27 November 2010

My Search for Patsy Cline: "She's Got You"

Mine has been a long climb out of the "country ain't cool" cave I wallowed in as a teenager. Here's one of paths out I found.

More than a decade after I started on my rock adventure in 1970, a friend gave me a cassette tape containing Elvis Costello's first two albums. I was crazy for his music. Then, in 1981, he began a long run of surprising his fans with each new release. Almost Blue (1981), recorded in Nashville with Nashville musicians and a Nashville producer, was filled with country standards that were all new to me. But I really liked the album.

There was one song in particular that I learned had been a hit by someone named Patsy Cline, the achingly beautiful Sweet Dreams. I told myself, "I'll have to check her out." And when I did, she knocked me off my feet. But I pulled myself up and dusted off my self-respect -- for missing her all those years -- and dove into her small but nearly flawless catalog. To this day, I still haven't heard a voice like hers.

As biographer Ellis Nassour put it when asked to comment on Cline's continuing popularity "Her voice really delivered the full intent of what the songwriters wrote, and [it was enhanced] by the quality and innovation lavished on her sessions by the real genius behind her sessions, Owen Bradley. No one sings a torch song like Patsy. It's like she's living her own story."

It wasn't hard to pick a personal favorite of Patsy's singles to feature here. Sweet Dreams, the song I discovered Patsy by, was an good possibility. Walkin' after Midnight was easily the song I'd poured the most money into jukeboxes for. But the wistful ballad below, Hank Cochran's She's Got You, is easily my favorite. It shows perfectly why a lot of folks, me included, think there is nobody that matches Patsy Cline.

So thanks Mr. MacManus. I would have been stuck a long while in my "country ain't cool" cave without your help way back in '81.

Patsy Cline, She's Got You (1962)

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