DIARY - 2 AUGUST 2003
BRITT PARKS DOLLY IN HER PICK-UP
"I'm a hillbilly picking rambling girl/ and I'm hanging in bars and
listening to Merle/ drinking whiskey and beer to wash this pain away/
singing good old country songs, not the ones they play today." -
novitiate Catherine Britt has added singing screen idol and latter
day bluegrass belle Dolly Parton to her praise posse on the eve of
release of her second album in 2004.
The Tennessee troubadour has offered to write a song for Britt's BMG
album, now being produced in Nashville by prolific producer and hit
writer Keith Stegall.
Britt, just 18, gave Parton, 57, a copy of her Bill Chambers produced
debut disc 'Dusty Smiles And Heartbreak Cures' when she visited a
Dolly recording session.
Dolly's manager called Catherine the next day and made the writing
offer to Britt who hired Chambers to co-produce her new album.
perceive this as a celebrity spin doctor's spiel as Britt has long maintained
she prefers to cut her own songs.
And, of course, says she opts for writing alone.
But Nashville is the most competitive writing and recording mecca in the
world and if the Dolly song was good enough it would be a great radio
Britt has already won the lavish praise of Sir Elton John who touted her
debut disc to Hollywood power brokers and music industry heavies after
hearing it on an Australian tour.
Elton was bemused that Britt had written some of her best songs when she
was just 15 at high school in the NSW steel city.
One of those songs, 'Help Me I'm Falling,' was released in July as Britt's
new single for a tour with Beccy Cole.
The singer also earned national exposure - an amazing feat for a singer-songwriter
not winning mainstream airplay - as support for California crooner and
TV star Chris Isaak on his 2002 tour.
Although Britt prefers to write alone she's realistic enough to realise
her big break could a co-write with more experienced songsmiths who have
the key to the chart castle.
BURNETTE AMONG WRITERS
So, on her regular stints in Nashville under the tutelage of Stegall,
she has bared her soul with hit makers diverse as Kim Richey, Jerry Salley,
Kostas and Billy Burnette.
Burnette - son of rockabilly pioneer Dorsey and nephew of Johnny - is
also a member of 'Fleetwood Mac' whose tune 'Landslide' leaped the mainstream
radio moat here for the 'Dixie Chicks.'
In a 1992 biography for his solo disc 'Coming Home' Burnette said "if
Landslide came out today it would be a country song. They even had banjo
on 'Say You Love Me."
Back in the seventies he wrote hits for artists diverse as Conway Twitty,
Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride, Everly Bros, Jerry Lee Lewis
and Eddy Raven.
His eighties chart clients included Marty Stuart, Judds, Tanya Tucker,
Patty Loveless, Michael Murphey and Ronnie Milsap.
"I cut my first record when I was seven and did Dr Seuss records
when I was 11 and I toured with Brenda Lee when I was 14," Burnette
That first disc was a Christmas album, produced and written by his dad
and bassist Joe Osborne, and featuring Ricky Nelson's band, on Dot Records.
His Dr Seuss debut was 'Just Because We're Kids' - just a few years before
Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis's manager) bounced him on his knee and said
"don't give up, you're going to make it some day."
Billy, whose dad died in 1979, cut his debut Columbia CD when he was 27
and played on cousin Rocky's huge Aussie hit 'Tired Of Toein' The Line.'
After a two year stint as a singer guitarist in the late Roger Miller's
band he then released another solo album in 1980 and had some hits in
1985-6 before joining Fleetwood Mac.
His tune 'Tangled Up In Texas' from 'Coming Home' and songs from 'Bekka
And Billy' in 1997 on Almo/Festival won airplay on Nu Country.
Bekka Bramlett is the daughter of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett - the straight
punching damsel who K O'd Elvis Costello when he made racist comments
about Ray Charles.
Burnette has since released solo albums, and like the prolific Kostas
and Salley, may soon reap royalties from Britt.
AND SARA EVANS
When Catherine Britt first strode into the Music Row HQ of the multi national
BMG she stopped dead in her tracks.
There, on the wall, was a glossy picture of country crossover chanteuse
The Boonesville babe made a stone country debut disc 'Three Chords And
The Truth' with Dwight Yoakam's guitarist Pete Anderson as producer.
She co-wrote the title track with the late Harlan Howard and mined the
motherlode of Bakersfield country.
But when the album failed to sell the moguls watered down her music and
worked her over with airplay brushes.
Ms Britt, then 17 and a purist, was transfixed as she had been assured
by her suitors that they wouldn't tamper with her music if they signed
"When I first walked in I saw her on the wall," Catherine said.
