Tag Archives: Suzy Bogguss

Favorite Songs by Favorite Songwriters: Darrell Scott

darrell-scottI’m pleased to introduce a new feature to Country Universe readers, which is a spin off of Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists called Favorite Songs by Favorite Songwriters.

While we all appreciate songwriters for their invaluable contributions to our favorite artists, they still often remain unrecognized as the people behind the scenes and, therefore, stand in the shadows of the big name artists who sing their songs. The purpose of this feature is to spotlight those songwriters who had or have aspirations of being stars, but are better known for sharing their craft with the more visible artists.

Therefore, the criteria for this feature is that the spotlighted songwriter has to have both written songs that other artists have recorded and recorded music of his/her own. For instance, Darrell Scott, Rodney Crowell, Radney Foster, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Robison, etc. are eligible songwriters, since they’ve recorded their own music and written songs for other artists. Conversely, people like Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Clint Black etc. won’t be eligible, since they’ve mostly only written songs for themselves and not others.

Finally, Favorite Songs by Favorite Songwriters will include a mix of songs that the songwriter has recorded, and songs that he/she has written that other artists have recorded, which will obviously depend on our favorite songs by that songwriter and our preferred version of the chosen song.

With this feature, we hope to help readers realize the contributions of individual songwriters and, perhaps, inspire you to explore the artists’ own discographies as a result.

Last summer I kicked off our Songwriters Series with my favorite modern country music songwriter, Darrell Scott. So, I thought it fitting to do the same with this new feature. Since I’ve already taken up considerable space describing this feature, I encourage you all to refer to my aforementioned spotlight to learn more about the man about which this article is written.

A pertinent note, however, is that most of the songs on this list have been recorded by both Scott and other artists. While the majority of the songs on this particular list will specifically refer to other artists, please assume that Scott’s own recordings are more than worth exploring as well.

#15

Darrell Scott, “Banjo Clark”
Aloha From Nashville

One of the things that I marvel the most about Darrell Scott is his ability to write songs that sound like timeless standards. “Banjo Clark” is one such song. In fact, I had to double check to make sure Scott had actually written this song and that it wasn’t a public domain standard that he revived.

#14

Tim McGraw, “Old Town New”
Live Like You Were Dying

Scott wrote “Old Town New” with another superb modern songwriter, Bruce Robison. So, it’s no surprise that this song about a man wishing that he could make his old town feel new again after a failed relationship is good. While it remained just an album cut on McGraw’s signature album, it’s as good as many of the singles that were released from it.

#13

Suzy Bogguss, “No Way Out”
Give Me Some Wheels

“No Way Out” is up-tempo, but is not devoid of life’s realities. The family experiences familiar hardships, but the husband and wife hold themselves accountable by reminding each other that they’ve “fell in love and there’s no way out.”

While Bogguss’ recording is the superior version, both Darrel Scott’s and Julie Roberts’ versions are good as well. Moreover, this is the first song of Scott’s that was recorded by another artist.

#12

Darrell Scott, “When There’s No One Around”

Family Tree

Garth Brooks recorded a version of “When There’s No One Around”, but Scott’s version is more organic and sonically appealing. It’s a poignant look at who we are when there’s no one around, which is inevitably different than our public personas.

#11

Travis Tritt, “It’s A Great Day to Be Alive”
Down the Road I Go

We  all know “It’s A Great Day to Be Alive”, since it was a big hit for Travis Tritt. This song has been recorded by Scott and Cory Morrow. Tritt’s is the definitive version, however. It tries to be hopeful while still somehow managing to feel a little bleak at the same time. While he proclaims that it’s a great day to be alive, there’s a sadness that lurks under the surface that seems to threaten the bright outlook, which is actually more tangible in Scott’s recording.

