Country Side of Bluegrass by Janie Fricke
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Janie Fricke has had a long, winding career. She started out as a singer of TV commercial jingles, warbling for Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Red Lobster, among other clients. She then moved on to singing back-up vocals for stars such as Elvis Presley, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. Taking another tentative step toward the limelight, she began singing duets with established male stars, including Merle Haggard, Johnny Duncan and Charlie Rich. Finally, she recorded a solo hit, Down to My Last Broken Heart, in 1981. Now, decades after her last big hits, Fricke has moved into bluegrass territory, rearranging some of her best-known music on the album Country Side of Bluegrass. She's still singing hits like Down to My Last Broken Heart, but now there's fiddle and banjo behind it. At her 1980's peak, Fricke was very much a pop-country singer. She benefited from smooth, creamy production work by Billy Sherrill, and she always wanted to reach beyond the core country audience by putting bounce in her ballads. On Country Side of Bluegrass, however, she sounds as though she's riding a covered wagon singing one of her '80s No. 1 hits, Tell Me a Lie. Tell Me a Lie is interesting when you listen past Fricke's pretty vocal to focus on the lyric. She's picking up a guy she knows is married, but she's lonely; she just wants him to lie, to say he's single, and take her to her place for the night. It's a rather bold variation on country music's perennial theme of cheating with or without much guilt. The bluegrass versions of her greatest hits work best when she's working out a more prosaic theme falling for a more available guy who she knows is going to dump her, but she can't resist the temporary thrill, as she does in He's a Heartache. The weakest aspect of Country Side of Bluegrass resides in some of Fricke's vocals. All those years of singing commercial jingles and accommodating duets with other stars smoothed over the edges in her voice, and she can sometimes sound merely slick. This is a move to regain some attention at a time when middle-aged women have a difficult time competing in the current Taylor Swift/Carrie Underwood universe. Janie Fricke uses the urgency she feels to sustain her career to flood her bluegrass with compelling emotion. - Ken Tucker, NPR Music --NPR Music
Recent news of a release by Janie Fricke, titled Country Side of Bluegrass, intrigued me, as one of those who remember her star status as one of the premier female vocalists in country music in the early 1980's. Getting started doing vocals for national advertising jingle (Red Lobster, United Airlines, Coca-Cola), and providing background vocals for numerous country stars (Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Duncan, Ronnie Milsap, Mel Tillis), Janie Fricke later climbed to the top of country music as a solo artist, winning back-to-back CMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards in 1982 and 1983. Her new CD is actually a re-release of a 2004 recording originally issued under the title The Bluegrass Sessions. It received limited promotion and marketing support, and is being re-released with a new title and packaging, and a new marketing campaign. Also different this time is touring support for the project. She is out regularly with The Roys, who open the show with their music, and then serve as Fricke's backup band. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and under either title this is an interesting bluegrass adaptation of some of Fricke's greatest country hits (Please Help Me I'm Falling, Do Me With Love, She s Single Again, You Don't Know Love, It Ain't Easy Bein' Easy). Produced, recorded and mixed by Bil VornDick, the instrumental and vocal backup is outstanding, as you would expect with the following roster: Mark Fain (bass); David Talbot (banjo); Randy Kohrs (dobro); Bob Mater (drums); Luke Bulla, Glen Duncan, Andy Leftwich, and Jimmy Mattingly (all contributing both mandolin and fiddle); Johnny Hiland (guitar); and Margie Cates, Chip Davis, and Judy Rodman (background vocals). Asked in an interview for Bluegrass Today what lead to her interest in bluegrass, Janie said it started many years ago through her friendship with Jim Lauderdale, who would regularly pass bluegrass CDs on to her. While doing bluegrass versions of her country hits was a natural bridge to the bluegrass world, she hopes to do a future bluegrass project comprised of new, and original material. With a voice like Janie Fricke's, which sounds just like I remember it from the albums my wife bought and wore out thirty years ago, she could sing the phonebook and sound good. However, her voice is unlike the mountain twang found in other recent country female vocalists on bluegrass projects, such as Patty Loveless and Dolly Parton. If you're a fan of Fricke's country music, or you want to hear a great and unique voice singing with bluegrass accompaniment, check this project out. The Country Side of Bluegrass is set to release on January 24, 2012. - James Gabehart, Bluegrass Today --Bluegrass Today
Thirty years ago, Janie Fricke would have been a household name in country radio. Now she is singing an excellent bluegrass style produced by Bill Vorndick, popular Nashville bluegrass producer, has produced a lot of Rhonda Vincent CDs. This set is a mix of some of her old hits and some other popular tunes. This mix has a real refreshing sound. Johnny Hiland sounds great playing acoustic guitar, he's a legend of a Nashville picker. His acoustic playing is so fluid, reminds me a bit of Tony Rice. He has some excellent company with David Talbot on banjo, Randy Kohrs on dobro, Andy Leftwich on fiddle, Glen Duncan and Jimmmy Mattingly on mandolin and fiddle. Then, we have Chip Davis, Margie Cates and Judy Rodman on background vocals. Mark Fain on bass and Bob Mater on drums keep the bottom line. Interesting, but, back in the day, Hiland was playing on her records. The Roys are now touring with Janie. My Favorite song on the disc is "Faithless Love" (J.D. Souther), which is a standard made popular by Linda Ronstadt in the Seventies. The Roys back her up on it on the show. It is a very beautiful version. This is sort of a sad heartbreak song. He's A Heartache (J.Silbar/L. Henley) - This was Fricke's third number one hit. It is a real upbeat toe tapper. It has more of Hiland's smooth guitar pickin'. I really like this version. Please Help Me, I'm Falling (In Love With You) (Blair/Robertson) - This is an old time country song that Janie did on the Opry many times, nice country tune. Down To My Last Broken Heart (C. Rains) - I like this popular song done in a bluegrass style. Ricky Skaggs sang harmony on the original version. I'll need Someone to Hold me (When I Cry) (Holyfield/Mcdill) - is a great song with a great message, the writer ,Bob Mcdill was popular in 1980 when this was released. She has always liked to do this song live. Ring Of Fire (June Carter Cash) - This is an iconic country song, Fricke really does it justice, In case you are not familiar with it, it was made popular by Johnny Cash and The Carter Family. Really nice guitar riffs by Hiland, just a splendid version. This is definitely a CD to buy, if you are a fan of country and bluegrass, Splendid! - Jim Moulton, No Depression --No Depression (blog)