You know you’re in pretty deep as a music fan when you go beyond picking favorite albums and songs and start picking favorite words and pronunciations. But with all the great ones to choose from, how could you not?
Like Lefty Frizzell’s “al-way-ay-ays late.” Or the way Frizzell disciple Merle Haggard al-way-ay-ays pronounces worry as weary (see “That’s the Way Love Goes” or “It Makes No Difference Now” or “Farmer’s Blues”). Or the way George Jones’ voice rises on the word love in the line “he had underlined in red every single I love you.” My favorite example, though, is the final word and note of Gene Watson’s “Farewell Party.” Maybe not the most subtle thing in the world, but it’s not trying to be. It’s like the release valve for all the sorrow of the lyric. When Watson opens up into that wail, the force of the emotion might bowl you over.
Listen to too much country radio and you might begin to think that really masterful, emotive phrasing is a thing of the past. But that’s just not so. You need look no further than recent efforts by Patty Loveless, Randy Travis, Trisha Yearwood, Hayes Carll, Amber Digby, or any number of others who still believe that every word – nay, every syllable – matters… who see a lyric as something to be explored rather than just something to be delivered… who take their status as vocal artists seriously. Thank God for those kinds of singers.
So, all that having been said: What’s your favorite word/pronunciation/example of impeccable phrasing in a country song? It can be old or new, common or obscure. Hit us with your best shot.
(Okay, I stole that last sentence from a Pat Benatar song. If it’s good enough for Rascal Flatts…)