February 15, 2009
The following is a guest contribution from Country Universe reader Cory DeStein. An additional Six Pack written by Kevin J. Coyne will follow later this week.
K.T. Oslin appears to most often enter a conversation with the line, “Older woman who broke into the music business.” A better introduction would be genius songwriter. She was the first woman to win the CMA award for Song of the Year. Her first two albums sold platinum and in three short years, she was awarded three Grammys, four ACM Awards, and two CMA Awards. With theatrical videos such as “80’s Ladies,” “Come Next Monday” and “Mary and Willie,” along with her masterful songwriting skills, her work has a timeless quality, with the themes she addressed back then still being relevant and fresh today.
I first knew of K.T. Oslin through the video “Come Next Monday” when I was just a child in 1990, and Love in a Small Town became the very first album I ever owned. After hearing “Hold Me” on satellite radio in 2006, I quickly caught myself up on her catalog and was very pleased that I did. She may not be an elite vocalist like Trisha Yearwood or Carrie Underwood, but her refreshing tack on songwriting will please any discerning listener.
The song that broke down the barriers on Music Row and forever changed the rules of what could be written about in country music. Her feminist anthem for the middle-aged woman only peaked at No. 7 on the charts, but it went on to win Oslin her first Grammy and the CMA award for Song of the Year. Oslin has said of “80’s Ladies” that she wanted it to be something people would remember her by. She certainly succeeded on that front.
On a trip to North Carolina to visit friends in 2005, a song came on my satellite radio. The spoken verses described a husband detailing to his wife how he had planned to leave her that very morning. I found the lyrics quite harsh and brutally honest in his intentions. “When I left here this morning I was bound and determined I was never going to come back…” Never before had I heard a song take this approach. As the wife explained she too had left that very morning with no plan on returning. Oslin speaks the verses, but when the couple reconciles, she sings with gusto: “Don’t kiss me like we’re married. Kiss me like we’re lovers.”
Oslin moved from the busy streets of New York City to mild side streets of Nashville, Tennessee in the eighties. Shortly after her arrival, she was invited to Catfish Fry – not something that you would find in NYC. The event inspired her to write “Hey Bobby.” The lyrics almost seem to be from a man’s point of view, but instead it’s just K.T. breaking down yet another barrier, as she plays the seductress tempting her lover with the a tryst out in the countryside.
“Come Next Monday”
Love In a Small Town
On the last of her four No. 1 singles, Oslin sings half-hearted promises of losing weight, going to bed early, and dropping a lover who is no good for her. Oslin’s wit and personality shine through, as the listener knows she truly will be sorry come Tuesday when it all starts over again. The song shot to the top of the charts with the help with the Bride of Frankenstein themed music video.
“New Way Home”
Greatest Hits: Songs from an Aging Sex Bomb
I usually feel less is more in the production arena but in this tale of woman preserving her heart by finding a new way home, Ballard’s larger production works moer effectively. Oslin sings of finding a new way home to protect her heart from all that it has already had to go through. She “can’t be driving by your house no more” because “someday I’ll see something I don’t wanna see, and it will only break my heart all over again.”
“Maybe We Should Learn To Tango”
Live Close By, Visit Often
“Tango” could possibly be the sequel to Oslin’s 1988 “Hold Me,” with the married couple still working on ways to keep the flame alive. When we first met the two in the late eighties, they each made it to the edge of town, but turned the car around and headed back to each other’s arms. Now they consider taking tango lessons as a way to reconnect, hoping the physical closeness can help to close the growing emotional distance between them.
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