Posts Tagged ‘Countrypolitan’

Whitney Rose: Hearbreaker of the Year

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

WhitneyRose_HeartbreakerOfTheYearSinger-songwriter dreams 50s twang and 60s pop with Raul Malo

Canadian singer-songwriter Whitney Rose found a kindred spirit in the Mavericks’ Raul Malo. Malo produced, added vocals, and brought along several of his bandmates to give Rose’s sophomore effort an eclectic pop-country feel. Rose shades more to the female vocalists of the 1960s than Malo’s operatic balladeering, but the slow-motion twang of the guitars works just as well on Rose’s originals as it does with the Mavericks. Her self-titled debut hinted at retro proclivities, but Malo and guitarist Nichol Robertson really lay on the atmosphere, and Rose blossoms amid tempos and backing vocals that amplify the romance of her material.

Even the upbeat numbers provide room for Rose to warble, and she tips a primary influence with a cover of the Ronettes “Be My Baby.” Interpreting one of the greatest pop singles of all time is a tricky proposition, but Rose and Malo make the song their own with a slower tempo that emphasizes the song’s ache over its iconic beat, and a duet arrangement that has Malo moving between lead, harmony, backing and counterpoint. Similarly, Rose’s cover of Hank Williams’ “There’s a Tear in My Beer” is turned from forlorn barroom misery to a wistful memory that won’t go away. Burke Carroll’s steel guitar provides a wonderful, somnolent coda to the latter, echoing Rose’s spellbound vocal.

The opening “Little Piece of You” is both a love song and a statement of musical purpose as Rose sings of crossing lines and open minds, and the arrangement uses rhythm and vocal nuances that echo country’s Nashville Sound. She writes cleverly, leaving the listener to decide if “My First Rodeo” is about a relationship, sex or a breakup. The same is true for “The Last Party,” whose forlorn emotion could be the result of a breakup or a more permanent end. The vocal waver and rising melody of “Only Just a Dream” reveals uncertainty, but Rose finally gives in with “Lasso,” turning her doubts into commitment.

Recorded in only four days, there was clearly a mind meld between Rose, Malo and the players, as the arrangements are deeply tied to the songs’ moods. There’s a bit of funk on “The Devil Borrowed My Boots Last Night” that recalls Jennie C. Riley’s “Back Side of Dallas” and Dolly Parton’s “Getting Happy.” The title track’s bass line and finger-snapping assurance suggest Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” but the song is actually a kiss-off, rather than an amatory celebration, and Drew Jurecka’s lush strings cradle Rose and Malo’s duet “Ain’t It Wise.” Released in Canada last April, this is getting a well-deserved worldwide push and some welcome stateside tour dates. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Whitney Rose’s Home Page

Hypercast #2: In Memoriam 2013

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

A collection of music from some of the artists who passed away in 2013.

Ray Price Heartaches by the Number
Tompall Glaser Drinking Them Beers
Richie Havens High Flyin’ Bird
The Standells (Dick Dodd) Dirty Water
Game Theory (Scott Miller) Jimmy Still Comes Around
Ten Years After (Alvin Lee) I’d Love to Change the World
Sammy Johns Chevy Van
Junior Murvin Police and Thieves
Bobby “Blue” Bland Cry Cry Cry
Jewel Akins The Birds and the Bees
Eydie Gormé Blame it on the Bossa Nova
Bob Brozman Stack O Lee Aloha
Bob Thompson Mmm Nice!
Divinyls (Chrissy Amphlett) I Touch Myself
Annette Funicello California Sun
The Doors (Ray Manzarek) Light My Fire
Slim Whitman I Remember You
Noel Harrison Suzanne
The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed) Pale Blue Eyes
George Jones I’ve Aged Twenty Years in Five
Patti Page Tennessee Waltz
Cowboy Jack Clement I Guess Things Happen That Way
JJ Cale After Midnight
Ray Price For the Good Times

Various Artists: Country & Western Hit Parade 1966

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Various_CountryAndWesternHitParade1966The 1966 country jukebox of your dreams

The passing of decades often elides the full range of music that spun on jukeboxes and the radio. The commercial necessities of CD (and now MP3) reissue and oldies broadcasting further reinforce this narrow view with hit anthologies and playlists stocked primarily with superstars. What quickly recedes from earshot are the lesser hits and journeyman artists that made up the full context of the times. Faintly remembered are artists like Nat Stuckey, who regularly visited the Top 40 for more than a decade, but only cracked the top-ten a few times, and indelible acts like The Browns are usually recognized for their sole chart-topper, “The Three Bells,” rather than their other half-dozen Top 10s. Even country music’s superstars, such as Faron Young, Eddy Arnold and Ray Price, had so many hits that the bulk of their work is overshadowed by a few well-anthologized icons.

