The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [April 1987]

No single cover for "Rose In Paradise" since Waylon is too badass for that.
No single cover for “Rose In Paradise” since Waylon is too badass for that.

This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week, I’m going to go all the way back to the eighties. Since I can only find the top 25 for anything pre-1990, the highest and lowest scores will be +125 and -125, respectively. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from April 25th, 1987.

  1. Waylon Jennings – “Rose In Paradise” +4 [Best Song] (Waylon’s final number one will be thirty years old next year. Hard to believe)
  2. T. Graham Brown – “Don’t Go To Strangers” +3
  3. Michael Johnson – “The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder” +3
  4. Michael Martin Murphey & Holly Dunn – “A Face In The Crowd” +3
  5. The Trio – Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris – “To Know Him Is To Love Him” +4 (three females on one song?!? Damn, we can barely get three women on the charts these days!)
  6. The O’ Kanes – “Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You” +2 (Props for the accordion in the chorus)
  7. Kathy Mattea – “You’re The Power” +2
  8. The Oak Ridge Boys – “It Takes A Little Rain”  +2 (Before they liked “doing it” to country songs)
  9. Don Williams – “Senorita” +2
  10. Reba McEntire – “Let The Music Lift You Up” +2
  11. Steve Earle – “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left” +3 (80’s Steve was SOOOO good)
  12. Conway Twitty – “Julia” +3
  13. Judy Rodman – “Girls Ride Horses Too” +2
  14. The Bellamy Brothers – “Kids Of The Baby Boom” +4
  15. John Conlee – “Domestic Life” +3
  16. Dan Seals – “I Will Be There” +1 [Least Good Song]
  17. Billy Joe Royal – “Old Bridges Burn Slow” +2
  18. Gary Morris – “Plain Brown Wrapper” +2
  19. The Forester Sisters – “Too Many Rivers” +2
  20. Lyle Lovett – “God Will” +3
  21. Moe Bandy – “‘Till I’m Too Old To Die Young” +3
  22. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – “Baby’s Got A Hold On Me” +2
  23. Highway 101 – “The Bed You Made For Me” +3
  24. Keith Whitley  “Hard Livin'” +3
  25. T.G. Sheppard – “You’re My First Lady” +3

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +66

Once again, it’s nice to see a positive score on this thing. Not as good as last week, mostly because there’s a lot of cheesy love songs with sleepy production. Still, nothing inherently bad here. When you have songs by Waylon, Keith Whitley, and Don Williams, how can you really complain?

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [June 1991]

220px-meet_in_the_middle_single

This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from June 1st, 1991.

  1. Diamond Rio – “Meet In The Middle” +3
  2. Doug Stone – “In A Different Light” +3
  3. George Strait – “If I Know Me” +4
  4. Paul Overstreet – “Heroes” +3 (The production is a little much for me, otherwise this would be +4)
  5. Mark Chesnutt – “Blame It On Texas” +3
  6. Dwight Yoakam – “You’re The One” +4 (Holy mandolin!)
  7. Joe Diffie – “If The Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets) +3
  8. Garth Brooks – “The Thunder Rolls” +4
  9. The Oak Ridge Boys – “Lucky Moon” +3
  10. Clint Black – “One More Payment” +3 (Holy Western Swing!)
  11. Lorrie Morgan – “We Both Walk” +3
  12. Tanya Tucker – “Oh What It Did To Me” +4
  13. Ronnie Milsap – “Are You Lovin’ Me (Like I’m Lovin’ You)” +3
  14. Randy Travis – “Point Of Light” +3
  15. The Judds – “One Hundred and Two” +2
  16. Alan Jackson – “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” +3
  17. Pirates Of The Mississippi – “Feed Jake” +4
  18. Alabama – “Down Home” +3
  19. Dolly Parton & Ricky Van Shelton – “Rockin’ Years” +4
  20. Ricky Van Shelton – “I Am A Simple Man” +3
  21. Highway 101 – “Bing Bang Boom” +2
  22. Pam Tillis – “One Of Those Things” +2
  23. Mike Reid – “‘Till You Were Gone” +4
  24. Travis Tritt – “Drift Off To Dream” +3
  25. Kathy Mattea – “Time Passes By” +4
  26. Terry McBride – “Can I Count On You” +3
  27. Mark O’ Connor – “Restless” +2
  28. Clinton Gregory – “(If It Weren’t For Country Music) I’d Go Crazy” +4 [Best Song] (wouldn’t we all though?)
  29. Billy Dean – “Somewhere In My Broken Heart” +3
  30. Carlene Carter – “The Sweetest Thing” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +94

Wow! Quite the reversal from last week! Indeed, this is one of the best charts we’ve ever had. Sure, not every song on here is perfect, but the overall quality is simply stunning. I felt no need to award a “worst song” award this week since it wouldn’t have really made sense. The worst here is still good.

