Tag Archives: Dolly Parton

Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, "The Seeker"

1975 | Peak: #2

A southern gospel number that starts slowly and never quite gets where it’s trying to go.

It’s not one of my favorite Parton compositions to begin with, especially considering the depth of her spiritual catalog.  The lyrics are a bit too redundant, and the

arrangement reinforces this by relying too heavily on the monotonous groove that dominates the verses.   It doesn’t build up enough tension to justify the overwrought release that comes with the chorus.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: B-

Next: Say Forever You’ll Be Mine (with Porter Wagoner)

Previous: The Bargain Store

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100 Greatest Men: #37. The Louvin Brothers

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

They would both go on to successful solo careers, but it was the music that Ira and Charlie Louvin made together that earned them a place in the annals of history.

Born in to Appalachian poverty, the Louvin Brothers began their public singing career by performing gospel standards at church.  Their distinctive harmonies and instrumental skills soon earned them a spot on AM radio in Chattanooga.  After Charlie did a brief tour with the Army, the duo moved to Knoxville, where their sound reached a wider audience.

By the late forties, the labels came calling. as did a publishing deal.  The Louvins released a few moderately successful singles before Charlie was sent back overseas, but when he returned, the brothers began incorporating country into their repertoire, a move largely influenced by their appearances on the Opry.   Throughout the fifties and early sixties, they released many of the most significant country compositions of all-time, including standards like the #1 hit “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby” and the top ten  “Cash on the Barrelhead.”

They never abandoned their gospel roots, as reflected in a series of classic albums with a spiritual focus.   One of their essential works was the LP Satan is Real, which became notorious for its vivid album artwork along with its music.   The increasing popularity of rock and roll slowed down their success, which sadly led to an alcohol addiction for Ira, who was encouraged to drop his signature mandolin from their sound.   His deterioration was the primary reason the duo disbanded in 1963.

Both brothers pursued solo careers, with Charlie forging out on his own and Ira performing with his new wife, Anne Young.  Tragically, Ira and Anne were killed in an automobile accident in 1965, preventing a reconciliation of the brothers.   Charlie proudly carried on the legacy of the Louvin Brothers, recording and performing right up until his death in 2011.

As years have gone by, the songs and recordings of the Louvin Brothers have become increasingly influential, shaping the sounds of the Byrds, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, and others.  In 2002, a tribute album by contemporary country, bluegrass, and pop artists was a huge success, winning the Grammy for Best Country Album.   Their sound lives on in the work of every duo built around harmony, from the Everly Brothers to the Judds, their songs have been covered by artists as diverse as James Taylor and Dolly Parton, and their themed albums with powerful artwork are regarded as essential classics by both musicians and graphic designers.

Essential Singles:

  • When I Stop Dreaming, 1955
  • I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby, 1956
  • Hoping That You’re Hoping, 1956
  • You’re Running Wild/Cash on the Barrelhead, 1956
  • My Baby’s Gone, 1958
  • The River of Jordan, 1959
  • How’s the World Treating You, 1961

Essential Albums:

  • The Louvin Brothers, 1956
  • Tragic Songs of Life, 1956
  • Ira and Charlie, 1958
  • Satan is Real, 1959
  • My Baby’s Gone, 1960
  • Sing and Play Their Current Hits, 1964

Next: #36. Ricky Skaggs

Previous: #38. Vince Gill

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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iPod Check: Most Played Song by Twenty Country Artists

Since bringing back Recommend a Track proved so popular, I’m resurrecting another CU oldie but goodie: the iPod check.

I’ve only recently discovered the Most Played feature on iTunes, since it never had any relevance until iPods were large enough in memory to sync all of my music.   So going back to early 2011, I have a lengthy list of the songs I’ve played the most.

So today’s iP0d check:  List your most-played song from twenty different country artists.

You can access this info by going to your own Most Played list and adjusting the number of songs on it – I use 500 for mine – or you can just go to Music and sort by number of plays.  Or you can just pick twenty artists at random and list your most played song for each.  We’re easy here.  (This would also work in Spotify, from what I hear.)

Here’s my top twenty:

  1. Pam Tillis – Deep Down (89 plays)
  2. Keith Urban – I Told You So (81)
  3. Dixie Chicks – Long Time Gone (71)
  4. Taylor Swift – Mean (68)
  5. Trisha Yearwood – Where Are You Now (63)
  6. Patty Loveless – You Can Feel Bad (59)
  7. Emmylou Harris – Easy From Now On (55)
  8. Carrie Underwood – Undo It (50)
  9. Lori McKenna – Lorraine (50)
  10. Dwight Yoakam – Ain’t That Lonely Yet (46)
  11. Sara Evans – Rocking Horse (45)
  12. Sawyer Brown – Cafe on the Corner (45)
  13. Reba McEntire – The Fear of Being Alone (44)
  14. Shania Twain – Up! (43)
  15. Faith

    Hill – Stealing Kisses (41)

  16. Alan Jackson – So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore (40)
  17. Crystal Gayle – Why Have Your Left the One You Left Me For (39)
  18. George Strait – Meanwhile (39)
  19. Lee Ann Womack – I May Hate Myself in the Morning (39)
  20. Aaron Tippin – Whole Lotta Love on the Line (38)

I’m surprised that some of my most played artists overall, like Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, and Tim McGraw, don’t have that one big song that I play excessively.  Also, at least half of the songs above aren’t what I would call my favorite song by the given artist.  How about you?

