A Country Music Conversation: Introduction and Index
Previous Entry: Day 19: “Quittin’ Time” to “Seven Year Ache”
Day 20 features tracks from John Conlee, Chely Wright, Alan Jackson, Ricky Van Shelton, and David Nail.
“She Can’t Say That Anymore”
Written by Sonny Throckmorton
John Conlee’s records from the early eighties are fascinating to listen to. He’s clearly a traditionalist, but required to perform against the backdrop of the Urban Cowboy sound. The resulting contrasts between his vocals and the production help his work stand out among his peers of that time, most of whom sang in a way to blend in with the pop production, leaving any connection to country music tenuous at best.
Other Favorites: “Friday Night Blues,” “Backside of Thirty,” “I Don’t Remember Loving You”
“Shut Up and Drive”
Written by Rivers Rutherford, Annie Tate, and Sam Tate
Chely Wright’s breakthrough hit remains her strongest recording to date. As always, I’m a fan of lines that seem so obviously true that you can’t believe you’ve never heard them used before: “He’s the one who will be missing you, and you’ll only miss the man that you wanted him to be.”
Other Favorites: “Scars,” “What if I Can’t Say No Again,” “The Love That We Lost” (1996 version)
“So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore”
Written by Jay Knowles and Adam Wright
This one’s been among my top ten most played tracks for years now, trailing only a trio of Trisha Yearwood songs among country recordings. It’s that verse before the instrumental breakdown that gets me every time: “When the wine you’re drinking leads you to thinking that you want what we had before/Girl, you can call me, I’ll let it ring and ring, so you don’t have to love me anymore.”
Other Favorites: “Monday Morning Church,” “Blue Ridge Mountain Song,” “Here in the Real World”
Ricky Van Shelton
Written by Joe Chambers and Larry Jenkins
When conversations are had about the best song sleuths and preservers of tradition in country music, Ricky Van Shelton’s name is too often left out of the conversation. His first few albums showcase curating skills that rival Emmylou Harris at her peak, and he always knew how to make an old-time country song sound fresh, and a fresh song, like “Somebody Lied,” sound like old-time country.
Other Favorites: “I’ll Leave This World Loving You,” “I Meant Every Word He Said,” “Keep it Between the Lines”
“The Sound of a Million Dreams”
Written by Scooter Carusoe and Phil Vassar
Another beautiful song about songs. In this case, how they motivate an artist to do the hard labor of creating them, in hope of changing someone else’s life the way his favorite songs have changed his.
Other Favorites: “That’s How I’ll Remember You,” “Red Light,” “Turning Home”
Up Next: Day 21: “The Sound of Goodbye” to “Strawberry Wine”
Chely Wright – Notes to the Coroner – superb.
And Single White Female which my daughter played at her wedding.
Conlee – Rose Colored Glasses, Friday Night Blues, Miss Emily’s Picture, Old School
Jackson – Don’t Rock The Jukebox, Livin’ On Love, Gone Country, Little Bitty, Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning, That’d Be Alright, Good Time, entire Precious Memories collection
Nail – I’m About to Come Alive, Red Light, Let It Rain, Sound of a Million Dreams, Whatever She’s Got, Night’s On Fire
I pulled out LET ME IN just yesterday. Not to hear “Shut Up and Drive,” but rather the criminally overlooked “Emma Jean’s Guitar.” I’m appreciating the Matraca Berg album cuts more than the hits, at this point. Trisha Yearwood’s backing vocal, which I hadn’t noticed until yesterday, is stunning. I’m similarly obsessed with Pam Tillis’ perfect recording of “Calico Plains.”
Besides Sound of a Million Dreams, some of my Nail favorites include Red Light, Babies, Burnin Bed and Half Mile Hill.
AJ favs: Where Were You, Gone Country, Real World, Little Man and It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (w Jimmy Buffett who turns 70 on Christmas Day.)
Always liked Shut Up and Drive. Thanks to JPap for mentioning Emma Jean’s Guitar which I had forgotten about. It was written by Matraca Berg, Gary Harrison and Jeff Hanna.
David Nail – The Secret.
Chely: “Jezebel”. There are a number of female artists who have been given the shaft by country radio over the last decade and a half, but Chely surely got it worse than most because of what and who she was…and that was demonstrably unfair (IMHO)
All of these artists are represented in my music library. Favorites by each include:
John Coulee – Friday Night Blues, Backside of Thirty, Old School
Chely Wright – Shut Up and Drive
Alan Jackson – (Who Says) You Can’t Have It All, Tonight I Climbed the Wall, The Blues Man
RVS – Backroads and Where Was I
David Nail – Galveston
Alan Jackson: Selecting a favorite Alan Jackson song is almost an exercise in futility as almost anything he has recorded becomes a favorite. That being said, I will always go first to Midnight At Montgomery. I love, too, his current album, Angels and Alcohol, with favorites from that being When God Paints and Mexico, Tequila and Me. Also, he has done great duets with Martina McBride and George Strait.
David Nail. David’s talent staggers me. I fail to understand why, as popular as he is, that he is not more popular. My favorite song of his has to be Brand New Day, inspired as I understand it, by a walk through my home city of Boston. (The backups on this single by Aubrie Sellers don’t hurt!) I also Love Red Light, his current track with Lori McKenna called Home and also another current track called Old Man’s Symphony. David also did a cover of Glenn Campbell’s great and moving song, Galveston, with Lee Ann Womack that is fabulous. (How could anything with Lee Ann Womack not be?) As a quality songwriter and performer, David nearly has no peer.
Playlist updated, sorry for the delay.
Alan Jackson was among the first artists that got me into country music. “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” was airing on CMT, and my nearly teenage mind thought: every respectable country gentleman must have a mustache. Of course, Strait, Paisley, Toby Keith and more proved otherwise.
My guilty favourite of Alan’s is Good Time, but that doesn’t really do justice to his deep backcatalog. For songs of the heart, I’ll go with the life-spanning Remember When. Hope to find more substantive ones like So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore – I should add, Alan appeared sans mustache in the music video :)
Maybe it was the pop production on it, but I never would have guessed “She Can’t Say That Anymore” was a Sonny Throckmorton song. You just can’t go wrong with most John Conlee; my favorites from him are “Miss Emily’s Picture,” “I Don’t Remember Loving You,” “In My Eyes,” “As Long As I’m Rockin’ With You,” “Working Man,” and “Old School.” (The less said about “Domestic Life,” the better, though.)
That Chely Wright album was criminally underrated. It had some great songs on it, from some of Nashville’s finest songwriters. Favorites from it were “Emma Jean’s Guitar,” “I Already Do,” “Before You Lie,” and her cover of “Feelin’ Single and Seein’ Double.”
(My country music education came later in life; I did not know for many years that it was a cover of an Emmylou Harris song. I like her version as well.)
Never was big on “I Meant Every Word He Said,” but “Somebody Lied” remains to the day my favorite RVS tune, and one of my favorite songs from that era overall.
I probably should give AJ’s later work more spins. Lord knows I love him, and I stand behind no one in my respect of him for his allegiance to traditional country, but I think he probably peaked with Who I Am and only with Drive has he gotten to that same level. Everything between those two albums (with the exception of his covers album) and after Drive, as a whole, has been kinda meh to me.