Dolly Parton: My Top 5

For my celebration of Women’s History Month, I have neglected to write about a legendary country artist. To be honest, it is hard to narrow down the Queens of Country music. There are so many, from Patsy and Loretta to Reba and Tammy.

I’ve touched on many of them throughout the tenure of my blog. I have always wanted to write about Patsy Cline, but I’m still searching for words. So I decided to ask my mom, who knows my music taste better than anyone, on who I should write about next. She promptly reminded me that I had not written over one of the most influential female vocalists that does it all, from writing and producing to singing and performing. For my 5th installment, I bring you my top 5 favorite Dolly Parton songs.

I have been a Dolly Parton fan since the seventh grade. It’s odd that I remember this exact time, but I remember I first became interested in her when I saw her on the Conon O’Brien show. She was promoting her latest album, Little Sparrow. Like so many artists with me, it was all down hill from there. I haven’t stopped listening to her music since and I always check the record racks for more of her vinyl.

1. “A Tender Lie”

This song was originally sung by Restless Heart and was their last number one on the country charts. Parton gives it a tinge of classic country and a full bluegrass makeover. Her voice is so fragile on this song, but we all know the strength she possesses. This song was a perfect choice for her Little Sparrow album and Sugar Hill trilogy.

2. “Here You Come Again”

I love so many aspects of this song, from the opening piano riff to Parton’s sassy and sarcastic vocals. Every time I think somebody is gone and they return, my mind always sings this song. This is classic Dolly at her 70’s best.

3. “Joshua”

Parton has some of the best story telling skills of any musician. She encompasses every theme of country music. She often does this through creative stories, not personal accounts. This is part of her legacy. “Joshua” came out in 1970 and was Parton’s first number one hit.

4. “Light of a Clear Blue Morning”

I discovered this song a few years ago when I lived in Oklahoma. Thanksgiving was coming up and I was feeling really down about my family situation. I grew up in a tight-knit family that just seemed to fall apart for selfish reasons and holidays always brought that to mind. This song was a comfort for me and for a bright future ahead.

5. “He’s Alive”

Throughout my faith journey, I have found many of Parton’s songs to be inspiring (“Raven Dove,” “Hello God”). I adore how she stands up for her faith unabashedly without the judgment of others. She shows the love of Jesus through her spiritual compositions, performances, and actions. The video above is one we all know. It is her legendary performance of “He’s Alive” from the 1989 CMA awards. I get chills every time I hear this song and see this performance.

These are my top five favorite Dolly Parton songs at the moment. It’s safe to note that this is a fluctuating list and it is not comprehensive. I would need a list of 20 songs or more to truly list all my favorite Parton songs and then I’d still miss many!

Dolly Parton is one of country music and America’s greatest treasures. I have yet to see her in concert, but I will make it soon. The fact that she is still creating new music and states that she has 100’s of songs she hasn’t recorded blows me away. She can’t stop making albums; we must not let her!! I will gladly sit and wait for every last note.

 

Liza Minnelli, New Feelin’: She’ll Do As She Pleases

For my fourth installment for Women’s History Month, I bring you Liza Minnelli! I was extremely excited to see her Facebook live event this week with Michael Feinstein. You can watch that video here. Ms. Minnelli looked amazing and most importantly, she looked happy!

It was also Ms. Minnelli’s birthday yesterday, Sunday, March 12th. The legend turned 71 years old, but she shows enough energy to compete with any of today’s entertainers. Michael Feinstein also dropped a little teaser on his Facebook that he and Ms. Minnelli are working on shows for 2018, of which I have to say…..

Liza, take your time. We’ll still be here ready for you when YOU are ready.

With all this Minnelli excitement, I decided to revisit one of her albums that has always stood out to me, her 1970 release, New Feelin’. This album took on a new direction for Minnelli and it gave many many American standards a new identity.

This album takes songs like “How Long Has This Been Going On?” “The Man I Love,” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine” and gives them a pop and soulful twist with a hint of folk stylings. We all know Minnelli can deliver these American classics unlike any other artist, but this album presents them in a completely new way.

