Welcome to the show!

If That Ain’t Country: a weekly, three-hour radio show featuring the very best in traditional country, honky tonk, bluegrass and western swing from the golden years ’til today. Including the popular If That Ain’t Country’s Year In Country Music – pulling out the big hits and memories from a weekly feature year in the world of country music.

What does the show sound like? CLICK BELOW:

sean

Hosted by Western Red – it’s US country music with an Australian twist, keeping true to the traditions of the music that make country music great.

With a genuine love and deep respect for the music, the legends of the genre are right up alongside the best of today’s independent artists – a mix you won’t find anywhere else.

What is the show all about? FIND OUT HERE:

We’re broadcast around the world each week and we’re always looking for new partner stations – if you are interested in more information or a welcome pack – please email westernred@ifthataintcountry.net.

Review: Daryle Singletary – There’s Still A Little Country Left [2015]

daryle singletary new album doorI haven’t looked forward to an album release in quite some time. It could be that the age of singles and albums has passed us by with the ITunes era, or it could be a lack of quality releases in the recent past. But when I heard that Georgia-native Daryle Singletary was planning his 8th album – and first in 6 years – I genuinely got excited. Daryle’s arrival onto the scene in 1995 with I’m Living Up (To Her Low Expectations), a typically fun 90s country release, coincided with my first exposure to country music as a whole. So, along with Alan Jackson and Randy TravisDaryle has always been a favourite.

There’s Still A Little Country Left is this week’s feature album on Episode 152 of If That Ain’t Country. It dropped in late July and since then, I’ve metaphorically worn out the album on my IPod. Daryle has always been a traditional country artist, and these days remains one only a handful of 90s country artists to have kept on truckin’ since the age of Shania Twain turned the tide. He quotes Keith Whitley as his major influence and several of his past albums have contained covers of country greats, including several of Conway Twitty, Johnny Paycheck, Buck Owens – not to mention a Whitley cover of Miami, My Amy on Straight From The Heart (2002). Singletary’s sense of hardcore traditionalism continues on this release.

daryle singletary older

I must say though (and this is not a complaint) – the song selection on each of his eight albums to date remains solid and predictable – a handful of ballads heavy on steel guitar and Daryle’s baritone; one or two country rockers; some more uptempo numbers with an increased Telecaster prescence; a cover or two and more than a few nods to the legends of country. The formula remains intact on There’s Still A Little Country Left.

The front cover of the album shows that Singletary has handled the last 20 years well – looking very sharp in a red check shirt, black cowboy hat and leaning on an old car door – I did notice that a grey hair or two has snuck into his goatee but on the whole, the man looks much the same as he did in the early days. In the intervening two decades since 1995, Daryle’s voice has matured to a smooth baritone – the one which today works its way wonderfully around a traditional country ballad better than most I can think of. He plays to that same strong suit here on this album, with some real heartbreakers included on this release.. such songs on this album include an ode to the importance of kin in Like Family; the time-honoured country theme of a failed relationship is explored in Enough To Lie To Me; a wonderful metaphor for love in Spilled Whiskey – but look no further than the heart-wrenching tribute to a lost love in Say Hello To Heaven for the pick of the bunch.

The song explores a husband mourning the loss of his wife, and a few of the lyrics may make the eyes leak, just a little:

I love our baby girl more than life/
But she needs her mom, and I sure need my wife/
Won’t you say hello to heaven for us/
tell Jesus we’re not mad, we just miss you so much/
Please ask him, when comes back, to take us where you are/
And ask him to forgive the man in that other car/
And ask him to help me forgive the man in that other car…

It would be remiss of me to say there are no faults to this album and while not so much filler, songs that didn’t appeal to my tastes include a pop/rock fluff piece in Wanna Be That Feeling; an overly in-your-face note about modern Nashville fare that doesn’t hit the right chords lyrically and sounds far too much like the music it’s discrediting for my liking in Get Out Of My Country; and Sunday Morning Kind Of Town is enjoyable on the whole – a look at rural life and it’s pleasures, but with the added unnecessary and potentially unrealistic lyric:

Had a little fuss last night, down at the Town Hall meeting/
State came in and tried to take the Pledge Of Allegiance out/
Not in a Sunday Morning Kind Of Town..

