That Infectious Smile You Get

Today I was driving with my head phones on. I decided to listen to a live version of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” from her 2009 tour. This has always been one of my favorite Turner songs like the majority of the world, but this time I felt something different.

I just oddly began smiling. After around a minute into the smile I realized how odd I must look to those passing me.

So tonight I have decided to compile a list of songs that give me that infectious smile or at least those songs that make me look like I’m smiling at nothing while driving.

1. “Proud Mary” -Tina Turner

If you are a music fan and don’t love the energy, spunk, and high-octane vocals this song possesses then I do not know who you are. “Proud Mary” immediately hooks me from the beginning guitar rift to Turner telling me how she likes to sing it “nice and rough.” Every time I hear this song I find myself (to the best of my ability) doing Turner’s iconic dance moves as the song progresses, but I will warn you, my legs ain’t that pretty. Least we forget the original though by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

2. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” -Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

There has never been another blend of vocals like Marvin Gaye’s and Tammi Terrell’s. They are simply superb. Tammi’s voice echoed that of Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin combined. She had a star-studded career ahead of her until brain cancer stole her away from the world too soon. AIthough she now dwells in the valley of peace, her artistry lives on. I could go on and on about this song, but there’s only two other words that truly describe its greatness….Marvin Gaye.

3. “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” -Kiss

This is pretty much my anthem for every Tinder swipe…ummm…date I go on. I try to walk out of the house with the spirit of the star child intertwined in my swagger, but it doesn’t ever quite work out. I’m not sure if it is because the 1970’s are over or if I just can’t quite find my mojo. I never did think those leotards looked good on me anyway.

4. “If I Could Turn Back Time” -Cher

What’s a list without Cher!?! I have been in a long-term relationship with Cher since I was about 11. She has always liked younger men that are on the shorter side so I fit the bill. This riveting song was penned by the great Diane Warren and is one of her best pop masterpieces. From Navy ships to bootys and hips, Cher never disappoints.

5. “All Night Long (All Night)” -Lionel Richie

This song and I go way back. I grew up listening to Richie and his smooth vocals. My mother had many of his cassettes in the car and we would listen to them…. a lot. I’ll admit, as a young kid I wasn’t a fan, but then I grew up and I was like “Hello!” I have been addicted to his music and writing genius ever since. Moms generally know what’s best, yet she never let me dance all night long. First it was the 9:00 bedtime then the curfew.

There are many, many more songs that make me extremely happy. I could literally go on and on. It would be impossible for me to make a complete list. It’s like asking me who my favorite singer is. In closing I would like to leave you with a brief poem I wrote especially for this post.

If you need me call me

No matter if you are rolling on the river

No matter if sailing on a riverboat queen

I was always made for loving you

No matter how far back you turn back time

We’ll have a party, fiesta, whatever

All night long

Eartha Kitt, That Bad Eartha: A Cat With Tacks

This Saturday the vinyl community celebrated “Record Store Day.” RSD is littered with special edition and rare releases that go for normal price in stores, but can often be resold for 100’s of dollars! These limited editions are often worth it, but often times they are just a way for record companies to get their hands further in vinyl collector’s wallets.

IMG_2227This year I decided not to participate in RSD. One of the only stores in the area that was participating extensively, Guestroom Records, had long lines throughout the night before they opened. Although I love the excitement this creates for vinyl.

To celebrate the day I decided to visit on of my new favorite record shops now in Oklahoma City, Monkey Feet Music. I could spend hours in this store browsing and talking to the owner, Chris. Every time I go in there I seem to find something. It never fails.

Basically since I wasn’t going for any special releases I though I would just pick up a few old ones.

On this special Record Store Day I found an album truly fascinating from the moment I found it. The album That Bad Eartha, by the incomparable Earth Kitt didn’t disappoint and is just as enchanting at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd listen.

