'Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences'

I’m a little bit country and I’m a little bit rock ‘n roll…

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Doris Day as the ultimate Cowgirl, Calamity Jane

I can’t remember the specific scenario or circumstance that led to me watching my first Doris Day film; nor can I remember my exact age. What I can remember however, is that I was hooked after the first few lines of the opening song ‘The Deadwood Stage.’ That would be my first introduction to the genre of country music and for me; both actress and artform have never lost their sparkle and style.

I’m not sure whether it’s the romantic notion of feeling so passionate about your heritage or homestead that you’re compelled to compose, or just the “peaceful, easy feeling of a laid-back country song” (to quote the aforementioned Osmonds favourite) that seduces me most; either way, it would appear that the genre has been steadily garnering its skills in this most lustful of arts, as just this week both academies and worldwide audiences fell victim to its allure. The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards took place this week in Los Angeles, with Nashville country trio Lady Antebellum achieving nominations in no less than six categories; going on to win Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Country Song, Best Country Album and Best Country Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocals. The critically-lauded song in question; ‘Need You Now.’

The trio (Charles Kelley-lead and background vocals, Dave Haywood-background vocals, guitar, piano, mandolin and Hillary Scott-lead and background vocals) have been recording together since 2006, and have been a pretty much permanent fixture on the Country Music charts in America ever since. Their self-titled debut album also spawned hit tracks ‘Love Don’t Live Here‘, ‘Lookin’ for a Good Time‘ and ‘I Run to You.’ The album has since been certified platinum in the U.S. ‘Need You Now‘ is taken from the band’s second album of the same name and was also their first number one single. I have always been fascinated by the fact that America has a music chart for almost every genre and sub-genre of music that you could imagine; to think of the level of diversity on offer must be mind-blowing, of course history teaches us that such a fact doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the music-buying public ever get to hear all of these said artists over their radio waves or on their TV screens. Commercialism will always, unfortunately, play its part…albeit on a much lesser scale over the pond when it comes to this particular genre.

Fellow American Idol fans will be familiar with Season Four (2005) winner and Grand Ole Opry favourite Carrie Underwood. Underwood wowed Cowell and co with her raspy range and strong sense of self; that self strived to be the next big country singer-songwriter and in six short years I think it would be fair to say that she has surpassed that dream. Underwood has since become a multi-platinum selling recording artist, a multiple Grammy winner and a Grand Ole Opry inductee (basically, the Mecca of country music performers). ‘Wasted‘ is my favourite song from her debut album ‘Some Hearts‘, which is the best-selling solo female debut album in country music history…I imagine she’s quite chuffed with that. It would take far too long to mention all her other accolades and awards in this piece, but I would recommend that you give the album a listen if you’re partial to a few heartfelt ballads against the backdrop of the black hills. I only wish her management company would succomb to the power of fandom and schedule a short tour of the UK sometime soon.

I have always had a particular soft spot for a LeAnn Rimes big, belting country ballad too. I have so many favourite individual tracks, but my favourite album would probably be ‘Twisted Angel.’ Ironically, or perhaps a sign of my liking to stray from the common path; this album (her seventh) received mainly negative reviews and was said to be in danger of alienating her from her original fan base. Is this really a danger or just an opportunity to try something different and distinguish yourself from the one-trick ponys? Personally, I love to hear new sounds from an artist; it shows that they are not getting complacent and if it doesn’t reach the number one slot and the majority don’t get it, so what? As long as they’re happy with the release and there was genuine passion behind it. ‘One Way Ticket‘ is one of my favourite tracks from the ‘Twisted Angel‘ album. I like the message behind it that so typifies the genre as a whole; strong-willed, independent and fearless.

I may not be a tween and I may not have been personally defiled by Kanye’s stage storming, but I do find great joy and solace in a listen or three to Taylor Swift‘s ‘Love Story.’ It’s just so innocent and warm and wonderful, everything a teen romance should be. Saying that, my own teen romance was only one of those three; I don’t call standing on playing fields in the depths of winter, with a boy named Gez who had significantly questionable hygiene issues, neither warm nor wonderful. Gez was the best friend of the boyfriend I might add, I may have been fourteen but I wasn’t stupid!

Again and perhaps rather embarrassingly, another band that I learned of through American Idol, was Rascal Flatts. Contestants often cited this band as one of their favourites and chose to perform their tracks week on week. One of my favourite such tracks isย  What Hurts The Most.’ The country-pop trio have been together since 2000 and have gone on to release eight studio albums. These albums have accounted for twenty-six single releases. All but one of these singles has made the top ten of the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts and eleven have made number one. It would be fair to say that the trio are something of an institution in the U.S. It is impossible not to feel the passion and emotion that has gone in to the composition of this track and that’s what makes it so compelling to listen to when it is performed, whether that be by the original artist or a cover version.

Anyone who has read my blog before will know that I am also a big fan of the Rock Island, Illinois native, Lissie. Lissie is a country and folk-rock singer-songwriter who moved over to London to pursue her dream. Her debut album ‘Catching A Tiger‘ (2010) captured the imagination and interest of critics in the UK and Europe and she has since gone on to release the record in her home country. Her track ‘When I’m Alone‘ was chosen as iTunes UK’s Song of the Year for 2010. ‘Cuckoo‘ would have to be my favourite track from the album, for much the same reasons as mentioned above with the other artists; I like the emotion and meaning behind country songs, the fact that the inspiration for the track came from a real experience or event, rather than something arbitrary. This is just such a track, as Lissie recounts her difficult adolescence and her sense of never truly fitting in anywhere; could there be a more poignant and easily relatable theme?

So in conclusion, I live to dream of a time or place in which all walks of life are represented in music and what’s more; that we all get to hear it.


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