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Strictly Country copyright A Northwoods Country Summer title

Yes, I remember summer…

It was on a Wednesday!


   Deep in the region known as the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Minnesota, summer does not arrive when the calendar says it should.  One day one will be wrapped in the warmth of a parka and the next day you will be shedding your winter clothes as you run toward the nearest beach.  That is summer here in the Northwoods.

   For true northerners, summer arrives when the temperatures reach forty degrees Fahrenheit.  For those who wonder why they live in a region where one can freeze their arses off, summer arrives when the thermostat rises above eighty degrees.  As for this writer, seventy degrees is high enough for me.

   Nonetheless, summers in the Northwoods can linger for a couple of months or they can last a day or two.  It all depends on Mother Nature. 

   You know when summer has arrived.  The shores of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and Wisconsin’s vast shores are lined with every kind of boat imaginable.  Water skies, pontoons, kayaks, paddle boards, canoes and more ride the waves of lakes and rivers.  Hikers flock to the trails as loons to a lake.  Bicyclists hit the roads to share them with the motorcyclists.

    We take a deep breath on a sigh of relief that we made it through another daunting winter.  We emerge from our homes as if we are bears waking from hibernation.  Yes, that’s summer here in the Northwoods.

   So to help us transform from the frigid winters spent in below zero temperatures to the warm embrace of the summer sun, we thought we scavenge through our collection of music to find the best songs for summer.

   It is unknown which song was the very first song to earn the title of summer song.  However, if we journey back to our time – you know when dinosaurs ruled the world and we all lived in caves…well we must bring forth a relaxing summer song with “Ripplin’ Waters.”  The song was written by Jimmy Ibbotson and originally recorded by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1975.  Two years later, John Denver released his version of this elegant song.

   Perhaps the most notorious song of summer comes from Alan Jackson with “Summertime Blues.” In 1958, Eddy Cochran teamed up with his manager Jerry Capehart to write the original version of “Summertime Blues.” The song was recorded in March of 1958 and released later in September.  The song speaks of the struggle between a teenager and authority figures like his parents and boss.  This song has been recorded by a who’s who of artists along many genres of music including The Who, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Olivia Newton-John, and Buck Owens to name a few.  In 1994, Alan Jackson released his version and a video to coincide with the song.  Most critics dubbed his version as a follow up to his song "Chattahoochee;” while trying to recreate the later song’s phenomenon. As good as Jackson’s version is, the original Cochran version is far better as it does not lose its charm to the line-dance beats.

   The next song we would like to bring to your attention comes from an unknown artist by the name of Glenn Cummings.  We introduced you to Glenn in 2004 when he released his debut album Big.  From the album we found “Good Old Days;” a fun song which reminds us of all the memories we make during summer.  Now you may think this is Phil Vassar’s song, but it is not.  The truth is Glenn was called into a studio to sing the song.  Sitting in the studio was none other than Phil Vassar who later pirated the song.  The end result was Vassar making money off of a stolen song which resulted in a major law suit.  (Click here to read more.)  What country music fans ceased to know is that Mr. Vassar is known to take part in this type of action.  This is the main reason why many artists refuse to work or tour with Phil.

   Dierks Bently is on the list of artists who does not earn the recognition they so deserve.  Dierks hits our list with his song “Back Porch.”  With its upbeat party mentality, this song is a must have for any summer playlist.

   Another party song we added comes from the late great Mel Tillis and friends.  In 1998, Mel teamed up with Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed, and Bobby Bare to record an album called Old Dogs.  We highly recommend that you add this album to your collection for its pure country flare and raw classic talent.  From this album we pulled “Cut The Mustard,” a fun comedic song about a barbeque and a certain Miss Dolly.

   Of course we include other fun party songs like Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup,” and “Party All Day” by Lonestar with special guest Jeff Foxworthy.  Scotty McCreery hits our list with many of his songs which can be dubbed as summer songs.

   We also include some cerebral songs as well.  One of our favorites is a song by Eric Paslay with “Country Side of Heaven.”  This song is a hidden gem, one that captures a picturesque view of what heaven may look like.  The other two intellectual songs come from Bill Anderson with “Trouble In The Amen Corner” and “The Farmer and The Lord.”  Both of which are anecdote songs.

   As it may be, summers are a time for us to revisit long forgotten memories.  Images run through our minds as old movie projectors that project our childhood summers playing in fields of wild flowers, climbing trees, and dancing with the fairies along the creeks.  We are pirates looking for lost treasures.  We became lost as we let our imaginations run free!  To remind us of our childhood we add Tammy Jones Robinette’s song “To Be A Kid Again” and Carmen Rasmusen’s “Nothin’ Like The Summer.”

   This brings us to two other songs that portray the gentle, imaginative side we long to relive during summer.  The first comes from Donna Ulisse with “Papa’s Garden.”  One must read the story behind the song to truly appreciate its child like innocence.  The second comes from Rebekah Long with “Ain’t Life Sweet.”  The mentality of this ditty provides a warmth to our soul as it awakens the memories of honest times filled with lemonade and nights chasing fireflies.

   The late afternoon sun begins its decent to close out another perfect summer day.  A gentle breeze washes from the lake.  The serene waves provides the baseline melody to the singing of the creatures of the night.  It’s as if an artist washes their brush across the sky while the blue turns to orange, pink, purple and on to black.  Above the first star shines as if saying come and make a wish.  The cool night air washes away the heat of the noon day sun.  A shiver walks up your spine.  Soon summer will give way to autumn that will relinquish to old man winter’s grasp.  For now, this is summer.  Better yet, this is a Northwoods country summer…

© Strictly Country Magazine July 2021.

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Old barn in Wisconsin.
© Strictly Country Magazine.

Songs Of Summer

Ain't Life Sweet - Rebekah Long

Back Porch - Dierks Bentley

Buzzin' - Kellie Pickler

Bussin' - Scotty McCreery

Can You Feel It - Scotty McCreery

Chattahoochee - Alan Jackson

Country Side of Heaven - Eric Paslay

Cut The Mustard - Mel Tillis with Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare & Jerry Reed

Endless Summer - Aaron Lewis

Feel Good Summer Song - Scotty McCreery

Feelin' It - Scotty McCreery

Good Old Days - Glenn Cummings

Hot - Mark Chesnutt

I Envy The Sun - Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan

June Bug In July - Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers

Magic - The Cars

Nothin' Like The Summer - Carmen Rasmusen

Papa's Garden - Donna Ulisse

Party All Day - Little Texas w/ Jeff Foxworthy

Red Solo Cup - Toby Keith

Ripplin' Waters - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Summer Sundown - Craig Morgan

Summer Winds - Steep Canyon Rangers

Summer Young - Rascal Flatts

Summertime Blues - Alan Jackson

Summertime Fever - Tracy Byrd

Sweet Summer - Diamond Rio

Sweet Summertime - Rhonda Vincent

That Summer - Garth Brooks

The Farmer And The Lord - Bill Anderson

To Be A Kid Again - Tammy Jones Robinette

Trouble In The Amen Corner - Bill Anderson

We Are Tonight - Billy Currington

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