Country music makes its way from small town honky-tonks to the Hollywood stage on two DVDs arriving in stores Tuesday (May 6). One is Coal Miner’s Daughter, the 1979 theatrical film based on the life of Loretta Lynn . The other is Faith Hill ’s When the Lights Go Down, an expanded version of a TV special taped this past September at the Palace Theater in Los Angeles.
When the Lights Go Down was taped for a TV special coinciding with the release of Hill’s most recent album, Cry. As Hill’s first-ever DVD, it includes three musical performances not included when the special was first televised in November 2002. In addition to the live performances of “Stronger,” “Back to You” and “If You’re Gonna Fly Away,” the DVD also features previously unreleased interviews with Hill and other behind-the-scenes footage.
Sissy Spacek won an Academy Award as best actress for her portrayal of Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter, a film that also features Tommy Lee Jones as Lynn’s husband, Levon Helm as her father and Beverly D’Angelo as Patsy Cline . Taking its title from Lynn’s signature song and best-selling autobiography, the film is a vivid depiction of her rise from the coal mining community of Butcher Holler, Ky., to become one of the most important and influential artists in the history of country music. And unlike most biopics, this is truly a great film. In addition to Spacek’s Oscar win, the film was nominated for six other Academy Awards, including best picture and best adapted screenplay.
Video discs aside, the jewel of the week’s audio CDs has to be Andrea Zonn’s debut album, Love Goes On. If you haven’t heard Zonn’s name, you’ve heard her work on albums by Vince Gill , Trisha Yearwood , Lyle Lovett, Alison Krauss and George Jones , among others. A longtime fiddler and background vocalist in Gill’s band, her boss makes a guest appearance on the album that also features Krauss, Tim O’ Brien, Jerry Douglas , Alison Brown , Jon Randall Stewart and Jeff White. Zonn didn’t write any of the songs for Love Goes On, but she sure did a great job of selecting the material, including covers of two Crowded House songs and Karla Bonoff’s stunning “If He’s Ever Near.” Zonn’s violin work stands among the best in Nashville, but the album’s real joy is in her vocals. At a time when many female singers overpower songs through vocal gymnastics, it’s refreshing to hear someone deliver the material without getting in the listener’s face. Perhaps Gill explains it best when he says, “This record and Andrea’s voice remind me of the reasons why I love music.”
And could John Hiatt have come up with a more aptly titled CD than Beneath This Gruff Exterior? There’s still enough gravel in his voice to fill a dump truck, and the CD contains 12 great tunes that can only be described as “John Hiatt songs.” Beneath This Gruff Exterior, his 18th album, is the first to be credited as John Hiatt and the Goners. Hiatt reunited with the Louisiana-based trio for his previous album, The Tiki Bar Is Open. Bassist Dave Ranson and drummer Kenneth Blevins provide the foundation, but the new album serves as a showcase for Sonny Landreth, easily the most innovative slide guitarist to emerge since Duane Allman and Ry Cooder. Recorded in just eight days, the album features Hiatt’s first studio recording of “Original Sin,” a song Willie Nelson featured on his Across the Borderline album.
There’s a loose mood on Charlie Robison ’s Live, a concert recording taped late last summer at Gruene Hall, the landmark venue located near New Braunfels, Texas. Throughout the performance, Robison and his band occasionally toss rock references into the songs, including the musical introduction to his radio hit, “Barlight.” Along the way, Robison even provides a laid-back, country version of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” The ragged edge of Robison’s performance transports you to those wonderful places in Texas where music is judged as much by the way it feels as the way it sounds.
The Kentucky HeadHunters always maintained strong R&B influences in their music, but that element is more pronounced on the band’s new CD, Soul. Granted, there’s an appropriate rockabilly sound to “Last Night I Met Carl Perkins,” but much of the album leans toward the Muscle Shoals sound filtered through the Band and perhaps Little Feat. One highlight is an out-and-out blues performance of Freddie King’s “Have You Ever Loved a Woman,” although it’s hard to beat Eric Clapton’s version on Derek & the Dominos’ classic album, Layla.