 

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Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, "The Bargain Store"

1975 | Peak: #1

It’s somewhat amazing given the subject matter of many of her early RCA records, but “The Bargain Store” holds the distinction of being the first Dolly Parton record

to be banned by several radio stations.

Apparently, the vulnerability that led her to use the metaphor that she was a bargain store was taken literally by some disc jockeys, who believed that it wasn’t  just her emotions that were up for sale.

Kinda makes you want to hit your head up against a wall, doesn’t it?

Anyway, “The Bargain Store” is exquisitely beautiful, laced with the painful melancholy that usually colors Parton’s best songwriting.   I think it’s because her personality is so uplifting and positive by nature.  When she sings a sad song, it’s somehow sadder because her optimism has her clinging to find a silver lining where one doesn’t exist.

Back when I was heavily educating myself in country music history, I bought a vinyl copy of her greatest hits album from 1975, The Best of Dolly PartonIt included so many of the hits that we’ve written about lately:  “Coat of Many Colors”, “Jolene”, “I Will Always Love You”, “Touch Your Woman”, “My Tennessee Mountain Home”, and “The Bargain Store.”

As somebody more familiar with her later pop-flavored hits, I was floored by the album.  I just couldn’t believe all of these songs had been written by the same person in such a short window of time.   With all I’ve learned about country music since, and all of the legendary music that I eventually educated myself about, I think I’m more amazed now than I even was then.

“The Bargain Store” marks the end of this particular period of Dolly Parton’s brilliant career.  She’d go on to write many more great songs and make many more great records that sold far more than her work from this period did.   But her talent would never again be so prolific to produce such an embarrassment of riches in such a short time.  This is the very best at her very best.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: A

Next: The Seeker

Previous: Love is Like a Butterfly

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100 Greatest Men: #42. Porter Wagoner

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Known affectionately as the Thin Man from the West Plains, Porter Wagoner was a steadfast champion for the traditions of country music, even as he used forward-looking methods of delivering it to the masses.

Wagoner was  a self-taught singer and musician, and first gained notoriety as a singing grocer.  The store manager thought his young worker had great potential, and arranged for him to perform on the radio in West Plains, Missouri.   This led to his own radio show in 1951, and then a high-profile stint onOzark Jamboree, a television show spearheaded by Red Foley.

His success on radio and television landed him a contract with RCA records, a label he would stay with for more than two decades.  At his time with the label, he would be a pioneer for the genre in many ways.  While recording popular country hits like “A Satisfied Mind” and “Misery Loves Company”, he also produced powerful spiritual numbers, including the evocative “What Would You Do? (If Jesus Came to Your House)”, helping to mainstream a southern Baptist perspective to the masses.

He also was an innovator both in album concepts and album artwork, creating bold designs for his LPs that explored themes like adultery, poverty, and alcoholism.    His arresting visual style made him an ideal fit for television, and his wildly popular syndicatedThe Porter Wagoner Show made him a household name.  It also led to his most high-profile musical partnership when he invited Dolly Parton to join the cast.

Wagoner’s show peaked in popularity with Parton as a cast member, and their memorable duet singles and albums kept him on the upper echelon on the country charts throughout the mid-seventies.  While his solo career was cooling off at the same time, he remained a major presence in the Southern gospel market, the area which earned him multiple Grammy awards.

He left RCA in the early eighties, following a successful final duet album with Parton.   By then, his show was also off the air, but as cable television began filtering into homes, Wagoner’s hosting duties on the Grand Ole Opry made him a familiar figure to a new generation of country music fans.   He recorded sporadically for the next two decades, but received overwhelming critical accolades when he released Wagonmaster. Produced by Marty Stuart, his final album was a powerful swan song in 2007, and gave him one more moment in the spotlight, the same year that he passed away at the age of eighty.

Essential Singles:

  • Company’s Comin’, 1954
  • A Satisfied Mind, 1955
  • What Would You Do? (If Jesus Came to Your House), 1956
  • Misery Loves Company, 1962
  • Green, Green Grass of Home, 1965
  • The Cold Hard Facts of Life, 1967
  • The Last Thing on My Mind (with Dolly Parton), 1967
  • The Carroll County Accident, 1968

Essential Albums:

  • Satisfied Mind, 1956
  • Confessions of a Broken Man, 1966
  • The Cold Hard Facts of Life, 1967
  • The Bottom of the Bottle, 1968
  • What Ain’t to Be, Just Might Happen, 1972
  • Wagonmaster, 2007

Next: #41. Ronnie Milsap

Previous: #43. Roger Miller

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, "Love is Like a Butterfly"

1974 | Peak: #1

A tribute to her versatility as a vocalist, “Love is Like a Butterfly” also reflects her lyrical creativity.

