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Friday, December 08, 2006

Did Mr. Spock Recite Country? 

Followup on pain.

I Dished (not Tivo'ed) a good Reno's Bluegrass Festival this week. Let's start with a song popularized by the A*Teens - wait, I think someone did it before them.

For the record, "The Letter was originally done by the Box Tops, with a famous cover by Joe Cocker.

Well, the less famous cover version was performed at the beginning of Reno's Bluegrass Festival, as Ronnie Reno and his band took an acoustic take on it. The lyrics work well in a bluegrass format, and musically the genre allows some nice solos.

The special guests on this week's Reno's Bluesgrass Festival were referred to as "Cordele and Duncan" in the program listing. Shame on you, Ronnie. Larry's last name is Cordle, not Cordele. Yet Ronnie was very appreciative of the vocal and songwriting talents of Larry Cordle, and the instrumental talents of Glen Duncan.

They, along with their band, performed two songs off of their 1992 album "Lonesome Standard Time" - the title track (which, in an Icehouse kind of way, also became the name of the band), and the absolutely haunting track "The Fields of Home" (audio sample here). The song was also included on the 1989 Ricky Skaggs album Kentucky Thunder.

In my research, I found out an interesting thing about Larry Cordle. While everyone loved him back in 1992-1993, he later angered some segments of Nashville:

Cordle later made news with a song that some listeners thought might be biting the hand that fed the songwriter. "Murder on Music Row," a song Cordle co-wrote with Larry Shell, makes no bones about criticizing Nashville for drifting away from the roots of country music. Plenty of people in the industry were aghast and angry over the song's condemnation of the town and of the turn country music had taken in recent years. Probably just as many cheered it. The song wasn't released to radio as a single, at least not officially, and there wasn't even any real promotion to speak of. But the duet by George Strait and Alan Jackson raised the song's profile. It hit a nerve and it hit deep. The song made it onto the airwaves, landed in the Top 40, and made a lot of people sit up and take notice of the things Cordle had to say about the state of country music. The ripples that spread from the song's impact even led the very industry that the song condemns to acknowledge and honor its honesty. The Country Music Association bestowed a pair of nominations in 2000, one for Vocal Event of the Year and another for Song of the Year.

But there was a lot of pain in the process. From acousticmusic.com:

It has come to my attention (way over in Germany) that the title song covered by George Strait and Alan Jackson is raising quite a stir in the world of countrypoprock and is being boycotted by commercial country radio. I guess the lyrics bemoaning the pop influence on today┬┤s country music hit too close to the truth.

From songfacts:

Having been a professional musician for over 35 years, I must say that this song is spot on. There are a handful of people who, by whatever means possible, attempt, usually successfully, to control what songs make the charts and what songs don't. In Nashville, it's not about ability but about marketability. They can take horrible singers and make them sound good in a studio and then promote them exclusively. The record companies are losing thei power a little at a time die to online music. It's about time the real talent got a chance to shine.

- Randall, Chattanooga, TN
The songwriter had it nailed on the head no doubt. The song points out the downward spiral of today's music. Sex is the big seller now. And I applaud Strait and Jackson for speaking out like they did. Country music has certainly taken a dive with bands like Big and Rich (who haven't done a decent song yet) and wannabe's like Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.

- Terry L. Kiser, Sr, Tifton, ID

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Well there you go. I missed that story. I know one family who went to Nashville and lived in the original bluegrass express for a while. The son worked in a restaurant and things were so hard that every night he brought home one plate of food for four people. It's not the heavenly town many folks think it's cracked up to be, and there's a lot of smoke and mirrors. Come my time, I'll be workin' a day job for sure...
Kid Rock does a fine job with country music. "Ya can't please everyone all the time....", Bob Dylan (yes, among others)said that. You bitch because he raps, then you bitch because he doesn't. Give him a break..
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