VINYL HAYRIDE; COUNTRY MUSIC ALBUM COVERS 1947-89 by PAUL KINGSBURY

 |   |  1 min read

VINYL HAYRIDE; COUNTRY MUSIC ALBUM COVERS 1947-89 by PAUL KINGSBURY

The purest strain of American country music -- not the pop-schlock of Shania Twain or the credible singer-songwriters out of Texas -- bewilders most people. It can be cornball, sentimental, blindly patriotic, hypocritically conservative, and often just plain strange. It is also, to cite Nick Tosche's excellent studies of it, "the biggest music in America" and "the twisted roots of rock'n'roll".

For those reasons alone it's something we should pay attention to. And that's easy because country wears its art on its sleeve.

This large-format, soft-cover collection of colourful, kitschy, mawkish and downright odd album covers isn't deliberately selected for Tosche's reasons, it is simply a cross-section through the heart of country music from the days of Tex Ritter and square dances to the new country acts of the late 80s such as Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle (when he was thin and young) and kd lang.

satan   These covers are fascinating, tacky and sometimes unintentionally hilarious. Tex Williams' Smoke Smoke Smoke makes smoking look like a patriotic act, the Louvin Brothers stand in the inferno for Satan is Real, Carl Butler and Pearl pose in matching and very wrong jackets for Loving Arms, and Grandpa Jones really shouldn't have put on leiderhosen for Yodeling Hits.

   There are themes, among them truck drivin', drinkin' and cheatin' (sometimes all at the same time).

   It's unlikely you'll learn much from these colourful pages (other than don't let a country singer pick your wardrobe) but some do reflect universal truths. Moe Brandy looks suitably broken, ornery and vengeful as he sits in a bar holding a broken bottle for I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs Today.

silkBut what was the young Linda Ronstadt thinking when she posed in a pig sty with two fat porkers for Silk Purse?

Girl, that's just too literal, even by country's lowered standards.


Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Writing articles index

THE YOUNG DESIRE IT by KENNETH MacKENZIE

THE YOUNG DESIRE IT by KENNETH MacKENZIE

As a coming-of-age story, this first novel by a young Australian writer would doubtless alarm those who quickly leaped to condemn Ted Dawe's Into the River, which recently won this country's... > Read more

SPEAKING FRANKLY: THE FRANK SARGESON MEMORIAL LECTURES 2003-2010 edited by SARAH SHIEFF

SPEAKING FRANKLY: THE FRANK SARGESON MEMORIAL LECTURES 2003-2010 edited by SARAH SHIEFF

Get past the crushingly obvious title and the cheap looking cover, and inside this collection are eight provocative, interesting, idiosyncratic and insightful essays which speak not just of New... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

SERGIO MENDES INTERVIEWED (2006): The return of the cool and the kitsch

SERGIO MENDES INTERVIEWED (2006): The return of the cool and the kitsch

If you need further proof that you should go through your parents‘ and grandparents‘ old records it’s the current revival of Sixties hitmaker Sergio Mendes. The pop career of... > Read more

VOLUME: MAKING MUSIC IN AOTEAROA (2016): Songs from us for us

VOLUME: MAKING MUSIC IN AOTEAROA (2016): Songs from us for us

The exhibition of New Zealand popular music at the Auckland War Memorial Museum is now open. It is entitled Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa and runs until May 2007. And it is free. It... > Read more