Tag Archives: Wynonna Judd

Single Review: The Judds, “I Will Stand By You”

In theory, Wynonna Judd has the gravitas to pull off a feisty inspirational song like “I Will Stand By You,” the kind that builds on momentum and resolve instead of hope and compassion. And the lyrics, though clichéd, aren’t necessarily enough to kill the song’s spirit – because who better than Wynonna to breathe fire and energy into nondescript lyrics?

Only she doesn’t. Her performance misses the mark on all accounts: she blasts her notes with so much splashy aggression that they can barely find their pitch, and her phrasing is painfully affected (what’s with the varying pronunciations of the word “you”?). Gone is her soulful conviction and unshakeable control; in its place is a voice that begs for a recharge. And then there’s Naomi Judd’s harmony vocals, which manage to be both barely there and glaringly off-key.

The vocals are so off-putting that they almost completely mask the semi-cool arrangement, which weaves in a tinge of Celtic flavoring – a little Mary Chapin Carpenter, a little Keith Urban. Some vocal fine-tuning might have allowed this driving production to make a more powerful impact.

Given that this is The Judds’ first single in over a decade –charity single or not– it’s a shame you have to wonder how many times the ladies went through this in the studio. What’s your guess? I know mine.

Written by Steven Lee Olsen, Robert Ellis Orrall & Angelo Petraglia

Grade: D+

Listen: I Will Stand By You

Buy:

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Bargain Hunter: Get Lorrie Morgan’s brand New Album, A Moment in Time, for $3.99

It seems that 2009 has been a year of covers albums. Artists such as Aaron Tippin, Wynonna Judd, Tanya Tucker, and Rosanne Cash have all released worthwhile albums that have celebrated the songs of yesteryear within the last year. Now, to add to the list, Lorrie Morgan has just released her own tribute to tradition with a brand new project called A Moment in Time.

I don’t know about all of you, but this one almost slipped under the radar for me. As one of the middle tier female singers in the nineties, Morgan proved herself capable of singing various styles of music, but her love of and respect for traditional country music always lurked under the surface. So, this should be a welcome addition to the covers craze of 2009.

For an unknown amount of time, you can buy Morgan’s album of covers for just $3.99 at Amazon’s digital store.

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Clint Black Starter Kit

clint_black1Clint Black burst onto the country music landscape with the famed Class of ’89, as one of the group’s leading members. With his neo-traditionalist sound, he caught people off guard with his uncanny channeling of his hero, Merle Haggard.

As time passed, we would quickly learn that Black was his own man as he earned two triple Platinum albums, four Platinum albums and one gold album. Moreover, he would soon establish his own sound, which the country music audience was more than willing to accept.

Ten Essential Tracks

“A Better Man”
From the 1989 album Killin’ Time

It is impossible not to include Clint Black’s first single in his Starter Kit. Not only is it a great song from a seminal album, it sprung to the top of the charts and introduced people to a voice that eerily resembled that of Merle Haggard’s.

“Killin’ Time”
From the 1989 album Killin’ Time

Black was known for his clever wordplay, which showed up in “Killin’ Time” with “This Killin’ time is Killin’ me.”

“Put Yourself in My Shoes”
From the 1990 album Put Yourself in My Shoes

This bluesy song pleads for understanding and forgiveness in a failed relationship. He boldly proclaims: “Put yourself in my shoes/Walk a mile for me/I’ll put myself in your shoes/Maybe then we’d see/That if you put yourself in my shoes/You’d have some sympathy/And if I could only put myself in your shoes/I’d walk right back to me.”

“Burn One Down”
From the 1992 album The Hard Way

This is just a cleverly written song all around. It demonstrates Black’s intriguing poetic ability.

“A Bad Goodbye” (with Wynonna Judd)
From the 1993 album No Time to Kill

As Clint seems to do very well on his duets, he leans into this emotional song with full force. Of course, Wynonna Judd is always a force to be reckoned with, but both of them aptly capture the complicated emotion of loving someone but no longer being in love.

“No Time to Kill”
From the 1993 album No Time to Kill

In this dobro and fiddle laden tune, Clint revisits the theme of killing time. This time, he determines that there’s no time to kill.

“State of Mind”
From the 1993 album No Time to Kill

Clint’s harmonica chops are displayed on this catchy song, especially on the album version. The song is built around the simple, yet factual, observation: “Ain’t it funny how a melody can bring back a memory/Take you to another place in time/Completely change your state of mind?”