Kitt is easily be considered one of the best character actresses in the history of film and stage. I had always known that she was a singer too, I had just never seen one of her albums to my knowledge before. I am sucker for any singer who encompasses the American Songbook and nobody can sing them as well as these original greats.

Naturally the first songs that struck me  from the track listing were “Let’s Do It,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” Each of these songs she does brilliantly, but they are whole new creatures when Kitt interprets them. She has a unique phrasing, vocal style, and vibrato that breathes new life into these songs, even 60 years later.

IMG_2229The quintessential song from this album, which later became a Kitt speciality, is the opening track, “I Want to Be Evil.” I was immediately hooked on this song. She tells the story of how she’s always been good, but how now she just wants “to spit tacks,” which is exactly how this song strikes you. She mixes that with a vocal sex appeal (and physical!) that is nearly irresistible. This continues throughout the album.

She also gives the listener a taste of her vast talent and nearly endless image creation through performing songs in French, Spanish, Turkish, and even Swahili. Your imagination runs rampant as you imagine what she is saying if you are not fluent in these language.

The standout tracks for me were “Lilac Wine” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” She gives each of these songs a different interpertation then what you would expect from a crooner. They hit you like a force that can have a different sentiment at each listen.

Would it be corny to say that Kitt literally sings like a cat? Cats are odd creatures that I am often scared off. I can’t tell if they are truly loving or me or plotting my death. Then they will tease you with allowing you to pet them before snapping at you and running away.

You never know what they are thinking.

That is exactly how I interpret Kitt’s voice. She can tease and make you think whatever she wants, but she can snap. The listener can never tell when it’s coming. She sings like she is “spitting tacks” for every song strikes you like a pinpoint mixed with the unpredictable bewitchment only created by Eartha Kitt.

Merle Haggard: An Okie From California

Recently I had a conversation with my mom about how if I married a girl from CA and had a baby there, the baby would still be half Okie. Well mama tried to explain to me that being an Okie isn’t quite a “race,” but that it is a term to designate where you’re from.

I agree to disagree.

IMG_2195As I sit and contemplate the loss of Merle Haggard this concept has never rung more true. Haggard was well-known for his hit “Okie From Muskogee,” but his relationship with the red dirt did not begin or end there. His parents were from Oklahoma, mostly between the Checotah and Muskogee areas. They moved to California to avoid the dust bowl.

Not too long after they moved Merle was born. They lived in a box car that they had transformed into a home. It was a humble beginning, yet it was laying the foundation for one of the greatest first hand songwriters music will ever witness.

He may have been born in California, but both his parents were Okies. He was raised Okie. That’s all his parents knew. Wouldn’t that make him full Okie?

Throughout Haggard’s life he proved to have the core values of being an Oklahoman. These values include dedication to family, hard-work, respect, being thankful, nobility, and sometimes a little beer. Oklahoma values run deep and they don’t live within borders.

My concept that being Okie runs deeper than where you were born and raised is evident in one of Haggard’s most heralded albums, Okie From Muskogee.

Haggard opens up this live recording from Muskogee’s Civic Center with “Mama Tried,” his musical apology to his Mama for all his mishaps. This number one hit has more than just success behind its name. The deeper layer of this song is the power and meaning of family.

IMG_2198Then he goes into a rousing rendition of Jimmie Rodger’s “No Hard Times.” This song is for all the working men and woman who do all they can to make ends meet. It is the perfect companion song to the “Workin’ Man Blues” found later in the album. Labor created Oklahoma and labor sustains it. If one questions this notion just go visit my friends down in Indiahoma during harvest. You’ll quickly hush up.

A concert from Haggard is never complete without “Silver Wings,” one of my personal favorites from his catalog. He sings this song nearly effortlessly with barely any harmony. The grit is real in this song. For me this song is reminiscing on the past and never forgetting those who laid the foundation for where you live and who you are today.

