From the time now-established hit-maker Janie Fricke emerged on the scene, even before her name was a household word in country-music circles, she’s been stealing the show.
The Indiana-born Fricke first came to the attention of music fans as a pleasingly distinctive vocal on national jingles for Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Red Lobster and American Airlines, to name a few.
The aforementioned exposure was enough to put the powers that be in Music City about Fricke’s talent, and before long the now Texas-based songstress was the “cherry on top” voice touch behind some of country’s biggest names, from Ronnie Milsap, Barbara Mandrell, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, to Tanya Tucker, Mel Tillis, Dolly Parton, Eddie Rabbitt—and oh yes, Elvis Presley.
In terms of solo note, Fricke scored recognition with country radio and fans in a major way when she was tapped to provide the “Shut out the light and lead me” line in Johnny Duncan’s 1977 “Stranger” hit, in addition to gaining attention vocally on duets with the likes of Moe Bandy and Merle “The Hag” Haggard, among others.
These days, Fricke—who also happens to own a couple of Female Vocalist of the Year trophies from the CMA as well as Top Country Female Vocalist of the Year awards from the ACM—is gearing for the Jan. 24 release of her brand-new album, The Country Side of Bluegrass, which features some of her enduring country classics with a bluegrass twist—from “She’s Single Again,” “Don’t Worry ‘’Bout Me Baby,” “I’ll Need Someone To Hold Me” (When I Cry)” and “Down To My Last Broken Heart,” to “Do Me With Love,” “Down to My Last Broken Heart,” “Tell Me A Lie” and “It Ain’t Easy Being Easy.”
Recorded at Nashville’s Quad Studios, The Country Side of Bluegrass was produced and arranged by Bil VornDick and executive produced by Kirt Webster. In short, the 13-song project boasts a stellar array of bluegrass instrumentalists and the timeless vocal prowess of the Grammy-nominated artist.
In fact, upon one listen to Fricke’s forthcoming album, it would be difficult to argue that the acoustic-driven tracks were meant to have ever been anything bluegrass flavored, thanks to Fricke’s seamless and authentic vocal deliver. Plain and simple, she’s just that good.
Recently, Fricke—who has 18 No. 1 singles to her country-music resume—took time to field a few questions with modenook.com about her new Country Side of Bluegrass CD, The following is an excerpt from this Jan. 9, 2012, interview in honor of her latest and much-welcomed album.
Q: Regarding the new album, even though the songs are clearly bluegrass in their instrumentation, they still are “Janie Fricke” songs, hands down, thanks to the unmistakable vocals and stylings. Were any of the songs more difficult than others to “convert” to the bluegrass feel?
Janie: “Yes. There were a couple that used to be slow and then turned into fast songs. The tempo change was an adjustment for me.”
Q: How involved were you, if at all, in the bluegrass arrangements or actual musical composition of the songs on the new album?
Janie: “I worked with the producer, Bill VornDick, on the formats of the songs. Some had long instrumentals in the middle of the song.”
Q: You sound right at home in the bluegrass mode. Did you grow up listening to bluegrass or do any prior bluegrass records before this CD?
Janie: “I grew up listening to all kinds of music, including bluegrass, and have admired many bluegrass artists.
Q: I am sure your fans are receiving these reworked tunes well, but any idea how tried ‘n’ true bluegrass fans are responding to your bluegrass foray, meaning the music on this CD?
Janie: “I think the true bluegrass fans want to be sure I’m honest. That is very important and I am honest. It comes from the heart.”
Q: One of the surprises on this album is your take on Johnny Cash’s “Right of Fire.” How did the “Ring of Fire” track get into the mix on this CD–whose idea was that?
Janie: “I toured with Johnny Cash in Europe. It was a fun choice for me to do a sing-a-long remake.”
Q: Is there anything you would do differently regarding this CD regarding your approach or performance on it now that it’s completed and you have had time to live with it a bit? I think it sounds fantastic personally, but we are our own worst critics, it’s true.
Janie: “In retrospect there are always things that could have been done differently. But that is my project and that is how it stands. I’m happy with it.”
Q: Did you learn anything about yourself in making this CD that you didn’t know about yourself personally or as a performer/artist?
Janie: “There is always a learning process, and yes, I learned different things from a different point of view. It was a new experience for me.”
Q: Do you have any plans to cut more bluegrass—or any other new music—just yet?
Janie: “It would be fun to do another bluegrass album doing original material.”
The Country Side of Bluegrasswill be available for in-store and online purchase through Ernest Tubb Record Shops and at Fricke’s live shows, which will include a number of dates with bluegrass-favorites The Roys throughout 2012. Fans also may pre-order the album now via her official website.
Video view: To spy Fricke singing one of the songs from her new bluegrass CD, simply access the embedded link on the left side of this article.