Tag Archives: Gretchen Wilson

Matraca Berg

When women became the dominant creative force in country music during the mid-nineties, it wasn’t just on the strength of their vocal talents, but also because of their excellent choice of material. No single songwriter supplied more of that quality material than Matraca Berg, one of the most prominent and successful female country songwriters in country music history.

Most songwriter stories begin with their journey to Nashville, but Matraca Berg was born in Music City. She grew up thinking that she’d either be a lawyer or a songwriter, and she later quipped that once she dropped out of high school, it was obvious that law wasn’t an option.

Not that it mattered much. Berg was only eighteen when she met up with songwriter legend Bobby Braddock (”D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today”), who was very impressed with her self-written songs and suggested they pair up to write on together. The result was “Faking Love,” which went to No. 1 for T.G. Sheppard & Karen Brooks in 1983.

Not a bad start for a young songwriter. But some lean years followed as she honed her songwriting craft, while also pursuing a career as a recording artist. Things began to pick up in the late eighties, when Reba McEntire turned her “The Last One to Know” into a #1 hit in 1987. After she scored more cuts with Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker and Sweethearts of the Rodeo, RCA offered her a recording contract.

In 1990, her stellar debut album, Lying to the Moon, was released. Four singles made moderate dents on the singles chart, and the album sold enough to reach the forties on the album chart. A second album was recorded but never released, and then RCA tried to push her in the pop market with the 1993 album The Speed of Grace. It failed to make an impact, and she was dropped from the label.

These would have been harrowing times, except for the fact that a bumper crop of female artists were looking for smart, contemporary material. Berg’s debut album was mined by several artists. Trisha Yearwood immortalized the title track, Pam Tillis covered “Calico Plains,” Dusty Springfield tackled “You Are the Storm,” and Berg’s childhood heroine, Linda Ronstadt, recorded “Walk On.”

Patty Loveless had a top five hit in 1990 with Berg’s “I’m That Kind of Girl,” and scored a #1 single six years later with “You Can Feel Bad.” Suzy Bogguss, another rising star in the early nineties, cut “Eat at Joe’s”, which had been recorded for that unreleased second album. Berg and Bogguss became friends and songwriting partners, and they wrote Bogguss’ last big hit together, “Hey Cinderella”, which went top five in 1994.

Trisha Yearwood would become the artist most associated with Berg. She had a big hit in 1992 with “Wrong Side of Memphis,” a No. 1 single with “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)” in 1994 and a top five hit with “Everybody Knows” in 1996. Meanwhile, Martina McBride had her first No. 1 single in 1996 with “Wild Angels,” which Berg had imagined would be the title cut of one of her own albums.

Yearwood passed on the song that would become Berg’s signature composition, and it was recorded instead by an aspiring new artist named Deana Carter. In 1996, Carter made Berg’s “Strawberry Wine” her debut single, and the slow waltz about lost innocence was a surprise smash, topping the charts for two weeks. Carter repeated at #1 with the follow-up single, another Berg song called “We Danced Anyway.”

All of these hits renewed interest in Berg as a recording artist, and she signed with Rising Tide Records. In 1997, she released Sunday Morning to Saturday Night. She was invited to perform on that year’s CMA awards telecast, where host Vince Gill introduced her as not just a songwriter, but a poet. She performed the heartbreaking “Back When We Were Beautiful” and received one of her two standing ovations of the evening. The other one came when she and co-writer Gary Harrison won Song of the Year for “Strawberry Wine.” She was only the third woman in history to win the award, after K.T. Oslin (1988) and Gretchen Peters (1996).

In 1998, Berg had a popular video hit with “Back in the Saddle”, thanks to a supporting cast of many of the female stars who’d scored hits with her songs: Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Suzy Bogguss, Patty Loveless and Martina McBride. Meanwhile, newer artists also began to embrace Berg’s work. Sara Evans did well with “Fool, I’m a Woman” and Berg earned some big royalties when the Dixie Chicks had a smash with her “If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me.” She even caught the attention of another legend, Loretta Lynn, who recorded “Working Girl” for her Still Country album in 2000. Terri Clark followed Lynn’s lead and included the song on her 2002 comeback album Pain to Kill.

