Saturday, January 21, 2012

Taylor Hicks and Country Soul--Looking for genre...

“Country and blues, they aren’t just cousins; they’re blood brothers.” –Ray Charles

Taylor Hicks releases new music in 2012. He has called it “country soul”—that mix of two great genres.

I went looking for the genre…the honesty of country, the intensity of soul and closely related, blues.

I found both the expected and unexpected.

Historically, “‘Country Soul’ resulted from the shared genealogy of gospel in both soul and country music;” when white gospel and black gospel styles, first with major stylistic differences, somewhat merged in the 1950s. “…country-soul was in actuality the triumph of country gospel traditions seeping into soul music.

“Although artists like Albert Alexander and Solomon Burke had already begun tentatively exploring this style by 1960, Ray Charles' landmark 1962 album Modern Sounds In Country And Western is often considered the commercial breakthrough of the genre. The style lasted well into the early Seventies, with several spinoff genres like the more gospel-heavy and emotional "Deep Soul," the grittier, bluesier "Southern Soul," and the later, funkier variant known as "Swamp Rock."

So all of these variants might also play a part in the “country soul” of Taylor Hicks, particularly, and I am guessing here, the bluesier “southern soul” and funkier “swamp rock.”

The site cites R&B as an ancestor of the mixed genre:

“Although they seem like distant relatives now, R&B and Country & Western used to be close cousins back in the day. In the 1960s and '70s many R&B artists, particularly ones from the South, used to remake Country songs and inject them with a healthy dose of R&B. There's even a name for the mixed genre: Country-Soul.” ( also defines country soul with a list of who it is—a primarily country singer dueting with a primarily soul or blues singer:

“Rhythm, Country And Blues, Various Artists”
This is a collection of duets between Country, R&B and Blues artists. "Funny How Time Slips Away"( Aaron Neville/Trisha Yearwood) and "I Fall To Pieces" (Al Green, Lyle Lovett) won Grammys in 1995.

1. Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: Vince Gill/Gladys Knight
2. Funny How Time Slips Away: Al Green/Lyle Lovett
3. I Fall to Pieces: Aaron Neville/Trisha Yearwood
4. Somethin' Else: Little Richard/Tanya Tucker
5. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby: Patti LaBelle/Travis Tritt
6. Rainy Night in Georgia: Sam Moore/Conway Twitty
7. Chain of Fools: Clint Black/The Pointer Sisters
8. Since I Fell For You: Natalie Cole/Reba McEntire
9. Southern Nights: Chet Atkins/Allen Toussaint
10 The Weight: Marty Stuart/The Staple Singers
11 Patches: George Jones/BB King

It was an aha moment as I read the list. I didn’t think I was a country-soul fan, but these were some of my all-time favorite songs: “I Fall to Pieces,” “Rainy Night in Georgia” (and another favorite Georgia song: “Midnight Train to Georgia” is also on some country-soul lists) “Southern Nights” and “The Weight” (“…take a load off”) .

Some of these have also been on the setlist for Taylor Hicks concerts, probably most frequently, “The Weight” with Rick Carter.

From genre of country+soul:

“Country soul has its roots in Gospel, Rhythm & Blues, and Country music, while musically emphasizing the signatures and textures of country music over the grittier and horn-driven sound of Southern Soul.”

Its list of a few musicians representing Southern Soul:
Otis Redding
Aretha Franklin
Sam Cooke
Al Greene
Etta James
Bobbie Gentry

But everywhere one recording and one artist topped the country-soul list: Ray Charles’ “Modern Sounds in Country and Western” with the amazing sounds of the Genius of Soul.

From “Ray Charles-Modern Sounds in Country and Western” on YouTube: JazzVideoGuy: “ ‘Modern Sounds’ and its lead single, ‘I Can't Stop Loving You,’ were both certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1962…

“Regarded by many critics as Charles's best studio album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music has been considered by several music writers to be a landmark album in American music. The album's integration of soul and country music bent racial barriers in popular music, amid the height of the African-American civil rights struggle. In the process of recording the album, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to exercise complete artistic control over his own recording career. In 2003, the album was ranked number 104 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.”

“I Can’t Stop Loving You” uploaded by Hkiramijyan:

"'I Can't Stop Loving You' is a popular song written and composed by country singer, songwriter and musician Don Gibson, who first recorded it on December 30, 1957, for RCA Victor Records. It was released in 1958 as the B-side of Oh, Lonesome Me, becoming a double-sided country hit single.

“The song was also recorded by Ray Charles in 1962 and released from Charles' groundbreaking Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music album. The Ray Charles cover version reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962, as well as the U.S. R&B and Adult Contemporary charts and ranked #161 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and #49 on CMT's 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.” (YouTube upload by Hkiramijyan)

That was then. This is now:

I found an updated version of country-soul with whom I thought was an unusual artist—the top selling singer in 2011, Adele. With her gospel soul,“Rolling in the Deep,” a top selling single of 2011, tucked away on the b-side, “If It Hadn’t Been for Love,” is a musically lighter track called a “country-soul gem” by

Music blogger, Bob Lefsetz, in a glowing review of Adele at The Greek where he describes her as “honest” and with what many other artists are missing—a personality, calls this tune a “surprise” and “genre-hopping.” “The surprise was ‘If It Hadn't Been For Love,’ the cover that is tacked on to "21"[album] as a bonus track. The genre-hopping was mindbending.”

