I recall a conversation that I once had with my cousin Maggie, a much more frequent listener of the women of country music than I, in which Maggie remarked that female country music is almost an entirely different genre from male country. You know what? I think she’s 100% correct. Not only is themes and lyricism, but in the energy of it all, the way it sounds, the way it feels, the feminine side of country just resonates different. When it comes to the women of country, there is a short list of greats that stand above the rest; I tend to think of Dolly Parton’s songwriting prowess, the popularity and approachability of Shania Twain, and, of course, that voice on Patsy Cline. In a heartbreakingly brief career that spanned 3 studio albums between 1957 and 1962, Patsy Cline became one of the most influential vocalists of the mid 20th century by pioneering the Nashville sound, perfecting the swaying country sound driven by heartbreak, and bringing country music into the pop sphere before nearly anybody else. She was the Hendrix of country singers and today’s album, her 2nd, is considered by many to be the finest of her hugely influential trilogy. Released in 1961, it’s Showcase, and what a showcase of talent it is.
Showcase is an album whose instrumentals are not all that impressive, as is the case with most country music, but as a result a much bigger spotlight is shone on the voice of the lead singer and the words that she sings. Although Patsy didn’t author a single one of the dozen tracks on this album (as was common of the time) she seems to really understand each song on a deep level. Yes, Patsy Cline is a phenomenal singer, and when you put on a Patsy Cline song you really do it just to hear her incredible voice, but as I continued to re-listen to this album, the subtleties of her vocals started to stand out more and more. There are little things in her voice that truly sell the emotional impact of the song, whether it be the regret in “Crazy” the loneliness in “Walkin’ After Midnight” or the true love in “True Love”. Much like the screen performance of a method actor, we come to believe and become more invested in Patsy’s songs because of the little details, the intricacies that make the art come to life.
Whether you’re a hardcore classic country fan and this album is right up your ally, you’re a teenager who only listens to mumble-rap, or you’re anywhere in-between, nobody can deny how amazing Patsy Cline was at singing. Taken from this world at the age of 30, not due to overdose or suicide like many artists, but in a tragic plane crash, Patsy sure left a mark before she left. One of the finest to ever do it, to this day, Patsy Cline’s influence on country music, and pop music as a whole, is undeniable. Many young fans of country music have probably never heard of Patsy Cline, but here on the Musical Training Plan we respect the greats of the past.
And if Patsy Cline doesn’t qualify as a great country singer, then I don’t know who does.