Friday, January 2, 2009

These Pictures Spoke to Me

I love to look at photographs of people. I like wondering who they are or were and what they were thinking at the time of the photo. Did they have dreams, hopes, fears, joys, and what were they?

I decided to pick out some of my favorite country photos I have found over the last few years, and talk about what I see in them.
“The Proud Father” is what I call this photo. I have come to believe there are two eras in country music – the pre-George Strait debut era and the post-George Strait debut era. In essence every male country music artist who has debuted after George Strait is really a descendant of his. Don’t believe me? Check out who every country male artist from Garth Brooks to Kenny Chesney lists as a significant influence. It will be George Strait.

This photo was taken at the 2008 CMT Giant special honoring Alan Jackson. While you never see this moment on the actual televised show, it spoke to me. It is right before Alan steps to the microphone to offer a thank you speech for the night’s honor. George Strait (far right of the photo) has a satisfied grin on this face and is gesturing to Alan to step forward. I feel like George is saying “Well done my son, I am proud of you”.

It is well known George thinks a lot of Alan, and Alan a lot of George. Alan also seems quite happy as though he is proud to have made his music father (George Strait) proud of him.

You can even make the case that George Jones (the other man in the photo) is a proud grandfather.

In a way this is a picture of three generations of country music men - all legends, all proud to know one another, and definitely proud of each others achievements.
I call this one “Country Woman”. I love Miranda Lambert. Here ballads like “Bring Me Down” and “More Like Her” are so tender and vulnerable while here up-tempo songs like “Kerosene” and “Gunpowder and Lead” are so empowering and tough.

I love this picture because it is such a country photo of her. The boots, the big belt buckle, the denim skirt, the t-shirt, the numerous necklaces one of which is a cross. It says to me that Miranda is country and country she will always be.

I love that Miranda’s music is traditional country. I wish there were more female artists who were making traditional country music.

Sadly female on Miranda’s left (Gretchen Wilson) is probably done as a significant country artist. Only Deana Carter has fallen faster and harder than Gretchen. In fact in this photo Gretchen seems to be a withering presence. It looks as though she is literally getting ready to fall out of the picture. To bad, I loved Gretchen’s music.

Meanwhile I think Miranda is bright, young artists on the rise. Go Miranda! We need more “Country Women” in country music

“Youthful Enthusiasm” is what I named this photo. It is Taylor Swift whose youthful enthusiasm and seemingly boundless energy has won her armies of loyal, young fans. Say what you want about Taylor’s singing voice and her writing, but you cannot argue her “presence”.

In the photo she is taking a photo of Alan Jackson and her backstage at CMT Giant special honoring Alan Jackson. I can just see her taking the photo then e-mail or texting it to all her family and friends saying – “Look! It’s me with my hero Alan Jackson! Cool huh!”

As we get older it seems we lose some of that youthful enthusiasm. Hopefully Taylor will be able to hang on it hers for some time to come.
“Getting High on Performing” is what I call this one. I love Pam Tillis. Her music is great, I think she is really good looking, and I know having seen her in concert, she loves to perform live. Not only can Pam sing, she can tell some great jokes too.

Pam has long since stop charting songs and selling albums, but she is still out performing. She recently did a Christmas tour with her dad Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis, her brother, one of her sisters. They called it the Tillis Family Christmas tour. What a great time she must have had. Few people get to work with their families doing the things they love.

This picture of her is at the Grand Ole Opry a few years back. Look at that smile on her face as she looks out onto the crowd. She seems to be saying – “Wow, I am still able to perform before a live audience even after all these years. I love it!”
Contemplative Superstar Woman”

This is the album cover for Reba McEntire’s 1994 album “Read My Mind”. It was Reba’s last massive selling album. What I love about this shot is it shows what Reba was all about in her commercial glory years.
Reba had big hair, so almost every other female artists had big hair, many of them were had red hair too. Reba wore big, over glamorous outfits, so did most other female artists. Reba always seemed to try to show herself as a contemplative woman.

In this photo she has the big red hair, and seems to be contemplating something. What? I am not sure. I do know this was the last of her five straight 3 million or better selling albums. She never sold at that level again, and soon cut her hair, and lost her place as country music top female artist to Shania Twain.

This though will be the Reba I will always visualize when I hear music, or talk someone or write about her. Reba you ruled as country music queen – a contemplative queen at that.