As mentioned, Daryle has worked with legends in his time: several of his post-2000 albums contain duets with country greats: including Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, George Jones, Ricky Skaggs and – while he was alive – Johnny Paycheck. He again teams up with Paycheck on There’s Still A Little Country Left – this time posthumously – and armed with a JP vocal from later in his career, Singletary delivers a toe-tapping and very faithful rendition of I’m The Only Hell (That Mama Ever Raised)Paycheck’s Top 10, 1977 hit.

The two highlights of this album are left until tracks 9 and 10 on the physical release –the title track and Too Late To Save The World are heads and shoulders above the remainder and are worth spinning alone, if you’re chasing a quick idea of what this album is all about. Truly, the spirit of this release is summed up in these two songs: There’s Still A Little Country Left celebrates the simple pleasures of rural life in a well-trodden fashion that doesn’t ever feel clichéd – to the point where it will leave the listener with a small smile after hearing it, in the knowledge that the simple life still exists. And to any country fan who’s ever switched on the evening news and instead decided to watch re-runs of The Andy Griffith ShowToo Late To Save The World is the cherry on top of this wonderful album:

I mean, who’s singing to the folks down in factory/
And all the broken hearts in bars on stools/
It’s hard to tell just went wrong exactly/
Lord there must be something we can do/
Might be too late to save the world/
It may be already gone/
So what’s say we shift our attention to a good ol’ three chord song/
Now maybe I’m just talking crazy/
I think together we can do this/
It may be too late for the world/
But can’t we still save country music…

And folks – by spending your hard-earned on Daryle Singletary’s latest wonderful album There’s Still A Little Country Left – you can help keep traditional country music ticking over for another year. And that’s what we’re all about here at If That Ain’t Country. Purchase details below.

Four out of five stars.

http://daryle-singletary.myshopify.com/ – only $10 gets you all 11 songs on the album!

***

Do you remember Bobby Hodge?

The Bobby Hodge compilation The Bobby Hodge Collection is the feature album in the latest episode of If That Ain’t Country. Listen to the show here!


bobby hodge pic 2Bobby Hodge
was a southern honky tonker in a mid-west dairy state in the early 1970s when he upped and moved his family to Florida. He had relocated to the Great Lakes region after finishing up in the army in the early 50s, and he found himself working at a race track in Detroit. After his stint in Michigan, he headed to Stoughton, Wisconsin – a place not usually synonymous with good country music – to visit family. Whilst in town, he pitched his services to several local radio stations and and in 1951 found work with WKOW presenting a half hour weekly spot. Bobby even hosted a local TV show on an affiliate station in Madison. By now he had adopted the stage name “The Rainbow Ranger” (not to be confused with Hank Snow’s Rainbow Ranch Boys) and persisted at WKOW for several years.

The native North Carolinian had come from a poor southern upbringing on the outskirts of Gastonia in that state, but after his grandmother gave him his first guitar, he soon taught himself the basics of picking. Bobby recalls that it was Gene Autry’s Don’t Fence Me In which he first learnt to play and he must have been doing something right – in 1947 he was offered a spot as featured vocalist in a local band fronted by Bill Darnel. Shortly afterwards, 500-watt local station WGNC offered the group a 15-minute segment on Hillbilly Time in Caroline, a show which had featured other stars of the future including Don Gibson and legendary banjo-picker Earl Scruggs.

bobby on opry jpeg

Bobby Hodge on the Grand Ole Opry

After having established himself in Wisconsin as a solid honky-tonker through sheer hard work and personal appearances, he was invited to cut his first record in 1958 You’re Another Broken Heart (written by Bobby himself). It was never released, but around the same time he cut his first commercial recording on the Madison-based Rebel label, another self-penned number entitled Gonna Take My Guitar.

bobby hodge on opry jpeg

Opry program from 1962 featuring Bobby (circled)

In 1961, Roy Acuff and his touring band came to Madison. Amongst Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys was legendary steel guitarist Shot Jackson (half of the inspiration behind the iconic Sho-Bud brand of steel guitar) and Bobby introduced himself to the band backstage at Acuff’s Madison show (incidentally singing a few numbers on stage with Acuff at the time). Bobby recalled that later that same year, Jackson called him and invited him to lay down some tracks on Starday (or rather the Starday subsidiary Nashville label). Backing musicians included most of the Smoky Mountain Boys: Shot Jackson on steel guitar, Howdy Forrester sawing on the fiddle, Brother Oswald on bass and Miss Melba Montgomery on rhythm guitar (later a successful recording star in her own right and duet partner for some very big names including George Jones). During that session, he re-recorded Gonna Take My Guitar and You’re Always Welcome To Cry On My Shoulder.

