After a multi-day stop in New York City jazz, we return to Music City and the country sounds of Nashville for the amazing and haunting voice of Patsy Cline. An inspiration and influence to essentially every female country vocalist who followed behind her, “The Ultimate Collection”, which is rated as album #229 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, covers all of her major hits and significant releases in her tragically short career. It is also rated as the 7th greatest country album of all time on tasteofcountry.com.
When listening to a collection like this, there have been many cases where I find several hidden gems that supersede the more well-known hits. However, on this album, the brightest stars shine through for very apparent reasons. Even by country music standards, Patsy featured and did her best work on the melancholy moments of heartache, heartbreak, loss and loneliness. “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces” represent some of the greatest music ever to come from Nashville. “Back in Baby’s Arms” and “Walkin’ After Midnight”, her first highly successful single, all reflect her vocal purity and resonate with an authenticity that knows the troubled and tumultuous life she endured, including a career-altering auto accident, followed two years later by her tragic death on a plane crash returning home from a performance in Kansas City. On “Why Can’t He Be You”, she sadly reminds us of the empty place most have experienced in a relationship, when actions and gestures alone aren’t enough to fully inspire true love.
Like a lot of music, I find mood and moment set the stage ideal for listening to Patsy Cline. It’s probably late at night, the lights are low, and you are either alone, or have been alone often enough to really appreciate that you no longer feel that way. As I drew a parallel from Billie Holiday looking way ahead to Amy Winehouse, Patsy Cline provides an excellent bridge in heartfelt vocal emotion, delivered impeccably and soulfully. While some of the other songs are susceptible to falling into traditional country cliché, her masterpiece work is unrivaled in its greatness.
As I tend to read up on each artist to help understand their background and thought process during these creative times, I was pleasantly surprised and equally saddened to learn that Patsy Cline grew up, and was ultimately laid to rest, less than an hour from my current home in Virginia. It helps me appreciate this region and its rural past, and it also saddens me to think of a life that ended so needlessly like many others from that time.
“I’m crazy for trying, and crazy for crying, and I’m crazy for loving you…”.
I would offer, the only one who is crazy, is one who doesn’t take the time to appreciate this one-of-a-kind talent.