Tag Archives: Nashville Sound

Hypercast #2: In Memoriam 2013

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

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

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

Jerry Reed: The Unbelievable Guitar & Voice of Jerry Reed / Nashville Underground

Jerry Reed’s country and Nashville Sound beginnings

Singer, songwriter and certified guitar player Jerry Reed found his musical calling as a child, and by the time he turned 18 in 1955, he was already making records. Sides cut for Capitol (catch the rockabilly “When I Found You” here), NRC and Columbia failed to ignite a performing career, but his songwriting and session guitar work garnered traction in Nashville. By 1965 he’d come to the attention of Chet Atkins, and two years later he released his debut LP, The Unbelievable Guitar & Voice of Jerry Reed, on RCA. The album was stylistically schizophrenic, ranging from folk-country tunes similar to Waylon Jennings early RCA sides to faux British Invasion pop to rootsy blues-country. It’s the latter, including the album’s first single, “Guitar Man,” that came to define Reed’s sound.

In 1967, though, Atkins was still trying to find a place for Reed within the Nashville Sound. Atkins added badly-aging harpsichord to many of the debut’s tracks, and though Reed, Wayne Moss and Fred Carter Jr. cut loose with gut-string picking on several tracks, including the instrumental “The Claw,” there were still the doubled pop vocals of “If I Promise” sharing track space with the sly talking ablues “Woman Shy” and the Everlys-styled “Long Gone.” It’s interesting, albeit a bit disconcerting, to hear Reed singing so far outside his earthier country sound, and the folk- and pop-flavored cuts haven’t the swagger of his blues. Elvis Presley covered “Guitar Man,” with Reed reproducing the guitar break from this recording, and “U.S. Male,” with the lyrical intro shifted from Georgia to Mississippi.

Reed returned Elvis’ favor with his next single “Tupelo Mississippi Flash,” on his second album, Nashville Underground. Released in 1968, this second album’s title proves itself ironic with music that’s even heavier on the crossover balladry. Try as he might though, Atkins couldn’t shave the Southern edges off Reed’s playing and singing, highlighted by the hard-picked guitar of “Fine on My Mind.” In addition to eight originals, Reed covers a pair of traditional titles (“Wabash Cannonball” and “John Henry”), and takes a playful, jazzy turn on Ray Charles “Hallelujah I Love Her So.” As on the debut, Reed’s versatility is impressive, but it’s the talking blues and arrangements stripped of Atkins’ crossover production that still leap most energetically from the speakers.

Real Gone’s first-ever CD reissue of these two albums features the twenty-three original tracks, and includes a twelve-page booklet rich with original cover art (front and back), session data and liner notes by Chris Morris. If you only know Reed from 1970s hits “Amos Moses” and “When You’re Hot You’re Hot” (or only as an actor from Smokey and the Bandit), this is a great opportunity to hear his first brush withNashville. Atkins’ production leaves many of these tracks sounding like period pieces, but Reed’s talent still shines through, and if you pick your way around the glossier pop ballads, there’s some truly rewarding here. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Amy Francis: Balladacious

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