Alison Krauss Previews New Album “Windy City”

Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss is releasing her first album for Capitol Records, Windy City.  The new album is also her first without Union Station since her 2007 collaboration with Robert Plant, Raising Sand.

The new album includes some classic covers like “You Don’t Know Me,” Willie Nelson’s “I Never Cared for You,” and “Poison Love” (recorded by Bill Monroe).

The first released track from the album is “Losing You.” In 1963, Brenda Lee released her version of the song, which was written by Jean Renard and Carl Sigman. Famous record producer Owen Bradley produced Lee’s version. Below is Krauss’s new recording.

In the video below, Brenda Lee, who still tours, performs “Losing You” in a 1965 concert in Japan.

Krauss has also released a trailer for her new album.  Check it out.

Windy City hits the Internet and stores on February 17, 2017. The album tracks are: “Losing You”; “It’s Goodbye and So Long to You”; “Windy City”; “I Never Cared for You”; “River in the Rain”; “Dream of Me”; “Gentle on My Mind”; “All Alone Am I”; “Poison Love”; and “You Don’t Know Me.”

What is your favorite recording by Alison Krauss? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Who Was Poor Old Johnnie Ray?

    who was Johnnie Ray Poor old Johnnie Ray,
    Sounded sad upon the radio;
    He moved a million hearts in Mono.
    Our mothers cried;
    Sang along, who’d blame them.

    The opening of the 1982-1983 hit song “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners mentions a person named Johnnie Ray. So does the first line of Billy Joel’s 1989 song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (“Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray. . . .”).

    In each of the songs, the songwriters refer to Johnnie Ray in the context of remembering their childhoods.  During the period they evoke, Johnnie Ray was a big star. But by the 1980s, when these songs were released, and today, many ask, Who was poor old Johnnie Ray?

    Who Was Johnnie Ray?

    Johnnie Ray, who passed away on February 24, 1990, was born in Oregon on January 10, 1927.  He rose to stardom as a singer in the early 1950s. Some, like Tony Bennett, have credited Ray’s work to being an important pre-cursor to rock and roll.

    One of Ray’s biggest hits was “Cry.”

    Bob Dylan once noted that Ray was the “first singer whose voice and style I totally fell in love with.”  Ringo Starr explained that in the early days, he and the other Beatles listened to “Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Johnnie Ray.” The Rolling Stones’s Bill Wyman, among others, has commented how Ray opened up his ears even before Elvis Presley began recording.

    And when Elvis Presley got out of the army, he covered a song he knew from Ray, “Such a Night.” Elvis’s version appeared on his 1960 album Elvis is Back.  Below is Johnnie Ray’s version.

    But as rock and roll took off in the late 1950s, Ray’s popularity declined in the U.S. even as he remained popular in other countries. Ray never disappeared and continued to performing until 1989.

    Ray even had some fun with Presley’s music in the following comedy bit, where Ray explains he is not declaring war with Elvis. The clip is from a 1957 live episode of the CBS variety show Shower of Stars.

    Ray had a great voice and made some wonderful music despite being deaf in one ear from a childhood injury. It is interesting to speculate why he could not maintain his popularity as rock and roll took off.

    Maybe his style still was stuck in the 1940s era for rock and roll listeners. Maybe rumors about his sexual orientation hurt him, or maybe it was not cool to be in a movie like There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954) with Ethel Merman.  (Still, that film also starred Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley’s career would survive being in far worse movies.)

    Ray also appeared on What’s My Line? on June 9, 1957.

    Other songs have mentioned Ray too. In 1986, Ray appeared in Billy Idol’s “Don’t Need a Gun” video and was mentioned in the lyrics of the song.

    More recently, Van Morrison dropped Ray’s name in his song “Sometimes We Cry” on his 1997 album The Healing Game.  In the song, Van Morrison exclaims, “I’m not gonna fake it like Johnnie Ray.”

    Van Morrison’s reference is not a criticism of Ray but a tribute.  He invokes his memory of Ray’s own songs about crying such as “Cry,” along with Ray’s ability to fake cry on cue for his performances.  Like the other singers who have invoked Ray’s name, Morrison remembers Ray as a major presence in his childhood.  In a 2006 interview, Van Morrison noted that in his childhood home, “Johnnie Ray was like the backdrop, hearing his music on the radio during that period.”

