k.d.'s country epiphany
MOJO (September, 2000)


The teenage k.d. Iang did everything she could not to listen to country music. Then her best friend bought her a Patsy Cline album.

Predictably, the big signpost for me was Patsy Cline. Verna, my best friend then and now, gave me a second-hand copy of Stop The World And Let Me Off for my 2lst birthday [1982] - along with a globe. She put the globe downstairs and the record upstairs in my room. They were connected by a string. She never said why.

I was living in Edmonton, Alberta. I'd gone to college there and moved on to performance art, painting and industrial punk --anything totally unstructured and free form. Then along came Patsy Cline. Out of nowhere, that birthday I was given Stop The World, a Greatest Hits, and the soundtrack from The Coal Miner's Daughter [the Loretta Lynn biopic] .

Where I grew up in Consort (population 700), I did everything I could not to listen to country. Me and my sister studied classical piano and, outside of that, I was influenced most by her record collection: Delaney And Bonnie, Maria Muldaur, Blind Faith. After that, I moved towards Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush and Rickie Lee Jones and started playing guitar, and singing kind of comedic avant-garde folk music like Jonathan Richman or The Roches. I knew I was a singer, it was my destiny, but I didn't know where to place myself.

When I Iistened to Stop The World, it was this instantaneous click. It had the original Walking After Midnight, Hungry For Love, Three Cigarettes and Stop The World - which I subsequently performed on-stage with Verna's globe as a prop. The songs definitely connected my upbringing in Consort with my theatrical sense, my sardonic side, my kitsch side. And the way Patsy delivered them, they were way beyond country - they were multi-dimensional performance. I never wanted to emulate Patsy, but I felt that I owed it to myself and maybe to her to take country further out. Like into jazz yodelling! Well, I never did accomplish that.

I connected with it on such a deep, intensely allencompassing level that I got this flash of inspiration - 'OK, I'm gonna start a country punk band.' I dived into the chronicles of country music, the records, the books, clips of a bad country television show called Heeha. I studied the differences between Gram Parsons and George Jones. I discovered the comic geniuses of country: Minnie Pearl, Stringbean and Cousin Jody. I got enthralled by the costuming, all the rhinestones and fringes. It was very Hollywood, campy, not based on any reality.

And that was the birth of k.d. Iang And The Reclines. I cut off my cowboy boots, I cut off my hair, I donned my little country outfits. I did have a mission - to shake up the Nashville establishment and turn on a younger audience to Patsy Cline and to the white blues of North America.

Then, after we'd made a couple of albums, I got as close as I could to meeting Patsy Cline [who died in a I 963 plane crash] . I recorded Shadowland [1988] with Owen Bradley, who had produced Patsy . Working with him was overwhelming. The highlight was when Kltty Wells, Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn all sang together with me, which was amazing, and Minnie Pearl sat in on the session. It was a stamp of approval. I felt like maybe they could feel my sincerity towards country and the integrity in my love for Patsy Cline, even though I was approaching it irreverently.

That and Absolute Torch And Twang [1989] was really the end of my country days. Since around Ingenue, I've stopped listening to Patsy and. I don't know where the album is. To put her on the stereo would be almost a chore. It's too laborious emotionally; I relive her influence on me. If I go into a bar and there's Patsy Cline on the jukebox I'll play it, but it's like looking at old photos. You can't spend your life doing that. But I still love it. I hold her responsible for igniting my career. I believe in reincarnation so I believe that I was in some ways channelling her, because she so lived through me."

----Interview by Phi] Sutcliffe----

Patsy Cline

Recorded: 1955-1961
Released: 1996 Chart Peak: N/A (US), 4 (UK)
Personnel: Various. Producer Owen Bradley worked on most of Patsy's biggest hits, starting with Walking After Midnight, the record that really launched her career. Bradley later produced k.d. Iang's Shadowlands album, which saw k.d. working alongside The Jordanaires, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn and Kitty Wells, who all supply back-ups. Tracks: Walking After Midnight / A Church, A Courtroom, And Then Goodbye / Lovesick Blues / Three Cigareftes In An Ashtray / Walking Dream / That Wonderful Someone / Never No More / Stop the World (And Let Me Off) / Fingerprints / Just A Closer Walk With Thee / Love Me Honey Do / I Can't Forget / I Don't Wanta / Yes l Understand / How Can I Face Tomorrow / Gotta Lot Of Rhythm In My Soul / Life's Railway To Heaven / Hidin' Out / Hungry For Love / Then You'll Know

Since her death in I 963, Patsy Cline's recorded legacy has been constantly re-packaged and remodelled, and k.d.'s original choice is impossible to find. There had been other female country stars before Cline, but no one who crossed over in the way she did. She could turn country ballads into blues, honky-tonk items into near-rock. When she died Patsy became the biggest country legend since Hank Williams.