Donna Fargo

Pop Goes the Country

October 27, 2010 // 34 Comments

The new Sugarland album is a failure. Of this, I am sure. But as I wrote in my review, the problem isn’t that they made an eighties rock album. It’s that they didn’t make a good one.

Which got me thinking about others who made pop or rock albums after building a fan base as a country artist. Sometimes it works, and their pop/rock music is as good or better than what they did under the country umbrella.

So I ask this question:

What artist did the best job of transition from country to pop?

Classic Country Singles: Donna Fargo, “You Can’t Be a Beacon (If Your Light Don’t Shine)”

June 7, 2010 // 7 Comments

You Can’t Be a Beacon (If Your Light Don’t Shine)
Donna Fargo
1974

Written by Martin Cooper

In which preaching to the choir takes on an entirely different meaning.

Donna Fargo burst on to the country scene in 1972 with the gold-selling hits “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.” and “Funny Face,” which helped establish her as a burst of positivity against an increasingly dour national landscape.

The Watergate scandal challenged Fargo’s shiny outlook on the world, and influenced the material of her 1974 album Miss Donna Fargo. The lead single, “U.S. of A.”, found her speaking to the country directly, celebrating that the country’s strength comes from its plentiful natural and human resources.

That song went to #9, but it was the follow-up that became a #1 hit, one of Fargo’s first big hits to come from an outside writer. Built upon the biblical passage Matthew 5:16, it is a challenge not to those who do not have God in their life, but rather those who claim that they do:

ACM Flashback: Single Record of the Year

April 3, 2010 // 11 Comments

As with the similar CMA category of Single of the Year, looking over the history of this category is the quickest way to get a snapshot of country music in a given year. There is a quite a bt of consensus among the two organizations here, and it is very rare for the winner at one show to not at least be nominated at the other. The winners list here would make a great 2-disc set of country classics, at least for those who don’t mind a little pop in their country. The ACM definitely has more of a taste for crossover than its CMA counterpart, and the organizations have only agreed on 17 singles in the past four decades and change.

As always, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back to 1968.

2010

  • Zac Brown Band, “Toes”
  • Billy Currington, “People Are Crazy”
  • Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
  • Miranda Lambert, “White Liar”
  • David Nail, “Red Light”

There’s usually a “Huh?” nominee among the ACM list in recent years. This year, it’s David Nail. Good for him! Currington hasn’t won yet for this hit, even though he got himself a Grammy nomination for it. With Lady Antebellum reaching the upper ranks of the country and pop charts with “Need You Now”, my guess is that they’re the presumptive favorites. Then again, Miranda Lambert is a nominee for the third straight year, and she’s up for her biggest radio hit.

2009

  • Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This”
  • Jamey Johnson, “In Color”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Gunpowder & Lead”
  • Heidi Newfield, “Johnny and June”
  • Brad Paisley, “Waitin’ On a Woman”

Adkins has been a fairly regular fixture on country radio since 1996, but this was his first major industry award. He also won the ACM for Top New Male Vocalist in 1997.

Richie McDonald, "Six-Foot Teddy Bear"

May 3, 2009 // 5 Comments

Former Lonestar frontman Richie McDonald caused a stir when he left the band. His former bandmates vented in the media, sharing their frustration that McDonald had insisted they move in the direction of domestic songs like “My Front Porch Looking In” and “Mr. Mom.”

To be fair, those songs were huge hits, and there’s always been a place for such records in country music, as Donna Fargo and Barbara Fairchild could easily attest.

“Six-Foot Teddy Bear” continues in the same vein as those Lonestar hits. It’s the tale of a man who leads with his chest at work, a Harley-driving tough guy who turns into a mush once he gets home. He wonders what the guys at work would think of him if they knew that he let his little girls outfit him in Mickey Mouse ears and paint his toenails red.

