Monday, May 25, 2009

A Special Treat, A Country Music Treat

All through college I worked at an animal hospital where the “Young Country” station played, literally 24 hours a day. I recognized that it was very helpful and often calming to the animals to have constant sound, but it made my already high dislike of country music grow stronger. Then one weekend, I was working late and the station played some kind of ‘Classic Country” show highlighting music of country’s “Golden Age.” I have no idea if they still have this show, but that night, at least two songs came on that totally blew me away. Because of the nature of the job, I missed who these songs were by, but it certainly intrigued me… But other than eventually getting into Johnny Cash and some Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette and George Jones, I never really took the time to explore more classic country stuff. Until recently. The coinciding release of John Doe & the Sadie’s new record Country Club, and my having an actual working record player have gotten me obsessing about country music lately. There is no more fitting type of music to listen to on a record player than old school country, and the cheap prices of used records makes it totally worth taking a chance on something you only have a hunch about. So various trips to local used record shops have netted me some country gold lately. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve picked up:

Eddy Arnold - This Is... (RCA 1970)
First of all, I got this two record set for 10 cents at Record Time's big Record Store Day sale - all $1 records were the bargain price of ten pennies. It's the exact kind of heartbreaking, cracklin' country I love - "I'm sending you a big bouquet of roses - one for every time you broke my heart..." It also includes a purdy cover of the old Bee Gees song "I Started A Joke" which Arnold proves works best as a country ballad.

Dottie West - Feminine Fancy (RCA 1969)
This is one of three records I got at People's Records for less than three bucks that hadn't even been opened yet. I don't know a lot about Dottie West, but with an album name like that, and a track list that included her versions of "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," "The End Of the World," and "I'm Sorry," I figured it was worth a gamble. Though I'll still take Tammy Wynette, Skeeter Davis or Brenda Lee versions if forced to choose, West has a beautiful voice and this record is fantastic.

Charley Pride - Amazing Love (RCA 1973)
One of the "never been opened" three from People's. Though I had certainly heard his name before, I didn't realize before finding this record that Charley Pride was black. This is still a rarity for country, so that's pretty rad. He had tons of huge hits, but from what I can tell, none of them are on this record. However, the very last song is called, "Mr. Joe Henry's Happy Hand-Clappin' Open Air Rhythm Band" and it totally sounds like something from School House Rocks. So that makes up for it.

Jim Reeves - ... and Some Friends (RCA 1969)
The third of the "never been opened" three from People's. This is a collection of duets between Mr. Reeves and other country folks. It's has it's moments, but I have to deduct major points for the song, "But You Love Me Daddy" which is a call-and-response style duet with a child. I don't like sentimental songs about children, and I really hate when children sing. Combined, those two characteristics are enough to make my head explode.

Wanda Jackson - Lovin' Country Style (Stetson 1962)
Wanda Jackson (Ms. Jackson if you're nasty) is responsible for "Funnel Of Love," one of my favorite songs of all time. So when I saw this at Car City, I had to pick it up. Her voice is brash and twangy and perfect. I love the little write ups on the back of old records, and this one starts with "From Wanda Jackson to you - Lovin' Country Style - a special treat, a country music treat." Exactly.

Sonny James - My Love/Don't Keep Me Hangin' On (1970 Capitol)
Apparently this guy's pretty much tied with Alabama for number of chart topping country songs or something. But I can settle this: as a general rule, most all musical acts named after a geographical location are terrible. So Mr, James wins. Plus his version of "My Love" ("My love is warmer than the warmest sunshine, softer than a sigh...") is great.

Kitty Wells - Greatest Hits (MCA 1970)
The song, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" is easily in the top five of songs that get stuck in my head for no reason. It is as if my brain, after hearing it once, knew repetition could force me to like it. That song alone, plus the amazing dress she's wearing on the cover, were reason enough to pick this up. I also loved that it had a song called, "I Gave My Wedding Dress Away." Because I did. Stuffed in a garbage bag and dropped off at Goodwill.

If you've got some suggestions for old school country goodness, please do let me know...

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