One of the questions I always ask on my show is “Who would you like to sing a duet with?” I’m always interested in the answer because I’ve always loved the magic that happens when two voices join together to create a powerful song. There are some artists whose biggest hits have been duets.
Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
Kenny Rogers has had successful musical collaborations with Sheena Easton, Kim Carnes and Dolly Parton. Kenny and Dolly recorded the classic “Islands In The Stream” in 1983. It was a song that almost ended before it began. Kenny had grown tired of the song in the studio and thought it wasn’t working. Producer Barry Gibb (who wrote the song with his brothers Robin and Maurice) suggested Dolly Parton would be the saving grace for the song. Amazing how a song that was almost passed on becomes re-energized by making it into a duet. Two voices are sometimes better than one when they complement one another. Recently, Kenny & Dolly teamed up to record “You Can’t Make Old Friends”, which is the title track to Kenny’s current album. Fans love their voices together on uptempo songs and ballads.
George Canyon & Crystal Shawanda
At the 2009 CCMAs held in Vancouver, George Canyon and Crystal Shawanda debuted the duet “In Your Arms Again.” The song was written by George and Richard Marx. Here’s a song not only about missing someone, but about the effect that war has on individuals. It’s a song about longing for someone and a call for peace. Quite a lot for a song to tackle. Both singers wish “that every child knows the taste of freedom, there are dreams still worth believing, they just might come true in the end, I want all these troubles far behind us, better days to come and find us, I just wanna be in your arms again.” It’s one of those songs and performances that gives you chills. Here are two great Canadian country talents putting a message in a song and delivering it with the conviction and emotion it calls for.
Emerson Drive & Doc Walker
What a thrill for fans of Emerson Drive and Doc Walker when they teamed up to record “Let It Roll.” When I saw the performance on the CCMAs in 2012, I was captivated. How cool to have two of the biggest country groups in Canada team up together. Traditionally, duets are male-female and we’ve also seen and heard two male artists or two female artists record duets. But it’s not often that two groups head into the studio together. This song gives us a snapshot of how music began for each of the lead singers. Brad Mates: “It all started from nothin’, just a couple friends and Dad’s guitar.” Chris Thorsteinson: “Learnin’ songs in the basement, the Dirt Band and Restless Heart.” This is a song about life and music on the road. It showcases the dedication and time they put into getting their music to the fans. These groups have each climbed the charts many times separately and won a shelf full of awards each. Uniting like this lets us know that they share a camaraderie and mutual respect, which seems to be the rule more than the exception in country music. I enjoy these kinds of duets or collaborations – they don’t come around too often.
Johnny Reid & Carolyn Dawn Johnson
From Johnny Reid’s “Fire It Up” CD comes the duet about the intuition that you’ve found the right one, called “Baby I Know It.” Johnny wrote the song with Caeland Garner. It teams Johnny up with Carolyn Dawn Johnson. “I always hope that my songs are going to touch someone, whether it makes them jump up and down or laugh or sing out loud,” explained CDJ in an interview. “Or if someone wants to cry or feel like they can be inspired by something I do – that’s great.” Here’s a song that expresses the feeling we have when we know someone is right for us. In this song, both singers – or the characters they are in the song – asked their parents how they’ll know if it’s true love. It isn’t until they see each other that they realize they just “know it” by being together. This is a song written specifically to be a duet, with each singer having a verse to tell their side of the story. Some duets are more generic, while others never start out as a duet. Some songs can be made better, more powerful, by turning them into a collaboration. It can breathe new life into a song by doing so. I often ask guests who would they like to record a duet with from another genre. I find those kinds of duets inspiring, because two different genres and styles are coming together. Sometimes a pairing that might seem out of place at first can actually be different enough to work. CMT Crossroads is a popular show that places country artists with acts from other genres and the results are always an interesting music exchange.
Jimmy Rankin & Jim Cuddy
Jimmy Rankin has just released a new CD called “Back Road Paradise.” It’s the most country-infused album to date, he admits. On it, he’s joined by Jim Cuddy for the song “Never Gonna Leave.” “It’s a fun song, a dance song,” Jimmy proudly states. “It’s got an Everly Brothers vibe but with a modern twist.” Here we have two iconic Canadian voices teaming up for the first time. This is the definition of musical magic. Listening to this song, you can’t help but smile, as two legends collaborate. It’s nice that duets can fall into this category – two male artists teaming up. This, of course, has happened many times before. Examples on the country charts are Brad Paisley and Keith Urban (“Start A Band”), Kenny Rogers and Ronnie Milsap (“Make No Mistake She’s Mine”), Earl Thomas Conley and Keith Whitley (“Brotherly Love”) and several songs from Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart. With this new song from Rankin and Cuddy, we can add another great example of the pairing of two male artists.
Whether it’s Kenny and Dolly, Johnny and June, Conway and Loretta or the long list of other country duet partners, fans love to hear their favourite artists teaming up to make beautiful music. So think about it. Who would you like to record a duet with? There might be a name on the list that seems more of a dream than a possibility. But there just might be a choice that could become a reality – an opportunity waiting to happen. Take the time to consider if a duet is a good choice to make for a future recording. There’s a magic in the chemistry of two voices that you just might get a chance to be a part of.
To hear recent episodes of In The Country including interviews with Small Town Pistols, Jimmy Rankin and Jaida Dreyer, please visit www.inthecountryinterviews.com