Country music largely avoided the keytar, a performance instrument especially associated with the eighties. The primary appeal of the keytar is its use in live stage shows. I’m all about picking out odd bits that nobody else finds interesting, so here’s my list featuring Country Keytar.
In 1995, Lonestar (complete with John Rich) released its debut album. Keytar shows up in the video for group’s first number one, “No News.” I don’t know that the instrument was used in the actual recording, but it’s in the video. As far as I know, this is the only well-known appearance of the keytar in country music.
Certainly, someone somewhere tinkered with this instrument in country music ? My idea for this playlist came when I was putting together my Czech Country Music playlist, and noticed the keytar in videos by the Country Sisters.
Canadian group Fiddlestix also makes frequent use of the keytar. Although Fiddlestix is billed as “fiddle rock,” the group does have plenty of country songs in its repertoire.
I ran out of normal instruments, so let’s take a look at some very different things:
My Tesla Coil Music playlist includes several country covers, amazingly enough.
Calculator Music is about as nerdy as it gets. Musical calculators start at under $20, so if you’re looking for a new hobby, there you go.
Stylophone has been around since the late sixties. This cheap, small synthesizer has made a bit of a comeback in recent years with new products like the Stylophone Beatbox percussion version.
I also have a playlist for expressive controllers: Haken Continuum, LinnStrument, Roli Seaboard, and Soundplane
Synthesizer and MIDI Guitars
I even have lists for Tenori-On and Eigenharp
In addition to these many new playlists, here are some other oddball instruments:
TheRealSullyG’s Otamatone Covers
AquaSonic makes music underwater
Here’s the YouTube channel of the Floppotron
I’ll close today’s post with the Yaybahar
Here are some new albums to check out:
Heath Sanders, Creed Fisher, Jake Hõöt, Logan Mize, Jeremy Studdard, and Pony Bradshaw.
Well, that’s a pretty short post, isn’t it ?
My 2021 Country list is pretty wimpy so far, especially since I’m limiting it to videos, rather than just audio. Touring has been at a minimum for the last year. Sales have mostly gone away industry wide in favor of streaming, and streaming heavily favors the young and poppy. So, why aren’t people putting out videos ? Give people reasons to engage with your music.
The ukulele and violin are four-stringed instruments of similar size, so unsurprisingly, someone got the bright idea to create a hybrid. The resulting ukelin somehow has 32 strings, half of which are supposed to be bowed, while the other half are plucked ! Plenty of ukelins were sold in the 1920s-50s (and even some into the 60s-early70s), but very few recordings were made. Not a lot of people want to deal with 32-tuning pegs ! You’d have to be an octopus to truly excel at the ukelin.
My Ukelin Playlist is dedicated to this oddball instrument. I also include the Pianolin/Pianoette, which is a related instrument, despite the name. It doesn’t have much to do with a piano. If you’re hungry for even more ukelin, check out the Studio Bobo Ukelin Discography.
I also added a playlist for Marxophone, Celestaphone, and Dolceola
These are weird little zithers with mini-piano keyboards. Marxophones even have bouncing hammers for a very distinctive effect. Marxophones do show up on occasion in country/Americana: John Prine, Carlene Carter, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, etc.
Finally, I made a list for the Tremoloa, which was marketed as Hawaiian Tremoloa, despite not being from Hawaii. This peculiar hybrid zither was from the same era as the others in today’s post. Similarly, it was sold door to door, but wasn’t used on many recordings.
Melodica is very inexpensive and widely available now. Claviola was only produced very briefly in the nineties and never caught on in a major way. My new playlist Melodica and Claviola features these instruments in a variety of musical styles.
Although these instruments aren’t usually heard in country music, there are some examples. In the 70s, Michael Martin Murphy’s album “Cosmic Country Souvenir” and the Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge duet album “Kris and Rita Breakaway” both had some melodica. Gospel duo Henry and Hazel Slaughter often featured Henry Slaughter playing the melodica at least as far back as the mid seventies. Henry passed away a couple months ago, and Hazel passed away earlier this month. In the eighties, melodica was used on a couple of Marty Robbins albums that were released posthumously.
