Monday, January 31, 2011

Ronnie Dunn: We All Bleed Red

Ronnie Dunn's first single of his new solo career is out!

"We live this life, from breath to breath, we're all the same, we all bleed red." Well sung Ronnie.

The lyrics to "Bleed Red" are timely and express an important truth. When we let our differences in opinion divide us, we lose sight of how similar we all really are and behave in ways that are destructive. "Turn the anger to water, let it slip through our hands. We all bleed red." "Because my scars, they are your scars, and your world is mine."  I can't wait for the first Ronnie Dunn concert I attend to see thousands of people holding hands, swaying back and forth, singing country's new version of Kumbaya. I'm not being sarcastic. Call me a sap, but I think it will be beautiful. had a nice paragraph in their article where Dunn talks about what he was thinking when he chose and recorded this song.

"The type of song was not one Ronnie was intent on releasing as his first solo single following the musical split of Brooks & Dunn. "One day, I get this e-mail from a friend, and it's a song called 'Bleed Red.' So I listened to it, just to be nice, and it knocked me out," he reiterates. "It wasn't necessarily the suit that I was planning on wearing to the dance, so to speak, but it was a big song, and I said, 'I'm gonna have to beat Bono to the punch.' [laughs] It sounded like U2, and I'm going, 'Okay, so what if Conway Twitty were to come in and put a vocal on this anyway and cut the song?' So that's what we did."

"Bleed Red" does sound like a U2 song. I'm not a U2 fan, so it has taken me a a day to get past the similarity. Yesterday, I wrote a scathing review but didn't publish it. This morning I listened to the song again and realized that I love it.

You can hear "Bleed Red" on his website now, as you admire the photograph of a Ronnie Dunn porcelain doll. (Holy airbrush, Batman!)

As soon as this song is available for download, I'm buying it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oy, Jaron. For such a funny guy, you have some humorless fans!

The other day I was thinking that I had lost my way in this blog. The fact that I am a Jewish country music fan had lost its importance and I had assimilated into the mass of mostly secular country music conversation.
Then, Sunday night I see that Jaron Lowenstein, the Jewish pop singer gone country, has posted the following on his Facebook page

"Haaa!!! "Thank you to God for making me an atheist." -Ricky Gervais. Wow. that guy's got balls."

Just imagine Jaron having 100 bibles thrown at him (all but one aimed to just miss his pretty head) and then his fans lecturing and preaching to one another from their respective moral highgrounds. That's what the comment thread looks like. Some of comments are long rants, both for and against the Gervais quote and a Christian understanding of God and faith.  "He totally contradicted himself and it's not even right." one frustrated and comedically impaired Jaron fan says of Gervais.

An offended Christian's post reads, "Speechless... Can you shoot your maker in the face any harder?" It doesn't surprise me that religious Christians find Gervais' statement offensive, but this comment is so removed from my frame of reference that I honestly find it bizarre. Even my most religious Jewish friends would find some humor Gervais' statement, at least in the contradiction itself.

Considering that the song "I'll Pray for You", his ticket onto country radio, is 100% sarcastic, the comment "I love when Christians use the statement "I'll pray for you" at the end of their discussions as a way to be a condescending a-hole." is rather apropo on behalf of the not-offended and tired of the preaching.

I wonder if Jaron had any clue that so many of his fans lack a sense of humor when it comes to God. Why should he? It doesn't make any sense that they like his song "I'll Pray for You" but are unable to laugh at Gervais ridiculous statement.

I said that all but one bible was aimed to miss Jaron's head. His offended fans for the most part criticized Gervais for joking about God, not Jaron for repeating it and finding it funny.  Only one guy posted "Jaron....I used 2 like you."

I'm glad Jaron's not wearing some sort of hokey country camoflague in order to fit into the genre more easily. Even though he doesn't have enough twang for my taste, I'll continue following his career because he keeps me entertained. Here's his next funny song "Happy For You". If this makes it onto the radio (doubtful) I can already hear my eight year old saying "Mama, it isn't nice to say hate."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Review: Good Music is Better then Sex

My life has a soundtrack running in the background.  I often turn to music as therapy for my relatively small problems like boredom or difficulty concentrating on a mundane task. Luckily, I don't have any big problems right now but if I did, God forbid, I would turn to music to help with those as well.

