Tag Archives: Blackhawk

Premium Label

September has a lot of album releases that I’m really enjoying or looking forward to. In fact, it’s the most lucrative month for music for my taste in quite some time.

Last Tuesday (September 7), Rounder Records released The SteelDrivers’ second album, Reckless (which is pretty spectacular, by the way) and this week, they will be releasing Robert Plant’s follow up to his 2007 collaborative album with Alison Krauss, also on Rounder. From the streaming preview that can be heard on NPR’s website until release day, the album is a wonderfully rootsy project helmed by Plant and Buddy Miller and includes guitar work from Darrell Scott. October will also finally see the release of Joe Diffie’s bluegrass album on the label.

When one learns that an album will be released through Rounder Records (which has recently been sold to Concord Music Group), it’s pretty much automatically expected that the project will be quality. Whether it’s The SteelDrivers, Robert Plant, Joe Diffie, John Mellancamp, Alison Krauss or Willie Nelson, it’s reasonable to assume certain aspects of a Rounder release, including that the album may even stray from a typical artist release to be more rootsy in approach, as is the case with the recent Willie Nelson and John Mellancamp albums, along with the upcoming Diffie project. More often than not, I can count on Rounder Records to please my musical sensibilities, even with unexpected artists, since I never expected that Robert Plant would be recording some of my favorite roots music.

As much as I love and count on Rounder Records to produce great music, my absolute favorite record company is Sugar Hill Records (owned by Vanguard Records). Incidentally, Joey+Rory will be releasing their anticipated second album through Sugar Hill on Tuesday (September 14). Additionally, Marty Stuart’s recent release, the excellent Ghost Train, was released through them as well. Other artist who have been associated with Sugar Hill include, but are not limited to: Nickel Creek, Ricky Skaggs, Guy Clark, Dolly Parton, Darrell Scott, Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, The Duhks, Sarah Jarosz, and the list goes on. As with Rounder Records, many artists seem to release albums with Sugar Hill as a deviation from the music for which they are most popularly associated, as is the case with Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, and even Rodney Crowell, who released his venerable The Houston Kid on the label.

Right now, it seems that my favorite record labels aren’t in the business of releasing music that we hear on mainstream country radio, though Joey+Rory are attempting to crack through. While I don’t have the inside knowledge to say that it doesn’t exist, we don’t hear about the red tape and politics that is ever present with major companies like, lets say, the infamous Curb Records, which has produced some rather publicly disgruntled artists, most notably Tim McGraw and the two Living Hank Williamses.

But when I was a kid, MCA Records was the label that seemed like the powerhouse record company for country music to me. Some of my favorite artists were on that label, including Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Reba McEntire and, of course, Vince Gill. I admired the country roster of Arista as well, which included Alan Jackson, Diamond Rio, Radney Foster, and Blackhawk.

Along with reminding you about some good releases that have recently been released and will soon be available, this is the very long and self-indulgent way of getting to the question of:

What is the record label that you most admire and can count on to release your favorite music?

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Filed under Americana, Conversations, Features, Miscellaneous Musings

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #375-351

The second segment of our countdown includes the first appearances by Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire, two of the biggest-selling stars of the decade.

#375
How Do I Get There
Deana Carter
1997 |  Peak: #1

It’s always a gamble when friends decide to take their relationship to the next level. “How Do I Get There” explores the struggle of following one’s heart, even though it’s taking a big emotional risk to do so. – Leeann Ward

#374
If I Could Make a Living
Clay Walker
1994  |  Peak: #1

This song is either ridiculously cheesy or irresistibly cheesy depending on your taste, but there’s no denying Walker sells the heck out of it with charm and enthusiasm. – Tara Seetharam

#373
It Sure is Monday
Mark Chesnutt
1993  |  Peak: #1

Mark Chesnutt is one of the best male vocalists of the nineties, but there were many times when he did not always rise to the challenge of conveying the energy to elevate a decent song to a good one. Case in point: “Friends in Low Places”, which was eventually properly energized by Garth Brooks. “It Sure Is Monday”, however, is a positive example of Chesnutt actually making a song his own by demonstrating the ability to breathe life into a decent song and make it really good. – LW Continue reading

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Filed under Back to the Nineties

BlackHawk Six Pack

BlackHawkA group of veteran industry songwriters and performers came together as BlackHawk, and were quickly signed to Arista Nashville, a label that had already had success with Exile and Diamond Rio. Their debut album was a smash, selling double-platinum and spawning five hits.

The band wasn’t able to match that success with future projects, despite scoring a handful of hits from their next three albums. Their sophomore set managed to sell gold on the strength of lead single “I’m Not Strong Enough to Say No”, but future projects would miss that mark. The act also left a bad taste in the mouth among some industry members when they publicly complained that less successful acts were winning Vocal Group over them, a blatant reference to The Mavericks.

Still, they produced some great songs that any casual fan of nineties country will be familiar with.

“Goodbye Says it All”
from the 1994 album BlackHawk

Their debut single demonstrated their ease at crafting hooks tailor-made for country radio.

“Every Once in a While”
from the 1994 album BlackHawk

One of their best sounding records, featuring a particularly effective mandolin-laced intro.

“I Sure Can Smell the Rain”
from the 1994 album BlackHawk

An interesting record that foreshadows the impending doom of a relationship that’s about to end.

“That’s Just About Right”
from the 1994 album BlackHawk

There wasn’t a more quirky or more philosophical song on the radio in the spring of 1995.

“I’m Not Strong Enough To Say No”
from the 1995 album Strong Enough

Robert John “Mutt” Lange co-wrote this catchy plea for temptation not to call.

“Postmarked Birmingham”
from the 1997 album Love & Gravity

Their first stab at a pure story song was a successful one, crafting a mystery that pays off well in the end.

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Filed under Back to the Nineties, Six Pack

Single Review: BlackHawk, “Love Like This”

For as long as it has been written, “Love Like This” has been a hit waiting to happen.  It was composed by the same trio of writers behind “Safe in the Arms of Love”, and both songs were originally recorded by Kennedy Rose, a duo made up of two of those writers.

BlackHawk first recorded it on their Arista debut album, which spawned five hits.   “Love Like This” was going to be a single as well, until Carlene Carter released her own version to radio, which failed to make much of an impact.

BlackHawk’s original recording was much livelier than the new one, which lacks the exuberance of most recordings of the song.    It’s still worth hearing, as “Love Like This” remains one of country music’s least known gems.   But use it as a gateway to the original recordings, rather than a substitute for them.

Written by Pat Bunch, Mary Kennedy and Pam Rose

Grade: B-

Listen: Love Like This

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Filed under Single Reviews