    Ray clearly made an impact on those who heard him during his prime.  And it is great that the name checks by Van Morrison and Billy Joel will lead others to discover Ray’s music.  Ray of course can also thank the writers of “Come On Eileen” (Kevin Rowland, Jim Paterson and Billy Adams) for his presence in one of the most iconic opening lines of a 1980s pop song.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Son Volt: “Back Against the Wall”

    Notes of Blue
    Son Volt will be releasing a new album, Notes of Blue on February 17, 2017. From the sound of one of the tracks, “Back Against the Wall,” it could be another classic album from the band led by singer-songwriter Jay Farrar.

    The sound of the new album is reportedly influenced by the work of Mississippi Fred McDowell, Skip James and Nick Drake.

    Son Volt has already released the song “Back Against the Wall” from the upcoming album. Check it out.

    What do you think of the new Son Volt music? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Rick Nelson’s Death and Life

    Garden Party

    On December 31, 1985, singer-songwriter Rick Nelson was flying to  new Year’s Eve appearance in Dallas when the DC-3 crashed.  The crash killed Nelson and all seven passengers.  The two pilots of the plane — which had taken off from Guntersville, Alabama — survived the attempted emergency landing with serious injuries.

    The cause of the crash is still a mystery.  The plane had started filling with smoke from an unknown origin before the pilots had to attempt to land the plane.

    Ozzie And Harriet

    What was not a mystery was that Rick Nelson was a great talent, often underrated.  He had rose to fame as “Ricky Nelson” in the 1950s with his parents on the television show, The Adventures of Ozzie And Harriet.  

    But it was his performance of a song on the show in 1957 that really began his career as a musician.  In an April 10, 1957 episode, he sang the Fats Domino song “I’m Walkin’.”

    Following his first release of “I’m Walkin” and “A Teenager’s Romance” in 1957, Nelson hit the top 40 charts around thirty times in the next five years. Below he performs his classic version of “Lonesome Town,” which was written by Baker Knight, on The Adventures of Ozzie And Harriet.  

    Later Music Career

    After his early string of hits, his career had various ups and downs.  The arrival of the Beatles made rockabilly music out of fashion for a time.  But Nelson’s work influenced others.  His influence can be heard in what came to be known as “the California sound.”

    In the early 1970s, Nelson’s popularity returned for a period. He had a top 40 song with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me.” Nelson performs the song with his band, The Stone Canyon Band, on The Mike Douglas Show in 1969 below.

    Nelson’s final major hit was his 1972 song, “Garden Party.” Nelson wrote the autobiographical song after he had been booed for performing a current song, “Country Tonk” (a version of The Rolling Stones’s “Honky-Tonk Woman”) at a performance.  The incident during Richard Nader’s Rock ‘n Roll Revival concert, which took place on October 15, 1971, inspired Nelson to pen “Garden Party.”

    An interesting piece of trivia is that the “Mr. Hughes” mentioned in “Garden Party” refers to The Beatles’ George Harrison.  Harrison was a neighbor and friend of Nelson’s who was in the audience at the show. Harrison used the alias “Hughes” when traveling, and he was likely in disguise so people would not recognize him.

    “Garden Party” was Nelson’s last success on the charts. But he continued touring up until his death.  The last song he performed the night before his death was Buddy Holly’s “Rave On.”

    Below Nelson performs “Travelin’ Man” in 1985, not long before the plane crash that took his life.

    After Nelson’s death in 1985, his work continued to earn more respect among critics.  In 1987, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    What is your favorite Rick Nelson song?  Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Merle Haggard, The Impressionist

    Merle Haggard Impersonation

    We all know Merle Haggard was a great talented songwriter and singer. But a clip from The Glen Campbell Show also shows he was pretty good at copying the voices of some other country music greats.

    In this video, Haggard impersonates Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, Buck Owens, and Johnny Cash. And Buck and Johnny also show up to join in the fun. Check it out.

    See our previous post on Johnny Cash’s impersonation of Elvis Presley.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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