McDonald’s performance is a mixed bag. He’s never fully convincing as the tough guy, but he’s fully believable as the family man who puts his children’s enjoyment before his own dignity. It’s a pretty realistic portrait of modern day fatherhood, and his joy in playing the role is palpable.

Grammy Flashback: Best Female Country Vocal Performance

January 25, 2009 // 23 Comments

Revised and Updated for 2009 While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories. This is a look back at the Best Female Country Vocal Performance category. It was first awarded in 1965, an included single competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks. I’ve often made the case that female artists were making the best music in the 1990s, and the Grammys did a great job nominating songs and albums that were ignored at the CMA and ACM awards, which is not surprising, given that those shows have so few categories that are actually for songs and albums. As usual, we Read More

Kevin J. Coyne’s Top Singles of 2008

December 28, 2008 // 14 Comments

Gone are the days where this would just be called the Country Universe’s Top Singles of 2008.   The collective tastes of our writers makes for more distinguished lists, but thankfully, there’s still a place for my personal favorites.   Here are the twenty singles of 2008 that I enjoyed the most. #20: Reba McEntire & Kenny Chesney, “Every Other Weekend” A welcome return to domestic themes, which have often provided McEntire with her best work.   This plays out the like the epilogue to “Somebody Should Leave.” #19: Sara Evans, “Low” Triumph in the face of adversity, as the surrounding negative energy is rejected in favor of a positive and determined move toward the future.  Plus, it’s a little bluegrassy, which just sounds cool. #18: Keith Urban, “You Look Good in My Shirt” Even Conway Twitty wasn’t so good at slipping in mature themes so skillfully.    There are children across the country Read More

Best Country Singles of 2008, Part 1: #40-#31

December 15, 2008 // 8 Comments

Starting today, the Country Universe staff will be revealing our Top 40 Singles of 2008.   This list has been compiled through a combination of four individual Top 20 lists by Leeann, Blake, Dan and myself, wherein a certain number of “points” was delegated to a single each time it was mentioned on one of the lists. The final list reflects the total number of points that each single received between the four lists. Those lists will be revealed along with other individual writer content next week as part of our continuing coverage of the Best of 2008. #40 Trisha Yearwood, “They Call it Falling For a Reason” This song really sounds like it could fit perfectly with Yearwood’s music of the ‘90s. The production is both modest and interesting at the same time. Furthermore, the lyrics are light without seeming inane. As we will lament about many singles on this Read More

Various Artists, Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country and Contemporary Country

December 13, 2008 // 1 Comment

Various Artists Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country Contemporary Country Earlier this year, the Grammys celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with a series of compilations focusing on winners in different fields.  Two of the best entries in this series focused on country music.  With five decades of winners to choose from, it’s no surprise that Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country and Ultimate Grammy Collection: Contemporary Country are solid collections. The Classic Country set is particularly strong, including a diverse selection of significant artists from the sixties and seventies.   Even better, most of them are represented with their signature tracks.    Roger Miller opens the set with “King of the Road”, easily his biggest hit.   Other superstars include Tammy Wynette (“Stand By Your Man”), Johnny Cash (“A Boy Named Sue”) and Waylon & Willie (“Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”) As the collection moves on to the seventies and eighties, Read More

Donna Fargo, "We Can Do Better in America"

July 4, 2008 // 7 Comments

My favorite song of Donna Fargo’s is “You Can’t Be a Beacon (If Your Light Don’t Shine)”, which is a celebration of Christian values that simultaneously pushes those claiming to have them to live to a higher standard. When I saw that Donna Fargo had a new single at radio about America, I wasn’t expecting to hear a patriotic song in the same spirit as “You Can’t Be a Beacon”, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was thrilled. “We Can Do Better in America” is an inspiring and challenging record that calls on us to draw on our shared values to tackle the problems we currently face. Miss Fargo does not mince words, mind you. She paints a stark picture of all of the things that are going wrong, from gas prices to homelessness, but responds with the can-do spirit that we can fix these problems if we Read More