#10

Darrell Scott, “With A Memory Like Mine”

Real Time

“With A Memory Like Mine” was co-written with his dad, Wayne Scott. Darrell found the beginnings of this song in a notebook of his father’s and encouraged the Elder Scott to finish it with him. Scott’s version, which can be found on a solid project with Tim O’Brien, is darker than the quick paced recording by The John Cowan Band, which is more appropriate for this chillingly sad song. The man sends his son off to war by telling him to “be a good soldier/but return again someday.” His son does return, but in the most devastating way possible for a parent. In a casket.

#9

Martina McBride, “I’m Trying”

Shine

“I’m Trying” has been recorded by both Diamond Rio as a duet with Chely Wright and Martina McBride, though McBride’s is the stronger version. It explores a struggling relationship that almost seems like more work than it’s worth. Instead of leaving us with a typical happy or tragic ending, we are only given an assurance that they love each other and they are trying to make things work. The melody is tastefully simple with a fitting production that showcases McBride’s atypical restrained vocals, which translates into appropriate empathy for the characters within the song. It is a simple song with a simple production, but still poignant in a quiet way.

#8

Trace Adkins, “Someday”

More

Adkins is the only artist to record this song, as far as I know. It’s a beautiful and hopeful song, with tinges of sadness. As is duly noted about Adkins, he sings these more serious songs the best, even if radio disagrees.

#7

Dixie Chicks, “Heartbreak Town”

Fly

This is an indictment on Nashville, which is one of two songs written by Scott and recorded by The Chicks that tackles the topic. The song portrays Nashville, a place where so many people hope to enjoy success, as a “heartbreak town, which is something that both the Chicks and Scott have surely learned from personal experience.

#6

Kathy Mattea, “Loves Not Through With You Yet”

Right Out of Nowhere

I’m thrilled that one of my favorite Mattea albums includes this thoughtful, gorgeous Celtic flavored song by Darrell Scott: “You may think that love takes two, but loves a gift from you to you.”

#5

Sara Evans, “Born to Fly”

Born to Fly

Scott happened to write one of Sara Evans’ most recognizable and best hits to date. “Born to Fly” is an infectious coming of age song. While her parents are stable and grounded, that’s not the way the songs’ character wishes to live and she asks, “How do you keep your feet on the ground when you know you were born to fly?”

#4

Darryl Worley, “Family Tree”

I Miss My Friend

While many of Scott’s songs can be heavy, this is an example of his sillier side. Scott does a great version, but Worley cuts loose just the right amount. He clearly revels in singing deliciously smarmy lyrics like, “Well, raisin’ up babies is our new sport/You’re one day late and I’m one dollar short/Now, maybe it was planned or maybe it was a goof/But a cat’s got to dance on a hot tin roof.”

#3

Darrell Scott, “Goodle’ USA”

The Invisible Man

A more watered down version of this song can be heard on Faith Hill’s album. If one doesn’t listen closely, it’s easy to miss the probing lyrics that question the state of America. While Scott’s recording is not quite as polished, the political message is much more overt, which includes his original lyrics that were altered for Hill’s version to be less controversial.

#2

Dixie Chicks, “Long Time Gone”

Home

This is the other song that was written by Scott and recorded by The Chicks that takes Nashville to task. Wrapped in an unshakably catchy melody, “Long Time Gone” disregards conventional niceties and tersely critiques the music that’s being played on the radio:

“Now me and Delia singin’ every Sunday
Watchin’ the children and the garden grow
We listen to the radio to hear what’s cookin’
But the music ain’t got no soul

Now they sound tired but they don’t sound Haggard
They got money but they don’t have cash
They got Junior but they don’t have Hank
I think, I think, I think…the rest is…
A long Time Gone”

#1

Patty Loveless, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”

Mountain Soul

Patty Loveless’ recording of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” sounds like a superb arrangement of a forgotten classic, except it isn’t a remake and was written just over ten years ago. While I feel the definitive version was recorded by Patty Loveless, Darrell Scott has recorded two versions that, even if Loveless’ version did not exist, would earn a spot on this list. Through haunting lyrics and melodic structure, “Harlan” tells the tragic story of the bleak existence of coalminers that is just about inevitable:

