12/29/20 Henry Mancini Country

Henry Mancini won 20 Grammy awards and all sorts of other awards, mostly for film scores. He also released a pair of albums in the 70s covering country hits. “All His Children” from the movie “Sometimes A Great Nation” is a collaboration with Charley Pride, and it was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to the “Theme From Shaft.”

Since I mentioned Charley Pride, here’s a great Charley Pride quote: “What we don’t need in country music is divisiveness, public criticism of each other, and some arbitrary judgement of what belongs and what doesn’t.”

In other news, Dr. Jesse Wells, who is now in Tyler Childers’ band, posted an audio clip yesterday from 1999, when Wells was in a band with Chris Stapleton, JT Cure (who is still Chris Stapleton’s bass player all these years later), and BJ Swank: The Woodpickers cover Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice

A video was uploaded to YouTube this week of Lauren Alaina singing “How Great Is Our God” at a church in 2014: Tylis Green upload. I guess it’s because I watched the weekly Opry shows on YouTube and saw Lauren Alaina on there a week or so ago that this video came up as a suggested listen. Speaking of church music, Carrie Underwood announced that her next project will be a gospel album.

12/28/20 The Country Atmosphere List

I’ve written over a thousand posts here, but I haven’t covered easy listening specifically very much. Background music comes in many forms. “Ambient Country” has developed a bit of a following in the last few years, and there are several playlists on streaming services dedicated to it. Ambient is generally regarded as mostly or wholly instrumental music with little or no structure.

My Country Atmosphere playlist includes many examples of ambient country, but also includes some easy listening music that does have words and structure. Brian Eno came up with the term “ambient music” in the late 70s, and my list includes a few songs featuring pedal steel guitar from his 1983 album “Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks.”

Here are some other bits featured on my list:

The Mystic Moods Orchestra’s 1971 album “Country Lovin’ Folk” and Dan Gibson’s 2007 album “Home: Peaceful Bluegrass” feature a lot of nature sounds (crickets, etc).

Chet Atkins In Hollywood is an often -overlooked easy listening country instrumental album (first released in 1959, then re-recorded in 1961). Instrumental albums were very common during that era, but rarely appreciated today.

The KLF released the album “Chill Out” in 1990, and there are some nice steel guitar bits. This is the group that collaborated with Tammy Wynette in 1991. The country music industry had long since given up on Tammy Wynette as a top star, as her last country music number one was in 1977. Her collaboration with The KLF didn’t register in country, but it was an international pop hit. Just think about that for a second. Tammy Wynette had twenty number one hits in country music, and Dolly and Reba are the only female artists who have since eclipsed that number. Tammy Wynette was 34 when she had her last number one country hit.

12/27/20 Switched On Buck

2021 is rapidly approaching, so let’s go back half a century to 1971 and check out Jeff Haskell’s Switched On Buck album

I don’t usually upload music, but my brother was kind enough to upload this one for me. Buck Owens owned one of the first commercial Moog synthesizers, and Jeff Haskell put it to good use with this album of Buck Owens covers.

I’ve mentioned the country Moog albums from the same era by Rick Powell and Gil Trythall, both of which are in streaming services. I had been looking for the Switched On Buck record for an affordable price for a while, and finally found one a few weeks ago.

Synthesizer country from half a century ago is an oddball niche, obviously, but if you’re one of the very, very few people reading Robert’s Country Blog, you’re probably looking for something a little different from what you find everywhere else, anyway.

I’ll also mention that Hyperbubble has a project called “Cowgirls & Synthesizers” on the way in 2021. It’s unclear exactly what they have planned. An article in the San Antonio Current described the project as a “sort-of documentary chronicling the band’s trek to Nashville to record Western Wear, its 2017 synth-country album.”

12/26/20 Country Theremin

Country music and theremin don’t cross paths all that often, but both are rooted in the same time frame. The country music industry came into its own in the early 1920s, and the theremin was patented in 1920. Since it’s the theremin’s hundredth anniversary, I wanted to put this together before the end of the year.

Country Theremin playlist

Billy Strings also had a bit of theremin on one of his albums, but I’d have to go back to find exactly where on the album it was used, or if it’s prominent enough to fit here.

Although the theremin is infrequently used in country music, the saw can make some similarly eerie sounds. I do have a list for that, too: Musical Saw

In other news, my brother uploaded our high school band record from 1984. That was the only time we ever recorded anything. It was a small private school that no longer exists. There is a Kenny Rogers medley, but that’s the only country bit. I doubt if this will be of interest to anyone else, but it’s a treasure to us, especially since we didn’t keep playing music: Robert played trumpet, brother Bill played tuba

Merry Christmas 2020

My Christmas List has some traditional songs, but also plenty of uncommon and unusual selections. One recent addition is “A Hillbilly Beatboxing Christmas.”

Here are some other oddball full Christmas albums:

Mr. Talkbox Christmas

Mr Hankey’s Christmas Classics

The Joyous Sounds Of Christmas: Johnny Largo at the Optigan

Theremin Christmas by Katica Illényi

Geeta Brothers, Punjabi Christmas Album Hits

The only new country album I know of this week is by David Alan Bell.

Merry Christmas !

12/23/20 Swiss and Austrian Country Music

Yodeling is the best-known contribution to country music from primarily German-speaking alpine central Europe. There are some country artists in these places, too.

Switzerland is home to people speaking a few languages, but most of this list is in German and English: Swiss Country Music.

My Austrian Country Music playlist is mostly German, but some English.

My Alphorn Etc list is heavy on Swiss alphorn, but also includes other instruments that are either related or serve a similar function.

My Yodel Yodel Yodel list includes a variety of yodeling and similar techniques (falsetto breaks ,etc).

12/22/20 Sioux Country

Today, we’ll go back a few years and check out some music from the Dakotas.

Buddy Red Bow (1948-1993) was a country singer who was regionally popular. Last year, Native Sun News Today published Remembering Buddy Red Bow. Here’s a live performance and interview circa 1975 or 1976. Here are some more of his songs: Buddy Red Bow

Floyd Red Crow Westerman (1936-2007) was probably best known for his acting roles, but he was also a singer. In 2006, he released Floyd Red Crow Westerman: A Tribute To Johnny Cash

In 2005, Marty Stuart released the album Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota. In 2017, Marty Stuart filmed the video for Time Don’t Wait at the Pine Ridge Reservation.

12/20/20 Stroh Violin

John Matthias Augustus Stroh was born in Germany in 1828, and settled in London in 1851. In 1899, he patented the Stroh Violin. It’s that funny-looking fiddle with the horn that you might’ve seen in a museum. It’s actually a cool bit of technology, which inspired the better-known amplified instruments that were developed much later, such as resonator guitars. George Beauchamp was an important figure in the development of resonator guitars, the electric guitar, and the electric violin, and he was likely quite familiar with the Stroh instruments. Here’s an article about the development of the electric violin.

So, although we don’t hear a lot of Stroh violin today, we certainly hear a lot of the instruments inspired by its technology.

Here’s my Stroh Violin, Phonofiddle Etc playlist. The phonofiddle has one string, so it’s an interesting novelty. The list also has other related instruments. The vioara cu goarnă is a popular Romanian horn-violin.

Although lots of people tinker with these things, and plenty of articles mention that Stroh violins were used in early recordings, there’s surprisingly little in the way of specific information about early recordings. Charles D’Almaine’s 1904 recording of “Donkey and Driver” is a good one.

I expected to find some country examples, but other than one picture of Burl Ives playing a Stroh violin in 1967, I found just about nothing from the “classic country” era, and even at that, I don’t know if Burl actually recorded with the instrument.