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.

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Badlands "Badlands" (CMH, 1981)
(Produced by John Wagner)

This appears to have been an unsuccessful attempt by the CMH bluegrass label to break into the world of commercial, Top 40 country. The Badlands band included several talented musicians, as heard on electrified instrumentals such as "Bad Axe Boogie," but lead singer Jackson D. Kane was kind of a dud, and the band had to slow things down to a slightly sluggish tempo to accommodate his leaden phrasing... Overall, they seem to have been aiming for a sort of urban cowboy vibe, ala Johnny Lee, punctuated with some hot picking, but they never quite catch fire, and they never made it near the charts. One track, a goofy novelty version of the oldie "Big Ball In Cowtown," features guest appearances by Merle Travis and Joe and Rose Lee Maphis, who were some of CMH's big stars at the time. This is worth a spin, I guess, but keep your expectations low.

Razzy Bailey -- see artist profile

Baillie & The Boys -- see artist profile

Adam Baker "Singles" (EP) (BMP, 2007)
This is kind of cool... Adam Baker was a real second-stringer who hailed from Oklahoma... He released a handful of songs on the mega-obscure Avista label in 1986-87, and narrowly missed the chance to crack into the bottom of the Top 40. This MP3-only reissue gathers all four of his Avista chart entries, stuff that otherwise would have been lost to the vagaries of time. Some of it's fairly decent; towards the end there, he started getting a little more synthy, but the first couple of tunes have a decent amount of twang. Anyway, if this guy was on your radar in a "whatever happened to..." kinda way.. Well, here he is!

Butch Baker "We Will" (Mercury, 1989)
Tennessean Butch Baker had a string of reasonably successful singles from 1984 on... This album from '89 was his only full-length release, though, and failed to crack into the Top 40, despite the traction from his earlier work...

Baker & Myers "Baker & Myers" (Curb, 1995)
The duo of Gary Baker and Frank Myers... Baker was formerly from the band the Shooters, which had modest success in the late '80s but broke up after a few years plugging away. Afterwards, Baker concentrated on songwriting, frequently working with Myers as his writing partner. They scored a #1 hit with "I Swear," which was a huge success for John Michael Montgomery in 1994, briefly crossed over into the Pop charts, as well as Alabama's "Once In A Lifetime," which also topped the charts. This success gave Baker & Myers a chance to record as a duo. This album didn't really do much -- one track almost cracked into the Top 40 -- but it's a nice bit of Kenny Loggins-ish soft-pop country with smooth duo harmonies. If you like old Loggins & Messina records from the '70s, or early Lonestar albums, you ought to like this, too. (Baker & Myers also penned some hits for Lonestar and other artists, both as solo composers and as a team. This was their only album.)

David Ball -- see artist profile

Frankie Ballard "Frankie Ballard" (Warner Nashville, 2011)

Roger Ballard "A Little Piece Of Heaven" (Atlantic, 1993)

The Bama Band "The Bama Band" (Compleat, 1985) (LP)

The Bama Band "Solid Ground" (Mercury, 1988)

The Bama Band "Takin' Off The Edge" (Capitol, 1990)

Bandana "Bandana" (Warner, 1985) (LP)

The Band Perry "The Band Perry" (Universal Republic, 2010)
(Produced by Nathan Chapman, Paul Worley & Matt Serletic)

I guess that singer Kimberley Perry is supposed to be the bad-girl version of Taylor Swift, with the same mix of pop-savvy teen-sensation twang and junior-high diary lyrics, with a hint of Gretchen Wilson tough-girl sass in there as well, and more controversial lyrics. For example, the suicide-friendly "If I Die Young" will probably upset a parent or two, but it's painful to listen to less because of the familiar, self-pitying teen angst than because of its utter artlessness... This bluntness of Perry's lyrics is repeated in song after song, with the upside that it rings true as teenage self-absorption: perhaps the most emotionally effective song on the album is "Walk Me Down The Middle," in which she tells her new boyfriend to show her off to everyone in town, particularly his old ex, who never deserved him anyway. It's a totally shallow song, but it does sound like something a teenager would write, if not actually say out loud. I do think that Ms. Perry has what it takes to make it big, although I'm not sure the whole family-band concept works for her: flanking Kimberly are her two brothers, Neil and Reid, who with their shaggy rocker hair and ready-for-the-WB telegenics, are credited with co-writing many of the songs on this album. They also accompany her on some -- but not all -- the songs, playing mandolin and bass, although on most of the album it's a crew of Nashville studio musicians who provide the real oompf. As long as she's leaning on the teen-popstar angle, I guess they're useful, but in the long run, she can probably ditch her sibs and make it on her own. For now, though, Taylor doesn't have that much to worry about: this album has enough adolescent navel-gazing to build up a younger fan base, but Perry's going to have to up her game as a songwriter if she wants to attract older fans. Time will tell.

