Keith Whitley

Traditional Country is a Link in a Long Chain

June 30, 2009 // 23 Comments

The following is a guest contribution from Scott O’Brien.

“But someone killed tradition. And for that someone should hang.” –Larry Cordle & Larry Shell, “Murder on Music Row”

Dan Milliken’s recent post got me thinking: The country music I grew up with is nothing like the music on country radio today. If I turned on today’s country radio in 1988, I might not realize it was a country station and keep right on flipping. Back then, Randy Travis and Keith Whitley’s traditional twang ruled the airwaves. Today, they are dominated by the giggly teeny-bopper ditties of Taylor Swift and the boy band sounds of Rascal Flatts. Did they get away with murder on music row? Well, let’s start by briefly uncovering country’s traditional roots.

What is traditional country music? Is it simply anything from the past? That seems too broad; Shania Twain wasn’t traditional. Anything before 1990? Maybe, but that is still a rather wide net. To me, traditional country music is honky-tonk music. It heavily employs steel guitars, fiddles, and forlorn vocals. It moves at a slow pace. There are no drums or electric guitars. The songs typically deal with heavy topics such as heartbreak, cheating, or drinking, with a ballad here and there. In most cases, the goal is to induce pain. Not bad pain, but the therapeutic empathy that tugs your heart and helps you through your personal struggles. The patron saint of traditional country is Hank Williams. Hank’s first disciple is George Jones. Jones’ first disciple is Alan Jackson. The traditional template is supposed to help us decipher what is country and what is not. After all, what makes country music country if not fiddles and cheatin’ songs?

Grammy Flashback: Best Male Country Vocal Performance

January 19, 2009 // 10 Comments

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 year, the 45th trophy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance will be awarded. In a continuation of our Grammy Flashback series, here is a rundown of the Best Country Vocal Performance, Male category. It was first awarded in 1965, and included singles 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. As usual, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back. Be sure to vote in My Kind of Country’s Best Male Country Vocal Performance poll and let your preference for this year’s race be known! Read More

CMA Flashback: Horizon Award (New Artist)

November 9, 2008 // 14 Comments

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. 2008 Jason Aldean Rodney Atkins Lady Antebellum James Read More

CMA Flashback: Male Vocalist

November 1, 2008 // 6 Comments

For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page. 2010 Dierks Bentley Brad Paisley Blake Shelton George Strait Keith Urban Bentley and Shelton have never won, but they’re up against Strait, who has won five times, and Paisley and Urban, who’ve won three times each.  With the balance of commercial and critical success not significantly different across the category, this race could bring the night’s biggest surprise. But whatever happens, kudos to Paisley for earning his tenth nomination, and Strait for earning his twenty-fifth! 2009 Kenny Chesney Brad Paisley Darius Rucker George Strait Keith Urban Just like in the Entertainer category, 80% of this race for the past three years had been Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, and Keith Urban. This year, Darius Rucker took the fifth slot that was occupied by Alan Jackson in 2008 and Josh Turner in 2007.  Brad Paisley went Read More

Keith Whitley or Alison Krauss & Union Station, “When You Say Nothing At All”

September 25, 2008 // 19 Comments

When You Say Nothing At All Keith Whitley or Alison Krauss & Union Station 1988/1995 Written by Paul Overstreet & Don Schlitz Sometimes, silence says it best. With “When You Say Nothing at All,” written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, the magic is in the calm and the quiet. The song was a poetic ode to the desperately devoted, and countless people connected with the simple song of love’s mysterious ways. In the narrator’s view, love is often at its most powerful when no words are needed, and even the wordsmith Webster couldn’t define the divine emotion. The song’s multiple readings have resulted in uniquely different takes on the graceful lyric. The two most notable recordings sprung from a troubled singer whose music continues to impact audiences twenty years after his death, and a pure vocalist whose heavenly strains have enraptured country and bluegrass devotees for almost two decades.

Keith Whitley, “I’m No Stranger to the Rain”

September 22, 2008 // 7 Comments

I’m No Stranger to the Rain Keith Whitley 1989 Written by Sonny Curtis and Ron Hellard With a whiskey-soaked voice and a traditional bent towards the modern sounds of Nashville, Keith Whitley was a brightly burning star in the country music constellation, one that fell dark far too soon. But his legacy as one of the preeminent singers of his generation is secure due to songs such as his 1989 classic “I’m No Stranger to the Rain.” Written by Sonny Curtis and Ron Hellard, the song encourages perseverance over pain. In the song, Whitley openly admits that impending doom is a daily fixture in his life. As Whitley explains, I’m no stranger to the rain I can spot bad weather And I’m good at finding shelter in a downpour I’ve been sacrificed by brothers Crucified by lovers But through it all I withstood the pain I’m no stranger to the Read More

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