isbell isn’t nearly as young as Kathleen Edwards was when I first heard her.  He was something of a music business veteran by the time the album “Live Oak” is from came out in 2013.  He played with the Drive-By Truckers for a number of years, and has been working steadily since he set out on his own in 2007.  Isabel paints vivid musical portraits of people at the ends of their proverbial ropes, and while the music is kind of bleak, it’s also good.  Really good.  I don’t know much else about him yet, but I plan on finding out more.

Most of the songs he played on ACL were quieter, acoustic numbers, introspective and heartfelt (track down the episode and watch it; Patty Griffin Neko Case is the performer in the second half).  But his last song rocks out nicely.  It isn’t any more cheerful than his other tunes; if you listen to the lyrics, you’ll find it’s just as bleak as many of the other songs.  But it is raucous, and that’s kind of fun in its own right.  I imagine this is what passes for partying hearty for Jason Isbell.

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“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 9, 2015

Reposting “The Gambler” again made me think of how long Kenny Rogers has been around making music that people really enjoy listening to.  It might not be the best music, artistically speaking, but it’s good, solid, well-crafted music.  He’s also gone through a few stylistic changes over the years.  Most people recognized Kenny Rogers as a powerhouse Country hitmaker, but not everyone remembers that his first real hit was more Psychedelic than yee-haw.

Supposedly a rant against the use of LSD, “Just Dropped In” isn’t really as anti-drug as I think its creators intended.  It’s just a little too cool sounding to discourage potential tripping.  It’s also kind of atypical of The First Edition, the group Rogers was with at the time; apparently, they were more into the Country-Folk thing than the garage Rock thing.  Fun trivia, according to the Wikipedia page, this song was produced by TV theme song master Mike Post and the guitar solo was played by Country legend Glen Campbell.

This song had a bit of a resurgence in the 1990s, thanks to The Big Lebowski and a classic dream sequence.  That’s when I picked up on it as a pretty decent song; since I’m not much of a fan of Psychedelia, I’d pretty much ignored it before.  But like most of Rogers’ oeuvre, it’s an enjoyable listen.

I guess it’s about the right time to be waxing nostalgic about Kenny.  He recently announced he’s going to retire, from touring at least.  That’s okay; after I don’t know how many hits and at almost 80 years old, I think Kenny’s earned a nice peaceful retirement.

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Re-Repost: “The Gambler”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 8, 2015

I’m late tonight because I’ve been watching the World Series of Poker’s final table.  As I explain in the post, I’m a sucker for televised poker tournaments.  Luckily, this song is timeless.  Even if I’ve reposted it twice now; at least I waited a couple of years.  I edited the beginning because it was no longer pertinent (and it made me a little sad, because it related to Daddy), but the rest is pretty much the same.

I knew all the words when I was a little kid (is 9 still little?). I’d sing them at top volume given the slightest provocation. And listening to it again as an adult, I realize two things. One, this is a really well crafted song. Every part compliments the whole. The production is fairly understated–which is something of an accomplishment for a late-70s country song. The characters of the song are so well drawn they could be something out of a Bret Harte story; Rogers even made a secondary career for himself playing The Gambler in TV movies all through the 80s. Two, if you treat the card playing analogy as exactly that, this is pretty good advice.

I must mention here that I like to watch poker on TV. I stink at playing it (I’m just terrible at reading people or understanding odds), but there is something compelling about watching other people play cards. I have no idea why this is so interesting to me. Maybe I’m as much a victim of the Moneymaker Effect as the donkeys that pony up $10,000 for the WSOP Main Event. And poker is kind of fun to play, even if I do stink. My family used to get together sometimes when I was a kid, and everyone would bring their piggy banks or coffee cans full of loose change to play penny ante poker all night. I don’t think poker is some kind of great meaningful philosophical experience; while there is some skill involved, a significant portion is the luck of the draw. But Rogers takes good sound card playing advice and makes it sound like Nietzsche.

It’s not the chorus–“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, know when to run.”–that resonates the most strongly with me, although it is a pretty sound philosophy. I find that the final verse is what stands out to me. Maybe it’s because my life is in transition right now. I’ve been evaluating and re-evaluating myself and everything in my life for quite some time now. And sometimes what you need to hear is a little no-nonsense advice that’s vague enough to adapt to your needs. This might be the advice I need right now.

“Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin’ is knowing what to throw away, and knowing what to keep. ‘Cause every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser, and the most that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.

Just for kicks, here’s “The Gambler” from Kenny Rogers’ appearance on The Muppet Show. Awesome.

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