Posts Tagged ‘June Carter Cash’

100 Greatest Men: #58. Carl Smith

Friday, April 6th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

One of the most successful country stars of the 1950′s, Carl Smith is as well known today for his famous relatives as for his legendary music.

Born and raised in the same Tennessee town as his childhood idol Roy Acuff, Smith taught himself guitar as a teenager.  He performed on local shows and in local bands as a teen, including the Cas Walker radio show that would later showcase a young Dolly Parton.  After a stint in the army, he did some backing musicianship until landing his own contract with Columbia Records in the late forties.

Thus began a remarkable string of commercial success.  Smith was one of the most dominant artists of the fifties, scoring a stunning 31 top ten hits during that decade.  His smooth vocal style made for a powerful contrast to the honky-tonk and rockabilly sounds of his records.   He scored signature hits with “Loose Talk” and “Are You Teasing Me”, among many others.   He became a television personality as well, often guest hosting the ABC hit, Jubilee USA.

He was also widely known for being one-half of a country superstar marriage with June Carter.  Though their marriage didn’t last too long, it did produce another future country star in daughter Carlene Carter.   After their divorce, Smith married another country star, Goldie Hill.  By the late fifties, he was also appearing in Western films.

As dominant sounds of the genre changed, Smith’s chart success dwindled a bit,  but he remained a presence on the country hit parade throughout the sixties and seventies.  He continued to both sing and act on a variety of network television shows, and wise investments allowed him to retire from the music business, though he still made some independent recordings that emphasized Western swing.

He spent the remainder of his life showing horses with Hill, until illness claimed her life in 2005.   Smith passed away five years later, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of classic country music.

Essential Singles:

  • Let’s Live a Little, 1951
  • Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way, 1951
  • Are You Teasing Me, 1952
  • Hey Joe, 1953
  • Loose Talk, 1954
  • You are the One, 1956

Essential Albums:

  • Carl Smith, 1956
  • Softly and Tenderly, 1956
  • Smith’s the Name, 1957
  • The Country Gentleman Sings His Favorites, 1967
  • Carl Smith Sings a Tribute to Roy Acuff, 1969

Next: #57. Kenny Chesney

Previous: #59. John Anderson

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Grammy Flashback: Best Female Country Vocal Performance

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

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 start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back.

2009

  • Martina McBride, “For These Times”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “What I Cannot Change”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Last Name”
  • Lee Ann Womack, “Last Call”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “This is Me You’re Talking To”

This year’s lineup includes three former winners and two women looking for their first victory in this category. Martina McBride is in the running for the eighth time in fifteen years, and with one of her more understated performances. Lee Ann Womack returns for a fifth time, having received a nomination for the lead single of her five most recent albums. Both ladies turned in good performances here, but they’ve been overlooked for records bigger and better, so they’re not likely to snap their losing streaks this time around.

As for the previous winners, LeAnn Rimes earned her third consecutive nod, bringing her total to five in this category. She hasn’t won since 1997, when she took home the award for “Blue.” If enough voters hear “What I Cannot Change,” she might have a shot, though the only version of the song that’s been a legitimate hit has been the dance remix.

Trisha Yearwood won in 1998 for “How Do I Live,” her only victory to date. But she’s earned her tenth nomination for “This is Me You’re Talking To,” which is arguably her strongest vocal performance of the ten. Like Rimes, the challenge is getting enough voters to listen to it, but she’s never been more deserving of the victory than she is this year.

Still, the favorite remains Carrie Underwood. She’s quickly become a favorite with Grammy voters, having won this category two years running, along with Best New Artist in 2007. She’s the nominee with the highest profile, and while “Last Name” is nowhere near the same league of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Before He Cheats” in terms of artistry or impact, it was a big hit, something that the other four entries cannot claim.

If Underwood was nominated for “Just a Dream,” she’d have a mortal lock on this one. But the strength of the other nominees will at least keep this race competitive. If Underwood prevails, Grammy queen Alison Krauss better watch her back.

2008

  • Alison Krauss, “Simple Love”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Famous in a Small Town”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “Nothin’ Better to Do”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love”

Looking at this lineup, you’d think that it was a golden age of female country artists, something akin to the mid-nineties. In reality, only one of these songs was a big radio hit, though three others managed to go top twenty. In terms of quality, however, this is the most consistent and thoroughly wonderful set of nominees this category has seen this century.  You’d have to go back to exactly 1999 to find a better lineup.

In a year when any winner would have been deserving, Underwood won for “Before He Cheats,” her second straight win for a signature mega-hit from her debut album.