Haggard then touches on something most Oklahomans have in common, a good drink. He introduces a melody of songs saying they are for the drunks. Haggard properly encompasses this idea in his medley of “Swinging Doors,” “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” and “Sing me Back Home.” We’re not drunks in Oklahoma, but a nice drink every now and then is essential for the majority of us. And then there are those nights….

Side B has many highlights, but two songs in particular make this side profoundly Okie. First comes “Billy Overcame His Size.” This song tells the story of a young man of small stature named Billy. The song goes on to explain how although Billy’s brother received an athletic scholarship, something Billy could not achieve due to his size, Billy did something even bigger. He died for his country.

IFullSizeRender 2n Oklahoma your neighbor’s problems are your problems. We never shy from giving a helping hand from holding the door open to towing a car out of ditch. This is personified in the Oklahoma standard that has been seen through the Oklahoma City Bombing and various tornado out breaks. We never abandon our own. We always overcome our size.

Lastly Haggard serenades the crowd with “Okie From Muskogee.” The song everybody in the audience was waiting for. Although, this song is much more than a catchy ode about the lifestyles of Oklahomans.

This song is about respecting your elders, supporting your country, and staying true to your roots. This song posses the elements of pride, a noble character, and the God-fearing qualities that the majority of Oklahoman’s possess. It is about being proud of where you came from and thankful to those who got you here.

We don’t balk at what has been given to us nor the authority we rightly belong under. We give credit where it’s due and if that means supporting our country then give us a flag and a shotgun. We love our country, our family, and our way of life. That is something to die for. Haggard understood this.

This is just the tip of Haggard’s profound career and what he created. I join the country in mourning one of music greatest songwriters, performers, and musical talents. His legacy cannot be explained by words alone. I do not claim to be a Haggard expert, but I am truly proud of the example he set for his listeners. He wasn’t perfect and he never pretended to be, but he always had values.

American values. Oklahoma values.

If there was only a little more Okie spreading around, a little more Haggard, this country may just be a better place.

God Bless the Hag.

‘Twas Like a Breath of Spring

FullSizeRender 8My music ADHD has been working overtime lately. I am currently listening to a Judy Garland box set I found a while back at Trolley Stop Record Shop in OKC, but I just finished listening to Courtney Barnett. Those artist aren’t in the least bit comparable.

Garland is a long time musical friend of mine. I often cite her as my ultimate favorite singer and that is mostly true. I found this box set of her recordings she made for Capitol. One never knows what recordings they will hear on these sets! She made so many studio and live recordings of songs. Any vinyl find of hers is a treasure trove full of Garland.

Then I have Courtney Barnett. I recently found the 1st addition of her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit. The 1st edition vinyl is orange and some came with a slipmat (I was blessed to find one). She had been listed on many “best albums of 2015” lists including Pitchfork’s. Naturally, she struck my interest.

IMG_2141I enjoyed Barnett’s album more than I thought I would considering I usually listen to everything pre 80’s. Sometimes I have to remind myself that there is still good music being released today. Barnett’s voice and style is intriguing. She is completely original, yet I find her to posses a mixture of Joan Jett and Karen O. There will be more to come on this album.

Lastly, between all my other random choices, I have been consistently listening to Jody Miller. As one of my good friends says, “Jody is a songs best friend.” I have been experiencing that over and over again. Her album, There’s a Party Going On, really has me hooked at the moment. This album contains her Billy Sherrill produced hits, “There’s a Party Going On,” “To Know Him is To Love Him,” and her duet with Johnny Paycheck, “Let’s All Go Down to The River.”

Although these are favorites, my ultimate favorite off this album is her rendition of “Delta Dawn.” Did you know she recorded it before Tanya Tucker? Her version is very different, but it would have been a huge hit. As I listen to Miller more I notice how she is the “original original.” She is a legend that goes underappreciated.

IMG_2142

So spring has been good to me so far. I’ve made new friends while continuing to get to know old ones. Who knows who will pop up next?

Did I mention I’m also into Alice Cooper at the moment too?