bobby with stars

Bobby Hodge with Webb Pierce, Lefty Frizzell & Porter Wagoner (L-R)

By now his reputation had filtered down to the Nashville establishment and his personal success reached its peak later in 1961 when he was asked by Ott Devine, manager of the Grand Ole Opry to guest on WSM at the famous Ryman Auditorium. He played the hallowed Opry stage several times over the next year or two, rubbing shoulders with legendary country acts including Porter Wagoner, Lefty Frizzell, Webb Pierce, Carl Smith & many others. Three children had arrived to Bobby and wife Mary by that time, however, and they made the decision to leave Music City behind for family life back in Wisconsin. Over the next few years, Bobby sporadically recorded for various Midwestern labels, including Cuca Records and Dave Dudley’s Minneapolis-based Golden Wing (later Golden Ring). Highlights from that time for this reviewer include Taxi Cab Driver (Bobby was backed here by the same musicians responsible for Dave Dudley’s massive hit Six Days On The Road) and Alligator Man.

Despite a few trips to Nashville in the late 1960s and subsequent recordings on the Stop label, Bobby Hodge retired from the recording side of music and moved to Florida in 1972. From here, he and his wife devoted themselves to the horse racing industry – a longtime love of theirs – however, the Hodges also purchased a few clubs over the next few decades, including Bobby Hodge’s Longhorn in Tampa, which he continued to perform at into the new millennium. In 2011, Bobby passed away from congestive heart failure.

He is survived by several sons and one of them, Richie Hodge, is doing a fine job of keeping his father’s music alive – operating a website dedicated to his material and offering a CD collection of most of Bobby’s recorded material between 1958-1972, taken straight from the original 45s. The Bobby Hodge Collection is our feature album on this week’s edition of the show (click here to listen) and includes 24 cuts of mostly solid honky-tonk and traditional country material recorded just the way we like it here at If That Ain’t Country. There’s a fine selection of barnstormers, weepers, drinking and cheating numbers here – some of the best include Dark Horse (a The Race Is On-esque horse racing metaphor for love), I Can’t Fight The World (Single Handed), Your Love Passed Away and the opening track Scarlet Water (Known As Wine).

There are some surprisingly strong novelty songs on this release, too: Bus Drivin’ Son Of A One is a tongue-in-cheek honky-tonking nod to the bus drivers of the world; Alligator Man contains some cleverly replicated cricket sound effects to offset kitsch lyrics – but strong numbers like You Asked For What You Got and Impossible To Get You Off My Mind recall the best honky-tonkers of the era, especially Little Jimmy Dickens – the similarities vocally are quite astounding to this reviewer’s ears. Incidentally, Dickens joined the Opry in 1948 and was a regular thereafter – perhaps they shared the stage at some point?

bobby & ernest

Despite his lack of commercial success – which seems more a luck than talent-based issue – and relative obscurity these days, Bobby was quoted as having been very satisifed with his level of personal achievements. And having played the Opry on multiple occasions over 1961-2, released enough material to fill an 80-minute CD with honky tonk gold and having been able to while away his twilight years playing the kind of music he loved at his Tampa club – I’d say that satisfaction is well warranted.

– With thanks to Shane Hughes and Richie Hodge for their help in compiling this review.

Porter Wagoner – In Person

Porter Wagoner’s album In Person [1964] is the feature album in the latest episode of If That Ain’t Country. Listen to the show here!

 
porter Y normaThis week’s feature album is one of the earliest live country albums ever released. After a quick Google search, the only two earlier albums to be found were Hank Thompson’s iconic At The Golden Nugget (1961) and Flatt & Scruggs’ At Carnegie Hall (1963). It pre-dates monumental live releases from Ernest Tubb, Buck Owens, Charley Pride and a whole host of others. And, according to multiple websites, In Person even pre-dates the earliest rock/pop live release, coming in 1966 with Got Live If You Want It! from the Rolling Stones.