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

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Various Artists

Ultimate Grammy Collection:

Classic Country

Contemporary Country

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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, there is a healthy portion of pop-country classics from the likes of Kenny Rogers (“The Gambler”), Dolly Parton (“9 to 5″), Crystal Gayle (“Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue”) and Willie Nelson (“Always on My Mind”).   In the midst of that crossover sound, however, there’s  a healthy dose of traditional country, courtesy of George Jones  with “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

That Jones track is the only one that wouldn’t be familiar to fans that buy the set because they remember those crossover hits, even though it’s a country classic.   They might also revel in the discovery of  Ray Price (“For the Good Times”) and Jerry Reed (“When You’re Hot, You’re Hot”), which were both AM radio staples back when top 40 regularly played country records.     The set also includes mega-hits from Charlie Daniels Band, Lynn Anderson, Donna Fargo and Jeannie C. Riley.   The only real misstep is the inclusion of Johnny Cash & June Carter’s “If I Were a Carpenter”,  an unnecessary inclusion that was no doubt shoehorned in because of lingering sentiment for all things Cash.   That slot would’ve been better represented with Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn’s “After the Fire is Gone.”

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DVD Review: Johnny Cash’s America

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash’s America

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In a time when the United States is at its most divided, the release of the new documentary Johnny Cash’s America explores the transcendent country singer and his influence on an increasingly alienated nation.

As the voice for the underprivileged and an advocate for the underrepresented, Cash continued to cross boundaries of social status up until his death in 2003. During his lifetime, Cash gained the respect of every sitting President, and he was a frequent visitor at the White House, proving his ability to be a bipartisan champion for people’s rights. His unlikely leadership among the marginalized fringes of society was a testament to his humble, honest spirit and his comprehension of human suffering. Johnny Cash’s America perfectly depicts how the man was far greater than the music he created through its stunning visual images and countless interviews with colleagues on both sides of the political aisle.

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Concert Review: Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton
Star of the Desert Arena
Primm, NV
October 14, 2008

In the better late than never category, on October 14, in between two of the craziest weeks ever, I made the trek to the middle of nowhere—Primm, Nevada—to watch two of my favorite mainstream country artists—Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton—perform together at the Star of the Desert Arena. Excellent separately, I was curious whether the sum of the whole would be greater than its individual parts. The answer is currently no, but the potential exists.

Country music history is rife with stellar male/female duos, among them Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. Lambert and Shelton are not in this category, but clearly inspired by these pairings and having dated for the past year, they decided to take their home act on the road and introduce audiences to an entirely different concert format. With no opening act, Lambert took the stage first and performed a short set of six songs with her full band. Shelton followed with his own short set, before the two took the stage to perform an entirely too short acoustic set together. They ended the evening with two more short individual sets, and then a crazy amalgam of songs to end the show together.

The format was engaging, but not used as effectively as possible. The duo aspect of the evening was short-changed. Shelton and Lambert’s voices work extremely well together—a combination of spice and honey. However, during their short acoustic set together, instead of performing duets, they primarily used the time to perform their own numbers. You couldn’t begrudge Lambert performing a gorgeous version of her latest single of “More Like Her,” but the only true duet was a Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn song that played to the strengths of neither singer. Perhaps the bigger problem lies in the fact that, as Shelton pointed out, the two rarely agree on music. Before they tour together again, I suggest they work that out, as the potential exists for some truly memorable duets.

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Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison: Legacy Edition

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Johnny Cash
At Folsom Prison: Legacy Edition

The original version of At Folsom Prison (review) is rife with a boiling intensity and a boundless pain that few artists are able to corral as well as the esteemable Johnny Cash.  With the new Legacy Edition of the Folsom Prison set, a snapshot of his two-day stay at the site and the timeless music that flowed from the concrete walls, the sheer audacity (and artistry) exhibited by Cash is on full display.

In all, 31 unreleased tracks are featured on Legacy Edition, including the entire second show, an event never before released on record, but the real treat here is the inclusion of the first documentary film to illustrate Cash’s most legendary day. Produced by award-winning director Bestor Cram and Cash biographer Michael Streissguth, the documentary follows the country star through Folsom and pinpoints his companionship with the inmates.  Better still, the package includes over 40 pages of liner notes that detail Cash’s visit, including inmate interviews and photographs of the famous prison.

The performances are incredibly human, ranging from poignant to irresistably rowdy.   Cash’s most enduring work, At Folsom Prison is given a much deserved reissue that is a worthy addition to any fan’s collection, and a testament to country music newcomers that the genre is capable of greatness.

Click now to hear Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison.1

Inside Johnny Cash’s America: A Conversation with Morgan Neville

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

There are artists, and then there are people who use their particular craft to speak directly to the core of the human condition, who buck what is familiar and comfortable in pursuit of what is true. If you don’t yet happen to think Johnny Cash falls into the latter category, or have trouble understanding the worldwide veneration of the Man in Black, congratulations; there’s no better time to start your education. Tonight at 9 pm Eastern Standard Time (10 pm Pacific), The Bio Channel will air a two-hour documentary special entitled Johnny Cash’s America – and I’m here to tell you, it’s pretty sweet. Don’t believe me? Well, how about this to whet your appetite:

The documentary explores the prominent themes of Cash’s life including love of the land, freedom, justice, family, faith and redemption through exclusive interviews, photos and unreleased music and footage. Interviews include Cash’s sister Joanne, son John Carter Cash and daughters Cindy Cash and Rosanne Cash, childhood friends and fellow band mates as well as Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, Al Gore, Tim Robbins, Loretta Lynn, Snoop Dogg, Vince Gill, Ozzy Osborne, Steve Earle, Merle Haggard and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) all of whom are connected to Cash in surprising ways.

