country

Waylon Jennings – Waymore’s Blues

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You’ve got to hate country music or have a thing against Waylon to not find this song a sort of perfection.

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Waylon and his big ugly friend John, in 1974

Recorded in 1974 and released in 1975 at the height of Waylon’s popularity (and involvement with narcotics), Dreaming My Dreams was one of the first recordings over which Waylon had complete creative control. Outlaw Country had injected the sterile, formulaic Nashville country music industry with a greasy, redneck, pleasure-loving contagion: a mixture that resonated deeply with music fans who wanted their music to understand and console more of their lives than lost love, poverty, and God.

‘Waymore’s Blues’ has carved out a place for itself at the heart of Outlaw Country. Oft-covered by inheritors of Waylon’s bullshit-calling ways, it’s one of those touchstone songs: familiar like a church hymn, that speaks to the fundamental underlayment of a certain type of man. That second verse itself reads like a rhyme Waylon learned in Sunday school as a lad, only later to recur and be reinvented in his new aesthetic.

Well, I woke up this mornin’ it was drizzlin’ rain
Around the curve come a passenger train
Heard somebody yodel and a hobo moan
Jimmy he dead, he been a long time gone.
Been a long time gone…a long time gone.

If you want to get to heaven, gotta D-I-E
You gotta put on your coat and T-I-E
Want to get the rabbit out of the L-O-G
You gotta make a cold motion like a D-O-G
Like a D-O-G, like a D-O-G…yeah.

Well, I got a good woman, what’s the matter with me?
What makes me want to love every woman I see?
I was trifling when I met her now I’m trifling again
And every woman she sees looks like the place I came in.
Looks like the place I came in, the place I came in.

I got my name painted on my shirt
I ain’t no ordinary dude
I don’t have to work

As sinister and mesmerizing as the guitar lead is –as utterly noteworthy– it’s that “…” that makes me laugh. In context, in that last verse Waylon breaks the pattern of repetition that appears at the end of each previous verse. You expect him to repeat the line “I don’t have to work” but you see, Waylon ain’t no ordinary dude. He don’t have to live up to your expectations, see? He’s not just going to tell you he ain’t no ordinary dude, he’s damned well going to show you.

Knowing he was pissed off the whole time he was recording this take makes it all the more middle-finger-y. A little bit of music business lore around this song, recounted here at Wikipedia:

The sessions were halted because of miscommunication with Jennings and problems caused by his drug use. While recording “Waymore’s Blues”, Clement tried to eject Jennings’ wife and her sister from the control room. Confused by Clement’s gestures, Jennings assumed that the producer was distracted by talking to the women instead of following the session. The singer left the studio for two weeks and was persuaded to return after having dinner with Clement and his wife. When Jennings and Clement returned to redo “Waymore’s Blues,” they found that they could not reproduce the feel of the original track. They decided to use the original on the album, and this explains the abrupt fade at the end of the song – to cover up Jennings storming out of the studio.

So there’s real pissed-off working man in this song, not just the legend of it. This is what Outlaw Country was all about: bringing the sound & subject matter of country music into the relevant now.

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Sturgill Simpson – The Promise

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Another one of Sturgill’s songs that rested sweetly on my ear this morning.

I’m sorry, but I’m just thinking of the right words to say
I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be
But if you wait around a while, I’ll make you fall for me
I promise, I promise you I will

The music this man writes has abandoned the standing caricature of country music fans and subject matter, writing instead toward modern grief and joy in all their possibility. Country music of a certain, prior vintage so frequently seemed to conceal a fatalistic, self-administered defeat. Not Sturgill Simpson, y’all. He’s less ‘out in left field’ than somewhere up ahead, making the old ring true when struck by the new.

Three more from Lyle Lovett

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That last post got me thinking. So much of Lyle Lovett’s music was so present in my formative years there had to be more than one endearing turn of phrase or trippy two-step that’d yield itself to introspection. Upon having put my mind to it, and in recognition of the ubiquity of those songs of Lyle’s one might call legitimate hits, I came up with three (the magic number) lesser-known but memorable tracks.