As such, this is a historically important album even before you get listening. Another unique fact: this release was all recorded on the night of January 10, 1964 (unlike later releases which combine multiple shows into one “live” record). The show itself was performed in Porter’s home town of West Plains, Missouri, and there’s no doubt that many of his original supporters, family and friends are in the audience – the applause is particularly raucous for a country show. One of the most enjoyable features of Porter Wagoner In Person is that it hails from the days when many country music performances were held in high school auditoriums or VFWs, giving that intimate, familial sound and warmth that is lacking from so many of today’s stadium shows.

porter at opry

Porter’s first taste of success had come in 1954 with the Top Ten hit Company’s Comin’ (not included), almost a full 10 years before this album – as such, it’s a homecoming of sorts for the folks who supported The Thin Man From West Plains on his rise to the top of the country music world. A listener might smile whilst imagining Porter’s parents themselves sitting in the back row, beaming with pride at the progress of their son thus far in his career.

porter with trio

And smile they should: the banter here is predictably cheesy but fun, especially the comedy from upright bassist and funnyman Speck Rhodes (who also does a very good rendition of the traditional Sweet Fern). The Wagonmasters here have been together more than long enough to sound magnificent: Porter’s road band at the time consisted of Norma Jean (the “girl singer” before Dolly Parton  replaced her in 1968), Buck Trent on electric banjo, the oft-jumpy Mac McGehee on fiddle (and later Dolly Parton’s road manager), the legendary Speedy Haworth on guitar (this man was a contemporary and some say equal to Les Paul & Chet Atkins) and Don Warden doing a stellar job on stand up steel.

At 17 tracks, this is a very long album for the era and highlights are many (4 of which were included in the latest episode of If That Ain’t Country, click here to listen) – a fine gospel number from the pen of Marijohn Wilkin (writer of Lefty Frizzell’s Long Black Veil) is I Thought Of God, and the touching story of a son gone awry from his homefolks on An Old Log Cabin For Sale. For umptempo cuts, Misery Loves Company, written by a young Jerry Reed, is a fine toe-tapper to get the show going and My Baby’s Not Here (In Town Tonight) would’ve had a few heads bobbing with a hot guitar solo from Speedy Haworth.

The album itself rose to #5 on the Country Albums chart, and was the most successful long-play release of Porter’s career in that respect until The Cold Hard Facts Of Life hit #4 in 1967. More significantly, however, this album is a priceless time capsule from an era when country music was in a period of transition – and is a listen that any traditional country music, hillbilly or bluegrass fan ought to enjoy thoroughly.

Ray Price – Beauty Is… Final Sessions

Ray Price’s album Beauty Is… Final Sessions [2014] is the feature album in the latest episode of If That Ain’t Country.

 

ray price old microphoneA year ago this month we lost one of the most iconic voices in country music. Ray Price had a career which spanned the from late 1940s, as a contemporary of Hank Williams, right up until 2013, which saw him enter the studio one final time to record the feature album this week on If That Ain’t Country: Beauty Is… Final Sessions.

To say producer Fred Foster is accomplished is an understatement. He produced Roy Orbison’s biggest hits, and worked with Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Grandpa Jones & Larry Gatlin as well as a whole bunch of others. He oversaw Price, Haggard & Nelson on Last Of The Breed and Willie Nelson’s solo Lost Highway.

Foster first met Ray Price in the mid-1950s after having a few adult beverages one night. He says he offered some straight up advice to the young Price: “‘You know, you need to quit trying to sound like Hank Williams. He’s dead. You need to sound like Ray Price.'”

Apparently Price took his advice, because in the next few years he developed a trademark sound (the Ray Price shuffle) which took him to the top of the charts before he switched to a smoother sound later in his career.

ray price old

In 2013, Price was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a particularly agressive form of the disease. Aware of his own mortality at age 87, he approached Foster about cutting one more album. And so began work on Beauty Is… Final Sessions.

In between chemotherapy and trips home to his Texas farm, this album was recorded using some of the best country musicians going around, befitting of Ray’s influence in the genre. The entire album was dedicated by Price to his wife Janie, to whom he’d been married since the early 80s.

