Film Review: A Star is Born

**Please Note This Discussion Contains Spoilers**

Looking at the most popular movies of recent times you would have to conclude that most of us don’t want to see a tragedy set in the modern world. Maybe we feel safer, more reassured if the potential horrors are set in a post apocalyptic landscape or a world populated by superheroes. Telling the truth about the nasty struggles of everyday people is a tougher sell. Thankfully that fact did not deter Bradley Cooper from remaking A Star is Born, refusing to shy away from addressing some of the all too real complexities of life as a famous musician and an addict. Anyone who enters the theatre expecting a lightweight tale of the rise of a pop star will be surely shocked at the depths of despair this film is prepared to reach.

Tragedy on such an epic scale could only be set in the world of show business, where it seems even the biggest stars lurch from one inexplicable personal horror to another, with many dying young or in desperate circumstances. Another tragic element of the industry, and of life I guess, is that eventually your time runs out and another younger, fresher talent is waiting to step into your spotlight. To balance the downfall A Star is Born, as the title suggests, will also brings us the rise of a superstar, with music so good it will crush your heart in two. Continue reading “Film Review: A Star is Born”

Under Her Influence: Songs Inspired by Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’

After writing my recent post about Dolly Parton’s 1974 album Jolene, I thought I would delve a little deeper into the title song and contemplate its influence on country music and beyond. Of course this song has generated endless cover versions from artists as wide ranging as The White Stripes, Reba McEntire, Strawberry Switchblade and Olivia Newton John but what I’m interested in is how Jolene has inspired the songwriting of others.

Jolene connected with listeners because it was a nakedly vulnerable song, full of fear, desperation, panic and even paranoia. Partly what makes this song memorable is the simplicity of that repeated use of Jolene, sung over thirty times and the ominous beat underneath. But it is the characters that Dolly created who really make this song so iconic. We sympathise with the narrator because everyone has doubted themselves or felt that stab of jealousy when your beloved notices another. And the title character is so vividly drawn, with her ‘flaming locks of auburn hair…ivory skin and eyes of emerald green’ that you can’t help wanting to know more about Jolene’s story.

Here is a brief list of songs, some which are written in direct response to Jolene, others which just echo this modern classic but all of which owe a debt to Dolly. Continue reading “Under Her Influence: Songs Inspired by Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’”

Pistol Annies Are Back! Here’s Everything We Know About Their Return

Five long years have passed since the Pistol Annies’ second album Annie Up and in that time Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley have all released critically acclaimed solo albums and been through some serious living. Thankfully Holler, Hippie and Lone Star Annie have finally found time in their busy and dramatic lives to reunite and record a new album.

Over the last few days fans have been getting postcards in the mail from the band, which might seem retro but these slices of American life are signs which tell a story. Hidden on these postcards are clues to the new album, which fans have been encouraged to share on social media using the hashtag #PistolAnniesAreBack.

Here’s everything we know about the album so far (also keep checking the hashtag for real time updates). Continue reading “Pistol Annies Are Back! Here’s Everything We Know About Their Return”

Dolly Parton’s Discography – Bubbling Over

On her 1973 album Bubbling Over we find Dolly changing direction again, moving away from the deeply personal, autobiographical songs of My Tennessee Mountain Home. This lighter album feels like another step towards finding the sound that would eventually help her make the breakthrough beyond the country charts. The cover image is memorably kitsch with Dolly’s grinning face emerging from a fountain, taken by Les Leverett near the Country Music Hall of Fame. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Bubbling Over”

Dolly Parton’s Discography – My Tennessee Mountain Home

Early in her career Dolly Parton used her childhood growing up in the mountains as inspiration for songs that dealt honestly with the hardships and struggle faced by poverty stricken families, most famously her song Coat of Many Colors cut to the heart of her sometimes brutal experiences. Dolly also used dark humour to expose the realities of where she came from on songs like ‘In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad), concluding that nothing could convince her to ‘go back and live through it again’.

And yet on her 1973 album ‘My Tennessee Mountain Home’ that is exactly what she did. A concept album about her upbringing, with every song written solely by Dolly for the first time, you might expect another harsh slice of reality bites. Instead her glasses are rose-drenched to the point where you barely recognise the place she sang about previously. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – My Tennessee Mountain Home”

News: New Bobbie Gentry Boxset Announced

Bobbie Gentry may have long ago disappeared from public life but thankfully her musical legacy lives on. On September 21st a new box set entitled The Girl From Chickasaw County will be released, much to the delight of her many fans. This eight CD collection will include all of her seven studio albums newly remastered, supplemented by over 75 previously unreleased recordings including her ‘lost’ jazz album, outtakes, demos, rarities and a disc of live performances taken from her celebrated series for the BBC (which was released on vinyl as part of Record Store Day earlier this year). Continue reading “News: New Bobbie Gentry Boxset Announced”

Music Book Club July – ‘From Cradle to Stage’ by Virginia Hanlon Grohl

Earlier this year when I was in the music section of the book shop I was disappointed to see only one book written by a woman. That spurred me on to starting this monthly book club, so I thought it would only be fitting then to review the one book which I saw on the shelf. From Cradle to Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl is not just the story of her son’s rise to fame but also an interesting and thought provoking project where she interviews and writes about the mothers of musicians such as Miranda Lambert, Haim, Michael Stipe and Kelly Clarkson. Continue reading “Music Book Club July – ‘From Cradle to Stage’ by Virginia Hanlon Grohl”

Dolly Parton’s Discography – “My Favourite Songwriter, Porter Wagoner”

Dolly’s tenth studio album released in 1972 was a tribute to her boss and mentor Porter Wagoner, who had also been acting as her uncredited producer and manager since she joined The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967. Dolly’s reasons for recording songs by Porter were outlined in the album notes: ‘Porter has performed many of the songs I have written since I have been associated with him, and it is a great pleasure for me to be able to do this album of his songs.’ My Favourite Songwriter, Porter Wagoner was Dolly’s way of honouring the man who had supported her songwriting and helped shape her career in so many ways. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – “My Favourite Songwriter, Porter Wagoner””

Thoughts on Rolling Stone’s ‘The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century’ List

A couple of weeks back Rolling Stone magazine published their list of the ‘100 Greatest Songs of the 21st Century’ and while these lists may seem arbitrary to some, I always find them a useful gauge of the state of the music industry as a whole. This blog aims to promote better representation for women in music so I thought I would analyse the list and see what conclusions could be drawn. Continue reading “Thoughts on Rolling Stone’s ‘The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century’ List”

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