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

Album Review – Mary Sarah’s “Bridges”

 

Mary Sarah is truly an anomaly in today’s world of country music. It’s not everyday you see a 19-year-old female singing traditional country music with some of the biggest icons of the genre. Then again Sarah is not your normal teenager. She loves classic country music and her new album Bridges demonstrates this. Sarah covers classic songs with country music legends such as Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard throughout the album. And for some reason Big & Rich is also on the album (?). Anyway let’s take a look at what the up and comer does with some of the biggest names of the genre.

Best Songs on the Album

Bridges kicks off with a bang. Sarah duets with Dolly covering her hit song “Jolene.” It’s an excellent song choice because women of all ages can connect with this song. Dolly and Sarah’s voices go together perfectly too. Her duet with the late great Ray Price, “Heartaches By The Number” was the first single off of this album. I already named it one of the best songs of 2014 so far. Price sounds wonderful in one of the last songs he ever recorded. I’m surprised by how well Sarah and Price were together. Her duets with Willie on “Crazy” and Ronnie Milsap on “What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life” showcase how well Sarah can pull off ballads. Sarah can sing right beside a legend in Willie and not sound out-of-place at all. I love the inclusion of Milsap on the album because more people need to know how great of an artist he is.

The choice of covering “The Fightin’ Side of Me” with Merle is an interesting one. I thought it wouldn’t work before I listened to it, but I came away impressed after hearing it. She gets even bolder when choosing to cover Vince Gill’s biggest hit “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” If I had to make a list of songs that shouldn’t be attempted to be covered, this song would make the list. It’s such a difficult song that’s full of emotion. But Sarah does an admirable job. Her vocals are great on every song, but this is when her vocals really stood out to me. It obviously isn’t as good as the original, but it’s probably the best cover I have ever heard of it. And it’s always a pleasure to hear Vince Gill. Another song that stands out to me is her duet with Lynn Anderson on “Rose Garden.” This cover will get overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. Not only does this song fit Mary Sarah to a T, but her voice and Anderson’s mesh great together. I wouldn’t mind hearing another duet from these two.

Worst Songs on the Album

There are a few puzzling song choices to me on the album. Her duet with Neil Sedaka on “Where The Boys Are” and Freddy Powers on “All I Want to Do is Sing My Song” are a little dated I think for Sarah. Don’t get me wrong, the vocals are great on both. But a young artist like Sarah feels out-of-place covering these songs. The biggest question on the album is without a doubt the presence of Big & Rich. They stick out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the lineup on Bridges. I also feel the song choice of “My Great Escape” is a mistake. It’s too boring and dry for a dynamic voice like Sarah’s. I think a better choice would’ve been “Lost In This Moment.” It’s a memorable song and would’ve once again showcased how great Sarah is with love ballads.

The Rest of the Album

The ultimate clash of styles happens when Sarah and Tanya Tucker cover “Texas (When I Die).” Tucker has a gritty, textured voice while Sarah’s is clean and high. While these clash of styles feel off at times, I feel like it works enough to make the cover sound good. I certainly appreciate both styles of their voices. Her duet with the Oak Ridge Boys on “Dream On” is solid all-around, but again feels like a clash of styles. But I can still enjoy it. The album closes out with Mary Sarah covering the Brenda Lee hit song “I’m Sorry.” It’s another dated song choice by Sarah, but I feel like she made it her own and it sounds believable enough coming from a 19-year-old artist.

Overall Thoughts

Bridges high points are pretty high and the low points are a little disappointing. Nevertheless, if you’ve never heard Mary Sarah sing before you can take at least one thing away from this album. Her voice is pretty damn great. She can sing pretty much anything you throw at her. Sarah’s voice is as dynamic as Carrie Underwood’s voice. Not too many people are blessed with this type of talent. I hope unlike Underwood that she sticks to making traditional country music because I fear if she went to a big label that she would be turned into a Taylor Swift-type singing pop country songs. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for Sarah, but her voice could be a harbinger of traditional country music to the younger generation. One of the reasons she made this album was for that very reason. She said the following to The Tennesseean in an interview:

“This project isn’t just about me. It’s about the legends and bringing this to a newer generation,” she said. “I didn’t wanna put my face on there. I didn’t wanna do anything cheesy.”

Sarah said she’s a big fan of country contemporaries like Underwood, Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert, as well as Katy Perry and other pop stars. She said she hopes people her age will discover some traditional country music by listening to her album.

“I had friends all the time in high school tell me, ‘Who is that? Who is Merle Haggard? Who is Willie Nelson?’” recalled Sarah, who graduated last year. “And I’m sitting there like, ‘Oh my gosh, these people are legends and you don’t even know who they are.’”

Her fighting spirit for traditional country music, this album and her amazing voice has made a fan in me. I think this is a good introduction for Sarah to the country music masses and I’m looking forward to hearing original songs from Mary Sarah in the future.

Grade: 8.5/10