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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

March 05, 2006

The Good Stuff

One of the friends of Rullsenberg included something in her list of Desert Island Discs that got me thinking. It was Zinna Cyclamen who said, of Whitney Houston's version of a Dolly Parton song, "Sorry. But her technique is so perfect, I can't resist."

I can resist myself, and always prefer the technique of a great country singer to that of a gospel/soul type singer, if you know what I mean. I've never quite been able to put it in words, but I tend to think that the country singer pays more respect to the meaning of the words and let's the emotion come out of the song; rather than concentrating on the feeling behind the performance. One says, listen to this, and the other says, listen to me. Does that make sense? Apologies if not.

For me, there is one person to whom all others should bow when it comes to vocal technique.

A track I have on heavy rotation at the moment is Gimme The Good Stuff from Trisha Yearwood's recent release Jasper County (written by George Ducas, Hillary Lindsey and Angelo).

This is one of those numbers that is an object lesson in classic songwriting, with a superb arrangement and production (Garth Fundis) that turns the well-crafted song into something extra special. Needless to say, Yearwood's vocal is a lesson in something else - there's nobody who has her subtle control, power, and ability to make material her own.

The arrangement breaks down into 10 sections. You get the verse, the bridge, and the chorus twice. Then the middle 8, followed by an instrumental over the bridge; a final power chorus and then an instrumental outro.

The brilliance of the song is that each section is really quite short, so it just keeps changing, getting more and more interesting. The intro is around 10 seconds, the first verse another 18:

Black coffee and teardrops are all soaking through.
All over my pillow: ain't nothing new.

The bridge accelerates the song - quite a lot of lyric in just 8 seconds:

Something just crossed my mind:
I been feeling like love's a crime,
And if it is, well I've done my time.
I'm through.

("I'm through" is sung over a full-stop in the music - I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.)
And - always a good sign in the classic 3-minute structure - the first chorus ends around a minute in. Listen to the way she holds on to the final "good stuff" - just lets it hang there like Coyote before he realises he's gone over the edge of the cliff.

Then we get the second round of verse-bridge-chorus, but and this is where Ms Yearwood should make your jaw drop. There's something about the way she sings the lines of the second verse that makes tears spring into my eyes:

I've settled for too long, I've let the truth lie.
It's gonna keep trippin' me up, till I kiss it goodbye.

It's that little word "up". She gives it four or five syllables, singing it as a descending melody (tripping up in the lyrics, falling down in the melody). In the corresponding place in the first verse, she's just singing "pillow," which she doesn't do the same thing with at all. Seems easy until you try to do it yourself; it passes by in a couple of seconds, but it's what she's all about. She throws this stuff out like it's nothing, and she doesn't wail or gnash her teeth, doesn't drag on the tempo or get in the way of this fast-moving song.

It's glorious, anyway.


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