“Untanglin’ My Mind”
From the 1994 album One Emotion

Can you imagine a song like this being played on today’s country radio? What’s more, can you imagine a Merle Haggard co-write reaching the top five on today’s country charts? Apparently, both were possible in the mid nineties. Those were the days, weren’t they?

“Still Holding On” (with Martina McBride)
From the 1997 album Nothin’ But the Taillights

Clint Black isn’t immune from veering away from the neo-traditional sound, especially toward the latter half of his career. This is a straight pop country ballad done well, particularly thanks to killer vocal performances by both Black and Martina McBride.

“Something that We Do”
From the 1997 album Nothin’ But the Taillights

Clint extols the simple truth that love is a verb: “It’s not just something that we have; it’s something that we do.” At the time of this song’s release, I was pretty bored by its simple melody. It wasn’t until my adulthood that I truly understood the sentiment.

Two Hidden Treasures

“Our Kind of Love”
From the 1997 album Nothin’ but the Taillights

Clint has a version of this gorgeous song with Carolyn Dawn Johnson, but this rootsy version featuring Alison Krauss is superior.

“Hand in the Fire”
From the 1999 album D’Lectrified

This whole album is a gem that was somewhat overlooked, though it still reached gold status. As the album title cleverly indicates, this is his version of an unplugged project. He reworks some of his old hits and adds some originals as well. This is one of the standout originals, which is a fun, matter-of-fact, declaration of love.

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Filed under Back to the Nineties, Starter Kits

CMA Music Festival 2009: Memory Grab Bag

dsc000011I have to start with a disclaimer: I attended my first CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee, as a fan –a crazy, passionate, kid-in-a-candy-store fan– and nothing more. So rather than offer you a full review of the festival, which I don’t think I can adequately do, I instead present you with a narrow but meaningful sampling of my favorite memories from the week.

Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley rock rain-soaked stadium until 2 a.m.

After a three-hour rain delay at LP Field Thursday night, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley played well into the morning to make up for the lost time. Despite the delay being somewhat poorly handled by management, an impressively large crowd of dedicated fans,  draped in ponchos and drenched in humidity, waited around until after midnight for the concert to resume.

It was well worth the wait, as Bentley and Paisley delivered outstanding, high-energy performances and reminded me once again that there is legitimate, authentic talent in mainstream country music. In a fitting closing, Bentley joined Paisley on an extended version of his novelty hit “Alcohol,” during which the tourmates played on each other’s good-natured wit and kept the crowd on its feet until the last note.

Carrie Underwood soars on “Stand By Your Man”

In 2006, Carrie Underwood performed Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” on the Grand Ole Opry stage, surprising Idol skeptics with her spot-on rendition. Three years later, she reprised her performance for the first time at her 2009 fan club party, as requested by her fans. She sang it brilliantly, with graceful conviction and emphasis on the natural “cry” in her voice, reminiscent of the female country greats.

The icing on the cake was Underwood’s admission that she’d love to record “Stand By Your Man” on a country classics album one day, along with an earlier admission that she’d been thinking about recording an album of hymns – two items high on most fans’ wish lists. Considering the other songs on her fan club party set list ranged from a rousing, acoustic “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to an impeccable “How Great Thou Art,” I think there are few limits to Underwood’s potential and depth as an artist, and I could not be more thrilled for her future in country music.

Tara falls in love with the Grand Ole Opry

I know, I know; it’s irrelevant to the festival, but the Opry was such an acutely special part of my Nashville experience that I just had to include it. I caught the Tuesday night show, featuring a wonderful mishmash of traditional and contemporary performances by artists such as the Charlie Daniels Band, Trace Adkins, Ricky Skaggs and Little Big Town.

But it was the entirety of the experience that really got to me: I was surprised to find that the Opry House itself, as a venue, is epic and intimate all at once, leaving you feeling like you’re experiencing something very grand that was crafted just for you. That personable quality, along with the Opry’s palpable energy and richly spiritual atmosphere, struck a particular chord inside me. Of all the live music venues I’ve been to, the Opry takes the cake.