Judy M. Core, the author of Good Music is Better than Sex and My Search for the Old Blue Chair is a huge Kenny Chesney fan and credits his music, specifically the song "Old Blue Chair" with saving her life from the downward spiral of alcoholism and partying.  Throughout the book she refers to the songs that are her personal soundtrack. I picked up her book because I was curious to read the story of another woman who claims country music has had a large affect on her life.

Good Music is Better than Sex... is a self-published memoir. It's a conversation with an dirty-mouthed girlfriend who won't let you get a word in edgewise. It took a few pages but eventually I was pulled into the story by this description of Core's younger self.

"...I transitioned from the invisible girl with glasses and braces in high school to the Larger than Life Blonde Creature. You've probably seen her. You can't miss her...pissed off, big hair, loud mouth, short skirts and big boobs, life of the party. She might be telling someone to fuck off, she might be dancing sandwiched between two guys, she might be making out with some stray at the me, you've seen her."(p. 9)

Core inserts humanity into the "Blonde Creature".  Her "Blonde Creature" transcends the eye-roll inducing, scantily clad stranger at a bar, by having feelings and a brain. When she manages to put a halt to her life's downward spiral she does a lot of soul searching on the subject of sex and relationships. She makes some very good points about self-respect and the roles women cast themselves in. I think that her story could be very helpful to young women who are caught-up in the self-destructive lifestyle of booze, sex, and unhealthy relationships, especially if those women are music lovers.

Her story is compelling not because it is exceptional, like a rags to riches or obscurity to fame story, but rather because it is common. She takes some unusual steps in her process, like going to the Caribbean to write a book, but it's more about what happens in her head than where she decides to do her thinking. It's the story of a woman who makes mistakes she not proud of, takes full responsibility for her actions and turns into a woman who takes consequences and goals into account before she acts. It's a book that says all the things that most mothers try to tell their daughters about partying, men, and marriage. The problem is that most mothers, if they are speaking to their daughters from experience, won't admit it. Good Music is Better than Sex is written in the voice of  a woman who is not embarrassed to tell the world how she behaved, and how it damaged her. The wounds are fresh. 

While reading this book I was aware that it was written and published in the mid-2000s. I wonder if Judy Core was writing this today, she would have chosen an online format with an interactive advice element and links to video. It could easily be moved into that format and reach a wider audience.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What Songs Give You the Chills?

A study called "Anatomically Distinct Dopamine Release During Anticipation and Experience of  Peak Emotion to Music" was just published and articles about it are being shared online among music lovers. Basically, what the study says is that the brain produces dopamine, a substance that makes one feel good, in anticipation of or while listening to music that is so good it gives us the chills. The more chills one has listening to a particular piece of music or song, the more dopamine is produced by the brain.

The opening paragraph of this article from Discovery News says "People love music for much the same reason they're drawn to sex, drugs, gambling and delicious food, according to new research. When you listen to tunes that move you, the study found, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical involved in both motivation and addiction."

The test subjects in the study brought their own selections of chill producing music. The most popular choice was Barber's Adagio for Strings. My classical music loving parents would be ashamed to know that I had to go online to listen to it, and am not familiar with it. It is lovely. I've provided the link just in case you're in the same ship of fools with me.

I'm not sure if it's just cold in my studio right now, or if a few of the songs on Dierks Bentley's Up on the Ridge album are giving me the chills, but there certainly are many songs that have this affect on me.  When these songs come on, I overwhelmed by the same sensations as when I'm taking the first bite of a piece of rich chocolate cake or thinking about sex.

My first memory of getting the chills from a song was The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Charlie Daniels Band. I think I was eight. That fiddle still gives me the chills.


Sometime in my early 20s, I discovered Fleetwood Mac, although I suppose I've heard them most of my life. Landslide definitely gives me the chills. With that guitar and Stevie Nicks' raspy voice I'm going to guess that this is one of the most chill producing songs ever. I think I read that somewhere (not really).

I have always been a sucker for the soaring, emotionally charged song that elevates the spirit like Celine Dion's, "It's All Coming Back to Me"  and Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up." 

And now onto the humble country song.

Whiskey Lullaby, Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss. The chills come on from the first pick at that guitar and then escalate as I anticipate Krauss' voice joining Paisley's. I have listened to this song three times in a row. As sad as this song is, I feel good!

