Friday, April 19, 2013

104 Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music- If only

Album: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
Artist: Ray Charles
Year: 1962
Genre: Country and Western (but modern sounding)


  1. Bye Bye Love
  2. You Don't Know Me
  3. Half As Much
  4. I Love You So Much It Hurts
  5. Just A Little Lovin'
  6. Born To Lose
  7. Worried Mind
  8. It Makes No Difference
  9. You Win Again
  10. Careless Love
  11. I Can't Stop Loving You
  12. Hey, Good Looking

There's a big market in music today for music of one style done as another. Every few months another tribute album is released in which people you have never heard of give an artist's repertoire a musical makeover. You might think a Bluegrass tribute to Metallica, a reggae tribute to Bob Dylan, a Latin American tribute to the Beatles or a jazz tribute to Michael Jackson were inventions of a blogger with a warped imagination but the truth is I didn't make them up, they're all available to purchase right now. I have no idea who wants to hear B-grade reggae players perform Dylan hits but they must be out there because these things do sell.

A similar but much earlier concept is Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, in which folk and Country tunes are given a jazz and pop makeover. It might as well have been called A Big Band tribute to Country Music. But unlike most tribute albums with a definite theme, MS in C and W was recorded by a big name. By the time he had come to turn his hand to Country, Ray Charles was already a star on the R&B charts. What I'd Say had already been a big hit and he was a musical force to be reckoned with.

But Charles was a restless guy. While a lot of his contemporaries were prepared to find a niche and stick to it, Ray was releasing albums that were Jazz, Pop, Blues and R&B. He was mastering new genres and so the next logical step was Country and Western. Actually it wasn't. It definitely was not. At no point was it logical for a black guy who played the piano and had never seen a horse (or anything else now I come to think of it) to cover songs written by a sharecropper's son named Floyd Tillman.

Charles takes songs written for prairies and makes them work in nightclubs. He takes tunes that were written for a lone guitarist and adds horns, backing vocals and a big band arrangement. It's no less stupid than doing reggae covers of Heavy Metal hits but it actually works. Charles realised that a good song is a good song and he was a guy with an ear for a good song. He managed to take great tunes and make them greater by taking away what rooted them in country and liberating the melody from the constraints of a genre. Granted there might have been those at the time who were appalled at the idea of White music being played by a black guy but most of America and beyond enjoyed hearing good songs played well.

Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music is too big for me and hasn't dated well but I can definitely see the attraction. If I had to listen to these songs I'd listen to them done this way with the dulcet tones of Ray replacing the high pitched whining of the originals. It's how Country and Western was supposed to be played.

Highlight: Born to Lose
Lowlight: Careless Love

Influenced by: Country and production
Influenced: People who make biopics

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "If you take Ray off the recording, it sounds like generic early 60's pop-teen fluff. And that's NOT good."

-Well as long as you don't take Ray off the recording it won't be a problem.

So is this old album a modern sound to you or not? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. Listening to this album now. You are right , a good song is a good song. I wonder how Ray would go doing Norwegian Lumberjack songs.