And that’s all to say nothing of the snappy, colorful direction, courtesy of Award-winning filmmaking duo Morgan Neville (Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues) and Robert Gordon (Muddy Waters Can’t Be Satisfied, alongside Neville). Between the two, there’s quite a pedigree of music history, with Neville alone having also directed pieces on Sam Phillips, Ray Charles, and The Highwaymen, among others – so it’s no surprise that Johnny Cash’s America lands a cut above your average biographical documentary. With the film’s primetime debut inching ever closer, Neville waxes philosophical with Country Universe about Johnny Cash’s far-reaching impact, unique views, and the example his life provides for the very nation he loved so dearly.

If I may start a bit personally, how did you first become interested in Johnny Cash, and what compelled you to tell his story in this form?

I mean, I’ve always been a Johnny Cash fan, like I feel like…everybody’s always been a Johnny Cash fan (laughs). He’s just been around my whole life. And I’ve always liked him, and I’ve done a bunch of documentaries related to him, but I’d never done anything specifically about him.

Then at the beginning of this year, Robert Gordon and I were having some beers and a philosophical conversation about Johnny Cash (laughs), and talking about this political season, and just saying, you know, we can’t agree about much as Americans, but we can agree about Johnny Cash, and – why is that? I mean, that sounds like just a trite statement, but it’s really true; it’s really profound, the more you look into it. How is it that we can agree about these fundamental principles that Cash stood for? And in a way, Cash becomes something to remind us as Americans what we have in common. And that became sort of the mission statement for this documentary.

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Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Johnny Cash
At Folsom Prison

1968

A large part of Johnny Cash’s musical identity was established, of all places, in prison. Although the singer himself stayed on the right side of the law (for the most part), he felt a certain kinship with the prison population, full of wayward souls and hard-luck stories. The legend’s first jailhouse album, At Folsom Prison, speaks to this relationship, and is brimming with the boisterous enthusiasm of a crowd of convicts who felt a commonality and connection with Cash and his wicked, witty songs of sinful indulgence and its consequence.

By the late sixties, Cash had been finding limited space for his songs on country radio, but the album (a risk that Columbia Records feared for him to take) revitalized his career. Recorded on January 13, 1968 at Folsom State Prison in Folsom, California, Cash’s live release, also featured his wife, June Carter Cash and friend Carl Perkins, along with Cash’s terrific touring band. It was ultimately a milestone that showcased all the great subjects of country music. At Folsom Prison is all loneliness and loss, religion and redemption and, of course, the crimes of passion and anger that befell the inmates of the famous jailhouse.

The centerpiece, “Folsom Prison Blues,” is a perfect reflection of the dark, depressing nature that permeates throughout the album. It was the original inspiration for Cash to make a complete live recording, and the track crackles with a crazy candor. The song, first released in 1955, is the classic train song, restless in rhythm and tone, as “time keeps draggin’ on” and the narrator is tortured by the success of other’s dreams and the failure of his own. The narrator’s apathy ran high the night he shot a man in Reno, an action taken “just to watch him die,” and his faith and freedom dies right there with the cold, lifeless body of a stranger. It’s a work of staggering depth and despair.

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100 Greatest Women, #39: June Carter Cash

Monday, May 26th, 2008

100 Greatest Women

#39

June Carter Cash

In the shadow of a famous family and an even more famous husband, June Carter Cash has largely been known and defined as a supporting player in legacies larger than her own. But while she did choose to place her own career second to her obligations to The Carter Family and then to Johnny Cash, her work has also been important on its own.

The daughter of Maybelle Carter, she was already performing with her mother and sisters Helen and Anita at the age of ten. From the forties on, she was a primary member of Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters. In 1950, the group moved to Nashville and joined the Grand Ole Opry Cast. There, Carter became known for her offbeat comic personality as much as her music, though she did have a solo hit in 1956 with “Juke Box Blues.” During this period, she was married to country star Carl Smith, and together they had a daughter who would become a third generation country star, Carlene Carter.

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100 Greatest Women, #61: Carlene Carter

Monday, May 5th, 2008

100 Greatest Women

#61

Carlene Carter

A woman born into country music royalty who struggled with her legacy before finally embracing it and finding commercial and critical success. That’s a line that refers to more than one second-generation female country star, but none more than Carlene Carter.

Born the daughter of Carl Smith and June Carter, Carlene was either second or third generation country, depending on which side of her family you were looking at. She was twelve years old when her mother married Johnny Cash, but she had already grown up on the road, watching the matriarchs of her family perform on the road. She learned at a young age about the rapturous adoration that country music held for the Carter Family. By the time she was ready to pursue music herself, she chose her mother’s surname in a conscious effort to connect with the strong female history connected to it.

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