The Judds reunion ends with an emotional “Love Can Build a Bridge”

I knew the rare mother-daughter reunion was going to be good when Naomi Judd joined Wynonna Judd on the LP Field stage sporting a hot pink, rhinestone-encrusted dress suit, and Wynonna turned to the audience, smirked and said: “some things never change.” And she was right, as the two masterfully charmed their way through a string of their 80s hits, ending with a poignant performance of “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

It’s a simple and incredibly sappy song, but it has timeless meaning, one that certainly wasn’t lost on the stadium crowd. The high point of the performance was the chilling chorus the entire audience sang a cappella, prompting Naomi to shed a few tears. You know ABC will never show a performance like that –one with social relevance but no 2009 pop culture relevance– on its three-hour special in August, but maybe that’s the kind of moment that isn’t meant to be broadcasted in living rooms across America.

The fans steal the show

Finally, for all its star power and talent, the CMA Music Festival really is fundamentally about the fans – the most passionate, tireless, supportive, ridiculously devoted people I’ve ever encountered, who blew me away with their spirit and unity. I’ve spent most of my life emotionally connecting to music and artists in ways that people around me don’t quite understand, so to be among thousands of fans who shared my exact sentiments was completely, overwhelmingly moving, and without a doubt the highlight of my week.

I met fans from all over the world, from Scotland to Canada to Australia, drawn to Nashville by good music and a chance to hang out with their favorite artists. To the CMA’s credit, the festival does an amazing job of fostering these reciprocal interactions between the fans and artists. I was skeptical about the festival actually feeling like a “thank you” to the fans, rather than a giant marketing effort, but I was quickly proven wrong by the genuine and even organic acts of the artists themselves.

The artists don’t have to participate in the charity events, much less sign autographs at them for hours, and they don’t have to hold fan club parties tailored to their fans’ interests. They don’t have to hug their fans or strike up conversations when they meet them at the convention center. Country artists don’t have to sincerely care about you in order to have successful careers (isn’t that evidenced by much of the entertainment industry?), but it seems most do.

And that’s why country music fans willingly continue to be the heart and soul of the industry. They request songs, buy albums, create street teams, spread positive messages, attend concerts, stream music videos, write to critics, rally around causes, camp out overnight on sidewalks, make T-shirts, support charities, vote for awards, write letters of encouragement…and the list goes on. They deserve respect and gratitude, and that, at its essence, is what the CMA Music Festival offers, in a way no other genre of music does.

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Discussion: 2009 Wish List

wynonna-singAnybody looking forward to particular releases next year?  Country Music Central is my go-to place for upcoming releases, and it looks like things are typically slow for the first quarter.

I’m looking forward to the  new Dierks Bentley and the Willie Nelson/Asleep at the Wheel collaboration.   The new year should also bring studio albums from Keith Urban and Tim McGraw.    More than anything else, I’d like some new music from Shania Twain and Faith Hill, who have gone quite a few years without a proper new album.

But what I’m most pumped for right now is the February release of Wynonna’s Sing – Chapter 1.   Listening to the samples below, this sounds like it will be the most interesting covers collection since Dwight Yoakam’s.


What releases are you looking forward to and hoping for in 2009?

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Joey + Rory, The Life of a Song

Joey + Rory
The Life of a Song

The husband and wife duo, Joey + Rory, have won over a legion of country music fans with their appearances on CMT’s Can You Duet? competition show. Reportedly, their love of traditional leaning country music and for each other was very palpable throughout the weeks on the competition.  Both Joey Martin and Rory Feek have had successful careers apart from their more recent musical partnership—Rory a successful Nashville songwriter (“Chain Of Love, “How Do You Get That Lonely”, “Some Beach”, “You Can Let Go”) and Joey a successful restaurant owner with Rory’s sister.

While the duo may have only finished in third place on the CMT show, they have signed a record deal with the highly esteemed Sugar Hill Records. As someone who did not catch any of the episodes of Can You Duet? at the time of their airings, it was the news of their deal with Sugar Hill Records that, ultimately, caught my attention. To me, Sugar Hill represents music with integrity, which is exactly what makes Joey + Rory’s debut project such a pleasant success.

While The Life Of A Song covers the themes of love, cheating and spirituality that are often associated with country music, there is plenty of cleverness and wit to elevate the album above typical country music fare. Of the most amusing songs on the project, the opening song entreats the music industry, radio and likely us, the critics, to simply “play the song.” While their message is likely serious to them as artists, their delivery is purposefully mixed with truth and fun rather than bitter confrontation: “And it’s too bad/if you ask me,/Our song’s gotta be so darn P.C/so DAMN P.C.”

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