“But the times got hard and tobacco wasn’t selling
And old granddad knew what he’d do to survive
He went and dug for Harlan coal
And sent the money back to grandma
But he never left Harlan alive

Where the sun comes up about ten in the mornin’
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you’ll fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you’re drinkin’
And you spend your life just thinkin’ of how to get away”

Patty Loveless sings this song with an immense emotional intensity that was likely gathered from personal experience as a daughter of a coalmining father who eventually succumbed to “Black Lung Disease” as a result of coalmining in Kentucky. In fact, each person who has sung this song so far, including Darrell Scott himself, has a personal and deep understanding of the significance of the hopelessness that the lyrics convey, since Brad Paisley, Kathy Mattea and Scott also lived in coalmining towns as children. Consequently, they were all exposed to the horrifying reality of the song’s title that authoritatively proclaims that “you’ll never leave Harlan Alive.”

This list certainly does not exhaust the extent of Darrell Scott’s immeasurable songwriting prowess, but it shows his wide range of capabilities as a diverse composer and lyricist. He can do fun, heartbreak, inspirational, political, social commentary, fast, slow, etc. Moreover, he does it all with poignancy and wit, as it is appropriate.

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The Beauty of Susan Boyle

susan-boyleI was going to connect this somehow to country music, perhaps by discussing K.T. Oslin’s sudden stardom at age 45, or seeing award show winners like Cal Smith or Suzy Bogguss completely stunned and humbled by the recognition of their talent.

But I’m really just sharing this because it made me smile broadly and think of the world as a better, brighter place.

Watch: Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent

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100 Greatest Women, #65: Suzy Bogguss

100 Greatest Women

#65

Suzy Bogguss

In the liner notes of her debut album, the legendary Chet Atkins wrote that “her voice sparkles like crystal water.” An apt description of Suzy Bogguss indeed. Her pure and clear voice has s always been a perfect fit for a wide range of material, whether she’s singing old Western songs or modern-day swing.

Bogguss was barely out of college when she started to follow her muse. With a group of friends, she spent the summer after her graduation criss-crossing the country with an amp and a guitar, going into random clubs and asking if she could play for the night in exchange for enough cash to cover expenses.

The novelty wore off quickly for her friends, who went back home when the summer was over, but Bogguss persevered. She recorded an LP to sell at her shows, and soon became a regular on the midwest coffeehouse circuit.

When she finally got up the gumption to move to Nashville, she put together a demo cassette. She got her big break when she landed a performance slot at a new theme park in 1986 – Dollywood. A label executive from Capitol Records caught her show, bought her cassette and offered her a contract.

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Suzy Bogguss, Sweet Danger

Suzy Bogguss
Sweet Danger

stars-4.gif

Four years after exploring Western swing on the appropriately titled Swing, Suzy Bogguss delves into contemporary jazz on her latest independent release, Sweet Danger, and once again, the title fits. While the musical arrangements are unfailingly sweet throughout the album, the lyrics enter some dangerous emotional territory. The result is a record that lulls you into complacency, then pulls the rug out from under you with its starkly confessional lyrics.

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A Conversation With Suzy Bogguss

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to talk with award-winning singer-songwriter Suzy Bogguss, who has a new album being released on September 4. Sweet Danger is a jazz-flavored project that showcases her trademark vocals in a brand new setting. As with my earlier interview with Pam Tillis, what starts off as a formal interview becomes more of a conversation about her music, in addition to some fantastic anecdotes along the way about everything from working with Chet Atkins to a special favor done by Kathy Mattea on her behalf…on the South Lawn of the White House!

Look for a review of Sweet Danger as the release date nears. You can stream the entire album at her website now.

A Conversation with Suzy Bogguss

I thought it was cool that the name of the album was Sweet Danger, because the music is very sweet and laid-back, but you go into some dangerous emotional territory on a few of the songs.
That’s exactly what I was hoping people would read into it. That’s great!

