2016 CD REVIEW
CYNDI LAUPER PROVES NOT ALL POP DETOURS ARE UGLY
“You're the reason I changed to beer from soda pop/ and you're the reason I never get to go to the beauty shop/ you're the reason our kids are ugly, little darling/ oh, but looks ain't everything/ and money ain't everything/ but, I love you just the same.” - You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly - Lola Jean Dillon-L.E. White.
This was all a case of deja vu all over again as John Fogerty once sang.
“Old country music was very popular when I was a young kid growing up in Queens,” Lauper revealed.
“No one labelled it as country music back then. It was pop music as it is now. AM radio that was blaring at my Aunt Gracie's house. She listened to the radio while working in the kitchen. There I heard Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash. So when my manager Seymour Stein and I started talking about an era or a genre to cover on this record, we both gravitated to what a lot of people consider the Golden Age of Country, late 40s, 50-60s. Plus what made it even more attractive was that my last cover record was Memphis Blues and we chose songs from 40s/50s/60s. So when those songs were being written at the same time across the racial street the country odes were being written and I just thought cool. What a brilliant time for music that era was.”
Such a brilliant time that humour could not upset the politically correct chappies and chappettes when the late Conway Twitty and octogenarian Loretta Lynn, now 84, first cut You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.
Californian comedienne Kacey Jones, who performed hosted Nu Country TV from Austin, Texas, and headlined our showcase in Brunswick with Oklahoman Beccy Hobbs, also revamped it with Texan country and R & B singer Delbert McClinton on her 2000 album Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay, or Dead.
This time it's Cyndi and another Oklahoma multi-instrumentalist singer Vince Gill who first toured here with Albert Lee - one time member of Emmylou's Hot Band - that also featured this album's producer Tony Brown.
Lauper says working with Gill was “pretty awesome” and “helped me through Detour. He's a sweet, really wonderful and incredibly gifted musician, and he sings like butter.
“And his Time Jumpers guys, who were pretty extraordinary. I had my longtime friend and colleague William Wittman come and work on it, too. He's another great talent. And Jewel came and yodeled! Come on! Someday I'm gonna be a good yodeler. I'm not sure what I use it for, I might just go out to some mountaintop and yodel away."
FUNNEL OF LOVE
“Here I go, falling down, down, down/ my mind is a blank/ my head is spinning around and around/ as I go deep into the funnel of love.” - Funnel Of Love - Charlie McCoy-Kent Westbury.
Lauper says she and Stein had a vast trove of songs to choose from.
“All the songs are very special to me,” Lauper explained.
“As each of them remind me of a something special in life. Why I chose them for a reason. Also each of them tell a story. Wanda Jackson was a big influence. I brought her influence with me to my band Blue Angel , which was really heavily influenced by rockabilly so I had to have a Wanda song on the album.
"I cut my teeth as a rockabilly singer, listening to Wanda Jackson and Patsy Cline. Because my voice is very raspy, I thought I had a weird balance. I would be singing cover songs in clubs, and I didn't sound like Aerosmith or Robert Plant. These were great singers, and I just felt like, loser! I couldn't get rid of that sound in my voice. But when I sang rockabilly that was my happiest time."
And the 1945 Paul Westmoreland western swing tune Detour, made famous by Spade Cooley, Tex Williams and Patti Page and featuring Emmylou Harris here?
Spade was later featured in many James Ellroy crime novels.
Ry Cooder also name checked Cooley on his 2008 album I , Flathead on Steel Guitar Heaven ("there ain't no bosses up in heaven/I heard Spade Cooley didn't make the grade"), and Spayed Kooley - the name of the singer's dog.
Now back to the living.
“I am fortunate to have some amazing fans through the years,” Lauper added.
“They follow me through every stage of my music career. Every twist and turn, every Detour. That's why I chose these songs on the album. As mentioned I want to tell a story with each song. If people can relate to at least one song, then I did my job.”
And what about favourite influences and inspiration?
Well, let's return to Queens.
“When I was a kid I used to hang at my Aunt Gracie's kitchen,” Lauper re-iterated.
“And she had Patsy Cline on the radio. Then I saw Patsy Cline with my grandmother on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scout . It was a fun talent show. Patsy was on, she sang and won! I remember my grandmother saying “she is really good” I was all excited. In the 80s my friend worked at MCA Records when Sweet Dreams - the movie about her - came out and she would send me all these Patsy Cline albums. Of course I spent a lot of time in my room singing with Patsy! Just me and her singing together. So I just spent hours singing at the top of my lungs in my loft with her, you know? Kind of like when I was 8, I was singing at the top of my lungs with Barbra Streisand. She never knew how close we were - no idea
“Her voice was like one of my girlfriends. That's how close I felt with Patsy Cline. And of course Dolly. Dolly has been an inspiration to me always. As a songwriter, as a singer as a performer.”
END OF THE WORLD – NOT ZIKA BUT ANOTHER SKEETER
“Why do the birds go on singing/ why do the stars glow above/ don't they know it's the end of the world/ it ended when I lost your love.” - End Of The World - Arthur Kent-Sylvia Dee.
Lauper also cuts Cline's hits Walking After Midnight, Hank Cochran-Harlan Howard penned I Fall to Pieces and Howard's Heartaches by the Number, cut by late Texans George Jones and Waylon Jennings and Kentuckian Dwight Yoakam.
And don't forget she is also joined by another octogenarian Shotgun Willie, now 83, on his sixties standard Night Life that he wrote with fellow Texans Walter Breland and Paul Buskirk.
The fitting finale is Hard Candy Christmas with Alison Krauss.
And her song criteria?
“I tried to choose variety, because I don't like listening to a record where it's all the same,” Lauper explained.
“I chose things that had variety to them so you could go on a journey and have different storytellers. But they were all stories that I could kind of believe.
“I wasn't good in school, so I think I just learned on my feet, I eventually discovered you have to diversify, because if you don't diversify, you're stuck in one thing with the gatekeepers, and I just will not have it. I don't want them telling me what I can and can't do. I don't want to be stopped. I want to keep growing. I want to learn. I love to learn. How are you going to know what you could do if you never try something new?” she asks. “You might fall on your butt, but if you don't try, you don't know, and you won't grow.”
So what does this all sound like to a stone country fan?
Well, it's hard to fault - for a good reason.
“It was a challenge to pick the right songs, the right producer and the right musicians,” says Lauper who lives with husband actor David Thornton, and their 18-year-old son Declyn.
“Once all of that was decided the rest was kind of easy. I had to find a rhythm with the band, and that was on me, not them, they were all terrific. I just had to find my spot as an arranger, a band leader and singer and it took only a day really for us to find each other and become a real band.”
Cyndi may bring them to Australia after a post Brexit U.K. and European tour and Japan sojourn.
It may be vastly different audiences to the fans who enabled her to sell 50 million albums and 20 million singles, including hits Time after Time and True Colors.
But there may be devotees climbing on board after her Grammy nominated 2010 blues covers album, Memphis Blues.
Lauper is often cynical about her colourful career.
After her 2013 US tour with Cher to mark the 30th anniversary re-release of her debut album she joked: “They say after the nuclear war, all that will be left are the cockroaches and Cher. And I'll probably be opening for her.”