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 "K"
Toby Keith - see artist discography
The Kendalls, a father-daughter duo who specialized in cheating songs and a high, tight harmony style reminiscent of the Louvin Brothers, were one of the most notable acts in the mid-'70s to reach back into country's rich tradition on sweet, simple heartsongs. Perhaps only Emmylou Harris mined this field as well, but the Kendalls had their own special sound, bouncing along the curve of the melody, with a light, friendly lilt that made all their songs that much more appealing. This is a top-notch collection of all their biggest hits -- the original versions -- a string of minor gems that began in 1977 (after nearly a decade of kicking around on the local level) and lasted well into the 1980s. It's a pity their actual albums remain out of print, because there's plenty of non-charting material that's not included here, but Kendalls fans (or anyone else that likes the kind of country they made back in the golden days of the 1950s) is well advised to pick this disc up. It's a goodie.
The Kendalls "Heaven's Just A Sin Away" (Ovation, 1977)
The Kendalls "Old Fashioned Love" (Ovation, 1978)
The Kendalls "Just Like Real People" (Ovation, 1979)
(Produced by Brien Fisher)
Another fine album, with the Kendalls settled comfortably into a smooth, satisfying formula, which is surprisingly less "pop" than one might imagine. Jeannie sure was sounding a lot like Dolly Parton, though! Includes the so-so title track, which fell just short of the Top Ten, and the peppy, disco-tinged "I Had A Lovely Time," which hit #5 -- not a great showing for a band that was so strong coming out the gate, but still pretty respectable. What's most important now, though, is how well the album stands the test of time, and for true country fans (and Kendalls fans, in particular, this is a record worth tracking down... The rest of the album -- the stuff that doesn't make it onto best-of collections -- is better than the hits, and still sounds great today.
The Kendalls "Oh Boy Classics Presents The Kendalls" (Oh Boy, 2000)
Their last album, an amiable set of mostly honkytonk heartsong oldies, with Jeannie Kendall shouldering most of the vocals. Nice, sweet, simple stuff that yielded a single lower-rung chart hit, but still a nice cap-off for their career.
David Kersh "Goodnight Sweetheart" (Curb, 1996)
David Kersh "If I Never Stop Loving You" (Curb, 1998)
(Produced by Buddy Cannon & Norro Wilson)
He looks a little like Warren Beatty and he sounds a lot like... well, golly gee, he sounds just like George Jones!! Seriously, I had to go check the liner notes to make sure ol' George wasn't filling in on a tune or two, and then I almost had to pull the album out of the stereo to make sure someone hadn't switched the discs by accident. Okay, so maybe Kershaw wasn't aiming very high in the originality department, but these pedal-steel drenched country ballads sure do sound nice. Why, heck... it sounds just like George Jones... And that's pretty high praise. I like this album. You should, too.
Sammy Kershaw "Business Is My Pleasure" (1992)
Sammy Kershaw "Haunted Heart" (Mercury, 1993)
(Produced by Buddy Cannon & Norro Wilson)
A pretty safe, unchallenging and, frankly, unexciting pop-country album... The sound is still rooted in honkytonk twang, but the performances seem workmanlike and unspontaneous... Although he's started to downplay his vocal similarity to George Jones, the parallels persist, as Kershaw delivers a set of strained, but sort-of-okay material that feels like it was made by a committee rather than a country band, not unlike Jones's work from the late '80s. George makes an appearance on the hurried duet, "Never Bit A Bullet Like This," which also ain't the greatest thing either of these guys have done.
Sammy Kershaw "Christmas Time's A Comin' " (Mercury, 1994)
Sammy Kershaw "Politics, Religion And Her" (Mercury, 1996)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)
An okay, if somewhat generic, set of honkytonkish pop-country... He doesn't dip too deeply into the super-sappy modern Nashville ballads, and when he does, somehow -- like Randy Travis -- he has a way of pulling it off sounding sincere, instead of like a total cheeseball. Also, he's really toned down the George Jones imitation, which is kinda nice in a way. (Of course, now he sounds like Travis Tritt, but that's another story altogether...) Includes four singles that charted, including the title track which hit #2 in Billboard, but predictably enough is one of the few outright lame songs on here. Not a classic album, but nice enough, for Nashville in the 'Nineties.