According to Janie in an interview she gave to The Tennessean newspaper, Price had pulled her aside and said “‘All these years, you’ve asked me if I really loved you, and I have been remiss in telling you how I feel,’ he said, ‘I’ve done this for you. I want you to have it to listen to when I’m not here, to hear me telling you how much I love you.’ Ray wasn’t a mushy man, and there wasn’t all of that ‘I love you’ stuff,” If I asked, he’d say, ‘I would not have married you if I hadn’t have loved you.’ ”

And you can hear it. Every track, with the exception of the nostalgic look back on youth in I Wish I Was 18 Again, are love songs. Price is in fine vocal form considering his age, and Foster has chosen that lush, string section-heavy sound that featured on Ray’s 70s/80s material.

Vince Gill offers himself as a fine background vocalist rather than a duet partner on two tracks, being Until Then and Beauty Lies In The Eye Of The Beholder and the steel guitar on the former is profound. During his post-1970 heyday, he was known by many as the “Frank Sinatra Of Country Music”. And he sounds it here, with An Affair To Remember (love theme from the Cary Grant film) and Among My Souvenirs: both cuts that ‘Ol Blue Eyes himself would have been comfortable recording.

ray price old colour

This album is a touching and melancholic dedication to a woman Ray Price spent some 30 years married to and it deserves to go down as one of his finest works. Indeed his last – and it was one of his best, a fitting feature to mark year since his death here at If That Ain’t Country.

Ray Price passed away on December 16, 2013 at his home in Mount Pleasant, Texas. He was interred at Restland Memorial Park in Dallas.

Porter Wagoner – The Best I’ve Ever Been

Porter Wagoner’s album The Best I’ve Ever Been [2000] is the feature album in the latest episode of If That Ain’t Country. Listen here or (click here to download) and listen on the go!

 

porter wagoner 1In the 1950s and 1960s, recording an album made up entirely of songs from a single writer or artist was not unusual. Buck Owens did it with Tommy Collins, Connie Smith with Dallas Frazier, Johnny Cash with Hank Williams, George Jones with Bob Wills. Since then, however, such a collection of songs has become more of a rarity.

In the late 1990s, Porter Wagoner had not recorded an album of new original material in some 20-odd years, instead settling for a host of reissues and compilations. In fact, his last charting single was 1983’s This Cowboy’s Hat (#35). It is said that Porter had made a conscious decision to stop recording some years earlier: so when he received a tape of songs from one Damon Black, he put it to the side. He knew Damon well: Porter had helped launch the fellow Missourian’s country songwriting career by recording several of his songs in the 1960s/70s. However, Porter ended up listening to the tape for hours on end after discovering hearing the material – sure enough, it spawned an entire album of Black/Wagoner collaborations: The Best I’ve Ever Been.

Porter was 72 years old at the recording of this album, however he was still in fine voice. Like George Jones, he had the ability to convey any emotion through a song and with age had come a warmth which seemed lacking from his 70s hard-country material. Make no mistake – this album is top notch and the musicianship featured is fitting of a man with Porter’s influence in the country music world: including Loretta Lynn’s longtime steel player Hal Rugg, Rob Hajacos on fiddle and Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano, to name but a few.

Porter Wagoner

Wagoner has always been the master of a story song: Carrol County Accident, Green Green Grass Of Home, Skid Row Joe and The Cold Hard Facts Of Life are all prime examples of his forte here. These Damon Black compositions are made for Porter’s delivery, as Black is a skilled country wordsmith in his own right. You cannot help but recall your own Scooter, Skip and Dan when Wagoner sings wistfully in House On Mulberry Street. The cruelty of the march of time is brought home to roost on I Knew This Day Would Come, about a man’s relationship with a much younger parter. A tune for a pair looking to settle for the next best thing is provided in the upbeat ‘Til The Right One Comes Along.

One highlight of many, however, is the reminiscent story of a father who lived through his music in The Fiddle And The Bow:

Then he played a song he wrote about a girl named Carolyn Walker/
Everybody swore she must be real/
Then he played a song he wrote about hard times a-pickin’ cotton/
So plain you could see him in them fields…
For my Daddy was a writer and he played them old one nighters/
Made a livin’ painting pictures with a fiddle and a bow.

In this reviewer’s opinion, this album is the best Porter had released in the last 20 years of his career, at least, right up there with 2007’s Wagonmaster. Porter died in 2007 and Damon Black passed in 2005: It sure would be nice to think they’re up in the big honky tonk in the sky as I type, planning another album of this calibre. Truly a great find.

