The Johnny Cash Project Is Nominated For A Grammy

A Pciture Of Johnny Cash With His Wife, June Carter.

A Picture Of Johnny Cash With His Wife And Savior, June Carter.

OK, I know that asking you to make an effort after all that you must have imbibed and ingested yesternight and try to remember what I wrote about The Johnny Cash Project two months ago is too much. Just click here and read what I posted back there and then about it.

And believe me, there is a very good reason to do that. The Johnny Cash Project is up for a Grammy, no less.

The crowd-sourced clip for “Ain’t No Grave” which is found on the site has been nominated for best short form video.

The nomination is a triumph in itself. The video is taking on monster hits like Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna. Both clips have more than 200 million views in YouTube each (Lady Gaga’s clip actually moved past the 300 million milestone not so long ago).

Congratulations to filmmaker Chris Milk (the one who dreamed up the whole project) and also to all the people who have already contributed to it, obviously.

Hmm… I think it’s about time I got down to reviewing the country legend on MusicKO, wouldn’t you say? Let me see what I can do before the year comes to a close…

It Won’t Be The Last (Billy Ray Cyrus) – Album Review

Billy Ray Cyrus' Second Disc Was Quite Successful But It Couldn't Match The Sales Of The Debut

Billy Ray Cyrus' Second Disc Was Quite Successful, Yet It Could not Match The Sideral Sales Of The Debut

“It Won’t Be The Last” was Billy Ray Cyrus’s second full-length album. It was released in the summer of 1993, shortly after his mega-successful debut had hit the shelves. I regard it as a major step forward. But it is not that the album is miles away from the previous one, it is just that it has gone the (relatively short) distance that would lead to a more balanced listen. The first time around it felt like the ballads and the rockers did not mesh. That problem was to be resolved by “It Won’t Be The Last”. The key word here is “focused”. There is a clear middle ground between ballads and rock numbers (such as the successful single “Words By Heart”), and the flow of the album feels more natural this time around.

The record has 11 tracks, and the first six are a true pleasure. The single “In The Heart Of Woman” was a foolproof way to set the disc in motion, and having it followed by one of the many Don Von Tress songs on offer (“Talk Some”) was the best way to keep the momentum going. Von Tress was to be the primary tunesmith for the album. That was only to be expected – he had penned “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Talk Some” is the best rocker he contributes to this record, in my opinion. The other rock number (“Ain’t Your Dog No More”) feels too overtly like an Achy Break Heart surrogate, and a forced one at that. Continue reading

Some Gave All (Billy Ray Cyrus) – Album Review

Billy Ray Cyrus' Debut Is Titled After The Words Of A Vietnam Veteran Named Randy Kane

Billy Ray Cyrus' Debut Is Titled After The Words Of A Vietnam Veteran Named Sandy Kane

Billy Ray Cyrus’s debut was first issued in 1992, and more than 15 years later it still retains a couple of significant records such as being the top-ranking album by a country male performer, and (most notably) the best selling debut album from a male artist – more than 20,000,000 copies have been sold worldwide. Of course, it is the album that has “Achy Breaky Heart” – for my take on the song and the impact it had on Billy’s career I direct you to the general introduction I posted yesterday. Three more singles were drawn from “Some Gave All”, and they all did pretty well on the charts – “Could’ve Been Me” hit number 2, actually. The other two singles were “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore” and “Wher’m I Gonna Live” (they charted at #6 and #23 respectively).

Before being signed up, the consensus was that Billy was too much of a rocker for Nashville and too much of a country performer for LA. Leaving aside the monster hit of the record, that is something which comes across when you listen to the album. The songs are either full-on country (the vast majority of compositions) or unbridled rock numbers. Personally, I feel these rock cuts are fantastic, and they are the ones that stick in my mind after listening to the CD. I am surprised that “Never Thought That I’d Fall In Love With You” was not issued as a single – Mercury probably though that issuing three harder-rocking compositions could be counterproductive. The fact is that the song has a great guitar part throughout, and a drum track that shifts from accompanying to leading in a snap, then reverts itself again. I like the song as much as the achy breaky one, and the fact it was never overplayed is just a big plus. Continue reading

Billy Ray Cyrus – General Introduction

Billy Ray Cyrus Performing During The "Achy Breaky Heart" Days

Billy Ray Cyrus Performing During The "Achy Breaky Heart" Days

Success is not as simple or charming as it seems. Not necessarily a phenomenal bout of early success will mean that it is going to be a smooth ride from that point onwards. And I am sure few know that as well as Billy Ray Cyrus.

To the general public, he is always going to be associated with his monster hit from 1992, “Achy Breaky Heart”. As it is (very accurately) said elsewhere, it was to be the song that would make him and break him. The song must have been one of the most played tunes of the 90s. In South America, it was still being played like the first day well into 1995. And in the States, it caused a true mania that included an “Achy Breaky Dance” – the first time such a thing had happened with a country song. Continue reading

In The Mood: The Love Songs (Alabama) – Compilation Album

ALabama's "In The Mood: The Love Songs" Was Released In 2003. It Featured 2 New Songs.

Alabama's "In The Mood: The Love Songs" Was Released In 2003. It Featured 2 New Tracks.

Alabama has gone down in history as the most successful group in the history of country music. That is, in a scene that has traditionally been dominated by single performers they did give collectives a definitive chance to push the boundaries of the genre, and the way it has always been perceived.

