dear diary, can i tell you something? i secretly LOVE country. LOVE it.
cowboys, muddy trucks, fishing down the pond, fried chicken, tractor trailers, mangy dogs, the girl next door… the fact that every song tells a story (!) …what’s not to love?
now, there’s lots to country. id argue that bluegrass and folk probably fall somewhere in the venn diagram, so im going to go out on a limb here (and correct me if im wrong), and say that Neko Case and Alison Krauss are fantastic.
And if you need some evidence:
ps. how hot was that movie??
But now, for a few of my favorites (and im leaving Neko off cause ive blogged about her enough)… oh, and fyi, most links are mp3s, with the exception of a few YouTube vids:
Dolly Parton- Stairway and Shine
Two fantastic covers from one of my favorite singers of all time. The woman is 63, and still looks utterly fabulous (though obviously slightly off balance). One of twelve children to a dirt poor family in Tennessee, she’s been married to her husband Carl since ’66. She started performing as a kid (she began composing when she was 4!!), and initially found success in Nashville as a songwriter, but started recording in ’67. Her first single? Dumb blonde, which interestingly, is one of the few songs she recorded that she hadn’t written. Fast forward fortysome years, hits like Jolene, 9 to 5, Coat of Many Colors; movies like 9 to 5 and Beverly Hillbillies, massive investments back into her home state, incredibly generous philanthropic efforts, and a gazillion tours later, it’s easy to see why she’s not only still relevant, but the reigning queen of country.
Emmylou Harris – Jordan
I’d be remiss if i didnt talk about Emmylou here. She’s another artist who’s managed to stay incredibly relevant, be it through continued performances or duets with young artists (um, Bright Eye’s I’m Wide Awake… still incredible – though admittedly nothing as radio friendly as Alison and Robert Plant). This is a version of one of my favorite folk / gospel songs of all time (my fave version has to be this Jenny Lewis / J Rice one. Though the Jerry Garcia version from the Festival Express is pretty great, too), but honestly, there are few EH songs I dont like. Where Dolly is primarily a solo act, EH is well known for her incredible duets, early on with Graham Parsons, and later with Linda Rondstadt, Dylan, Springsteen, Neil Young, and more. Actually, she, Dolly and Linda won a Grammy for best country vocal performance by a group for their [ridiculously awesome] collaboration album, Trio. If you havent heard her ’06 album with Dire Straits’s Mark Knopfler, check it out. The woman is utterly fantastic, and seeing her at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival last summer was incredible.
Reba McEntire – The Heart Wont Lie (w/ Vince Gill)
Okay, so maybe Reba actually holds the title of Queen of Country, but whatever. An Oklahoma native, she began her career as part of a sibling act with her brother and sister, The Singing McEntires. In the mid-70’s, she made her way to Nashville and signed as a solo artist with Mercury. Countless gold and platinum records, infamous #1 hits like Fancy and You Lie, and 16 albums later, Reba released It’s Your Call in 1992. The Heart Wont Lie was originally supposed to be a duet with Kenny Rogers, but apparently he was unavailable, so Reba recorded it herself, and Vince Gill was added later. This was the first country song I truly fell in love with, and i dont even mind that she didnt write it herself (that honor goes to Kim Carnes, of Bette Davis Eyes fame), and it’s just… well, incredible.
Tanya Tucker – Delta Dawn
Delta Dawn has been recorded by everyone from Bette Midler to Helen Reddy to Waylon Jennings, but this remains my favorite version ever. There’s nothing like running over Alamo Square at 7 am to this track. It’s basically about this gorgeous woman from Tennessee who gets jilted and goes crazy, and ends up waiting for her lost love. Happy stuff, huh? Tucker recorded Delta Dawn when she was 13 (seriously), and then went on to have a wild adolescence (hmm sort of like lilo!) but still successful career (if not dogged by lagging sales at times), in which she earned a strong Outlaw image alongside Willie Nelson, David Allen Coe, Waylon Jennings, etc. She’s had lots of hits, and a new album due out this year, but I’m still a sucker for her very first single. I discovered this song late – junior year in DC I was seeing this chick from Santa Cruz, and she took me to her club rugby banquet. This was their (the Furies) theme song, and when they played it at the end of the night, the team went wild. So did i. Just try not to belt this out at the top of your lungs.
Keith Urban – I’ll Be Your Everything
Honestly, i had no idea this song was by keith urban. But it was on a mix my friend Reid from Texas made me in high school, and i remember playing that cd so many times i wore it out. It was the perfect mix for a “new country” neophyte. There were some absolute gems (Tim McGraw’s My Next Thirty Years, Blake Shelton’s Austin (!!!!!), Jamie O’Neal’s There is No Arizona), but this was my favorite. Totally sappy, totally poppy, and totally awesome. You know you want them to play this at your wedding.
Speaking of Tim McGraw, I’d be remiss if i didnt mention Dont take the girl. I dont care that Tim doesnt write any of his hits; this song used to make my mother cry on the drive to school in the morning. It’s that good.
Honorable mentions (or songs i could also go on for paragraphs about but ill spare you):
Sugarland – Something More <– cause everybody dreams
Carrie Underwood – Before He Cheats <– did i mention I dig her???
** if I forgot your favorite artists / you cant believe i devoted such a long as post to country: deal with it. and if you know any good country tracks i seriously need to hear, send ’em over!