The Band Perry "Pioneer" (Republic Records, 2013)
(Produced by Dan Huff)

High-tech Nashville stuff, basically loud, overproduced rock-pop with fiddles and mandolin. I dunno why Kimberly Perry still hasn't ditched her siblings to go solo, but it doesn't really matter. I don't try and make a habit about being snobby and dismissive about modern Top Forty country, but sometimes I can't help it. This really doesn't do much for me -- it feels soulless and phony, and I've got better stuff to listen to.

Moe Bandy -- see artist profile

R. C. Bannon -- see artist profile

Ava Barber "Country As Grits" (Ranwood, 1977) (LP)

Ava Barber "You're Gonna Love Love" (Ranwood, 1978) (LP)

Glenn Barber "A New Star" (Hickory, 1970)

Glenn Barber "The Best Of Glenn Barber" (Hickory, 1972)

Glenn Barber "Glenn Barber" (Hickory, 1974) (LP)

Glenn Barber "Warm All Over Feelin" (51 West, 1979) (LP)

Glenn Barber "The Most Wanted Man From Tennessee" (Brylen Country, 1982) (LP)

Glenn Barber "First Love Feelings" (Tudor, 1983)

Glenn Barber "Saturday's Heroes Are Gone" (Tudor, 1984)

Glenn Barber "Close But No Cigar: The Crazy Cajun Recordings" (Edsel, 2000)

Bobby Bare -- see artist profile

Jack Barlow "Baby, Ain't That Love" (Dot, 1969)

Jack Barlow "Son Of The South" (Dot, 1969) (LP)

Jack Barlow "Catch The Wind" (Dot, 1972)

Jack Barlow "I Live The Country Songs I Sing" (Antique, 1976)

Randy Barlow "Arrival" (Republic, 1977) (LP)

Randy Barlow "Fall In Love With Me" (Republic, 1978) (LP)

Randy Barlow "...Featuring Sweet Melinda" (Republic, 1979) (LP)

Randy Barlow "Dimensions" (Paid Records, 1980) (LP)

Randy Barlow "Who's Randy Barlow? -- A Journey Toward Fame" (Self-Released, 2009)

Shane Barmby "Let's Talk About Us" (Polygram, 1989)

Shane Barmby "Jukebox Symphony" (Polygram, 1991)

Kathy Barnes "I Started Living Today" (MGM, 1975 ) (LP)

Kathy Barnes "Someday Soon" (Republic, 1976) (LP)

Kathy Barnes "...Sings Gene Autry" (Republic, 1978) (LP)

Kathy Barnes "Body Talkin' " (Republic, 1978) (LP)

Max D. Barnes "Rough Around The Edges" (Ovation, 1980) (LP)
Songwriter Max D. Barnes didn't make much of a splash as a recording artist -- the singles from these two LPs pinged around in the back rungs of the Top 100 -- but as a composer, he was a hitmaking machine. "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," by George Jones, "Chiselled In Stone" by Vern Gosdin, "Storms Of Life" and "I Won't Need You Anymore (Always And Forever)" by Randy Travis, and "Thank God For The Radio" by the Kendalls are just a fraction of his remarkable output... Barnes might not have had his name in lights as a result of his own records, but it's always nice to hear a songwriter covering their own material...

Max D. Barnes "Pieces Of My Life" (Ovation, 1981) (LP)

Bobby Barnett "Lyin', Lovin' And Leavin' " (Columbia, 1968) (LP)
(Produced by George Richey)

Hey, don't worry: I never heard of him, either. Oklahoma's Bobby Barnett had a few chart entries in the early part of the decade, though "Love Me, Love Me" off of this album was his last big hit, and it was all downhill from here. At any rate, he was a likeable if unremarkable singer, with an odd, uneven voice reminiscent of Bill Anderson or Hank Locklin... It was the preponderance of drinking songs on this disc that caught my attention, including a good version of "What Made Milwaukee Famous," and a few even more interesting novelty tunes, like "End Of The Lyin' " and "(I'm The) Finished Product Of The Brewer's Art." Nothing earthshaking, but I thought it was a keeper.

