Newsflash!

Richie’s New Album of Classic Country Songs

August 16, 2018

I am just pleased as punch to tell you that my album of classic country songs is available.  Read all about it and listen to the tracks here.

Reviewers and radio station music directors are welcome to contact me with inquiries through the contact page on this website. 

Thomas Fraser and Singing the Music of Another World

April 8, 2018

Some ask me how I can sing in Mandarin. Well, it just comes through me. I recently discovered another example (of a singer delivering something meaningful far from his instant venue). Yes, there is no linguistic disparity. English was his mother tongue, but not American English.

Thomas Fraser (1927-1978) was a fisherman in the Shetland Islands. Over many years, he recorded American country and folk music on his own tape recorder. His grandson discovered the tapes decades later. And what we hear is, well, this is the meaning and the intention of the original in the place it originated — not the Shetlands! Even his guitar playing is thoroughly “right.” Compare this to any Jimmie Rodgers from the 1930s.

“Genuine, authentic?” This is so much pish-tosh. No, it does not matter through whom it comes, or when, just that what it is, that it actually is, is expressed. And anyone might be able to do it.

Click for sample HERE.

The Fine Performance that Reveals the Crude Nature

March 21, 2018

Every once in a while comes along an album, finely produced, well-played, extremely well sung, in sum subtly seductive, clearly an epiphany of heartfelt expression to the performer.

But which comes off to the listener, for all its artisanal craftsmanship, as oppressive to listen to because of the ideas it conveys. I’ve encountered this rare specimen today, though I shan’t name it or its creator.

Surely, the performer of whom I speak is thoroughly convinced of her rightness (righteousness?) in “speaking from the heart,” that shibboleth all post-modernists employ to justify what they create. And even that her work is Art (so she has said in interviews), regardless of its intention or its effect.

We must be cautious when any performer claims to be an Artist. There are few, very very few, who ever reach that level of creative expression. And those few would rarely admit to such achievement, because they know how dear, how rare and striven for that attainment truly is. But we know the tree from its fruits.

Rather, I hear in this performer’s voice, an insistence, a dread of life and a sense of the innate superiority of her ideas, which, sadly, give little of substance to the audience other than emotive dissonance — clothed in harmonious tones, mind you. Such is not my life, nor any life I care to hear about.

Beware the siren song!

Waylon Sings the Wrong Lyric and Nobody Would Notice

February 27, 2018

This is a lot of fun. Demonstrates (to me at least) just how accomplished a performer Waylon was. The song is “Loving Her Was Easier” (Kris Kristofferson).

At about 1:32, he sings “Healing as the colors in the sunshine and the shadows of her eyes.” In the middle of the phrase, you’ll notice a very very tiny smile that comes to his lips and a curious split-second look in his eye. PROBABLY because he just realized he repeated the fourth line by mistake! But covered beautifully, unnoticeably on national television with all that pressure.

The lyric that should have been sung is: “Talking of tomorrow and the money, love and time we had to spend.” Instead, he naturally went with another “ea” sound that started the previous line.

More Great New Songs in the Repetoire

New songs in the repetoire:

She’s Not For You (Willie Nelson)
When You Come to the End of a Lollipop (Max Bygraves)
Ridin’ on the Gravy Train (Jo Stafford)
Loving Her Was Easier (Waylon)

Today’s Song Snippet: The Opening Lines to “I Never Mention Your Name”

February 26, 2018

Today’s song snippet: the opening to “I Never Mention Your Name” (Mack Davis/Don George/Walter Kent).

The couplet intro is less often recorded, with singers generally going straight to the hook, but it succinctly sets up the number.

So many things that I think of so much
But there is one memory my lips never touch

I never mention your name, oh no
I never dream of your eyes
I never go where we used to go
To hear the echo of your sighs

“I never” is the hook, repeated throughout the lyric, until the final couplet contradicts it. So there is a set-up (the couplet intro) for the set-up (the repeated hooks) for the final couplet. And the final couplet is:

Except for every minute of every hour
Of every night and day

An ingenious form for a song lasting under 3 minutes that keeps the attention throughout and makes the song very memorable. One might only remember this as “The I Never” song and still have marched in to a store to buy the record or the sheet music.

