photo & text by nacrowe
i originally got into PATSY CLINE through my mom. she always had a CD copy of her 12 GREATEST HITS (MCA, 1988) compilation (which itself was a re-release of PATSY CLINE'S GREATEST HITS (DECCA, 1967) compilation) playing in the house, especially when she was cooking. its just one of those fond childhood memories i have.
the compilation itself consists of her hits from 1957 until her tragic, untimely death in an airplane crash in 1963. for a long time i was not very much interested in anything related to COUNTRY MUSIC, and probably for good reason. in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA my brother and i had a pair of twin babysitters who were obsessed with then-modern COUNTRY; stuff like GARTH BROOKS, ALAN JACKSON and BROOKS & DUNN. just god-awful stuff. it wasn't until i got into PATSY CLINE and JOHNNY CASH that my world quickly opened up to HANK WILLIAMS, ERNEST TUBB, WILLIE NELSON, DOLLY PARTON, WAYLON JENNINGS, ROY ACUFF, JIMMIE RODGERS and the list goes on.
once you get past superficial trappings of the music (such as the overly orchestrated string sections and rolling tom-tom (often snare drum-less) rhythms and pedal steel guitar), what i always found compelling about CLINE was her voice. it just oozed out authenticity and a sense of lived experience. its almost BILLIE HOLIDAY or AMY WINEHOUSE-esque. there is a sense that there is a real, living person behind those often by-the-numbers torch songs. the fact that she was able to transcend her genre so convincingly puts her on a short list of truly exceptional song interpreters. when i think of analogues again i turn to the world of JAZZ with singers like ELLA FITZGERALD and SARAH VAUGHAN. just so happens that her milieu was early COUNTRY MUSIC.
i find myself returning to her catalogue all the time, especially classic tracks like "WALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT," "I FALL TO PIECES" and "LEAVIN' ON YOUR MIND" which paradoxically showcase both a sense of resignation of life's cruelty and bitter loneliness while also having the strength to transcend such. its as if the depths of her pain also reveals the depths of her perseverance.
it is that quality to her voice that makes her a touchstone of artistic integrity and authenticity to date.