Sunday, June 15, 2008

Favorite Country Artist Results: 5,4,3 . . .

Merle just barely edged out George to make it into the top three. I've got no problem with that...

You can probably guess the top 2. Here's the balance of the top 5:

3. Merle Haggard
4. George Jones
5. Willie Nelson

And now for some music:

Some people are born to be stars, but it doesn't always happen right away. Willie Nelson was already playing guitar and writing songs at the age of seven. While still in his twenties he was an established songwriter, having penned hits like Crazy for Patsy Cline and Hello Walls for Faron Young. But his recording career never got off the ground, so at the age of almost forty he quit country music for "a brief and disastrous sojourn into pig farming." (Source: AMG.)

Then Willie got an idea. Instead of trying to succeed according to Nashville's standards, he started making country music that appealed to rock and folk sensibilities and, eventually, became a mega-star. The outlaw country movement was born. His first hit record, The Red Headed Stranger, was released in 1975 when Willie Nelson was already 42 years old. He never looked back after that.

Willie Nelson - Hands On The Wheel (buy album)
Willie Nelson – Me And Paul (buy album)
Willie Nelson – Funny How Time Slips Away (Live Acoustic) (buy album) (Note Willie's nice guitar playing on this track.)

George Jones has the best voice in country music. 'Nuff said.

George Jones – The Window Up Above (buy album)
George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today (buy album)
George Jones – Heartaches And Hangovers (out of print)

Merle Haggard is a great singer, but more importantly (in my book), he is an amazing songwriter, writing classics like Big City, The Bottle Let Me Down, Branded Man, I Threw Away The Rose, If We Make It Through December, Mama Tried, Okie From Muskogee, Ramblin' Fever, Silver Wings, Sing Me Back Home, Swinging Doors, Today I Started Loving You Again, White Line Fever, Workin' Man Blues, and You Don't Have Very Far To Go.

His life story is pretty amazing too. I'd really encourage you to read the AMG bio linked above.

Merle Haggard – Branded Man (buy album)
Merle Haggard – Thirty Again (buy album)
Merle Haggard – I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink (buy album)


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more about Merle. 'Kern River' is my facourite Merle Haggard song. To be able to write such a subtle, astute, majestic and moving song takes an awesome amount of talent.
Hearing Emmylou Harris' wonderful intepretation of 'Kern River' on her wonderful new album has reminded me how much I love that song. He developed, influenced and changed the art of songwriting forever, deeply influencing the country rock of the Byrds as well as the outlaw movement and other greats like Waylon, Willie and Johnny Paycheck. Undoubtedly one of the all time country greats.

Paul said...

It's so funny you should say that! As I read you comment I am listening to Emmylou's great version of Kern River. Pure coincidence, but cool.

Thanks for commenting.

Dave D. said...

Thanks for posting Heartaches and Hangovers, it's an underappreciated gem.

On the subject of Willie, I'm in the middle of reading The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock by Jan Reid and can highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Texas music scene.

paul said...

Hey, thanks for the book recommendation!

brendan said...

2nd-ing the redneck rock book and the thoughts on merle. ;)

LD said...

I'll echo everyone else's huzzahs, but I'll add a few things about Hag that don't always get a lot of attention. While Merle's right-hand man guitar players ... notably Roy Nichols and Redd Volkaert ... get some play in the press, Merle gets virtually none, yet he's an accomplished player in his own right. For decades, Merle's live performances have featured some of country music's most versatile, damn near jazzy guitar duels. In fact, did you know that Hag appeared on an early '80s edition of Downbeat Magazine? True.

Hag has also proven himself to be one of American music's all-time greatest (and most underrated) bandleaders. I think The Strangers are probably a little more versatile than Willie's Family Band and just this side of the Texas Playboys, but just barely. Hag rarely gets credit for this and I'm not sure why. I guess people just take it for granted.