The melody is rather ordinary and the rhythmic content a bit lackluster, so the vocal delivery means everything. I tend to prefer Audrey Morris. Who was she, you ask? A Chicago girl singer in the 50s. Here in a Marty Paich arrangement (he was the bandleader as well).

In Memoriam, Alice Schweitzer

February 23, 2018

Here’s to the grand dames who once walked the stage
Thrilling the throng, the trumpets outbrassing
Then the curtains alight on the vanishing age
Will we ever see like on their passing?

–Richie Kaye, 2/22/18

Great Opening Lines: You Call That a Mountain

Today’s opening lines:

I always heard about the great Atlantic

How it humbles you to stand upon its shores

So I thought I’d take the time to go and see it

’cause I had no ties upon me any more

But I don’t know what I wasted my time for…

“You Call That a Mountain”
(Michael Garvin/Bucky Jones)

Reading this aloud, one finds it prosaic, but with melody, it is anything but. This opening skillfully and conversationally sets up the form of the song: the singer visits a new natural wonder in each stanza. In the bridge, the singer then praises the incomparable wonder of his now lost love. The natural wonders pale.

Rhythmically, the lyrical cadence is grasped immediately by the listener. In the verse, sung in 2, the emphasis is on the 2. In the bridge, on the 1. This reversal of emphasis, making the bridge the definitive commentary on the more passive observations made in the verse, is, I think, simply some of the finest artisanship I’ve seen in Nashville classic country.

Definitely, a song I will record for the next EP.

Opening Lines in My Repetoire — Lost in the Stars

February 20, 2018

I’m going to share snippets of what I consider fine opening stanzas from songs in my repertoire. Only opening lines (or the verse that precedes the opening line) because these set up the entire number and are the best clue to the skill of the writer.

Here is my first selection:

Before Lord God made the Sea and the land,
He held all the stars in the palm of His hand,
And they ran through His fingers like grains of sand,
But one little star fell alone…

Lyricist: Maxwell Anderson
From the 1948 show, Lost in the Stars, based on Alan Paton’s novel, “Cry, the Beloved Country.”

In the show, this song is sung as an adult’s explanation of Life to a child. But, of course, it is really the exposition of the character’s heart, sung to the audience.

There are many fine recorded versions of this song by all the great singers of the 20th c.

Why I Prefer Singing the Older Songs

February 18, 2018

Occasionally, I’m asked why I favor singing the older songs. After listening to 1,000s of songs, here are the differences I hear in the popular male love ballad, to take one example.

Male love ballads composed in the period 1930 to 1960:

• The singer regales the woman with an ode to her beauty and glamour. He tells her all that he will do for her until the end of time, if she would but love him a half as much as he adores her. Feminine ideal placed on a pedestal and worshipped. The male as the servant to her beauty, which deserves his adoration by its mere existence.

• ‎Ideas develop from a premise to a conclusion, usually a request on bended knee.

• Complex, memorable, singable melodies with just enough subtle repetition to encourage memorability of the number.

• Lyrical ingenuity. Seemingly commonplace language, made by invention unusual and delightful.

• Variety in time, in 2, 3 and 4, some swung, or waltzed or cha-cha’d, etc.

Male love ballads composed in the past 20 years:

• The singer implores the woman of his neediness. She has to love him or he will fall even farther without her. The male is the focus; the female attends to him.

• One idea, stated at the top, unchanging throughout. No attempt at persuading the listener, but the appeal to the love ideal is pity.

• Short repetitive phrases of only a few varying pitches, often only one bar long. Changes limited to full major and rarely minor chords, no maj7, diminished, 13s, etc.

• Always in 4, straight-ahead. Variation in feel restricted to volume only, with softer implying tender intimacy and louder usually representing anger or intensity of neediness.

Of course, there are exceptions, but this is my take on these two generations of songwriters after decades of listening. I think women would rather hear how they are to be adored, don’t you?

Perhaps the maturity of the song is somewhat a function of the age of the writer, since the older songs were written by primarily older, more experienced men, whereas newer iterations of the popular love ballad seem to be written by 20 somethings.

I surely do hear mature songs recently written by older guys (like me), with fine meaningful lyrics, easy to grasp musical complexity and melodic subtlety. The first who comes to mind is my friend, Ken Gaines.

Anyhow, this is why I generally prefer the older numbers. But my mind is open to the possibility of new numbers to sing and I’m looking for them all the time.

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