More recently, Keith Urban included “Nobody Drinks Alone” on his Be Here album, Pinmonkey revived her Rising Tide single “That Train Don’t Run,” and Lee Ann Womack cut “You Should’ve Lied.” Berg earned a Grammy nomination for “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today,” which was a hit for Gretchen Wilson.

But it’s with those nineties women that Berg remains most closely associated. Patty Loveless earned a Grammy nomination for her performance of “On Your Way Home.” Pam Tillis included “Crazy By Myself” on her 2007 album RhineStoned. Trisha Yearwood’s new album features Berg’s “Dreaming Fields” as the emotional centerpiece.

In recent years, Berg has been touring both the U.S. and Europe with other female songwriters, and while she shares billing with peers like Gretchen Peters and Carolyn Dawn Johnson, the depth of Berg’s catalog is unmatched by any female songwriter of her generation.

The Matraca Berg Catalog

  • “Faking Love,” T.G. Sheppard
  • “Hey Cinderella,” Suzy Bogguss
  • “The Last One to Know,” Reba McEntire
  •  “Strawberry Wine,” Deana Carter
  • “Wild Angels,” Martina McBride
  • “Wrong Side of Memphis,” Trisha Yearwood
  • “XXX’s and OOO’s,” Trisha Yearwood
  • “You Can Feel Bad,” Patty Loveless

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CMA Flashback: Horizon Award (New Artist)

For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page.

2010

  • Luke Bryan
  • Easton Corbin
  • Jerrod Neimann
  • Chris Young
  • Zac Brown Band

Usually there isn’t this much turnover in this race unless most of last year’s nominees are ineligible.  This year, only one of the four eligible nominees from last year – Zac Brown Band – earns a nomination.  With their massive success and their multiple nominations, they’ve got an excellent shot at winning. Then again, Easton Corbin is elsewhere on the ballot, too. It could be a horse race.
2009

  • Randy Houser
  • Jamey Johnson
  • Jake Owen
  • Darius Rucker
  • Zac Brown Band

Thirteen years after winning the Best New Artist Grammy as part of Hootie & The Blowfish, Darius Rucker won the country music equivalent, adding an exclamation point to the most successful pop-to-country crossover in a generation.

lady-antebellum2008

  • Jason Aldean
  • Rodney Atkins
  • Lady Antebellum
  • James Otto
  • Kellie Pickler

The industry favorites Lady Antebellum became the fourth band in history to win this award, following Rascal Flatts, Dixie Chicks and Sawyer Brown.

2007

  • Jason Aldean
  • Rodney Atkins
  • Little Big Town
  • Kellie Pickler
  • Taylor Swift

In the year since winning the Horizon Award, Swift has solidified her position as the genre’s most successful rising star.  While her debut album hasn’t reached the sales heights of the first discs by previous winners Carire Underwood and Gretchen Wilson, Swift is still one of the genre’s only significant sellers.

2006

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Little Big Town
  • Sugarland
  • Josh Turner
  • Carrie Underwood

I had a sneaking suspicion that Josh Turner was going to take this home, but as I’ve said before, Carrie’s got the best pipes since Trisha Yearwood. That she’ was acknowledged for that at such an early stage of her career is pretty amazing. Somehow I think the thrill of winning Horizon was short-lived, as winning Female Vocalist the same night left that memory in the dust.

2005

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Big & Rich
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Julie Roberts
  • Sugarland

Four of these five were nominees again the following year, and all in categories besides just Horizon, though Lambert got another shot at that as well. I think Big & Rich and Sugarland are making the most interesting music, and they’re moving more units than Bentley, though he’s no slouch himself. The CMA showed good judgment this year.

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Gretchen Wilson, "Don't Do Me No Good"

I don't think I've ever heard Gretchen Wilson rock out quite this much. There's a driving energy to “Don't Do Me No Good” that is relentless, and it helps gloss over the fact that once again, Wi

lson's material is not quite up to par.