But the true soundtrack of a year’s music is a mix of hits, album tracks, superstars, journeymen, one-hit wonders, chart-toppers, regional breakouts and singles that barely grazed the Top 40. It’s this tapestry that gives a year, an era or a genre its full flavor. Bear Family’s twenty-six volume series Country & Western Hit Parade covers the years 1945 through 1970, one year per disc, interweaving chart classics with a wealth of lesser-anthologized, but equally influential releases. Each disc recreates the sound of its year by placing oft-repeated hits in the company of their lesser-known chartmates, providing context to the former and returning status to the latter.

The mid-60s were a transitional time for country music, with the Los Angeles-based Country & WesternMusicAcademy (later rebranded the ACM) exerting a West Coast pull with the introduction of their all-country awards show. In addition to Nashville’s cross-over pop, torch ballads, 4/4 Ray Price beats and a sprinkle of throwback honky-tonk, 1966 found Bakersfield in full flight, with Buck Owens in the middle of releasing fourteen-straight chart toppers and Merle Haggard starting a series of sixty-one Top 10s, including his first #1, “The Fugitive.” Billboard’s expanded country chart and a refined method of measuring radio play led to faster chart turnover, an increased number of charting titles, and greater opportunity for new acts to break through. Jeannie Seely had her first (and biggest) hit with “Don’t Touch Me,” Mel Tillis broke through with “Stateside,” and Tammy Wynette scored with her first single, “Apartment #9.”

At the same time, veteran acts were winding down or changing direction. The Browns’ “I’d Just Be Fool Enough” was their next-to-last Top 20, and Eddy Arnold fully committed himself to middle-of-the-road pop with “I Want to Go With You.” The latter, though written by Hank Cochran, has a chorus and strings that overwhelm the hint of country in Floyd Cramer’s slip-note piano. Waylon Jennings’ “Anita You’re Dreaming” still bore Chet Atkins’ countrypolitan touches (including a marimba played by Ray Stevens), and though it would be another half-decade until he fully broke free of Nashville’s control, the seeds were being planted. Loretta Lynn found her feisty, personal songwriting voice  with “You Ain’t Woman Enough” and her first chart topper, “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).”

In addition to charting entries, this volume includes Johnny Paycheck’s outré album track “(Pardon Me) I’ve Got Someone to Kill,” Dallas Frazier’s original non-charting single of “Elvira,” and the original demo of “Distant Drums” that (with the appropriate Nashville dubbing) became a posthumous chart topper for Jim Reeves. The list of artists is complemented by a who’s who Nashville and West Coast A-list session players and country songwriters that include Cindy Walker, Tompall Glaser, Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran, Bill Anderson, Loretta Lynn, Roger Miller, Merle Haggard, Mickey Newbury, Dallas Frazer, Mel Tillis, Jack Clement, Johnny Paycheck, Liz Anderson and Waylon Jennings. Bear Family’s exquisitely selected 31-tracks (clocking in at 83 minutes) are amplified by the label’s attention to detail in sound (original stereo except for 9, 12, 17, 22, 28 and 32), documentation and packaging. Each disc is housed in a hardbound book with 71 pages of liners, color photos and song notes. The set’s only disappointment is the unnecessarily difficult cardboard sleeve in which the disc is housed; deal with it once and keep the disc in a separate case. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Eddy Arnold: Complete Original #1 Hits

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Loretta LynnAll twenty-eight of Eddy Arnold’s chart-topping singles

For most artists, a twenty-eight track collection of their biggest chart hits would be a fair representation of their commercial success. In Eddy Arnold’s case, twenty-eight #1 singles only very lightly skims the surface of nearly thirty-nine consecutive years of chart success that stretched from 1945 through 1983 (he struck out, though not without a few good swings, in 1958). A singer of such renown inspires numerous reissues and collections, including hefty Bear Family boxes (1 2), but this is the first set to include his entire run of chart-toppers, from 1946’s “What is Life Without Love” through 1968’s “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye.” Within that 25-year span, Arnold evolved from a twangy country star in the ’40s to a Nashville Sound innovator and resurgent chart-topper in the mid-60s.

Arnold was always more of a crooner than a honky-tonker, and even when singing upbeat tunes like “A Full Time Job,” you can hear pop stylings edging into his held notes. 1953’s “I Really Don’t Want to Know” drops the fiddle and steel, and is sung in a folk style to acoustic guitar, bass and male backing vocals. 1955’s “Cattle Call” finds Arnold yodeling a remake of Tex Owens’ 1934 tune, a song he’d recorded previously in 1944. The new version featured orchestrations by Hugo Winterhalter and signaled crossover intentions that would come to full fruition a full decade later. Arnold’s chart success dimmed in the face of rock ‘n’ roll’s rise, but by 1960 he’d regained a foothold, and by mid-decade he’d transitioned fully to countrypolitan arrangements.

