Tag Archives: Porter Wagoner

Top Twenty Albums of 2011, Part One: #20-#11

The country music umbrella stretched wider than ever this year, regardless of the fact that radio playlists seem shorter than ever.

Of course, it’s not just the Americana acts that can’t get radio play these days. Even top-selling albums by Scotty McCreery and Alison Krauss & Union Station weren’t embraced.

Country Universe editors and contributors each submitted a list of their ten favorite albums of 2011.  31 different albums were included on our lists, and over the next two days, we’ll share with you our collective top twenty.

Top Twenty Albums of 2011, Part One: #20-#11

#20
Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail
Noam Pikelny

His tenure with the Punch Brothers and his winning of the first annual “Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass” in 2010 both earned Noam Pikelny the clout to release Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail, his second solo album and first since 2004. Joined by an all-star roster of fellow pickers, Pikelny’s mostly instrumental set is a showcase both for its lead artist’s extraordinary technical skills and for the banjo’s wide-ranging potential. – Jonathan Keefe

Individual Rankings:  Jonathan – #4

Recommended Tracks: “Fish and Bird” featuring Aoife O’Donovan, “Boathouse on the Lullwater,” “My Mother Thinks I’m a Lawyer”

#19
The King is Dead
The Decemberists

The indie favorites take their hyper-literate brand of folk-rock for a rustic spin, achieving new concision in the process. Colin Meloy’s wild narratives and wilder lexical choices sound right at home in these short-and-sweet song designs, and the Americana field is richer for having them. – Dan Milliken

Individual Rankings: Dan – #4

Recommended Tracks: “Don’t Carry It All,” “June Hymn”

#18
Concrete
Sunny Sweeney

That solo women disappeared from country radio was one of 2011’s major talking points within the genre, but Sunny Sweeney’s Concrete provided some of the most compelling evidence that it wasn’t a lack of strong material that kept female artists off radio playlists. Balancing a keen traditionalist bent with a thoroughly modern point-of-view, Sweeney’s fully-drawn characters and clever spins on familiar country tropes proved that an album that sounds “radio friendly” doesn’t have to be light on actual substance or craft. – Jonathan Keefe

Individual Rankings: Ben – #3

Recommended Tracks: “Amy,” “From a Table Away,” “Fall for Me”

#17
It’s Already Tomorrow
Foster and Lloyd

Their first time around, Foster and Lloyd were one of the coolest country acts going, blending in a love of traditional country music with some ’60s post-British Invasion rock vibes. It’s Already Tomorrow, their first album in 20 years, shows an impressive return to form. Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd have released some terrific solo albums, but there is a definite magic that happens when they record as a duo. – Sam Gazdziak

Individual Rankings: Sam – #2

Recommended Tracks: “Picasso’s Mandolin,” “That’s What She Said,” “Can’t Make Love Make Sense”

#16
This is My Blood
The Dirt Drifters

As mainstream country music becomes increasingly slick and polished, it’s a refreshing change to hear something gritty and rough around the edges. The Dirt Drifters’ debut on Warner Bros. certainly qualifies. If you’re looking for country-rock that takes its cue from run-down country roadhouses instead of ’80s arena rock, this album is for you. – Sam Gazdziak

Individual Rankings: Sam – #3; Dan – #10

Recommended Tracks: “Always a Reason,” “Married Men and Motel Rooms,” “Hurt Somebody”

#15
Ghost to a Ghost/Gutter Town
Hank III

Hank III’s entire artistic persona is built on indulging in every type of excess he can think of, so it was hardly a shock when, for his first recordings after a less-than-amicable departure from Curb Records, he dropped four full-length albums of new material on the same day. While not all of his ideas are good ones– the less said about Cattle Callin’, the better– the double-album Ghost to a Ghost / Gutter Town proves that Hank III is driven to his spectacular highs not just by the various recreational drugs circulating through his bloodstream but also by a real fearlessness and creativity and a sense of respect for his bloodline. – Jonathan Keefe

Individual Rankings: Jonathan – #1

Recommended Tracks: “Don’t Ya Wanna,” “Musha’s,” “Dyin’ Day”

#14
Ghost on the Canvas
Glen Campbell

A late-in-life swan song by an icon acutely aware of their own mortality. That’s a fitting description of so many of the best country albums in recent years. This is the best of that subgenre since Porter Wagoner’s Wagonmaster. – Kevin John Coyne

Individual Rankings: Kevin – #5; Dan – #6

Recommended Tracks: “There’s No Me…Without You”, “Ghost on the Canvas”

#13
Chief
Eric Church

On the heels of an album that was largely a hit or miss affair, Church delivers a surprisingly electric third album, marked by its edgy sonic splash. But while its spin on country rock is undeniably enticing –a funky mix of swampy, trippy and punchy—the album’s soul is Church himself, a more believable artist this time around than most of his contemporaries. Because for all its hard ass sentiment, Chief actually walks the walk, as authentic as it is audacious. Outlaw in the making? Probably, but don’t tell Church I said so. – Tara Seetharam

Individual Rankings: Tara – #4; Sam – #6; Leeann – #10; Jonathan – #10

Recommended Tracks: “Hungover & Hard Up,” “Keep On,” “Creepin’”

