Country music week: Day 3

Wichita Lineman” was written by Jim Webb and recorded in 1968 by Glenn Campbell (b. 1936). It’s a ballad, but it’s still a country song, and a beautiful one (there are two more Glenn Campbell songs to go on my list, more than any other artist’s). One of my friends in college was in fact a lineman in the Midwest, and said that the song perfectly expressed what goes through one’s mind when climbing poles alone on the prairie, and in love.

Charlie Rich, aka “The Silver Fox” (1932-1995) is most famous for the song below: “Behind Closed Doors,” written by Kenny O’Dell and recorded by Rich in 1973. It nabbed him two Country Music Awards and a Grammy for best male country performance.  It’s a great song, with wonderful piano accompaniment.

There are some songs that grow on you, and start off okay but eventually turn into favorites (“A day in the life” by the Beatles was one of those for me), and there are some songs that you know on first hearing are fantastic. This is one of those. I was stunned the first time I heard LeAnn Rimes (b. 1982) sing “I Need You,” and realized instantly that it was a classic, worthy of sitting next to all the great songs of country music. Yes, it’s country-pop, but so what?

This is not a romantic love song, but a Christian song; the love object here is Jesus. But it’s still a fantastic song, recorded in 2000 Rimes was only 18, and released on the album Jesus: Music From and Inspired by the Epic Mini-Series.

I know the readers are weighing in with their suggestions, criticisms, and the like, and that’s great. Do remember that I don’t listen to a lot of country music, and what reaches me comes largely through its overlap with pop/rock.


  1. Cornelius
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    “…and I need you more than want you,
    and I want you for all time…”

    One of the greatest lines ever!


  2. David M
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    My brother was fascinated by the lineman job when he was a kid and he used to collect glass insulators:

    I’ve often heard the rumor that that song had a double meaning.

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    Glen Campbell with Bob Wills, singing San Antonio Rose, from 1963. (Found yesterday while looking for another Bob Wills clip): https:/ /

  4. KDK1
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    If you like Hank Williams and you like rock, then you could do worse than check out The The’s Hanky Panky – an album of Hank Williams covers. Here’s ‘I’m a Long Gone Daddy’ play it loud!

    My top 5 country:

    Galveston – Glenn Campbell
    New York City – The Statler Brothers
    Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
    Harper Valley PTA – Jeannie C Riley (cheese, but delicious cheese)
    Leaning on the Everlasting Arms – Alan Jackson (are you allowed to like this?)

    Plus anything from GTA San Andreas soundtrack on the K-rose country station including Mary-Beth Maybell and her downstairs harmonica.

  5. Posted December 18, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    I’m no music taxonomist, so maybe this suggestion is out of line, but there is a wonderful class of Texan folk/country/rock music that is amazing: Nancy Griffith, Jimmy Dale Gilmour, Butch Hancock, and lots of others….

  6. JBlilie
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Good stuff, thanks! I’m like you, I like that intersection between coutnry and pop — sometimes.

    I remember a comment by Edward Abbey about most mass-produced “Country and Western” music (he was writing back when it was still called that): “It’s made in a big city — in the East.”

    The Essential Johnny Cash is one of my favorite records. And the movie Walk The Line is great.

  7. JBlilie
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Lyle Lovett
    Nanci Griffith
    John Denver
    Johnny Cash
    Rosanne Cash (The List is amazing)
    Glen Campbell
    Patsy Cline
    Allison Krauss
    Hank Williams of course
    Gordon Lightfoot
    Dylan (did a lot of country-style stuff)
    Willie Nelson
    Dixie Chicks
    Ricky Skaggs (helluva guitar and mandolin player)
    Townes Van Zandt
    Patty Griffin does some country stuff
    Michelle Shocked did a lot of country/folk stuff

    • Philip.Elliott
      Posted December 18, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Just saw Roseanne Cash in New Orleans. She does amazing things with the songs on “The List”

    • Posted December 18, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Yes, many of these belong to the genre I was trying lamely to describe in Comment 5. Especially Townes Van Zandt, Michelle Shocked, and again Nancy Griffith.

      Also don’t forget Linda Ronstadt. Her rendition of “Desperado” still haunts me.

      • Posted December 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        Here’s Linda doing “Desperado” live:

        • Posted December 18, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

          And here she’s on the Johnny Cash show singing “Long Time”. She sings with such feeling! Add two w’s (hopefully that will keep this from embedding):

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 19, 2012 at 12:26 am | Permalink

            YES!! That’s the song that made me fall in love with Linda. Such a powerful voice coming from a young chick like that. And of course she looks absolutely gorgeous in that clip – and quite shy.

            That was six months ago. Curiously enough, the first pop song I ever noticed was ‘Different Drum’ (which doesn’t really give Linda a chance to use her voice to its full extent), then (this was in the days of radio, and expensive records of course) I lost sight of Linda. Since on the radio one can’t choose the songs you hear, and I didn’t frequent record shops.

