There’s a term that has gathered strength over the past decade: the quarter-life crisis. It describes that phase in life where the idealism of what you thought your life would be collides with what reality has in store for you. Reconciling the two is needed to get beyond this point of life, and adulthood completely sets in once such reconciliation has been accomplished.
Country Universe is a site where timeless artists like Patty Loveless are not merely acknowledged, but embraced and celebrated. So when Leeann invited me to review my favorite artist’s Brownfield Maine concert as a guest contributor, I jumped at the chance. Thank you so much Leeann, Kevin and Country Universe for giving me this opportunity. And Leeann and Bill, it was a joy and an honor to join you folks for dinner and watch the concert with you. You both made this already memorable concert experience even more unforgettable for me, along with patty-loveless.net associates Nicole, Richard and Patti, and the following day Bob and Barbara, Kevin. And also, Marcia Ramirez from Patty’s band. Many, many thanks to all.
Patty Loveless at the Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield Maine
July 3, 2009
Nestled in the northern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains, Brownfield Maine’s Stone Mountain Arts Center is a beautiful and intimate 200 seat converted barn turned listening room. It has a warm and rustic ambiance, and a very helpful staff. The wood beam framed building makes for a rich acoustical setting, almost like a giant, wooden resonator box. It is a hard place to find out there in the Maine wilderness, but well worth the effort, especially to enjoy artists and legends like Patty Loveless, Ralph Stanley, Marty Stuart, Suzy Boggus and Kathy Mattea. Think of it as a quest.
For a good stretch in the nineties, women were the dominant creative force in country music. Songwriter Matraca Berg was an indispensable component of that dominance, penning many of the biggest hits and best-loved tracks by signature acts like Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, and Martina McBride.
It’s no surprise that this list of Favorite Songs written by Matraca Berg is almost completely composed of female artists. So distinguished is Berg’s catalog that worthy cuts by the Dixie Chicks, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Gretchen Wilson just missed the list. Even Berg herself is only present with one performance, despite releasing several outstanding recordings in her own right.
But the beauty of these lists is that these are my own favorite songs, so I don’t have to force anything on to the list just to make it more well-rounded. Add your own favorites in the comments, and read Matraca’s 100 Greatest Women profile to learn more about this stunning songwriter.
“Wild Angels” – Martina McBride
Wild Angels, 1995
This was meant to be the title cut of an album that Berg never released. Instead, the cut went to Martina McBride. It was McBride’s first #1 single, and listening to it today, it sounds remarkably rough around the edges for an artist who’d eventually become an AC radio staple.
“Fool, I’m a Woman” – Sara Evans
No Place That Far, 1998
Berg’s writing can be effortlessly snarky, as evidenced by this breezy Sara Evans track that was a minor hit in 1999. “Did I say that I’d never leave you behind?” she queries. “Well, just keep treating me unkind. ‘Cause fool, I’m a woman, and I’m bound to change my mind.”
“When a Love Song Sings the Blues” – Trisha Yearwood
Real Live Woman, 2000
Trisha Yearwood is Berg’s finest vessel, the only voice elegant enough to equal Berg’s words. This melancholy closer to Yearwood’s excellent Real Live Woman set finds the protagonist seeking solace in a dusty old piano, playing “Faded Love” and “Born to Lose” so she doesn’t have to cry alone.
I’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.
I 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.
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 Read More
Suzy Bogguss Sweet Danger 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.
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 Read More
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 Read More