#12
Long Line of Heartaches
Connie Smith

What more can you ask for? Purely straightforward and unadulterated country songs delivered by the finest vocalist the genre has ever been privileged to call its own. Smith’s own co-writes with husband and producer Marty Stuart (The title track, “I’m Not Blue,” “Pain of a Broken Heart”) sit comfortably alongside top-notch cover material penned by Harlan Howard, Johnny Russell, and Dallas Frazier, all backed by the sweet sounds of fiddle and steel aplenty. Long Line of Heartaches is a beautiful reminder of what country music once was, and could be again. – Ben Foster

Individual Rankings: Ben – #2; Jonathan – #5

Recommended Tracks: “Long Line of Heartaches,” “I’m Not Blue,” “Ain’t You Even Gonna Cry”

#11
Your Money and My Good Looks
Gene Watson and Rhonda Vincent

There was no chance that this collaboration of straight up country songs between Gene Watson and Rhonda Vincent was going to garner any attention from mainstream country music outlets. However, thanks to memorable songs, pure country production and Watson and Vincent reverently following the spirit of classic country duet albums of the past, this project was surely one of the stand out albums of the year. – Leeann Ward

Individual Rankings: Leeann – #2; Ben – #5

Recommended Tracks: “You Could Know as Much from a Stranger,” “My Sweet Love Ain’t Around”

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Retro Single Review: George Strait, “The Chair”

1985 | Peak: #1

Want to separate the real deals from the posers?

Ask them to sing “The Chair.” There isn’t a hat act out there who could measure up to Strait’s delivery of this song.

It may not have the emotional heft of  George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” or Porter Wagoner’s “Green, Green Grass of Home,”  but Strait’s delivery shares an important commonality with those classics. The song remains fresh and interesting even after you know the twist at the end.

That’s the hallmark of a great storyteller.

Written by Hank Cochran and Dean Dillon

Grade: A

Next: You’re Something Special to Me

Previous: The Fireman

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Nh-NsqBsGE

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Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “Burning the Midnight Oil”

1972 | Peak: #11

A good old-fashioned cheating song, from the days when songs such as this were very much in fashion.

It’s not as interesting or deeply layered as Barbara Mandrell’s “The Midnight Oil”, released the following year.   But it’s a more believable pairing than most of the duets they sent to radio in this time period.

Written by Porter Wagoner

Grade: B

Listen

Next: Touch Your Woman

Previous: Coat of Many Colors

 

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Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “The Right Combination”

1971 | Peak: #14

The song itself is fairly generic, typical of the Wagoner/Parton love songs that never sound quite as believable as their other songs.

But this one works better because Parton is fully flowering as a vocalist.  Her vocal trills sound so heartfelt that they add that dose of genuine passion that earlier duets were lacking.

Written by Porter Wagoner

Grade: B+

Next: My Blue Tears

Previous: Comin’ For to Carry Me Home

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQlt5q0lqR0

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Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “Better Move It On Home”

1971 | Peak: #7

A few too many elements in the mix here.

The arrangement is like “Joshua” with a horn section.  It overwhelms the humorous dialogue.

It doesn’t help that they don’t sound like they’re in on the joke.  They go for deadpan but fall short, and end up sounding a bit too serious in the end.

Written by Ray Griff

Grade: C

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgCa79RaO_c

 

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Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man”

1970 | Peak: #40

It’s a shame that radio didn’t embrace this one.

Parton’s sympathetic lyrical portrait of a southern preacher deftly weaves classic gospel songs into its lyrics.   There was an old-timey quality to her duets with Wagoner anyway, so the subject matter lends itself quite well to the old-fashioned production.

By now, we’re at the point where Parton’s gift as a writer has transcended any form of normalcy.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: B+

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDgispWqGSA

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Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, “Mule Skinner Blues (Blue Yodel No. 8)”

1970 | Peak: #3

This yodel-laden cover of an early country music standard gave Parton her highest charting single to date, with or without Porter.

She sings the fire out of it, and it’s easy to imagine it standing out sharply from everything else on the radio in 1970.

But as the new single included on a compilation of her best singles and album tracks to date, it sounds trite.  That’s the inevitable result of writing “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy”, “Just Because I’m a Woman”, and “Down From Dover.”

Written by Jimmie Rodgers and George Vaughn

Grade: B

httpv://youtu.be/-oco3cZ8IYM

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Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “Tomorrow is Forever”

1970 | Peak: #9

Another one of their matronly love songs.

“Tomorrow is Forever” has a few glorious moments in the chorus, where the melody swills like the best early Tammy Wynette records, but the rest of the record goes on forever.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: C

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nB1rqlqCPX8

 

 

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Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “Just Someone I Used to Know”

1969 | Peak: #5

Originally a hit for George Jones as “A Girl I Used to Know”,  their effective cover gave Porter & Dolly their second top five hit.

The harmonies are beautiful, and the steel guitar works wonders.  You can hear Parton growing as a vocalist during the moments that Wagoner gets out of the way, and when Parton takes a back seat, it’s clear that Wagoner is in his singing prime.

The song’s become a standard, so it feels odd to nitpick over its flaws.  But I have to say that what holds this record back is the questionable horn section. Thankfully, they only disrupt the song at its opening and its closing.

Written by Jack Clement

Grade: A-

Listen: Just Someone I Used to Know

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esEu6zfcdlc

 

 

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Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “Always, Always”

1969 | Peak: #11

Far too polite and matronly to make for an interesting country record.

“Always, Always” plays more like an Episcopalian church hymn, with two singers pledging their love so antiseptically that they might as well be promising to pick up milk and eggs on the way home from work.

Written by Joyce McCord

Grade: C-

Listen: Always, Always

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUJ_2jlnvPQ

 

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