In 1965 Arnold once again topped the charts with “What’s He Doing in My World” and his signature “Make the World Go Away.” Backed by strings, burbling bass lines, the Anita Kerr Singers and Floyd Kramer’s light piano, Arnold rode out the decade with a string of Top 10s and his last five chart toppers. He pushed towards an easier sound, but his vocals always retained a hint of his Tennessee Plowboy roots, differentiating him from more somnambulistic singers like Perry Como. Real Gone’s collection includes an eight-page booklet with liner notes from Don Cusic and remastering by Maria Triana. Tracks 1-21 are in their original mono, tracks 22-28 in their original true stereo. Though there’s a great deal more to be told, a spin through Arnold’s chart toppers provides a truly satisfying introduction to his catalog. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Eddy Arnold Fan Site

Amy Francis: Balladacious

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Ten country classics in classic Nashville style

Numerous country stars, including Mandy Barnett and Sara Evans, have used Patsy Cline as a navigational north star. Newcomer Amy Francis follows the tradition with a full-blown countrypolitan cover of Jeannie Seely’s “Don’t Touch Me.” The music swells, the piano slips, and Francis hangs onto each note as if its end will break her heart into ever smaller pieces. Producer Tommy Delamore echoes the original Nashville sound of “Sweet Dreams” and “Fool Number One” without mimicking the original arrangements, and Francis is stalwart and convincing as she sings George Jones’ “Picture of Me Without You.” The ten selections combine classic ‘60s country tunes with a few contemporary selections, including Vince Gill’s “When I Call Your Name.” Francis is a talented singer with an ear for material that resonates with her voice, and she has a talented producer behind the board. This all makes for entertaining covers, but none stray far enough from the source material to reveal the depth of Francis’ own interpretive style or the unique charms of her voice. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Amy Francis’ Home Page

 

Lynda Kay: Dream My Darling

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Texas-to-Los Angeles transplant carries a torch for classic country

When we last heard from Lynda Kay, she was paired with Danny Harvey as the Lonesome Spurs, a minimalist duo whose self-titled release favored the sassy sounds of Wanda Jackson, Laurie Collins and Brenda Lee, and the melancholy country of Patsy Cline. Kay’s solo debut doubles-down on the countrypolitan heartbreak, torching its way through a dozen originals that combine the soaring ache of Cline and Roy Orbison with the deliberate tempos, hard twang and sad instrumental flourishes of ‘50s and ‘60s country. Kay’s producer (and husband) Jonny Edwards has built the arrangements into lavish sets filled with strummed guitars, pedal steel (courtesy of the immensely talented Marty Rifkin), blue piano, theatrical tom-toms, emotionally bowed strings, and chorused backing vocals. None of this distracts from the passion of Kay’s vocals as she powers through songs of broken hearts, tearful realizations, lonely hours, spiteful recriminations, emotional dead ends and, for just a moment, dreams of happiness. Don’t be misled by the campy clothes and wigs – Kay’s not wallowing in nostalgia, she’s just tipping her ten gallon hat (or her bouffant ‘do, really) in an honest homage to country music’s dressier days. Put this in the changer with Sara Evans’ Three Chords and the Truth, Mandy Barnett’s I’ve Got a Right to Cry, k.d. lang’s Shadowland and Patsy Cline’s Sweet Dreams; just make sure you have a big box of tissues near by. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Lynda Kay’s Home Page

On Tour: Raul Malo

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

With a new solo release, Lucky One, due March 3rd, vocalist Raul Malo of the Mavericks hits the road in March and April:

March 6 PORTLAND, OR Aladdin Theatre*
March 7 SNOQUALMIE, WA Snoqualmie Casino, opening for Jewel
March 8 SEATTLE, WA Tractor Tavern*
March 10 SAN FRANCISCO, CA Great American Music Hall*
March 11 ANAHEIM, CA House of Blues*
March 12 LOS ANGELES, CA House of Blues*
March 13 ARROYO GRANDE, CA Clark Center Theatre*
March 14 SPARKS, NV John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel*
March 16 SOLANA BEACH, CA Belly Up Tavern*
April 3 PORT WASHINGTON, NY, Landmark on Main Street
April 4 RIDGEFIELD, CT, Ridgefield Playhouse
April 5 GLENSIDE, PA Keswick Theater

* With Shelby Lynne

Press Release
Raul Malo’s Home Page
Raul Malo’s MySpace Page