CMT Crossroads

In this week’s Tuesday Tunes post I included a performance from the CMT series CMT Crossroads. CMT, by the way, is Country Music Television, if you didn’t know. Wikipedia describes this show thus:

CMT Crossroads is an American television program broadcast on CMT that pairs country music artists with musicians from other music genres such as alternative rock, pop, R&B, Rock, soul and more, frequently trading off performing one another’s songs, one cover song and also dueting on some numbers. Crossroads premiered on January 13, 2002, and there have been seventy-three episodes to date. Some artists have appeared in more than one episode such as Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Sara Evans, Emmylou Harris, Jennifer Nettles, John Mayer, etc.”

As I’m from the UK and don’t have access to CMT other than through what has been included on YouTube, I was intrigued to find out more about this show, hence my consultation with the oracle. Some of the more recent shows feature acts that I’m not really familiar with but over the twenty years since it began there have been some amazing collaborations, many of which have featured some of my favourite artists from country, rock, and singer-songwriter. I thought I’d share a few more that I have found, as they make great musical entertainment.

It seems right to begin with another from the pairing I gave you on Tuesday: Taylor Swift and Def Leppard. A couple of you commented that Taylor didn’t feature prominently on Tuesday’s song, but she is much more to the forefront in this one:

That has been one of my favourite Def Leppard songs ever since I first heard it, and it was lovely to see Taylor playing her part as well as doing a fangirl act on the band. This show was recorded in October 2008, and was broadcast on 7 November 2008. Coincidentally – or more likely intentionally – that was four days before the release of Taylor’s second album, Fearless, which was the one from which her rise towards megastar status really took off. The song was originally the title track of Def Leppard’s fourth album, released in August 1987, which was the point at which their career really took off, too: it was their first #1 album in both the UK and the US, and also reached the top in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It was the third single taken from the album, in November of that year, but I think by then most had already bought the album: it peaked at #10 in the US singles chart but only got to #26 in the UK.

Talking of fangirl acts, these next two are great examples of that. They are from a show originally aired on 12 December 2003, featuring two of my favourite female singers, Martina McBride and Pat Benatar. In keeping with the show’s format, they played some of each others songs, and I’m giving you one of each – both are fantastic. Firstly, a song originally written by the wonderful Gretchen Peters, but turned into a hit by Martina McBride:

See what I mean? Obviously, Martina knew what was coming after they had rehearsed for the show, and it was lovely to see her generous reaction to being completely blown off the stage on her own song. Pat Benatar really packs a punch in this performance – such a voice from one so tiny! I really love this one: it is a great song and this, for me, was a little piece of magic. They didn’t do a bad job on one of Pat’s songs, either:

I think you could see a good deal of mutual respect there, and above all they both seemed to be having so much fun. After all, if music can’t entertain us what is it for?

One of the earliest shows in the series, aired in October 2002, paired The Chicks with James Taylor. There don’t seem to be any videos of that show, but it must have gone well as they have played in concert together since then. This first one is, I think, from a show in 2007. James takes lead vocal on a Chicks song:

Again, what attracts me to this – apart from the fact that I am big fan of both of them – is how much fun they seem to be having. As someone says in the YouTube comments, the line where James sings about the wind in his hair gets a priceless reaction from all involved. This was originally the opening track on The Chicks’ album Fly, released in August 1999, which gave them their first US #1 album, but only got to #38 here in the UK – we took to them a little more slowly! It was also a single, reaching #39 in the US and #53 in the UK.

This second collaboration on a song they played together on CMT Crossroads is from 2004. This time Natalie Maines leads one of James’ songs:

I don’t think it comes much better than that. The video quality is a bit grainy and out of sync, but the music is wonderful. I’ve loved James Taylor’s music right from the start, and this was an early favourite. It was the title track of his debut album, released in February 1970, reaching #3 in the US and #6 here in the UK. It was also a single, but didn’t chart anywhere. I can remember being entranced watching him play this in a live show on tv here – quite possibly the Old Grey Whistle Test or BBC2 In Concert, but I can’t be sure – and have always enjoyed his music and that lovely, warm voice of his.

The final collaboration I’m sharing today is from December 2017. It is one of my favourite bands and a young woman about whom I knew the square root of diddly squat before reading about her for this post. I’m playing you one each of her songs and the band’s. First up is hers:

That was Kesha and The Old Crow Medicine Show, in case you hadn’t noticed. Kesha sounds an interesting person, and I’m glad to have chosen her for this piece and to have learned about her. I’m not sure how she passed me by, as her total sales stand at over 100m across the four albums she has made since 2010, plus thirty one singles. But as I don’t pay much attention to the pop charts I guess that is why. She has come through bulimia, claimed sexual assault by her record producer, endured contract disputes, suffered online trolling, and has withstood it all: a remarkably strong character. Her music contains a wide range of influences across the pop spectrum, even including the occasional element of rap, as in this one – quite possibly the only time I’ll ever share a few moments of that (c)rap genre here, and particularly so with an Americana/bluegrass band sharing the stage. This song was on her debut album, Animal, released on New Year’s Day 2010, getting to #1 in the US and #8 in the UK. The first single from the album, Tik Tok, was also a US #1 and peaked at #4 in the UK, selling well over 18m copies worldwide. This one was also successful, though not quite as much: it peaked at #4 in the US and #13 in the UK, and has ‘only’ sold around 4m. And I’d barely heard of her – shame on me! I should find out more about her: her stage confidence and bouncy personality are great fun to watch.

In keeping with the format of the show the pairing also played some of the band’s songs, too. Today’s final song is the OCMS’s ‘signature’ tune, the one for which they are best known:

I absolutely love this song, and the original video for it is well worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it. But take my advice and give the Darius Rucker cover a miss: it’s dire. This is a fabulous version, and you can see that the aim of uniting musicians from different genres really does work well if the pairings get on with each other, as this one clearly did. The song first appeared on the band’s eponymous debut album in February 2004: lyrics for the verses were written by the vocalist Ketch Secor and the song has a credit to Bob Dylan, whose chorus, written in 1973, was borrowed for it. The album made #1 on the US Bluegrass chart but didn’t make the main listing. Wikipedia is very scant on details of the band, and makes no mention of any singles, though they do say that this has been awarded Platinum Disc status in the US for sales of well over 1.1m. Somehow, that Darius Rucker version reached #15 in the main US singles chart – I guess Messrs Dylan and Secor had the comfort of the contribution to their bank balances, even if they had to spend some of that on earplugs.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this small selection from what is clearly an iconic tv show in the US. There are loads more possibilities with this, so I may well return at some point. And I think it worth pointing out that even if you think that you don’t like country music, the genre is wide and lends itself well to being blended with other musical styles. Take off those blinkers 🤣

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and I’ll see you again on Tuesday, as usual. Take care 😊