Kershaw croons his way through classic guilty pleasures such as the Rolling Stones' "Angie," "Chevy Van" and "Third Rate Romance," as well as some more serious ballads...
(Produced by Keith Stegall)
The album kicks off with the title track, a sappy, "You Don't Send Me Flowers"-ish duet with his wife, Lorrie Morgan, then picks up a little steam with midtempo ditties like "Me And Maxine" and "Ouch." Mostly, though, it slow, sappy stuff, with plenty of egregiously placed string arrangements, and sooper-gooey lyrics. He still sounds a little George Jones-y on the steel-drenched "How Can I Say No," but for the most part, this is pretty skippable for anyone who's not a big fan of cheesy romantic ballads.
I guess Morgan's marriage (her third) to Sammy Kershaw raised a few eyebrows in Music City, and this album's title track is a testament to their undying love... It's one of those drippy romantic ballads, complete with ringing Spanish guitars, that Kenny Rogers excelled at in the '80s. You hear it and think, "uh-oh..." but the uptempo feel of the next song brings a sigh of relief. It's only temporary, though: they go back into more goddawful, formulaic sappiness a minute later, and though there are some good tracks on here, by and large this is a pretty prefab album. The single, "He Drinks Tequila," is patently offensive -- it's about a lusty Latin couple living in a trailer park, who dance around their Winnebago and talk dirty en espanol; the rest of the album wobbles around and hits a few high notes here and there. They're at their most George and Tammy on "Be My Reason," and Lorrie's solo number, "I Must Be Gettin' Older" is fairly resonant as well. Guess it's kinda cool to hear someone doing an entire duets album again, rather than just slipping a single song at a time, here and there. For the turf, this ain't bad.
An uneven album from an erstwhile Top 40 dude... The title track single is kinda okay, but not dazzling. A few of the more "pop" songs have disasterous rock'n'roll arrangements, but the album is redeemed by a couple of good tunes: the cornball "mama" song, "Stitches," is delightfully retro and shamelessly nostalgic, though the album's real winner is Kevin Fowler's good ole boy anthem, "Beer, Bait And Ammo," which has an irresistible production style, reminiscent of Bobby Bare's classic late '70s/early '80s work. It's followed by a dumb, misogynistic tossoff number, but that's kind of an indicator of the up & down qualities of this album. The fun stuff is fun, but the awkward songs just doesn't work...
Sammy Kershaw "Honky Tonk Boots" (Category Five, 2006)
His Curb Records debut. Goopy, but strangely compelling soft-poppish country. Ketchum has a Michael Bolton-esque crooner quality, but he's still inherently country, or at least strangely soulful... I guess he's in the same category as Vince Gill, a rootsy fellow who's thrown in his lot with the sappy romantic ballads market. It's kind of embarrassing to admit, but I could listen to this album more readily than many of the more cluttered pop-country options that have come down the pike since. It's cheesy, but it ain't bad. Interesting slowed-down version of the Vogues' old pop hit, "Five O'Clock World."
Pretty soft, and pretty slick, Ketchum croons -- ala Vince Gill -- atop poppy, light arrangements, and yet he has a way of making the material not seem too cloying. Although the bit hits -- the title track, in particular -- are super poppy, and even Kenny Loggins-esque, Ketchum's vocals are still very appealing, and I found all the songs on here very listenable. For variety, there's "Mama Knew The Highway," an upbeat, rollicking trucker tune, and "When The Coast Is Clear," a slinky, blues-laced number that sounds quite a bit like Lyle Lovett's hillbilly lounge-lizard routine. Also noteworthy is the doleful "Daddy's Oldsmobile," and folkish ballad about a family of migrant workers who live in their car. The only track I didnÕt like was the album's biggest hit, "Hearts Are Gonna Roll," about a young girl who's a bit of a tease -- the music didnÕt grab me, and the lyrics are a little sexist. But other than that, this is a pretty good album, for the territory.
A 1990s "top country" idol who's rebounded with an unusually rootsy, diverse album. Ketchum slips easily from funky New Orleans-style roots ballads to country ballads and Americana-ish acoustic numbers. It's a big question whether there are Nashville-ready radio hits on here, but, hey, if there aren't, more power to Ketchum! This isn't entirely my cup of tea, but it's closer than most of the synthy fluff that's coming out of Music City these days. Worth checking out!
Commercial Country Albums - More Letter "K"
Hick Music Index