I was overjoyed to find this compilation when I traveled to Argentina to attend an Elton John gig during The Rocket Tour, if only because not a single disc by them is available where I live. You might think that is strange, but what would you say if I told you that there are no albums by Garth Brooks either here? The ones I have are all imports. That reminds me I live in the opposite end of the world, but it makes me place a high value on these albums that I import, while it also makes me do my homework and figure out which ones could be sound purchases. Coming back to this compilation, when I bought it I knew I was only getting a part of the story that (while compelling) is not necessarily the defining one. Any compilation that hasn’t got “Mountain Music”, “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)” and “Dixieland Delight” (their calling card in South America) is incomplete by definition. It’s like watching Star Wars and omitting the part when Darth Vader reveals he is Luke’s father. In a sense it doesn’t matter because everybody and his wife know that by now. With this compilation, it is the same – everybody knows these compositions I have mentioned by heart. Every single person who is into country music is more than familiarized with them. Continue reading

Heartaches & Highways – The Very Best Of Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris' "Heartaches & Highways" Compilation Was Released In 2005

Emmylou Harris' "Heartaches & Highways" Compilation Was Released In 2005

A compilation like this one is particularly useful when it comes to artists whose catalogs are colossal in depth. You see, “Heartaches & Highways” (2005) is an anthology which was assembled by Emmylou herself. It is interesting to listen to the story the way she wants to tell it. If you are an old fan, you get to see which songs she deems as the ones that shaped her career. And if you are a newcomer, you have the chance of sampling the songs she might like to be remembered by, effectively getting acquainted with her music like that.

Although not strictly a “best of” album, the CD definitely leans on hits, as her first song to hit the charts with force (“If I Could Only Win Your Love”) is included amid a series of tunes that she has either turned into standards or rejuvenated completely, such as “Two More Bottles Of Wine”, “Lost His Love In Our Last Date” and the sweet “To Know Him Is To Love Him” from the celebrated “Trio” album:

A nice choice (and one that clearly strays from a “very best” motif) is “Pancho & Lefty”. Emmylou’s version precedes the successful take by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. While the ones who struck gold where the two outlaws, Emmylou at least pointed the way to the treasure in a very elegant way indeed.

An absolute highlight is her duet with Roy Orbison on “That Lovin’ You Feelin’”. The mix is crisper than the one I had listened to on her “Duets” album, too. The difference is not pronounced, but the guitars have more space and the song on the whole sounds even more refined. Continue reading

Completely Hooked (Dr. Hook) – Compilation Album

"Completely Hooked" Is One Of The Many Dr. Hook Compilations Available

"Completely Hooked" Is One Of The Many Dr. Hook Compilations Available

Originally known as “Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show”, this band had a truly eclectic career. Their output can be divided in three main groups: 1) Comedy numbers, 2) Disco songs and 3) Ballads. All of these genres are impinged with a country sensibility, and this is one of their many compilations. It was released in 1992, and the 20 songs on offer map out these three genres more than adequately, stopping in each one for long enough without ever going too far.

The comedy numbers are mostly penned by Shel Silverstein, and they are absolutely hysterical. Located mainly at the beginning of the disc, they include “The Millionaire”, “Everybody’s Making It Big But Me” and the popular “Cover Of The Rolling Stone”. What many people don’t realize is that in addition to composing these comedy numbers Silverstein did also come up with many of the band’s ballads, such as the excellent “More Like The Movies” and “A Couple More Years”.

The disco songs included on this compilation are “Walk Right In”, “You Make My Pants Wanna Get Up And Dance” and “Sexy Eyes”. They are entertaining and to-the-point, but I would say that both the ballads and the comedy songs are more endurable. Continue reading

At The Ryman (Emmylou Harris) – Album Review

The Album Earned Emmylou A Grammy

The Album Earned Emmylou A Grammy

This celebrated live album had Emmylou backed by one of the best ensembles of her whole career (The Nash Ramblers), and it earned her a Grammy. The concert was so significant that the Ryman auditorium (which was set to be demolished) was actually preserved and remodeled.

The set Emmylou played that night paid equal debt to both classic and contemporary American tunesmiths. Songs by Stephen Foster (“Hard Times”) were played side to side with songs by John Fogerty (“Lodi”) and Bruce Springsteen (“Mansion On The Hill”).

The performance itself is not only very well-recorded, but Emmylou is charming from start to finish, interacting with the public at every turn, cracking jokes and narrating stories of her life on the road – the one before “Lodi” is one of the funniest I have ever listened to. Continue reading

Emmylou Harris – General Introduction

A Young Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris In The '70s

Emmylou Harris was born in 1947 in Birmingham, Alabama. She was discovered by Gram Parsons and assumed vocal duties with the man who we now deem as one of the fathers of country rock, cutting the timeless duet “Love Hurts”. She was to eventually establish herself as one of the most distinguished female performers within country music along with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton, and as a true point of reference within music as a whole. Continue reading

All-Time Greatest Hits (Crystal Gayle) – Compilation Album

The Cover Of The CD

The Cover Of The CD

The youngest sister of country luminary Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle has had career that began at the age of 16 (as part of the Loretta Lynn Show) and which has lasted to this day, yielding no less than 18 number 1 singles.  This cut-cost compilation (first issued by Curb in 1990) boasts a representative number of them along with songs that nearly topped the charts like “When I Dream” (a top 3 hit) and “I’ll Do It All Over Again” (which hit number 2 back in 1977).

I am glad that my two favorite songs by Crystal are included – the adorable “Talking In Your Sleep” and “Why Have You Left The One You Left Me For”. Both compositions were number 1 smashes – the former was the first song of hers I ever listened to, and the latter is one of the faster songs included here in terms of tempo, and one that provides a nice break from the overall mood of the album, which is mostly middle-paced. I am also very fond of the song “Somebody Loves You” – a top 10 hit, and one that melds a bouncy melody with a set of lyrics that are simple but incredibly effective, portraying attachment and loss very deftly indeed. Continue reading