Old Things New, Joe Nichols.  He could sing the phonebook and give me the chills. He is, as you know if you read my blog, my absolute favorite singer. This is my favorite songs of his. Unfortunately, this is the best video of it that I have found online. It's a live recording from a concert.  Even with the ambient noise and a lady gabbing in the background, it gives me the chills. After a week on vacation without access to music, I listened to forty-four Joe Nichols songs in a row. I was jonesing for some music and he gave me my fix.

Bad Things, Jace Everett. Doesn't everyone get the chills when they hear this song? It's the high twang of the guitar and his deep voice singing something naughty. Dang.


Dierks Bentley, "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes".  I'm not sure why this song gives me the chills, but it does. Perhaps it's the instrumentation, sexy lyrics and his sleepy voice. I suppose it is similar to the Jace Everett song in some ways.

Most people wouldn't decide to put Jason Aldean on their short list of chill producing artists. From the first moment I heard it I've thought the song "Truth" sounds like the hidden wailing of an average guy's broken heart. When he breaks into the last verse, my skin breaks out in goosebumps.

"Have some mercy on me." After listening to these songs over and over, since these are all songs that I can't listen to only once, I'm high as a kite. Whew!

I'll finish by throwing in something a little unexpected, Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters". I could have picked almost any song from The Black Album. The sound is loud, larger than life, energetic, a little bit scary, and to my ear, beautiful. Metallica gets that dopamine pumping. In fact, if I really need to run, Metallica is the one band that can get me through the miles.

What songs give you the chills, causes your brain to release dopamine, and turns you on?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Country Music Explanation of my New Year's Resolution

Some people camp alone in the wilderness and others take a long drive by themselves. I decided to ask Erik, my husband, to change my Facebook and Twitter passwords for a week when it was time for a little peace and quiet for self-reflection. The week has passed and I'm reluctant to log back on. It has been great. I spent quality time with my daughter and checked off a few items on my to-do list. Erik hasn't lost patience with me for looking at my itouch while he's talking. I am pretty sure that I've been a better wife and mother in the last week than at any other time in the last few years.  I'll admit, I have a bit of an online social networking problem.

In October I posted an article entitled "Rabbinical Scholars Forgive Me" applying Chris Young's song "The Man I Wanna Be" to Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. "I wanna be a givin' man, I wanna really start livin' man. God, I'm asking you to come change me, Into the man I wanna be" 
Without being overly dramatic, I'll personalize the message in this song and say that want to be a better person this year, particularly a better wife and mother. How am I going to do this? By living more like the words in Lee Brice's "Love Like Crazy". "Go to work, do your best, don't out-smart your common sense
Never let your prayin' knees get lazy, And love like crazy." (Jewish friends, don't be alarmed. I'm not going start praying on my knees.)
Notice that none of the things on Lee Brice's list, hard work, diligence, common sense, faith or love, require Facebook or Twitter. I do have connections and friendships that rely on Facebook and Twitter for communication, so what is the solution? Only logging on when I truly have nothing else I need to do.  But as it says in Dierks Bentley's (with Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson) "Bad Angel", "I'm standing at the crossroads of temptation and salvation street." I may need to enlist Erik's password changing services to keep this monkey off my back.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My 2010 Country Music Midlife Crisis

Ah yes, 2010 was a quite a year. I turned 40 and drove my husband absolutely nuts with Country Music mishigas. As 2010 turns into 2011 I ask myself if I have indulged this midlife crisis enough.  My New Years resolutions this year include losing weight (yawn), getting organized (hah!), and working harder at my Judaica business (hmm).  My obsession with country music has caused me to lose ground in all of these areas. Reading country music news, stalking my favorite stars' tour schedules, exchanging tweets with similarly obsessed people, and updating my blog are sedentary and time consuming. I am considering retreating from crisis mode into normalcy, but am not ready to abandon this blog or stop badgering my friends to attend concerts with me.

I do have some country music related resolutions. I intend to pay more attention to emerging and less well known singer/songwriters. I'd also like to take a trip to Nashville for a short study on the history of country music, something I know little to nothing about.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year!

My best and worst country music (and midlife crisis) related moment of 2010 was meeting Joe Nichols in Winston-Salem. I'm the one on the left. If you can't tell from the photo, I'm much too starstruck and tired at this moment to say anything intelligent or even pleasant to the man.  My cute friend in blue did manage to squeak out "We love you!"