Let’s start off with the first single, “In Heaven,” which was written by your husband, Doug Crider. It was inspired by some friends of yours?
My best friend and her husband. It’s a long and hard story, but my friend had cancer and fought it for fifteen years. Her husband was really great through the whole process, absolutely amazing. They had a child in the middle of it and everything. When my friend, who was my roommate in college, passed away, Doug and I were talking about how we were really hoping some good things would happen for our friend, Gary. He had just been a champion through all of it, and he deserved some happiness in life. So that song came out Doug. He said he just sat down and it fell out. It was one of those inspired moments from something personal that happened.

Your performance of it is beautiful. A lot of the female singers today go for the power notes, and you have that clear quality to your voice which can convey the emotion without having to oversing.
You know, it wasn’t always that way. There was a point where I felt like I really was trying to compete with that just because that’s what was going on on the radio, and it really is not my gift. [Laughs] Some of the gals really have the gift of just being able to belt, and it’s not what I was given. I was given more of a clear voice. I’d be in live concerts and my voice would break, and I’d think, “Maybe I need to be concentrating on melodies that are more adapted to my voice.” In writing a lot of the songs, of course, you have a lot of control that way.

One thing that may surprise a lot of people is that you are a distinguished songwriter. The top song you have on iTunes is “Hey Cinderella,” which you wrote.
Really? I did not realize that!

You wrote that with Matraca Berg, right?
And Gary Harrison, yes.

You recently did the “Wine, Women and Song” tour over in England with her and Gretchen Peters.
That was just incredible. We’re going to have to do some here in the States because we had such a great time. Those two have written so many beautiful songs, and it was an awesome thing to be backing their vocals. It was just the three of us with the three guitars, and it was magical. U.K. audiences, they know every little detail about you and your songs. It really is a very personal experience getting over there and doing that. Of course, all of us being friends for so many years, it was pretty neat.

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Essential Viewing: Women of Country Special

CBS has a tendency to pull clips from this show down as soon as they’re up, so I highly recommend watching it now: the 1993 Women of Country documentary. It traces the history of women in country from the early days all the way through 1992. When it first aired, it was my crash course in the history of the genre, along with a celebration featuring female artists that all rank among my favorites.

The live performances are fantastic. Nearly every major female artist of that time performs: Suzy Bogguss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, Tanya Tucker. Michelle Wright, Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood. There are also performances from legends Emmylou Harris and Tammy Wynette, and an all-star finale.

However, the real reason to watch is to see the story of women in country music told by those who lived it, including some who are no longer with us today, like Wynette, June Carter Cash, Rose Maddox, Patsy Montana. The vintage clips of Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline and others are priceless.

For me, the most powerful moment is Jeannie C. Riley’s heartbreaking story of the beautiful layered dress that she had bought to wear to the 1968 CMA awards, where she would win Single of the Year for “Harper Valley P.T.A.” When she went to pick up her dress, it had been butchered into a miniskirt at the direction of her producer. Even 25 years later, she still remembers the humiliation. It’s really the perfect metaphor for how women had no control over their careers through most of the genre’s history. That’s in Part 10, at the 1:50 mark.

Here’s a list of all the videos. If you’re at all interested in country music’s past, it’s essential viewing.

Part 1: Introduction; performance of by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Part 2: Spirit of the Mountains; performance by Emmylou Harris.

Part 3: Heartsongs; performance by Trisha Yearwood.

Part 4: Cowgirls in a Man’s World; performance by Suzy Bogguss.

Part 5: Honky Tonk Angels; performance by Pam Tillis.

Part 6: Rockabilly; performance by Tanya Tucker.

Part 7: The Nashville Sound; performance by Lorrie Morgan.

Part 8: The Folk Revival; performance by Kathy Mattea.

Part 9: Heroines; performance by Tammy Wynette.

Part 10: Women Ascending; performance by Michelle Wright.

Part 11: New Country; performance by Patty Loveless.

Part 12: 80’s Ladies; performance by Wynonna.

Part 13: The Future: all-star finale.

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