Fun Fact: This record was recorded at Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

The album starts out with a funky, horn-filled version of “Love For Sale” by Cole Porter. She then immediately goes into the classic ballad “Stormy Weather.” This song is filled with heavy piano and gospel inspired background vocals. Then comes one of my favorite tracks from the album, “Come Rain or Come Shine.” This song sounds like something straight out of Motown’s vault if Motown was located in Nashville. Then there is that ending note that just doesn’t stop shining.

Side Two also comes with plenty of new experimental arrangements of these classics. “How Long Has This Been Going On” is mixed with an enthusiastic horn section and sounds Americana in style. Then Ms. Minnelli covers Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child, a song she would sing to near perfection two years later on her award-winning TV concert, Liza With a “Z”. This version adds more backing vocals giving it a doo-wop feeling mixed with gospel stylings.

Lastly, there is Ms. Minnelli’s standard, “Maybe This Time.” This takes on a completely new image. This starts out as pure country. As the song progresses, it begins to take on a blues facade with rhythmic bass, horns, and melancholy backing vocals. Although this song does not have its usually dramatic deliverance, it is still a gem in its own right. This song is about taking that first step to self-fulfillment. Ms. Minnelli delivers this message with the same conviction she always does, but just a little more casual.

This album takes songs that people twice her age at the time were singing. She was known for performing these same selections in her live shows. On New Feelin’, she gave these compositions a twist of her own. Her vocals remained constant, shattering every ceiling, but they still felt right with these different arrangements. Ms. Minnelli just does as she pleases.

Revisiting this record has me pumped for what Ms. Minnelli is planning for her fans, but more importantly, it has me excited for where she is in life. I hope and pray she is truly happy, relaxed, and self-assured that she is loved. In her recent interview with Michael Feinstein, Ms. Minnelli spoke directly to her fans stating, “You are what make me happy. I mean it….and I love you.” You hear celebrities say that all the time. The odd thing is, Ms. Minnelli sounds like she means it. I know she meant it.

So join me in celebrating Ms. Minnelli’s career and whatever she damn well pleases to do.

Unfortunately, this album is not on Spotify, but I did find these on some of her compilations.

Diana Ross: My Top Ten

As I have pondered over my music collection, I have started to notice a trend. The artists that I go back to repeatedly are oddly my mother’s favorites as well. When she would play these singers for me when I was younger, instead of rebelling and listening to the music of the day, I fell in love with what she liked.

I think this was all part of her plan. She didn’t have a desire, nor did she like the current music. She definitely didn’t want a “rebellious” child listening to the “devil’s music” (I did grow up in Oklahoma). Needless to say, her master plan worked, and she’s had to fund a vinyl addiction since around 2004.

For my third installment for Women’s History Month, I decided to go with one of our favorites, Ms. Diana Ross. My mom and I have gone to see Ms. Ross twice in concert and both times she was impeccable. What I loved most about these shows was what Ms. Ross and her music brought out in my mom….

I found out my mom could dance! She would be a regular on American Bandstand if those moves were still in style. My mom was stopping in the name of love and literally turning upside down. Seriously, my mom totally could have been the white Supreme.

So for this post, I have gathered 10 of my favorite Diana Ross songs. This list is not comprehensive, complete, or in any order. It’s all a little glimpse into one of my musical journeys with my favorite duet partner.

1. “He Lives In You”

The above clip is the first I remember seeing of Diana Ross. In 1999, Ms. Ross starred in the made for television movie Double Platinum along with Brandy Norwood. This movie was an instant hit for my mom, which in turn became a must-see for me (whether I liked it or not). Although she is not performing one of her hits in this clip, I believe it shows how iconic Ms. Ross is. From the dress and staging to her ever fragile yet strong vocals, Ms. Ross captured my heart in this scene.

2. “I Will Survive”

I know this song was not originally Ms. Ross’, but she has made it a staple in her live performances. This song holds a very important memory for my mom and I. We had second-row seats at one of Ms. Ross’ shows in Tulsa and I had brought along Ms. Ross’ first solo album with me to wave in the air. Push literally came to shove and I found myself right by the stage holding this album in the air with a sharpie. I now have a signed album of Diana Ross on my wall, but my mom got so excited she forgot to take pictures.