Bobby Barnett "American Heroes & Western Legends" (Bear Family, 1997)
An intriguing curiosity -- a slew of "history" songs about western icons such as Pretty Boy Floyd, Wyatt Earp (and all the principal characters in the OK Corrall saga) as well as many native American leaders such as Crazy Horse, Sequoyah and Geronimo. Why the record is such a curio is because it seems to have been made fairly late in the came, sometime during the 1970s, about a decade after the heyday of this kind of historical songs. It's pretty good, though, if you go for that sort of thing. The real gem here, though, is a local pride anthem, the robust and gleefully goofy "Oklahoma's OK," which I'm sure folks must still be singing to this very day, down around Tulsa and thereabouts.

Mandy Barnett "Mandy Barnett" (Elektra, 1995)
An unabashed Patsy Cline copycat (she actually portrayed Cline in the stage musical, "Always, Patsy Cline...") Mandy Barnett gets extra points for draping a jazzy torchsong arrangement around Jim Lauderdale's loopy "Planet Of Love," but immediately loses traction on the generic "young country" grind of "Maybe," the song that follows. In general, she seems to have a good sense of material to cover (Willie Nelson's "Three Days," for example...) and is fairly "rootsy," at least in comparison to her Nashville contemporaries. Still, outside of the Patsy-isms, she's not that tremendous of a vocalist, and if she doesn't have the right arrangements behind her, Barnett's music lapses into mediocrity fairly fast. Mellow, easy on the ears and a nice change of pace, but she still doesn't really wow me.

Mandy Barnett "I've Got A Right To Cry" (Sire, 1999)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)

An absurdly derivative recreation of Patsy Cline's smooth, pioneering proto-countrypolitan sound. Legendary Decca arranger Owen Bradley -- who produced many of Cline's biggest hits -- helps sculpt this album, and studio veterans such as pianist Pig Robbins and guitarist Harold Bradley refabricate the feel of the old Decca sessions. Nonetheless, this dose of old-timer authenticity doesn't compensate for Barnett lack of Cline's slick, bluesy bite and sweet, soulful delivery... When not simply mimicking Patsy's intonations, Barnett slips perilously close to approximating Linda Ronstadt's lesser efforts. Sure, the song selection is cool (not a Cline cover among the lot), but neither Barnett nor her band are speaking with an original voice, and this homage founders in comparison to the real thing. Pleasant, and easy on the ears, but kind of self-defeating.

Mandy Barnett "Winter Wonderland" (Crackerbarrel, 2010)

Joe Barnhill "Joe Barnhill" (Capitol, 1990)

Jeff Bates "Rainbow Man" (RCA, 2003)
(Produced by Kenny Beard, Scott Hendricks & David Malloy)

Nice one! Opening with a fun Bubbadelic ode to the joys of good ole boy anthems, Bates does a pretty good job balancing those low, rumbly George Jones notes with a lighter, growling croon. The songs are pleasantly gimmicky, following the more traditionally-oriented country formulas, mixing Hank Jr.-ish redneck/working man anthems with tough-but-sensitive romantic anthems that recall the best work by Conway Twitty or Alabama. ("Long Slow Kisses" is a bit suspect... I mean, who ever heard of a country song where some dude talks about lighting candles in the bedroom? But he sure gets pretty raunchy on "I Wanna Make You Cry," which he promises to do with his masterful lovemaking... Yikes! That's kinda nasty.) Bates is clearly derivative of innumerable artists, but in a really good way. It's rare that I hear a contemporary commercial country album that I can listen to from end to end without flinching at over half the songs... This one has a pretty good hit ratio, though -- I think it's pretty darn listenable and worth checking out, if you're into old-school Moe Bandy-style rowdiness.

Jeff Bates "Leave The Light On" (RCA, 2006)

Jeff Bates "Jeff Bates" (Black River, 2008)

Jeff Bates "One Day Closer" (Black River, 2011)
A 6-song EP of inspirational songs...

Phil Baugh "Live Wire!" (Sundazed, 2005)
A nice set of hot hillbilly tunes, some instrumentals and some songs, featuring whiz-bang guitarist Phil Baugh, who worked extensively with singer Vern Stovall and with Ray Price's road band, and also as a popular session player in the 1960s and '70s. His deliciously twangy style had a deceptive chunkiness to it, coloring but not obscuring his technical mastery of the bright-toned Telecaster electric gee-tar. This best-of collection is pretty sweet -- a bunch of lively, irresistible twang tunes that includes his two charting singles from 1965, "Country Guitar" and "One Man Band" (both modest successes...) Fun stuff that was made to be played loud. Highly recommended!

Commercial Country Albums - More Letter "B"

Hick Music Index

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