Loretta Lynn – I Like ‘Em Country

Loretta Lynn‘s 1966 album I Like ‘Em Country is the feature album in the latest episode of If That Ain’t Country. Listen here or (click here to download) and listen on the go!

 

loretta lynn best1966 was a good year in country music. Roger Miller took home 6 grammies; The Statler Brothers two. Eddy Arnold becomes the youngest (at the time) living inductee into the Country Music Hall Of Fame. Buck Owens dominated the charts with hits like Waitin’ In Your Welfare Line and Think Of Me. And Loretta Lynn was on a hot streak, her previous 6 singles having hit the Top 10. It was later on that year she charted her first #1 hit with Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind).

It was also the year she released I Like ‘Em Country, an oft-ignored release given the success of Don’t Come Home… The release itself is a solid LP, featuring 12 tracks (unusual at the time) of stone-country, true to her previous work, and it peaked at #2, the best result since her debut album in 1963.

As was normal at the time, there is a selection of covers, mainly featuring country hits from the past 20 years, including Loretta‘s take on Johnny Cash’s Cry, Cry, Cry – which very much suits her on-stage demeanour – Hank Williams‘ timeless Your Cheatin’ Heart, and Ernest Tubb’s It’s Been So Long Darlin’. You could definitely see that rendition featuring the Daddy Of ‘Em All as a duet partner (Loretta & Ernest‘s first duet album had been released the previous year).

loretta lynn horizontal

The instrumentation is tight, as you’d expect from anything produced by the brilliant hands of Owen Bradley, featuring Loretta‘s longtime steel guitarist Hal Rugg, Grady Martin on lead guitar, Floyd Cramer’s piano on certain cuts and The Jordanaires on backing vocals.

Standout tracks include Hurtin’ For Certain, a happenin’ opener written by Johnny Russell in Two Mules Pull This Wagon, an honest-to-goodness cover of Carl Smith’s hit If Teardrops Were Pennies and of course the plaintive open invitation to the other woman and the first single from the album, The Home You’re Tearin’ Down.

The only track penned by the upcoming songwriter in Loretta was Dear Uncle Sam: no surprises, then, when it became the second single and highest selling from the album, peaking at #2 late in 1966. The song tells the story of a wife whose husband joined the military when the call came, and ends with a heartwrenching twist…

Dear Uncle Sam I know you’re a busy man/
And tonight I write to you through tears with a trembling hand/
My darling answered when he got that call from you/
You said you really need him but you don’t need him like I do…

loretta lynn 1Overall this album is nothing that a casual fan of the genre will take over a greatest hits compilation, but for a fan of Loretta Lynn and/or of traditional country music in the tight and stripped back manner that it was made in the 1960s, this will be an enjoyable listen and well worth the spot as the feature album on this episode of If That Ain’t Country.

Introducing: Honky Tonk Dave

Guest programmer Honky Tonk Dave joined us for a chat in the latest episode of If That Ain’t Country. Listen here or (click here to download) and listen on the go!

[audio http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/gvqat0469b/Episode_14_-_Honky_Tonk_Dave_Interview.mp3]

 

htd 3As regular fans of If That Ain’t Country would know, there is still plenty of great country music being made all around the world. Indeed, many of these artists are doing a top-notch job of keeping the forefathers of country and western music around and heard. Covers of Ray Price, George Jones and Buck Owens are great – but do they really serve to keep country music relevant?

This is where today’s feature artist Honky Tonk Dave comes in. Growing up in Kansas, and moving to Nashville in the late 1990s, here’s a country music artist who is making new, original music – exactly what the doctor ordered to keep country relevant and evolving into the 21st century. His music is firmly rooted in the traditions of his idols in Faron Young, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens but this material is fresh. Dave’s been paying his dues for many years now, networked with the right people and the result is today’s feature album: Song From Yesterday.

The title track could well be (yet another) theme song for us here at If That Ain’t Country.

