Saturday, July 20, 2013

Country Club # 12: George Strait and Alan Jackson

Released in 2000, this duet between neo-traditionalists George Strait and Alan Jackson, bemoans the commercialization of country music, the rise of crossover acts and crossover styles. How many references can you identify in Murder on Music Row?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Country Club #11 Randy Travis

Country singer Randy Travis is in the news this week--heart attack, stroke, and a brain operation. Before embarrassing arrests for alcoholism in the last couple of years, Travis had turned to gospel music and acting, so many may have forgotten just how great a country singer he was and overlooked his pivotal role in country music.

If some contrarian wanted to make the case that someone besides George Jones is the greatest country male vocalist, Travis is one of the few nominees that should be considered.

Brain Mansfield astutely observes on

Like the Beatles in rock, Randy Travis marks a generational shift in country music. When his Storms of Life came out in 1986, country music was still wallowing in the post-urban cowboy recession, chasing elusive crossover dreams. Travis brought the music back to its basics, sounding like nothing so much as a perfect blend of George Jones and Merle Haggard. He became the dominant male voice in country until the rise of "hat acts" like Garth Brooks and Clint Black, releasing seven consecutive number one
singles during one stretch.

Here are two of  my favorite Randy Travis songs. "On the Other Hand" from 1986 is a great almost-cheating song. The other is "A Better Class of Losers" live on the David Letterman show in 1991 (when paying bills on computers was rare) with some entertaining  tomfoolery.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Country Club #10 Freddy Fender

This live 1979 recording is different, more bluesy version of Freddie Fender's classic "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights." The original 1960 release had a rock and roll feel. Fender's arrest and imprisonment for marijuana possession stalled its rise im the charts. Fender served several years in prison. until he was pardoned by Gov. Jimmie Davis, a song writer (or song thief) of some reknown.

Fender re-recorded the song in 1975 and it became a big hit. There's a guitar part at the end of this version which presages the 1979 version below.

Jason Ankeny notes, on, that "Freddy Fender was one of the few Hispanic stars in country music, a singer and songwriter whose work was defined largely by its strong Latin sensibility."

Besides his solo work,  Fender made important contributions as a member of the Texas Tornados and Los Super Seven.