The River's Badge

Thursday, June 15, 2017

People Who Don't Like Country Music...


My husband, no country music fan, remarked the other day that the reason early-to-mid-sixties rock was so good was because of the harmonies. "That's when producers were still in charge," he said. His unspoken conclusion was that the rock artists of the late sixties weren't overly concerned with production. It's true. There were exceptions, but the late sixties were an anarchic time; artists were naive in their "let it all hang out" mindset toward music. Unlike now, which is essentially an anarchic time, too, but artists are now willing to bend a knee in worship of dollars and "likes". Perhaps that's why I find modern music tiresome -- it's so blatantly manipulative. I'll gladly take the naive badly produced song. At least it was honest.

But as my husband uttered the word, "harmonies", I thought, exactly! That's country music!

If the Everly Brothers had begun their career only a few years later than they did, they would have been country artists. Because country music is (or was) all about harmony.


There is an innate reason why humans are drawn to harmony. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know the reason for that. Maybe the answer is found in nature -- the way the flutter of the wind through the trees mingles with a bird's trills; and we feel alive and soft, cradled inside the earth's hands.

We're drawn to harmony and yearn to sing along. Even if we do it badly, it doesn't matter because it feels so good, so natural.

When I was sixteen or so, I'd recently purchased my first "real" reel-to-reel tape recorder, and I impressed myself with my wondrous ability to sing three-part harmony to this song, by bouncing tracks (the recording itself only featured two-part harmonies, but I said, let's go all out!):



In the early sixties, country music featured not only two-part, but three-part harmonies, where I no doubt got the idea for my "Silver Wings" rendition.

For example:


The absolute master of harmonies was Ray Price. Ray had his Cherokee Cowboys, of which a guy named Roger Miller was once a part. As an added bonus, Roger wrote this song and added his half-step to Ray's vocals:


And don't forget Buck Owens and Don Rich. In the early sixties, country music basically drizzled down to Buck Owens. The Grand Ol' Opry kept doing its thing, but nobody could compete with Bakersfield, and Nashville keenly knew it. If it wasn't for Don Rich, well...


There is no question what my favorite harmony song from the late sixties was. I know I recently featured this video in another post, but bear with me -- I can't find an original performance video of Mel Tillis doing:


From the Everlys to Porter and Dolly to Restless Heart to Brad and Dolly to Waylon and Willie, to Naomi and Wynonna, up to Vince and Patty, harmony is what country music is known for:



My visceral reaction to harmony singing, when it's good, is that it stabs me in the heart.

Everybody needs that little stab sometimes. That's how we know we're alive.








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