I’m not putting down what’s played today
But being new don’t make it great
Some timeless memories can’t be erased
They take me back when guitars used to twang
And every jukebox knew the sound that twin fiddles make
A steel guitar and upright bass and real pianos played
There’s nothing wrong with a song from yesterday…

Another point of interest on this remarkably strong, 10-track independent release is how crisp the production sounds. The instrumentation is anything as good as you’d hear on a Heart Of Texas release: the steel guitar is on perfect pitch (Carco Clave); the lead guitar is tight and punchy (Jason Jordan), the vocals are suitably twangy without overdoing it; the drums and bass, fiddle and piano perfectly complement the leading instruments. It’s a fine balancing act that has been perfected on this, Honky Tonk Dave’s first full album release in some time.

htd 2

Other highlights include Merle, My Hat’s Off To You – a tongue in cheek tale of a Merle Haggard fan who lands himself in hot water with a Johnny Cash enthusiast; Drag Strip Boy – a wonderfully country turn-of-phrase about a man who just parted ways with a high-maintenance woman; and Tennessee Girl which you can’t help but think may be based on Dave’s own life. Also interesting to note that 9 of these 10 tracks were co-written with Dave’s father, Randy Parks.

In this episode of If That Ain’t Country, Honky Tonk Dave joined us as a guest programmer – selecting several tracks of his own favourites and revealing a little bit about himself and his history. The download-only copy of Song From Yesterday is available at honkytonkdave.com for only $10 – if you’re a fan of country and western music which we specialise in here at If That Ain’t Country, do yourself a favour and pick up this album. You will not regret it.

Will Banister & The Modern Day Ramblers

Will Banister & The Modern Day Ramblers have this week’s feature album in the latest episode of If That Ain’t Country. Listen here or (click here to download) and listen on the go!

 

Will Banister 2Will Banister is only in his mid-twenties but sings about heartbreak like it’s an old friend, in the true country style. Fortunately, he’s been a bit luckier in love than his style may let on – he just knows a how a good country song should go, he says.

“Turn Back Time” is his second album out on the Clovissite label, and this young man is quickly making a name for himself in the field that we love here at If That Ain’t Country.

After the release of his first album “Turned Her On To Country”, Will and his band was invited to play at Wembley Arena for the International Country Music Festival. That venue is particularly well known for massive crowds in for rock and roll shows, so for the Portales, New Mexico native, it was a massive first step.

From the perspective of someone who has never heard of this man before, take a look at his first album’s cover artwork: it features a fresh faced Will Banister in a neat pressed shirt and jeans with a smart hat and a winning smile, with a pretty girl in the background draped over a jukebox. This is the music of George Strait, Clint Black and Keith Whitley. Of Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. And these are all men who Will has been compared to and cited as influences. This is traditional country music at it’s most encouragingly modern. Contemporary but still country: just the way it should be. Take a look at his first single and title track from his first album “Turned Her On To Country”. His now-wife Tessa was the inspiration for the song, says Will.

Country music’s appeal is a broad one, and unbeknownst to most in the USA, the genre commands quite a strong pull in some areas of Europe; especially the UK, Germany, France and Scandinavia. To emphasise that fact, Will‘s first major tour on the strength of his first album came after he was profiled by Country Music People, a UK publication which succeeded in bringing him and his band to Britain for a short series of shows.

Will Banister 3

The release of “Turn Back Time” in 2012 saw a keen audience reaction to Will’s Wembley Arena rendition of Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” some 60+ years after it’s initial release in the 1950s – and shortly thereafter, Will played shows in Basildon, Widnes, Leeds, Watton and Nottingham. Proof in the pudding there that Will knows his country music.

For now Will and his band, featuring producer Johnny Mulhair (famous for his role in getting LeAnn Rimes‘ debut album “Blue” to platinum status in the 90s), have a steady Wednesday and Friday gig at Kelley’s Bar And Grill in Clovis, NM – a friendly bar by most accounts (it rates 4/5 on Yelp.com) where you can shoot pool, have a few cold ones and enjoy some top notch country music. If you live in the area, you’ll want to catch this man and his music. If not, take a listen to Episode 113 of If That Ain’t Country and head to his website and get yourself a copy of one of both of Will Banister’s albums. The money is well spent.

Remembering (and discovering) Justin Tubb

Justin is feature artist in the latest episode of If That Ain’t Country. Listen here or (click here to download) and listen on the go!

justin tubb & goldie hill

Justin Tubb & Goldie Hill

ET+JT+GT

(L-R) Ernest Tubb, Justin Tubb & Gabe Tucker

Every country fan has that artist that they can’t help but wonder, “Why didn’t he make it big? He’s just as good as George Jones.” Or Dolly Parton. Or whoever.