3. “Summertime”

As I venture down Ross street, I have found many favorites on some of her lesser-known albums. Here is one of my favorite songs from her 1987 album, Red Hot Rhythm & Blues. Fun fact, this song was co-written by Leonard Cohen.

4. “Endless Love”

Most know this song as a duet with Lionel Richie, but she also recorded a solo version on her 1981 album Why Do Fools Fall In Love. I’m a sucker for the original, but I love Ms. Ross’ vocals on this solo recording. She is daring with her vocal technique and it is sung straight from her heart. (Sorry for the odd video, the Spotify link was not working)

5. “It’s My Turn”

This was my first favorite Diana Ross song. I’ve had many since, but I will always love this ballad of independence.

6. “Upside Down”

If I need to dance all I have to do is turn this song on. This track’s electric beat mixed with Ms. Ross’ sassy and sultry vocals makes it one of her best.

7. “The Boss”

At my first Diana Ross concert, she opened with “The Boss.” It was magnetic watching her walking down a stairway belting out “Uhhhhhh….yea…” I’ve never seen an audience jump to their feet so quickly.

8. “Home”

After I had watched Double Platinum a few dozen times, I asked my mom if we could go to Blockbuster and rent another movie Ms. Ross was in. We returned with The Wiz. Over the years as I have moved from home and embarked on my life, I have realized that home is where your mom is. On Mother’s Day a few years ago, I surprised my mom in church and sang this song to her. It holds a special place in both of our hearts.

9. “Touch Me In The Morning”

This song is classic Ross. When she sang this at one of her shows, I began to sing it with her. I didn’t realize how loud I was for a lady turned around to me and told me that I had a nice voice. It was just another great moment brought to me by Ms. Ross.

10. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

I never get tired of hearing this song. As Ms. Ross’ first big solo hit, it serves as a staple in her career, especially in defining her as a solo artist. It differs drastically from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s version. This arrangement is dramatic and literally feels like a musical mountain range. Ms. Ross’ vocals soar over these mountains like a bird going in and out of valleys. It’s one of those songs that is just perfection.

Whew, I don’t want to stop! I could make a list of my 50 top favorite Diana Ross songs, but I thought that would be overkill. Diana Ross is an icon of icons and this list barely touches on her music catalog.

For me, Diana Ross will always hold a very special place in my heart, because she is one of the artists my mom and I love together. She’s always a safe choice when going on long car rides with my mom. There isn’t another artist that compares to Ms. Ross. I hope one day I can thank her for all the joy she has brought to me and my favorite duet partner, my mom.

Check out my full playlist here on Spotify:

 

A Modern Review: Goodbye June “Danger In The Morning”

Yesterday I did something I usually don’t do. I decided to look through the new releases on Spotify. I always love discovering new music, but I’ve lost hope in a lot of the artists that are coming out today. Everything just seems commercial and superficial. A person or band can’t just sit and play anymore, they need lights, dancers, and fireworks.

Well, except for Goodbye June.

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Courtesy of Twitter, @GoodbyeJune

I had never heard of Goodbye June until I found their newly released EP right next to the Britney Spears album on Spotify. I just pressed play to see what happened, without much hope, yet I was immediately hooked.

Goodbye June is made up of three cousins Landon Milbourn, Brandon Qualkenbush, and Tyler Baker. They formed the band after Baker’s brother was killed in a car accident while on leave from the military, which lended the band their name. They began focusing on their music after this tragic, life altering experience, and it is nothing short of authentic.

The EP opens with “Oh No,” a song with a “screw you” attitude. The song starts off with a bang and Milbourns vocals quickly grabbed me. This song teeters on rock, folk, country, and metal all at the same time. It was like Mumford and Sons meets Led Zepplin meets Chris Stapleton.

The next song, “Daisy,” was equally intriguing, talking about how that one lady can drive you crazy. They then go into the power anthem “Man of The Moment,” relishing in confidence. This song and “Oh No” seem to be related. That one lady seemed to have taken it too far, but these guys aren’t ones to lay down and die. They begin to sound reminiscent of Jack White, post White Stripes, but less chaotic.

