A Country Music Conversation, Day 17: “9 to 5” to “Now I Know”

A Country Music Conversation: Introduction and Index

Previous Entry: Day 16: “Mine All Mine” to “A Night to Remember”

Day 17 features tracks from Dolly Parton, Iris DeMent, Radney Foster, Kim Richey, and Lari White.

“9 to 5”
Dolly Parton

Written by Dolly Parton

I think that Dolly Parton is the finest singer-songwriter of the 20th century, and probably the 21st, too. “9 to 5” is a catchy pop hit movie theme, bubbling over with her sunshine personality. But it’s also a dark indictment of corporate culture and the exploitation of workers, looking to find hope in each other as they wait for their ship to come in.  It’s a tribute to her talent as a writer and a performer that she can deliver such a message in such a way.

Other Favorites: “Coat of Many Colors,” “Shattered Image,” “Down From Dover”

“No Time to Cry”
Iris DeMent

Written by Iris DeMent

Iris DeMent is raw. There’s no other word to describe her as a singer and a writer. “No Time to Cry” is sometimes painful for me to listen to because it captures an essential truth about how we use work and responsibilities and a busy schedule to cope with grief. It’s not about healing. It’s about survival.

Other Favorites: “The Way I Should,” “Wasteland of the Free,” “Easy’s Getting Harder Every Day”

“Nobody Wins”
Radney Foster

Written by Radney Foster and Kim Richey

Radney Foster got some harmony help from Mary Chapin Carpenter on this intelligent hit, but the real MVP was co-writer Kim Richey, who burst on to the country music scene with her co-write here. Foster’s no slouch himself, as he’s known to write studies of the human character that choose insight over sentimentality. This is great talent in top form.

Other Favorites: “Not in My House,” “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams),” “Everyday Angel”

“Not a Love Like This”
Kim Richey

Written by Joan Osborne and Kim Richey

Fast forward more than a decade later, and Kim Richey already had several albums full of self-written songs that were chock full of gems. For whatever reason, the artists who love to cover her material have largely ignored Chinese Boxes. There’s a hit waiting for them if they check it out. “Not a Love Like This” has a build-up of intensity that approaches  that of those great sixties Wall of Sound hits. Richey’s songwriting is acclaimed, but she’s a hell of a singer, too.

Other Favorites: “I Know,” “Come Around,” “Those Words We Said”

“Now I Know”
Lari White

Written by Don Cook, Cindy Greene, and Chick Rains

The nineties were about building a bridge between the country heartbreak queens of yesterday and the self-realized independent women of the new millennium. Shania Twain rightly gets credit for completing the transition, but hits like this Lari White one laid the foundation for Twain’s point of view being embraced in country music.  Here, she just assumed all along that she’d be lost without her man if he ever left her.  He does, and she wakes up and realizes she’s just fine on her own. It doesn’t have the sonic boom of “Any Man of Mine,” but it’s an empowerment anthem just the same.

Other Favorites: “Lead Me Not,” “Tired,” “That’s How You Know (When You’re in Love)”

Up Next: Day 18: “Past the Point of Rescue” to “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way”


  1. Dolly is another artist where I could list 20 or more favorites. She rarely misses with me. Coat of Many Colors, Touch Your Woman, My Tennessee Mountain Home, Jolene, I Will Always Love You, Love Is Like a Butterfly, The Seeker, the entire Here You Come Again album, 9 To 5, But You Know I Love You, Tennessee Homesick Blues, and the three modern bluegrass albums between 1999 – 2002.

  2. Del Rio, TX 1959 was a great album from start to finish — “Just Call Me Lonesome” was my favorite of the singles from it, with “Don’t Say Goodbye” and “Louisiana Blue” being favorite album cuts — but “Everyday Angel” has been my favorite Radney Foster song, period, since the first time I heard it.

  3. I love that Lari White track and her first couple of albums.

    One of my favorites from that Foster album is “Closing Time”.

    And what can I say about Dolly? I could spend hours compiling a list of my favorite songs but the first four that come to mind are: What a Heartache (1984 version), Travelin’ Through, He’s Alive and Here You Come Again.

  4. Saw Kim Richey 20 yrs ago opening for Kathy Mattea at Westbury and then 5 yrs later at the Bottom Line w 4 other songwriters – my first time at a songwriter show. Favorites include “Don’t Let Me Down Easy”, “Those Words We Said”, “I’m Alright” and “From Where I Stand”.

    I just googled Dolly Parton and the first thing that comes up is about her raising millions for the Tennessee wildfire victims. I admire her more for that and her other charitable efforts over the years than for her singing. I’ve never been a big fan but I like a few of her songs like “9 to 5”, “Hard Candy Christmas” plus her Christmas album with KR.

    Re Iris Dement, one of my favorite Sunny Sweeney songs is her cover of “Mama’s Opry”.

    If I could only listen to one of the women in this group, it would be Lari White. Saw her 5 times at the BlueBird. What a voice. (I also prefer her sound to Shania.) Favorite LW songs include “Now I Know”, “That’s How You Know” (w background harmony by Hal Ketchum), “Just Thinking”, “Lead Me Not” and her duet w TT, “Helping Me Get Over You”.

    I like all your Radney Foster picks and would add “Angel Flight”, “What Are We Doing Here Tonight”, “Half of My Mistakes” and “Just Call Me Lonesome”. Finally got to see him earlier this year.

  5. Re. Dolly Parton: I think that giving spirit has always been a part of her, and you wish you could see more of it in a lot of other people. When you come from extreme poverty like she did to the kind of stardom unprecedented for any female country singer before her (and probably since as well), but you still remember what it was like to be at the bottom, you do want to give back to that part of the world that raised you in its time of greatest need. Kudos to Dolly.

    Other songs of Dolly’s I like: “Jolene”; “Heartbreaker”; “Two Doors Down”; “Baby I’m Burnin'” (no pun intended); “Sweet Summer Loving”; “You’re The Only One”; “Those Memories Of You” (with her Trio pals Linda and Emmylou).

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