No exception with us here at If That Ain’t Country. I’ve got any number of artists I hear on a regular basis and just shake my head at the injustice of it all. You’ve got Alan Jackson, for example, who made it as big as you can get it in the world of country music.

Then you’ve got somebody like Shane Worley (never heard of him? Doesn’t surprise me) who, to this set of ears, should be the next big thing. Instead, he’s probably funds any albums he releases himself and pours beer and fixes cars to make ends meet.

A man who has straddled the line between the two extremes I just mentioned was Justin Tubb. In the mid 1950s, he had two top 15 hits in duets with the beautiful Goldie Hill. He followed that with solo success, landing a top 10 single with “I Gotta Go Get My Baby” in 1955, and “Take A Letter, Miss Gray” [1963]. He made the charts again with Lorene Mann in the mid 1960s, but never really enjoyed the success that was befitting a man of his talents.

Vocally, Justin was, in this reviewer’s opinion, right up there with any of the greats. The eldest son of country pioneer Ernest Tubb, Justin lived mainly with his mother during early life. After Ernest split with Elaine (of “Blue-Eyed Elaine” fame) in 1948, some of the best advice his father gave him was to “just be Justin”. Of course, he was referring to the inevitable comparisons that Justin would draw to his high-profile Daddy. He resolved early on in the piece, though, to blaze his own trail musically. At one point, he even decided to try his hand at college – studying journalism at UT Austin.

Thankfully for country music fans, though, he was offered a job in his late teens as a DJ at WHIN Gallatin. This allowed him to play some of his own songs to a wider audience and garner new fans. Not so long after, he landed a record deal with the Decca label (the same as his father) and his career as a recording artist was underway.

He always tried to avoid capitalising on the success of his father and in doing so developed a different country music sound. His vocal style was much higher than Ernest’s and his songs were more uptempo, shuffle-based numbers.

Despite his only moderate chart success as a solo artist, his is most remembered as a songwriter, and a damn good one at that. Gifted with the ability to string catchy and meaningful lyrics together – even with the power of the internet, it’s very hard to find all the songs he wrote in one place. Some of his better known songs made famous by others at the time included “Lonesome 7-7203” (Hawkshawk Hawkins), “Love Is No Excuse” (Jim Reeves & Dottie West) and “Keeping Up With The Joneses” (Faron Young).

I imagine his songs would pop up in very obscure places: from “I’d Know You Anywhere” (Justin Trevino) on a release from 2000-something to “Big Fool Of The Year” (George Jones) in some honky tonk dive bar which still has a jukebox capable of spinning 45s. I personally witnessed Jake Hooker & The Outsiders cover “Mine Is A Lonely Life” (Skeeter Davis) – a very catchy shuffle beat written by Justin in the early 1960s.

Justin Tubb joined the Grand Ole Opry at the young age of only 20, but was a regular fixture there for many years. He toured heavily and made many fans across the USA and worldwide – so much so that he was temporarily dropped from the Opry lineup because he was never in town.

A measure of his success as a songwriter comes in the fact that he wrote many songs which his own Daddy picked up and recorded over the years. If it’s good enough for Ernest Tubb – The Texas Troubadour himself – then it’s sure as heck good enough for the rest of us. A few of those songs included “Your Side Of The Story” and “Be Glad” amongst a whole bunch others. Interesting to see that it went the other way too – Justin had some fun with his version of Ernest’sYou Nearly Lose Your Mind“.

A passing thought, too – Justin Tubb roomed with an upcoming Roger Miller in the late 1950s. Two of the most important country music songwriters in one house? I would’ve loved to have heard some of the conversations that went on in there. How much of life in that period became immortalised in song, unbeknownst to us, the casual listener?

Justin Tubb died very early – in 1998, at the age of only 62 he passed away – leaving behind his wife, Carolyn McPherson Tubb. He wasn’t quite one of artists that hit the big time, but as a songwriter he made his mark. By simply reading this, you’ve ensured that his country music footprint remains alive.

A song he penned to express his discontent with the direction country music was taking in 1981 still stands very true today.

gravePerhaps, his life was put best by a fan named Jimmy Lee who posted the following in the comments section on a obituary to Justin a few years ago: “I met you once. You were an ordinary guy, with extraordinary talent. It was an honor. Your great voice and incredible songwriting gifts will live on forever“.

Apt.