Next comes “Darlin.” This ballad song knocks right at Led Zepplin’s door. I was hooked by its lyrics initially (“Darlin’ I don’t know what you’ve done to me, but it works and I hate it”), then the composition took over. The guitar is immaculate and the vocals as smooth as silk, yet as gritty as sand paper, same goes for the content. This is my favorite from the EP.

Lastly, they close with “Danger In The Morning.” This song mixes in heavy banjo that shows the guys southern and midwest roots. That mixed with heavy guitar rifts finishes this EP with a semi colon. For there seems to be a whole new thought brewing with this song and this EP is only serving as an introduction to the music to come.

In the end this EP can be summed up by a line from “Oh No:”

“I’ll take a bow and I’ll show you how to survive.”

For this EP may be over, but there’s a lot of staying power behind Goodbye June.

Connect with Goodbye June on Twitter, Facebook, and their official website.

 

Review: A Sunday Smile, Beirut

Beirut The Flying Club Cup (2007)

For fans of: Neutral Milk Hotel, Midlake, the Decemberists, Fleet Foxes

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Source: Wikipedia

I first discovered Beirut through Spotify’s “Similar Artists” suggestion feature (similar to Midlake). Their old-fashioned album cover piqued my interest, and I gave them a listen. After a few listens their similar vocal delivery to Midlake hooked me, but the similarities ended there.

Beirut is a unique band, led by Zach Codon, composer, instrumentalist, singer, and storywriter (see accompanying story on back cover). The band’s genre is difficult to pin down with the likes of mariachi, folk, and Parisian influences. Because of this their sound feels nomadic, yet decidedly European (according to their Wikipedia, it is “Balkan Folk”). No matter, Beirut’s sophomore album is an enjoyable listen. Stand-out tracks include “Nantes,” “A Sunday Smile,” and “Cliquot.” I look forward to listening to their other albums.

What would you call their genre? Are you a fan? Check out the video and tell us.

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Source: Beirut Band

TRACKLISTING

  1. A Call to Arms
  2. Nantes
  3. A Sunday Smile
  4. Guyamas Sonora
  5. La Banlieue
  6. Cliquot
  7. The Penalty
  8. Forks and Knives (La Fête)
  9. In the Mausoleum
  10. Un Dernier Verre (Pour la Route)
  11. Cherbourg
  12. St. Apollonia
  13. The Flying Club Cup

Albums I wish were on vinyl…

Every now and then I hear an album I wish was on vinyl. Here is a quick list of my top five.

1. Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folks “Over Land & Sea”

I downloaded this pretty little album off of Noisetrade last week and have enjoyed it every since. The album album art is fantastic with hand-painted illustrations and a poster…I was mesmerized after only seeing a PDF of the CD booklet. It would be amazing to translate to a 2xLP deluxe edition or box set.

Order the deluxe CD edition here.

2. Diane Birch “Speak A Little Louder”

Last week my sister sent me a Spotify link to listen to Dian Birch’s new album…this one would be perfect for vinyl!! With her soulful funky retro sound, this album was made to spin at 33rpm, but sadly it has yet to be pressed.

3. I Can Make a Mess (like nobody’s business) “The World We Know”

I first heard I Can Make A Mess on tour with Copeland for their Farewell tour in 2010, and I loved them and bought their CD. However, this beautiful album by the one-man-band-wonder Ace Enders would be perfect to listen to on vinyl with its “the whole album is one song” feel. Experience the first half of it below…

I won’t despair because their newest album is available on colored vinyl.

4. Midlake “Bamnan and Slivercork”

Bamnan and Slivercork is the only full-length album by Midlake yet to be pressed to vinyl. And it’s a lo-fi noise pop classic. Need I say more?

5. Eisley “Combinations”

Combinations is the only Eisley album yet to be pressed to vinyl. It also has my all-time favorite song by the band on it “I Could Be There for You.”

Here’s to hoping that these gems make it on vinyl someday!!