Are you a George Jones guy in a Garth Brooks world? A Loretta Lynn gal trying to understand why people still call Shania Twain a "country" artist?
Well, then this website is for you! Here's your chance to read all about Nashville pop, from the late-'50s "Nashville Sound" and the "countrypolitan" scene of the '70s to today's chart-toppers and pretty-boy hat acts, seen through the lens of DJ Joe Sixpack, a hick music know-it-all with a heart of gold...
Your comments and suggestions are welcome, particularly suggestions for artists or albums I might have missed. Other types of twang are reviewed elsewhere in my Hick Music Guide.
This is the first page covering the letter "C"
An odd sort of orphaned almost-alt album from the commercial side of the tracks... Initially this feels irritatingly prefab, a fake-o, domesticated roots rock bar-band, with a decidely Nashville sound... But some of the touches that seem like mere affectations, including a liberal dose of bluegrassy acoustic licks, finally start to feel a little more sincere by album's end. If you like the Tractors, the V-Roys or bands like that, you might want to track this down as well, though for my money, this is a bit too controlled and tame.
The Cactus Brothers "24 Hours, Seven Days A Week" (Demon, 1998)
Oh, jeepers...! Is that what 24/7 means...?? I finally figured it out... Thanks, guys!
Recycling old Southern rock motifs (such as the fiddle/electric guitar combination we all know and love from back in the day...) Cagle and his producers neuter the style and bend it into a soft pop formula, just a coupla steps short of a Michael Bolton album... He makes the most of a thin voice, and delivers his wordy romantic ballads with a fair amount of skill... If you can get past the too, too-perfect, studio-pruned drums, the rolling, drippy piano riffs and swooping power chords, then he can hold your attention. But honestly, this is all a bit much. It's not really music, it's just "product," and it's way overdone.
Hmmm. I mean: YUCK...!!! Super-overproduced, popped-out, rock-flavored & coldly calculated commercial Top Ten corn; country music for people who don't really like country music. Totally bogus, but it sold pretty well, though. Go figure.
Shawn Camp - see artist discography
The third Capitol LP from this future countrypolitan star was a "bluegrass" album, with backing by the Dale Fitzsimmons and Carl Tanberg of The Green River Boys. Campbell had been working as a session picker for several years before he cut this disc, an amiable pop-folk knockoff that started his long, profitable association with the Capitol label. It's not really so much a bluegrass album as an amiable, bouncy set of country standards, delivered with a bland, unquashable cheerfulness reminiscent of the then-booming Folk revival. Not a bad album, actually; for Glen, a positively rootsy outing.
This generously-programmed 2-CD set has wa-a-a-a-ay more of Glen's work than I need... but it's probably perfect for the devoted fan! Includes "Southern Nights" and "Rhinestone Cowboy," so this son of the Seventies is happy. Also branches back to his early country-folk/countrypolitan hits -- "Gentle On My Mind," "Wichita Lineman," et. al. -- and fast forwards to his later, less-well known work in the 1980s. If you really wanna check Campbell's career out, this collection is a great option.
Glen Campbell "The Legacy: 1961-2002" (Capitol, 2002)
From early soft country to country-folk smashes like "Galveston," "Gentle On My Mind" and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," and onto his fab '70s hits such as "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Country Boy" and "Southern Nights..." One thing you can say about Glen Campbell: he sure had range and longevity! This 4-CD set covers a lot of ground, including an entire disc of live material. The song selection -- drawn from folk, pop and gospel -- is pretty ambitious, but it should be mentioned that the string sections are often rather intrusive and unsubtle. Okay, so maybe it doesn't have "Tequila" or "Record Collector's Dream," but as a representative portrait of this old countrypolitan superstar, this is a pretty good set.
Glen Campbell "Christmas With Glen Campbell" (Delta, 1995)
(See my Hillbilly Holiday section...)
A thoroughly likeable, inoffensive soft-honkytonk outing that seems closely modeled on Rodney Crowell's best work, both vocally and in terms of the acoustic-based arrangements. The big difference is in the calibre of songwriting; most of these songs are pretty fluffy and aimless. They sound nice, though. This is my kinda Nashville muzak.
(Produced by Blake Chancey & Wally Wilson)
Another fine, fun, brightly produced poppy-tonk set, with a nice, thumping backbeat and plenty o' twang. He also still sounds a lot like Rodney... but Rodney when he sang at his honkytonk best, which is pretty darn good. Uniformly strong material with good delivery, including a cover of "Pop A Top," a great version of Steve Earle's "Sometimes She Forgets," and even a few songs that have an Everly Brothers vibe to 'em. It's a nice sound, which of course hardly made a dent in the charts. This album also includes the crunchy-guitared chunka-chunka hillbilly rock of "Honey I Do," Campbell's last chart entry, which weighed in at an undistinguished #61, and doomed him to an also-ran status... But this is definitely a case where commercial failure has to be forgotten in favor of artistic success: Campbell's career may have tanked out, but those of us fortunate enough to find a copy of this disc floating around will be pleased to find several strong performances on it, and other, lighter tracks that still sound nice. Not a classic, but definitely worth checking out.
Stacy Dean Campbell "Ashes Of Old Love" (Warner, 1999)
Mining much the same territory as hat act dudes like Clint Black, George Strait and Tracy Lawrence, Canadian newcomer George Canyon is a gruff-voiced neotradder who isn't in the slightest little bit afraid to record super-formulaic material. Mostly, it pays off real well. Despite some of its by-the-numbers aspects, his album has a vigorous feel, and several songs you just gotta love, like the dopey "Working On A Ten," which revisits the whole rating-gals-on-a-one-to-ten-scale thing, and the religiously themed "Unfinished," in which a guy's life flashes before him in a moment of danger, and after taking stock of his own shortcomings, he decides to do better and make himself a better man. It's unashamedly, unselfconsciously corny material, and that's one of the reasons it works so well... The other reason is that the production is relatively restrained -- oh, sure, it's factory made and totally Nashville, but it still has some grit to it, and the propulsive approach Canyon and his band use plows along and pulls us with it. A couple of songs towards the end are only so-so, but mostly this is a commercial country album you can listen to from start to finish, without having to skip tracks or hit fast forward. Hope he can keep it up, because this is one of the decade's most promising commercial country debuts.
Mary Chapin Carpenter -- see artist discography
Sort of a latter-day Dan Seals, Oklahoman Jeff Carson sticks pretty strictly to inspirational, slow-tempo weepers, with plenty of tinkly piano work and sweeping, egregious key changes. I guess if you go for the sappier end of the modern stuff, this disc is a pretty good option, although you gotta admit this guy doesn't have the world's greatest voice. Several songs provided by writers in the Trace Adkins axis -- notably Trey Bruce and Max D. Barnes (who produced half the tracks on the album) -- but Carson often seems ill at ease with more uptempo material, so the disc has kind of a lopsided feel to it. Not my cup of tea, but I can see the appeal.
Anita Carter - see artist discography
Carlene Carter - see artist discography
The debut album of singer-songwriter Deana Carter, daughter of legendary Nashville session guitarist Fred Carter... This is a pretty strong effort, at its best, a spunky summation of the upbeat rock orientation of the mid-1990s "young country" scene. She dips into the same corny turf as other Nashvillers on the slow stuff, but she's still a cut above, in my opinion, and definitely worth checking out.
In the it's-all-up-for-grabs stylistic shift of pre-Millennial Nashville, it was hard to tell if Deana Carter's brash, depth-ridden braininess would work or not... She certainly provided a strong voice to field-test introspective songs by the likes of up-and-coming songwriters such as Matraca Berg and Leslie Satcher, but in the long run her track record seems mixed. Some tunes, like the tinkly ballad, "People Miss Planes," seem like standard enough fare, although others, like her loopy, Little Feat-inspired cover of Norma Tanenga's novelty oldie, "Brand New Key," or the soft soul of "Never Comin' Down" stand out like Humvees in a corn field. Mostly it doesn't work for me, but I'm pleasantly surprised by the songs that do draw me in, and though ultimately Carter's appeal turned out to be fairly limited, her brand of Nashville genre-bending seems much more intelligent and nuanced than most of her misguided contemporaries. Worth checking out, though it has its clunky moments.
A remarkably understated acoustic Christmas album... Usually when Top 40 country stars do a holiday record, they tend to blast away at the songs -- I guess it's a chance for them to wail away on a different type of material? -- but Carter prefers to croon, and the results are low-key and kind of nice. Backing her up on acoustic guitar is her father, '50s session picker, Fred Carter... as an interesting family-oriented bonus, the disc also includes an interview she conducted (as a little kid) about his old days in Nashville. Worth checking out, if you're in a holiday mood. (For other Christmas records, see my Hillbilly Holiday section.)
(Produced by Deana Carter)
I like Deana Carter, and I was happy for her last year when her I'm Just A Girl album got her back into the top country charts... Still, Carter's relationship with Nashville is always a little tenuous, since she likes to tilt towards a bright pop-rock sound that Music City tastemakers don't seem to appreciate, and this time around she's indulged that pop sweet-tooth to its fullest. Even I have to confess I was left a bit adrift by the brash twanglessness of this album's opener, "The Girl You Left Me For," which sounds just like the perky, sugary pop of teen singers such as Britney Spears, Hillary Duff and Lindsey Lohan. Carter wrote and produced this entire album, and its overt pop leanings couldn't be more purposeful... Still, one can't help but wonder if she hasn't simply squandered her newfound capital as a credible Nashville chart artist in a questionable pursuit of a less-charitable Pop god. In the past, I thought her balancing of pop and country was somewhat admirable and at times effective -- she seems to have a fresher take on rock music than many of the by-the-numbers Music Row songsmiths who tend to make everything sound like a bad soul ballad -- but she might have gone a little overboard on this one. Still, if you like the sound of contemporary Pop music, but wish it had deeper, more mature lyrics, this album might be an eye opener...
Lionel Cartwright "Lionel Cartwright" (MCA, 1989)
Lionel Cartwright "I Watched It On The Radio" (MCA, 1990)
A dimly remembered cult favorite, songwriter Lionel Cartwright racked up a few notable hits in the early 'Nineties, but he folded up the tent fairly early on, and it's easy to see why. He's barely an adequate singer, though given the right setting, he does bring it home on a tune or two. "What Kind Of Fool," a minor hit, is a very effective heartsong; the album's closing number, "Leap Of Faith," was Cartwright's crowning glory, a #1 hit that starts out awkwardly, but builds up to a pleasantly poppy crescendo. Most of his songs sound clumsy, though -- he really is an artist best suited to a modest best-of set, or to some ala carte song sampling.
Lionel Cartwright "Miles & Years" (1999)
Johnny Cash - see artist discography
Rosanne Cash - see artist discography
Well, first things first: yes, he is Johnny Cash's younger brother, and yes, in some ways he was a pale imitation of his more famous older sibling. Still, Tommy Cash had a solid string of moderate hits during his years on the Epic label (1969-77), the best and most significant of which are gathered on this fine collection. Cash's folk-tinged approach and moderate vocal talents may not captivate many modern listeners, but longtime fans or Cash-family curious should search this one out -- it's probably the best retrospective we'll see for quite some time of these now hard-to-find oldies.
Commercial Country Albums - More Letter "C"
Hick Music Index