Claviola is a much, much less common instrument, but it showed up on Rodney Crowell’s 2018 album “Acoustic Classics.” The video for one of the songs even shows one.
These instruments are related to accordions and harmonicas. Although the melodica debuted in the late fifties, there’s some similarity to keyed harmonica instruments of the 1920s like the Hohner Organette, Hohnerette, and Couesnophone/Goofus. There are some 19th-century instruments like the Harmonicor that belong in the conversation, too. The Accordina is another reed instrument that you blow like a harmonica, but push keys like a button accordion. I don’t know of anyone doing anything with these in a country music context, but the commonality of all of these instruments is to blow like a harmonica and play keys like an accordion.
If the Melodica and Claviola are thought of as hybrids between harmonica and piano accordion, then these other instruments can be considered hybrids of harmonica and button accordion. I made a playlist: Accordina, Harmonetta, Organette, Hohnerette, Couesnophone/Goofus, Etc
I’ve covered some flutes in other lists, but here’s my new Country Flute playlist. There are standard flutes, piccolos, fifes, tin whistles, slide whistles, recorders, nose flutes, pan flutes, native flutes, shakuhachi, ocarinas, etc. As a fun fact, Jim Horn played the flute on “Going Up The Country” by Canned Heat, and he was also the musician who played the piccolo on Crystal Gayle’s “Sound Of Goodbye.” Jim Horn has played on a gazillion records of every type, including country, but I haven’t taken the time to track down many specific country songs to include on my list yet.
Let’s take a look back at my other lists with flutes:
Roots Flutes features a lot of early recordings, but also some odds and ends like slide whistles, ocarinas, quills, ancient bone whistles, and even the Aztec death whistle.
Country Orchestra features country music with orchestral backing plus big bands covering country songs. Flutes are usually in there somewhere, along with a gazillion other instruments.
Country Bagpipes and Celtic-Country Fusion is where you can find bits like the many country crossover efforts by The Chieftains. Although this list primarily features bagpipes, Celtic music is packed with tin whistles and other flutes.
For today’s post, we’ll take a listen to Graham Tichy’s playlist: Old Country Videos.
These are black and white clips from shows like the Ozark Jubilee. What I like about this list is that it isn’t just the “big hits that defined an era” like many oldies lists. You can see some real variety here. There’s Dave Bunker and his Duo-Lectar, which you might recall from my recent Tapping Guitar post. Roy Acuff plays the ukulele in a couple of clips. The comedy duo Lenny and Goo Goo perform a cowbell routine. There’s a very young Brenda Lee in a couple of clips. There’s everyone from Stringbean to Patsy Cline to Leroy Van Dyke. There’s square dancing. There’s Jimmy Riddle and the Clarinet Polka. Here’s Wanda Jackson and there’s Whisperin’ Bill Anderson. There’s even Smiley Burnette and his “frog voice.”
Here’s an article with a full list of winners: ABC article: “Fanny Lumsden…”
I don’t know much about most of these folks, but the bush ballad and bluegrass categories are usually worth checking out, and the Australian country scene in general compares favorably to most of the stuff coming out of Nashville these days.
Notice that the Australian awards have album categories for “alt country, contemporary country, and traditional country,” so at least there is a category for the traditional artists to connect with their audience.
This year is slow so far, and I’ve already covered just about every weird and obscure variation of country music known to mankind in over a thousand posts on this blog over the last four years.
Today, I’ll take a look at Charley Crockett’s playlist of Obscure Country. He’s one of the few artists I got to see last year before everything shut down.
In other news, Lady BlueBell (or whatever their name is now) joined the membership of the Grand Ole Opry, “effective immediately.” Meanwhile, Rhonda Vincent, who was invited to be an Opry member last February won’t officially become a member until next month. I don’t know why Rhonda has to wait so long for her membership, while the group with the identity crisis was “memberized” immediately ? If groups are going to change their names, though, Little Big Town should change names to Medium Municipality.
I usually post a ton of new music on Thursday or Friday, but I flat out couldn’t find much this week.
I did find a new album by Jamie Richards, entitled The Real Deal
Here’s the link to my YouTube channel, which has all sorts of song lists: Robert’s YouTube Channel.