The lilting melody is enhanced by a production that is country at the core, but has sprinklings of the psychedelic pop that the Beatles experimented with on Sgt. Pepper.

All in all, it’s an ambitious effort, so much so that it’s a bit disappointing that all this went in to female natural viagra a song about butterflies.  There were tracks on the album that were far more compelling, especially “You’re the One who Taught Me How to Swing” and “Blackie, Kentucky”, so this pretty piece of fluff isn’t representative of the project as a whole.

But if you like Dolly Parton and love butterflies, it’s a keeper.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: B

Next: The Bargain Store

Previous: Please Don’t Stop Loving Me (with Porter Wagoner)

 

 

 

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Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, "Please Don't Stop Loving Me"

1974 | Peak: #1

Their only chart-topping duet served as the mid-point between five consecutive #1 singles for Parton, while earning Wagoner his first #1 single since 1962.

As their remarkable partnership was beginning to break apart, the duo wrote this song together, and it speaks just as well to the impending doom of their professional generic viagra in canada life together as “I Will Always Love You” did.

Perhaps that’s what helped make it such a powerful song, with genuine desperation captured in the lyrics.   From this point on, Wagoner’s few remaining hits would come only through his duets with Parton, while this entire era of her career would soon be overshadowed by her phenomenal success as a crossover singer and media personality.

But at least on record for just under three minutes in 1974, it sounded like they both needed each other equally.

Written by Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner

Grade: A

Next: Love is Like a Butterfly

Previous: I Will Always Love You

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Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, "I Will Always Love You"

1974 | #1

Where to start?  How do you begin a review of a song as seemingly universal as this one is?  I could go on about what a massive success this song was in all the different versions that were recorded.  But for now, I'll just talk about what a fine record this 1974 original is on its own merits.

Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of country music history knows that Parton wrote the song for her mentor Porter Wagoner, from whom she was separating professionally at the time.  The song deals with feelings personal to Parton, but they are conveyed in a manner just vague enough that virtually any listener can connect the story with his or her own experiences.

But for all of Parton's formidable songwriting talent, what makes “I Will Always Love You” a great record goes beyond the lyric sheet.  This original 1974 recording is simply one of the finest displays that can be found of the deep sincerity that Parton has always brought to her performances.  Her vocal here is subtle and almost hushed, but she fills every crevice of the acoustic arrangement with her aching, nakedly honest delivery, while the melody of the song is just hauntingly beautiful.

There's not a trace of anger or animosity to be found – just honest, heavy-hearted resignation that the relationship could not be made to work, coupled with ongoing love, and hope for the loved one to find happiness.  Best of all, Parton is such a fine vocal interpreter that you get the sense that if she were singing the song directly to Wagoner, and to no one else, that it would still have sounded exactly as it does on the record here.

Without a doubt, there are clear reasons why “I Will Always Love You” is a classic.  Though this is only the beginning of the life that “I Will Always Love You” would take on over the years, this 1974 recording remains the definitive version of the song.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: A

Next:  Please Don't Stop Loving Me (with Porter Wagoner)

Previous:  Jolene

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Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, "Jolene"

1973 | Peak: #1

This haunting little record went on to become Parton's most covered song.   Not bad for a humble tale of a woman simply begging another not to take her man.

One of the reason it works is that it's recorded in a minor key, which is still a rarity for country songs.   The instantly recognizable guitar hook played with solemn urgency practically drips with sorrow, setting up Parton to deliver a performance wrought with tension and fear.   She's begging him not to take her man, but everything about the record and her performance suggest she's already lost him and she knows it.

“Jolene” was the first of a string of five #1 singles for Parton, and it was also her only solo top ten hit in the United Kingdom.   Other artists have also had success with the song, most notably Olivia Newton-John, who spent three weeks at #1 atop the Japanese pop chart with her version, and the White Stripes, who had a successful live version that was a major rock hit in many markets.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: A

Next: I Will Always Love You (1974)

Previous: If Teardrops Were Pennies (with Porter Wagoner)

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Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, "If Teardrops Were Pennies"

1973 | Peak: #3

Released just before Dolly Parton's star would rise considerably, “If Teardrops Were Pennies” was a surprisingly big hit, becoming Porter & Dolly's highest charting single to date.

It's a simple country song, with their signature retro feel.  As I've written before, they're always most believable when they keep it country and focus on the heartache.

Originally a hit for Carl Smith in 1951, “Teardrops” sounds great on its own.   But like all of their duets at this particular point in time, it suffers in comparison to the forward-looking material that Parton was writing and recording at the same time.   They could have just as easily recorded this in 1967, and it would have sounded exactly the same.

Written by Carl Butler

Grade: B

Next: Jolene

Previous: Traveling Man

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