I don't care that shortly after this album was released, LeAnn Rimes immediately began moving towards pop. I don't care what filth the tabloids unearthed on her in the years that followed, which left a sour taste in the mouth of some fans. All I know is that LeAnn Rimes 'Blue, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021, is one of the best country records to be released in the' 90s era, if not at all. And to this day, so many of Blue's songs still hold up, as do the lessons it taught us about country music.
Blue's story is pretty unlikely. Originally born in Jackson, Mississippi but raised in Garland, TX, LeAnn Rimes was an accomplished singer who toured the country with her father when she was 9 years old. When she met legendary local Dallas DJ Bill Mack (who died in 2020), a cross-generational nexus developed, and when Rimes was 11, she recorded the song "Blue," which Bill Mack wrote and wrote for Starday Records back in 1958 had recorded for himself.
Although popular lore is still wrong, “Blue” was not originally written for Patsy Cline. The reason the rumor persists is that LeAnn sounds a lot like Patsy when singing the song, and the production and instrumentation are so characteristic of the Cline era in country that you wouldn't want to believe otherwise. But even without a direct connection to Patsy, “Blue” aroused the longing for that classic country sound, which, as we can testify here in 2021, is repeatedly lost in country music, even when people get together on occasion get lost again and again love it often.
“Blue” was not “neotraditional”, but classic country through and through and became a phenomenon of its own. Although it only peaked at number 10 on the country charts because radio didn't really know what to do with it, the song was nominated for CMA song of the year in 1996 and won and won ACM song of the year too Grammy for best country song for Bill Mack and best female country singing for LeAnn Rimes. Today, "Blue" is nothing short of a country standard, and all of this comes from a song that was nearly 40 years old when it peaked in commercial terms and was released by a 13 year old performer at the time.
But the story of the Blue album goes far beyond a song. It was a strikingly classic album for the time, with numerous stitches in the heart that went beyond the title track. The second song on the album "Hurt Me" picks up where "Blue" leaves off, reviving the classic approach of a country music teardrop and allowing the exquisite and incredibly mature voice of LeAnn Rimes to soar. The album ends with another ice cold emotional haymaker in "Fade To Blue".
LeAnn Rimes even recorded a version of Tex Ritter's “Cattle Call” for the record with the legendary Eddy Arnold. LeAnn's yodelling and moaning was like something that country music hadn't heard in decades. A later version of the album also included a version of "Unchained Melody," which alone became a # 3 hit in country music.
But what makes Blue so cool isn't just that it was successful with old songs by such a young singer. The way it is, old songs were made cool for a younger audience, while the older audience, feeling abandoned by the country music of the era, found someone to put down roots for as well.
Blue saved country music in its day by also delivering songs that were relevant to its time. The only No. 1 single on the album (and, surprisingly, the only No. 1 single LeAnn Rimes has ever made in the country) came in the form of "One Way Ticket (Because I Can)." It was the combination of classic Country theme and a little more contemporary approach, which once again addressed both sides of the generation gap in country music and led to a hit that has endured to this day despite the high-pitched mix.
Of course, since LeAnn Rimes was only 13 when Blue was released, it was hard to believe that some of the material came from this young woman's personal experiences like "My Baby" and "Good Lookin 'Man". But when you close your eyes and it was impossible not to believe every word sung because of the power and emotion behind LeAnn's voice.
Another top 5 song on the album called "The Light In Your Eyes" seems less like LeAnn sang from experience, but more like something she tried to convince herself, given the widespread mainstream success she was singing straight into the spotlight moved to where she had to learn how to transition from girl to woman. With steel guitarists Bruce Bouton and Paul Franklin, the violin of Larry Franklin and a number of other aces, Blue was eventually awarded 6x platinum.
But in a way, LeAnn Rimes fell victim to her own success. Blue was so victorious as a debut album that the only way up was pop, so LeAnn went there. It probably didn't help either that at times her father Wilbur was more concerned about the money than his daughter's protection, and she was signed to the fake Curb Records, with whom she would go to war in the years to come. In 2000, LeAnn would sue both her father and Curb. As we see time and again in conversation, a young and impressionable performer can get into trouble in adult life with all the attention and flattery received at an impressionable age.
LeAnn Rimes had other successful singles in her career, including "How Do I Live" in 1997. While LeAnn's version of the song climbed the pop charts and eventually climbed to number 2, Trisha Yearwood sang a more country version that reached number 2 in country. Both singles were released on the same day, May 23, 1997. It was quite a spectacle, and LeAnn's success with the song in pop accelerated her transition from country.
But LeAnn Rimes never had a more successful album than Blue in her career. Not unlike the debut albums by guys like George Strait and Randy Travis, Blue shocked country music by being uncompromisingly traditional and hugely successful. It awakened a sound that was allowed to rest in country music, but found broad resonance in the masses.
When the discussion turns to the women of the country and the nostalgia of the 90s, it often turns to Shania, Trisha and Martina. But speaking of albums specifically, LeAnn Rimes' Blue could be the best overall pick of the period. It was also an album that once again proved that certain sounds and feelings in country music are timeless. Just as listeners yearned for the sound of Patsy Cline in the 90s, many listeners today yearn for the sound of the 90s, which to LeAnn Rimes sounded like the 50s and 60s, or what country music has always sounded like, or at least that's how country music is supposed to be.
Two guns up (9/10)
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