With her unsual honesty, the British pop sensation in her iTunes concert introduced it: “This song is about shooting your wife!”

“Never would have hitchhiked to Birmingham
If it hadn’t been for love.
Never would have caught the train to Louisian’
If It hadn’t been for love.”

“If It Hadn’t Been for Love:”

“Traditional” country soul and a modern day example of a musically lighter, if not lighter themed “country soul gem.”

Then I lost my trail on genre...

Ray Charles has never been one of my favorite singers. In viewing videos and researching for this piece, I watched several. Then I happened upon this stunning video of Brother Ray later in his career singing “A Song For You.” I fell in love with the song again and with this artist whose music connected with haunting intensity…haunting, because I cannot tell you why it touched me…why I suddenly loved Ray Charles singing this song. It was as if is was MY song! That is the beauty and essence of music….genres be damned!

It didn’t matter at all to me into which pigeonhole—genre--this song might fall.

My search became a contrast between what we may know about genres and what we feel about the song.

It all comes down to the music.

Van Morrison was asked in 1981 if he thought about his audience at all when he was writing. He said:

“Not really, because you can't think about anything when you're writing except that. It's like if you're a carpenter, you can't build a shelf well if you're thinking about who you're going to sell it to. You have to build the shelf first, and then whoever wants to buy it...” (

And another aha moment: I hope Taylor Hicks isn’t thinking about genres…or me. I hope he is thinking about the music he LIKES. The music that is him. When he performs it, it speaks for him, whatever the genre.

It was reported that Ray Charles liked Country and Western Music and that’s why he recorded Modern Sounds.

So, I hope Taylor Hicks is thinking about what he likes, who he is--not what he thinks someone else wants to hear.

We all put ourselves “out there” every day and people respond or they don’t. Music too. He puts HIS music out there—what is HIM and people respond or they don’t, but he remains true to who he is.

That’s what I hope “country-soul” means to Taylor Hicks!

It’s not about genre, folks!!!

Ray Charles proved that to me. Perhaps “genre” means something in the business…where it plays or is listed…

But, I don’t buy a genre. I buy the song, the artist. If it speaks to me, connects with me, I’ll find it…whatever the genre!


“I love you in a place where's there no space or time.”
Ray Charles: “A Song for You”

P. S.
If country soul can be one country singer and one soul singer, there is no better country-soul duet than Willie Nelson and Ray Charles with “Seven Spanish Angels:”

Uploaded By Arnescountry on YouTube:

Just Because

P. S. S. “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” is on the setlist of Van Morrison’s current live tour in Great Britian!


Ray Charles quote and “Ray Charles-Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music," the landmark 1962 recording by Ray Charles, is featured in this edition of the podcast series, "Ray Charles, Genius," produced by Bret Primack for Concord Records uploaded by jazzvideoguy on YouTube. This is a great podcast:

“I Can’t Stop Loving You” YouTube

“Adele Unearths Country-Soul Gem”

Van Morrison quote:


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Taylor Hicks' Shout Out to Fans!

Taylor Hicks showcases the videography of fans in his latest YouTube TV Channel “Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks” released on Friday.

“Thanks, Soul Patrol!” is an eclectic mix from live concerts, artists with whom he shared the stage in 2011, and venues from The Winery in New York City to The Canyon Club in California.

Fans submitted their videos for inclusion in the Riding Shotgun series in which Hicks takes followers along to concerts and appearances with backstage footage, snippets of performances, and glimpses into the life and career of the Season Five American Idol champ.

With a high level of media acumen, fans produced captures of some of the best from 2011—the huge fundraiser for tornado victims in Birmingham, BamaRising, where Hicks “energized” the place with his rowdy “Seven Mile Breakdown” and showcased his dancing acumen. His appearance with the Jamie McLean Band and John Popper at Brooklyn Bowl was caught and proved why his harmonica goes everywhere with him. American Idol “bro,” Elliott Yamin joined him on stage at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, CA.

Other concerts were captured from Beau Rivage, Biloxi, MS to Snoqualmie, WA and on stages in between. The Celebrity Pictures and Videos site,, picked up and posted the Riding Shotgun episode with: “Taylor Hicks – New @TaylorRHicks Riding Shotgun video with fan clips; some very nice footage in here!”

This special episode of Riding Shotgun was “In Memory of Carson James Sumpter” a very young Birmingham musician who died of cancer in 2011. Carson appeared with Taylor at WorkPlay, 2010, and was backstage at BamaRising. Footage of their collaboration on “Superstition” at WorkPlay preserved an inspirational moment of the young artist doing what he loved.

Hicks tweeted his appreciation to the fans for their offerings:

@TaylorRHicks: “Hey Yall! Thanks to all of you who submitted footage for Riding Shotgun! Here’s a special episode for you. Cheers!”

We add a special shout out to the fans that travel, tweet, and share great videos!

“Thanks, Soul Patrol” shows again that it was a very good year!

Check out all the episodes of “Riding Shotgun with Taylor Hicks” here: