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 "F"
Barbara Fairchild "Someone Special" (Columbia, 1970)
The dynamic debut of this fine Arkansas-born singer-songwriter, this was one of her most energetic musical performances, although it did show her very much under the influence of producer Billy Sherrill. In many ways, you can see him treating her as a second-line singer, reworking familiar themes and musical ideas, most notably on composer Jan Crutchfield's song, "A Woman's Hand," which sounds a bit too much like the Tammy Wynette hit, "Stand By Your Man." Still, it's a fun album and Fairchild's voice, which seems equal parts Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette, is a treat for hard country fans looking to find an appreciation for the lavish countrypolitan style of the times. A very solid album, which though has it's sluggish moments, is considerably enlivened by Fairchild's electrifying vocals. Recommended!
Barbara Fairchild "Teddy Bear Song" (Columbia, 1972)
This album (originally titled A Sweeter Love) has Fairchild's biggest career hit, the goofy, cloying "Teddy Bear Song", along with an endless procession of slower and mid-tempo ballads, and some archetypal early '70s sunshine country, songs like "Smile" and "You Make Me Feel Like Singing A Song." These perky ditties join many other Jan Crutchfield compositions, as well as an unlikely (and unimpressive) cover of Don MacLean's "Vincent." This is an okay album, but a little too much on the soft, string-y side, without enough change in tempo to keep listeners involved.
Barbara Fairchild "Kid Stuff" (Columbia, 1973)
Another fine album, although the long shadow of Billy Sherrill has been shed, in favor of production by Jan Crutchfield's brother, Jerry. He provides smooth, competent guidance, although admittedly a bit standard-issue for Nashville at the time. It doesn't matter, though: Fairchild's voice, and her sincere, engaged delivery is all that really matters. She really gets into these songs, and once again, even though she seems a little derivative of other singers, she is also a singer who can make you believe in every song she sings. An interesting highlight of this album is her gender-flipped version of "Behind Closed Doors," which is every bit as sexy as the Charlie Rich hit. Less striking is her cover of "Satin Sheets," which again is a fine version, but not really that distinctive. There's a little bit of a kid-related theme to this album, but only on a couple of tunes, and more or less with an ironic edge: on "Baby Doll," she's singing about herself, and how her lover sees her more as a doll than as a woman; other songs have more grown-up themes to them. All in all, a nice example of prime countrypolitan, with a rootsy singer who's work should be better remembered today than it is.
Barbara Fairchild "Standing In Your Line" (Columbia, 1974)
Although musically, her stuff seemed to be getting goopier, the lyrics on this album are fascinating, with some exemplary feminist (but not too feminist), tough gal lyrics, stuff that goes a little beyond the standard-issue sassy'n'spunky model pioneered by Loretta Lynn. One of the most striking songs on here is "I'm Not Weak, I'm A Woman," in which the protagonist explains that she's crying and sad, but only after she tells Prince Charming to take a hike. Might not sound like much from a modern, post-Dixie Chicks vantage point, but for '74, this was pretty complex material. This also includes one of her big hits, "This Stranger, My Little Girl," about a mother's growing estrangement with her teenage daughter (and a teeny whiff of the generation gap), a tune that several artists recorded, including Loretta Lynn and Dottie West. Fairchild wrote a lot of the material on this album and there's a good case to be made that she was edging into a sort of singer-songwriter turf, not unlike that of some of her pop-oriented contemporaries. Once again, Jerry Crutchfield helmed the board, but you start to get the sense that Fairchild was actually a bit more in charge of this show that may have been the norm at the time. There's some goofy farting around, such as the noodly run-through of the rock oldie, "Kansas City," but mostly this album is remarkably short of filler.
Barbara Fairchild "Free And Easy" (Columbia, 1977)
Countrypolitan's darker, more Gothic side is on disply here. There are no uptempo numbers on here -- it's all one, big wash of moody, somewhat unsettling ballads; some songs are filler, though "She Can't Give It Away" is rather striking -- a harsh look at an over-the-hill party girl, the kind of song Jeannie C. Reilly might have covered, though she woulda done it with more of a go-go bounce.
(Produced by Buddy Cannon & Kenny Greenberg)
Blechh. In the wake of Gretchen Wilson's redneckin' breakthrough debut, Ms. Fairchild was hailed as another back-to-basics bad girl, part of a "new generation" of kickass country gals... Yeah, right. She just sounds like another warbling, overwrought wannabee soul singer to me, with bad, loud, clunky, overly-obvious, power chord-heavy musical backup. This is just bad music, and her vocals are really mannered and really irritating. Sorry, folks, but listening to this record is like having my teeth pulled by a blind tree sloth. I'm sure she'll be fabulously successful, but for an old-school country fan like me, this disc doesn't offer much that's worth revisiting.
Donna Fargo - see artist discography
One of those improbable, goofy-voiced singers that you marvel had a chart-making career, Arkansas native Narvel Felts was an ex-rockabilly rebel who moved into country music in the 1960s and finally struck gold with his rousing version of "Drift Away," which cracked the Top Ten in '73, and was followed by a string of hits that lasted 'til the end of the decade. Like many commercial country singers of the '70s and '80s, Felts started to tilt towards soul-tinged R&B covers, recording songs like "To Love Somebody," Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," and even Paul Simon's "Love Me Like A Rock" and a disco-y rendition of "Everlasting Love." While this soul stuff doesn't do as much for me as his more twangy material, I still gotta check Felts off as an oddball artist that I have a soft spot for. He's also one of the success stories of country music's last gasp of indie label hitmaking: "Drift Away" came out on the independent Cinnamon label, where he stayed for a few years before signing with ABC-Dot... The material on this collection comes from those three labels.
Riding the wave of countrypolitan pop during the early 1970s, Tex-Mex border balladeer Freddy Fender had a huge hit in 1975 with his bilingual version of "Before The Next Teardrop Falls," following it up with one of his most vigorous outings, "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights," which was also a huge Top Ten hit. Although he had a long history as a regional artist, Fender's singing style was pretty sissified, which fit perfectly into the softcore pop template of early '70s Nashville, although hard country fans may find it a little irritating. This too-brief best-of has several of his biggest hits, including fine examples of his Spanish-language material. He may have been kinda wimpy, but Fender had melodic grace, and was a key figure in the history of latino roots music, paving the way for Los Lobos, Justin Trevino and the Mavericks.
Commercial Country Albums - More Letter "F"
Hick Music Index