Category Archives: Country

Nothing Breaks Like a Heart: Visual Jeopardy Meets Vocal Wizardry

When you watch Miley Cyrus sing Nothing Breaks Like a Heart live, on SNL or on the BBC, the visuals inject a circus high-wire level of jeopardy. Our attention is heightened by the shameful thrill of possible disaster:

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Building a song

Steve Earle has lived through the sort of horrors that have launched a million country songs: addiction, affliction, heartbreak, even prison. He wears them in his voice, but what’s most appealing about him is the wide-eyed, unmistakable fearlessness with which he goes about his life these days”     NPR Tiny Desk Concerts

Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin sing “Tell Moses” and chart the steps in its creation. How they bound Moses, Martin Luther King and Ferguson, Missouri together in words and music, in answer to the question: “What’s to be done?”:

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Ward Thomas: Cartwheels

A happy word sung sadly is sadder than a sad word sung sadly. Song titles like The Weeping Song or Broken Dream give us fair warning. We’re ready for a story of hope crushed by time or tragedy. The singer can deepen what we already expect, but they can’t turn our expectation upside-down. A Broken Dream can’t be fixed in a song Weeping can’t disguise itself as laughter. Sad words are sad words.

But what do you expect from a song called Cartwheels? Joy and spontaneous exuberance? The innocent, happy whirl of love’s first days or weeks? Watch Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas sing the word cartwheels into sorrowHow? Listen for the catch in the voice on the ar of cartwheels. It throws a shadow on shared memory of carefree love:

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Singing Jolene? Breathe when Dolly breathes

When you want help to improve your long distance running technique, you hire Mo Farah, not Usain Bolt. True?

If you want to improve your ability to maintain a long  e vowel sound over a long distance, you hire Dolly Parton as your personal trainer.

Stay with Dolly, to the last millisecond, as she sings the long, long e of Jolene. Breathe. Pace yourself. Don’t run ahead of Dolly to reach the n before she does. Stay with Dolly. Stay on the vowel. Ready? Get set. Go:

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