            And I only rediscovered her by chance on Youtube recently, Youtube is a marvellous way to check out many of the songs by an artist.

      • JBlilie
        Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        Still have a crush on Linda Ronstadt …

        • JBlilie
          Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

          That woman could SING! Holy shit!

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 19, 2012 at 12:27 am | Permalink

          Me too… 🙂

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 19, 2012 at 12:40 am | Permalink

            Oops! I meant I still have a crush on Linda Ronstadt too. Didn’t mean to suggest I could sing, leastways not in a way that anyone else in earshot can tolerate.

            But back to Linda, the song that fills me with awe is her rendition of ‘Adios’
            [hope that doesn’t imbed]

      • Posted December 19, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

        Plus you have to love a singer who was brave enough to say that she was “embarrassed George Bush (was) from the United States…. He’s an idiot…. He’s enormously incompetent on both the domestic and international scenes…. Now the fact that we were lied to about the reasons for entering into war against Iraq and thousands of people have died – it’s just as immoral as racism.” She also got kicked out of her Las Vegas hotel once for making anti-war and anti-Bush comments during her show there.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 20, 2012 at 2:28 am | Permalink

          Shades of what happened with Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks…

          Linda also reputedly said in some interview that she felt uncomfortable singing for fundamentalists or Republicans. All of which is fine by me 🙂
          It’s actually hard to track down the original quote on Google due to the noise of Xtian bloggers being outraged by their version of what she said.

          But then so far as I can tell, Linda has always done what she wanted to do, musically and otherwise. Kudos to her! (Not that I like all her choices – Nelson Riddle elevator music…)

    • JBlilie
      Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      I forgot John Hiatt. If you’ve never listened to him, do not miss his albums: Bring the Family and Slow Turning. Amazing stuff.

  8. Tim Londergan
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Jerry — I am enjoying your interesting and quirky list of country singers and songs. I hope that you will include something by Willie Nelson. One of my favorites is his cover of “You Were Always on My Mind,” originally recorded by Elvis. You can find a live version at:

    • Hempenstein
      Posted December 18, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Willie: Blue Eyes Cryin’ In the Rain
      LeAnn: Blue

  9. Posted December 18, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    (for all the broken hearts today)

    I love practically everything by John Denver. His Wildlife Concert was breathtaking. How sad to have died so young.

  10. Allen
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Lineman and Galveston are my favourite Glen Campbell songs. I like all your picks.

  11. Patricia Stambor
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    First two are good – not fond of the Christian love. I really enjoy Loretta Lynn and her lyrics are so crunchy. Listen to the following on youtube.

    Loretta Lynn And Conway Twitty – Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man

  12. Posted December 18, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Here are some links from Music To Spazz By, an excellent radio show from wfmu that’s been on for over 20 years, and plays all kinds of different music – oldies, punk, country, garage, etc. Highly recommended. Anyway, each year a guy from Georgia brings these awesome country 45s up. These are the links to those shows.

  13. JimmyHaulinHogs
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    One of the few country albums in my collection is a fine Glen Campbell greatest hits collection that, unfortunately, also includes the hideous “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife”, written by Chris Gantry. It gives the song “Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro a run for its money for the title of the most gag-inducing lyrics of all time. Thanks, Chris.

    On a brighter note, I was recently amused and pleased to note that Jerry Douglas, the dobro player in Union Station, was getting comparably equal billing with Alison Krauss in the marketing of that band. Well deserved.

    • JBlilie
      Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Douglas is an AMAZING Dobro player. One of the best ever, sort of reinvented it.

  14. IA
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    For an excellent career-spanning retrospective of Charlie Rich’s music, check out the 2 CD “Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich,” which includes everything from his early sides at Sun Records to his final recordings in 1992. The demo of the title song is one of the saddest songs in country music.

    Rich’s fellow Sun artist Elvis Presley was also a great country singer, and his 1971 album “Elvis Country” is a classic, with killer versions of “I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water,” “Tomorrow Never Comes, ” “Faded Love,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Little Cabin On The Hill” and other chestnuts. Essential listening.

  15. J.J.E.
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Well, since you are looking roughly at the intersection of rock/pop with country, I think a pretty unique and surprisingly good song is Johnny Cash’s cover of Trent Reznor’s Hurt. You might think that a famous country musician’s cover of an industrial track might be destined for disaster, but it is actually very good. It won the Country Music Association “Single of the Year” award, among many others.

    Compared to what you’ve been posting, it is a relative new comer (especially the cover), but worth a listen.

  16. cherrybombsim
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Just gimme some Chet Atkins and I’ll be happy.

  17. ijohnnyice
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Just try to suppress the waterworks on this obscure John Prine song, i think he deserves a mention here even if he’s not pure country, i’ve loved his music from the first time i heard him, just one of those singers you know your going to like even singing the phone book,

  18. Posted December 18, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Tony Joe White combines country, blues, and jazz in his own inimitable way:

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