Posts Tagged: country music

Sounds Enumerated

In 2014, not a single artist’s album has gone platinum. Not one has managed to cross that million sales mark.

One album has managed to sell over a million copies so far this year, but it’s a soundtrack. The ever-popular Frozen soundtrack may slowly be working its way down the charts, but it is by far the best selling collection this year. Though it doesn’t have any marquee names on it—those that are usually expected to sell the best—the soundtrack has managed to move 3.2 million copies so far, and with winter coming, that number is sure to rise.

The most popular album of 2014 that was actually released [...]


How to Be a Black Country Star

The Statler Brothers were a gospel band most famous for the years they spent as Johnny Cash's backup singers and opening act. In 1979, they released a song called "How to Be a Country Star." "There's questions," it began, "we're always hearing everywhere we go: like how do I cut a record or get on a country show?"

Their comical answer was a rambling list of what today we'd call shout outs: "learn to sing like Waylon or pick like Jerry Reed," "put a cry in your voice like Haggard," and "get a hip band like Willie." On and on the song goes, naming more names than a teacher [...]


Ralph Mooney, 1928-2011

"He played with a real bright, animated sound with lots of picking, but he could take off into blues licks at the same time. Nobody every played quite like he did, and after that it became known as 'the Mooney sound.'" —Ralph Mooney, who played pedal steel guitar behind Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings died of cancer last week. His style was an important component of the Californian "Bakersfield sound," as well as the "outlaw" country music that thrived in the '70s. In 1956, he co-wrote the song "Crazy Arms," a no. 1 hit for Ray Price, that would become a standard of the genre. [...]


Pickup Artists

Rock and roll has its Mustangs; easy listening has its Volvos; rap its Beamers, Benzs and Bentleys, but country music has always had its trucks. Big rigs and long-haul truckers got some airtime, but country has always seemed especially enamored with pickups; I grew up hearing Joe Diffe sing that “there’s something women like about a pickup man.”

There’s been a little surge of truck love in the last few years: Lee Brice’s melancholic “I Drive Your Truck,” Luke Bryan’s melodramatic “We Rode in Trucks,” and Tim McGraw’s hillbilly rockish “Truck Yeah” to name a few. Even Taylor Swift has ridden shotgun, having fallen in one of her [...]


The Song That Made The Pill OK

Loretta Lynn wrote and recorded “The Pill” in 1972. Her label didn’t release it until 1975, but three years wasn’t long enough to cool the controversy stoked by Lynn, one of the biggest names in country music, singing the praises of oral contraception to an audience of “unliberated, work-worn American females.” The Associated Press’s lede about the song in February of that year read, “To some, Loretta Lynn’s new song ‘The Pill’ might be too bitter to swallow. But to the country music star it has the sweet taste of success,” selling some 25,000 copies a day. The New York Times even gave it a [...]


Justin Townes Earle, "Slippin' And Slidin'"

Awl pal Tim Sutton has directed a short film of Justin Townes Earle drinking in a bar, going back to his apartment and playing a song from his new album Harlem River Blues. Earle, 28, is the son of the great Texas singer/songwriter Steve Earle and, clearly, writes some very pretty music himself.


Beauty and Ruin in Pigeon Forge

In May, Dolly Parton returned from promoting her new album, Blue Smoke, to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for the celebration she hosts every year: the Dollywood Homecoming Parade. Thousands gathered along the stretch of U.S. Route 441 known as Dolly Parton Parkway, from stoplight number six to stoplight number three. The devoted sat in strategically placed lawn chairs; the less eager watched from roadside hotel balconies. My boyfriend and I stood in the median of the parkway, opposite a spiraling bumper-car attraction, and watched as the first few floats passed: veterans, students, and an official contingent from the City of Pigeon Forge. A marching band played “9 to 5” and then [...]


The Infinite Lives of 'Jolene'

Dolly Parton does it all in only two hundred and two words. Eighty-four fewer than the Gettysburg Address; one hundred and thirty-six more than the Lord’s Prayer. Two hundred and two words, one of which is repeated thirty-one times: Jolene. Parton wails her name like a banshee. Five times Jolene; once Jolene, Jolene; six times Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. Parton says the name Jolene thirty-one times in less than three minutes. It’s a story song, and the story is as familiar as they come. Where there was happiness, now there is heartache. A woman loves a man, but that man loves Jolene; the woman confronts Jolene and pleads with [...]


Jimmy Dean, 1928-2010

He'd butchered hogs on his family's farm as a kid, so after becoming a country music star, he knew how to set himself up for life after showbiz: a sausage company, established in 1969 right in his hometown of Plainview, Texas. It was a hugely successful venture, growing to be valued at $75 million, and inspiring a passionate devotion among fans who sometimes, very famously, could literally not get enough of the delicious spiced meat. Jimmy Dean died Sunday at the age of 81.