This would make for decent album filler, but it's not distinctive or interesting enough to really stand out among her singles to date.

Grade: B

Listen: Don't Do Me No Good

Buy: Don't Do Me No Good

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100 Greatest Women, #56: Matraca Berg

100 Greatest Women

#56

Matraca Berg

When women became the dominant creative force in country music during the mid-nineties, it wasn’t just on the strength of their vocal talents, but also because of their excellent choice of material. No single songwriter supplied more of that quality material than Matraca Berg, one of the most prominent and successful female country songwriters in country music history.

Most songwriter stories begin with their journey to Nashville, but Matraca Berg was born in Music City. She grew up thinking that she’d either be a lawyer or a songwriter, and she later quipped that once she dropped out of high school, it was obvious that law wasn’t an option.

Not that it mattered much. Berg was only eighteen when she met up with songwriter legend Bobby Braddock (“D-I-V-O-R-C-E”, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”), who was very impressed with her self-written songs and suggested they pair up to write on together. The result was “Faking Love”, which went to No. 1 for T.G. Sheppard & Karen Brooks in 1983.

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100 Greatest Women, #85: Gretchen Wilson

100 Greatest Women

#85

Gretchen Wilson

Never underestimate the power of good timing. When Gretchen Wilson finally landed a recording contract after years of laboring in obscurity, country radio was more hostile to female artists than at any point in its modern history.

When her debut single “Redneck Woman” was released in 2004, Martina McBride was the only female artist who was consistently hitting the top ten with her singles. Two years earlier, when country sales had skyrocketed thanks to massive sales of new albums by superstars Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks and Faith Hill, all of the credit for the boom was given to post-9/11 anthems by Alan Jackson, Toby Keith and Darryl Worley. Country radio shunned Hill, Lee Ann Womack and SHeDaisy for their crossover sounds, and when Natalie Maines uttered her innocuous comment about President Bush in March 2003, the Dixie Chicks were instantly removed from country radio playlists. They were the only female act that was regularly having singles nearing the top of the charts. When “Redneck Woman” finally hit the airwaves in the spring of 2004, women hadn’t been so scarce on the country radio since the early sixties.

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Gretchen Wilson, “You Don’t Have to Go Home”

Good enough.  She sounds fully engaged, it’s up-tempo and rowdy without being in-your-face obnoxious, and every detail from this last call scene sounds authentic and believable.   It’s certainly more realistic than “All Jacked Up.”    I doubt it will fire up her career at radio again, but it’s good enough.  That’s about all I can say.

Grade: B

Listen: You Don’t Have to Go Home

Buy: You Don’t Have to Go Home

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Gretchen Wilson, One of the Boys

Gretchen Wilson
One of the Boys
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Gretchen Wilson continues her baffling descent from the promise of her debut album, Here For the Party. Its follow-up, All Jacked Up, suffered from overconfidence, a cocky attitude of entitlement based on a misreading of the popularity of “Redneck Woman.” There was a universality to that track, which had people from all background embracing the attitude of it, even if they couldn’t relate to the actual lifestyle. Wilson apparently thought that she’d stumbled on a nation of redneck women and she’d been chosen as their leader, so we had to suffer through more confrontational versions like the West-coast dissing “California Girls” and the drunk-driving, teeth-busting “All Jacked Up.”

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Gretchen Wilson, “One of the Boys”

Gretchen Wilson, “One of the Boys”

“Woo hoo hoo.” That’s a catchy little hook there. Wilson sounds more fully engaged in the material here, much more so than anything that was released off of the mediocre All Jacked Up project. There’s a sweet charm to this single, and it’s nice to hear her going for the soft sell instead of always raving it up. This could conceivably be an opener to a very interesting themed album about gender roles, but my guess is it’s just a simple, one-off number. I don’t know if this will be enough to entice radio back to her side – I still haven’t figured out exactly why they jumped ship so quickly in the first place – but it’s a pleasant enough release.

Grade: B

Listen: One of the Boys

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