Archive for the 'country music' Category


Higher than a cat’s back

Music cognoscenti know: Buck Owens was the bee’s knees–in spite of the fact that in his later years, there was a certain clownish aspect to his act. You could make the case that Hee Haw was on the air for a little too long. But in his prime, Buck was one cool country cat.

Here are a couple of clips of the glory years of the Buckaroos, featuring Don Rich, Buck’s guitar man and harmonist (“he sings higher than a cat’s back”). Rich died in a motorcycle crash in 1974, and Buck was never the same.

Rich opened for Elvis at the age of 16, and had a regular gig at Steve’s Gay 90’s Restaurant in South Tacoma when Buck Owens hired him as fiddler. Fender gifted him a Champagne Sparkle Telecaster, and he could really wear a Nudie suit.

That distinctive accent harmony was a defining feature of the Bakersfield Sound. Merle Haggard, who performed in Buck’s band for a while (and who named them the Buckaroos) also made amazing use of it. (Check out the Bonnie Owens part in the studio version of “Today I Started Loving You Again”–alas, I could not find this online.) Merle and Buck had a pretty contentious history together (including sharing a wife, though not simultaneously), so I would not be surprised if they both took credit.

I think of how musically genius these boomtown hicks were, when listening to the New Pornographers’ Adventures in Solitude. That first verse with the spare accent harmonies. Pure Bakersfield.

* While I’m digressing on the subject of criminally overlooked collaborators of the Bakersfield Era, I would recommend a listen to Laura Cantrell’s gorgeous, heartbreaking song about Bonnie Owens:


1985 Back to the Future

Emusic now has the Pogues catalog, which is cause for celebration and for me cause for a rather vivid flashback to 1985, the year of Rum, sodomy and the lash.

I found the wiki on the year fascinating and foreign, yet strangely familiar. (And yes, the original Back to the Future was based in that year.)

Herewith, the brilliant Pogues classic, “A pair of brown eyes,” and an entertaining, not particularly linear video by Alex Cox (police state! Thatcher!), along with a few other carefully culled selections from that year. Presented without further comment.








My mother’s favorite male celebrities were Liberace and Claude Akins.

I know! That’s quite a pair (comparable: Ernest Borgnine and Paul Lynde;  Charles Bronson and Charles Nelson Reilly). But she was a banquet waitress and a true small-d democrat. She cherished equally the autographs of both men, superstars from a kinder, gentler era.

Been having trucking songs running through my head lately. Found this clip from Movin’ On, which starred Akins and had a great song by Merle Haggard

Staying with truckin’ songs, and trying to match the weirdness of my mother’s pairing (God rest her),  another classic, albeit one from a distinct tradition, that of the scary, exhilarating roller coaster ride that is a Fall song:


Fancy: Gonna move you uptown

Bobbie Gentry’s “Fancy”, another entry in the creepiest country song ever sweepstakes.

If you know it, you probably know it from Reba’s over-the-top 1990 version. This one is over the top in its own way but the song just comes off way cooler, like something off Dusty in Memphis. (I had to look it up to check, but Dusty never covered this, which is a shame.) Love the set, the body suit, the de rigeur spidery eyes, and Bobbie’s little shuffle strut dance.


“Blood harmony”

Absolutely killer performance of a Richard Thompson song by Del McCoury, along with sons Ronnie and Rob. If you stick around to the end (and you should), there’s a brief chat where Vince Gill talks about “blood harmony … nothing better in the world than hearing family sing together .”

Del looks like a complete gentleman but when he narrows those eyes, well, when he sings “I tell you in earnest I’m a dangerous man,” there is no suspension of disbelief needed on my part.

I also think highly of the line, “Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme.”


From the golden age of Nashville sleaze

Conway Twitty, far and away, the biggest horndog country music ever produced. This one is borderline sex offender registry material. But great song, and killer pompadour. Bonus points for the awesome vocal “bum-bum-bums”, and workin’ that salmon leisure suit with white shoes.


RIP Carl Smith, honky tonk hero

RIP Carl Smith, who died Saturday. He wore nice suits, had a killer smile and a gravity-defying pompadour. He played with a first-rate backing band, and his songs had more than a little swagger, sometimes even a smidgen of sleaze. His tuneful voice, in the nasal Hank Williams tradition, could cut through the smoke and noise of any honky-tonk.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

He-eey-ey Joe — Come On Let’s Be Buddy Duddies
Show Me You’re My Palsie Walsie
Introduce That Pretty Little Chick To Me
Hey Joe — Quit That Waitin’ Hesitatin’
Let Me At Her What’s The Matter
You’re As Slow As Any Joe Can Be

The Essential Carl Smith would be a perfect choice for a long drive across a flat state, and should feature prominently on the jukebox in the dive bar in heaven.

He was a dude, and he abides.

more about “Carl Smith – 1960’s – Hey Joe“, posted with vodpod

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