"I was very worried about that. I thought hang on a minute. When
I first heard 'Three Chords And The Truth' I thought fantastic, especially
the title track and the Buck Owens song. She really blew me away. When
she went this really poppy thing I was really worried about it."
Britt, courted by most major Nashville labels after 'Dusty Smiles And
Heartbreak Cures', sought swift assurances.
"I talked to them about that and that was actually her choice, apparently,"
Catherine said, "she wanted to become a star and they said this is
how you do it in America. It's the artist's fault if you get pushed around
and let people tell you what to do. You become a star, I guess, some times.
Maybe that's what she wanted to do."
Ms Britt signed with BMG Records shortly before opening for Californian
crooner and TV show host Chris Isaak on his third Australian tour last
wrote her first song at 12, fronted with a Kasey Chambers co-write as
a debut single at 14 and shoots from the lip she promotes her soulful
music in the unlucky radio country.
The daughter of a psychological counsellor was packing heavy artillery
as she swam in the shark infested Nashville pool.
"I was very worried when I went over there about them turning me
into this pop singer," Britt revealed, "I stood up for what
I wanted. My manager Steven White told them 'she doesn't want to be changed.'
They said 'we wouldn't fly you and two other people over if we wanted
to change you, we love what she is doing."
With a swag of labels including Universal South - owned by MCA and Arista
plankees Tony Brown and Tim DuBois and boasting Dean Miller and Allison
Moorer among its small roster - in hot pursuit Catherine had lethal ammo.
"I said I also want Bill Chambers to co-produce the album and they
agreed," Catherine added, "everything I want to hold close to
me they will let me keep."
Don't get the impression the singer, whose Chambers produced indie debut
disc cracked critics Top 5 lists for 2001 before being re-released by
ABC-Universal, is a prima donna.
She's merely passionate about the roots of a genre which has been diluted
and frocked up by spurious spin doctors in an attempt to mount the moat
of mainstream radio here.
That's why the candour of the youngest Australian to perform on the famed
Grand Ol Opry is refreshing.
SEELY AND HANK COCHRAN
Ironically, she wasn't aware that her Opry host Jeannie Seely was one
of the ex singing spouses of Hank Cochran - one of the few outside writers
on her debut disc.
The statuesque blonde wrote seven tunes - based on her short but active
life in the sedate Newcastle suburb of Kahibah and beyond.
Although she doesn't drink whiskey and beer in bars like the character
in 'Hillbilly Pickin' Ramblin' Girl' she shares her disdain for country
And, it was a lover's tiff, that inspired her current single '46 Miles
"I was in a town called Mataranka which is about 200 miles from Alice,"
Britt confided, "I went to our car. I was fighting with my boyfriend
and my parents. I wanted to go home really bad. We were going up there
for the Katherine country muster. We had to drive the four day trip up
there and four days back. We weren't big enough to be flown up there."
The singer reaped raw material for her ruptured romance requiems from
her life, with a little help from Hank.
"I've never had a real broken heart, I had it pretty easy,"
she joked, "when I was young I would break it off so I wouldn't get
hurt. I've actually been with the same guy for two & half years, coming
on 3 years. I haven't been through any heartaches. We have our fights
and you get hurt and it really makes you want to write. My boyfriend says
at least you got a good song out of the fight. It's not a bad thing to
fight because it always brings on great songs."
Ms Britt shares that philosophy with mentors such as Hank, Merle, Billy
Joe Shaver, the late Harlan Howard and flag bearers Loretta Lynn and Dolly.
"The new album will be more country, some bluegrass and folk,"
Catherine says of a disc which will feature original Hank Williams Drifting
Cowboy Don Helms, "I've practically written a whole album but I wanted
to write others because when you get in the studio some songs just don't
work. The new songs are a little more mature from my experiences. So far
they're all my own songs.
I'm going back to Nashville to write with Jim Lauderdale and Kostas who
wrote many great country hits. Also with others who share the same passion
for old timey country music as me. So hopefully I'll get some great songs
out of it."
Britt may appear like an idyllic island in the mainstream but she'll stick
to her guns when she takes them to town.
"I don't know any other teenager who listens to Hank Williams but
I don't care," she laughs, "I really believe in my music and
what I do. Whether I make it big doesn't bother me as long as I'm singing
it to a crowd who like what I'm doing."
This may mean following in the slipstream of Keith Urban and Kasey and
invading the altar of country music until corporate clones create a commercial
country radio network in her homeland.
And, with Catherine filling a pure country void vacated by Kasey, she
may strike sooner than later.
You can catch Catherine on Nu Country TV before the release of her new
disc early next year.
/ back to diary