 

‘This Old Porch,’ from his eponymous first album. With a name like that one is instantly put on guard against the sort of meaningless sentimentality one finds scattered amid the more memorable tracks of most freshman country albums, but in predictable Lyle Lovett fashion you’re instantly thrown into a world of “steaming, greasy plate[s] of enchiladas, with lots of cheese and onions, and a guacamole salad.”

This old porch is just a long time
Of waiting and forgetting
And remembering the coming back
And not crying about the leaving
And remembering the falling down
And the laughter of the curse of luck
From all of those sons-of-bitches
Who said we’d never get back up

 

‘Walk Through The Bottomland’ from Pontiac. Fans of vocalist Emmylou Harris are in for a treat as she winds her beautiful self around Lyle’s story and song:

The New Jersey lady knew he loved her too
And you know she tried to hold on
But the rodeo life was the life that he knew
He had to keep drifting along

She never married and she never would
And all of the people they’d say
The New Jersey lady she just ain’t no good
To follow a cowboy that way.

Sing me a melody
Sing me a blues
Walk through the bottomland without no shoes.
The Brazos she’s running scared
She heard the news
Walk through the bottomland without no shoes.

 

‘I Can’t Love You Anymore’ from The Road to Ensenada. A great example of the best of Lyle in all respects: superb musicianship, incisive lyrics, and a deft vocal performance:

It’s Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, or Baton Rouge
Hell I don’t know just where I’m at to tell the truth
But the good Lord up in heaven knows what you’ve been going through
And he’s whispering to me that he’ll take care of you.

My angel in distress, you look OK to me
I’ll send you my address, when I know what it will be
I could easily stay with you, on your side of heaven’s door
‘Cause I don’t love you any less, but I can’t love you anymore.

Lyle Lovett – Farther Down The Line

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A favorite from my days at KXY, back when we were the only station outside the college radio sphere to play Lyle Lovett.

Let’s have a hand for that young cowboy
And wish him better luck next time
And hope we see him up in Fargo
Or somewhere farther down the line
This time he sure drew a bad one
One that nobody could ride
But by the way he pulled his hat on
You knew he’d be there for the fight

And it’s the classic contradiction
The unavoidable affliction
Well it don’t take much to predict son
The way it always goes
One day she’ll say she loves you
And the next she’ll be tired of you
And push’ll always come to shove you
On that midnight rodeo.

Sturgill Simpson – Turtles All The Way Down

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A tip of the hat to Tom Kennedy of 101.5FM The Music Place (Roanoke, VA) for turning me on to this tune. Strongly redolent of Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and a little Chris Hillman (from his tenure with The Desert Rose Band) this track deals with Simpson’s personal journey, reserving neither praise nor blame for the drugs he took and experiences he had in the act of landing his feet squarely back on Turtle Island, the Ha-Nu-Nah of the Haudenosaunee.

There’s a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there far beyond this plane
Where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain
Tell me how you make illegal something that we all make in our brain
Some say you might go crazy but then again it might make you go sane.

Reggae Covers: Bob Marley – One Cup of Coffee (Claude Gray)

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The 1961 Claude Gray original was one of his biggest hits, reaching #4 on the country charts. This 1961 cover is one of the earliest recordings of the great Ras Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley, his second single after “Judge Not.

One cup of coffee, then I’ll go;
Though I just dropped by to let you know
That I’m leaving you tomorrow;
I’ll cause you no more sorrow:
One cup of coffee, then I’ll go.

Reggae Covers: Bob Andy – Games People Play (Joe South)

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Bob Andy
Bob Andy

Jamaica’s Bob Andy gets right with this memorable 1969 country hit by Joe South. The emblem displayed in this video is that of the ‘Trojan skins,’ described correctly by Wiki as:

Trojan skinheads (also known as traditional skinheads or trads) are individuals who identify with the original British skinhead subculture of the late 1960s, when ska, rocksteady, reggae and soul music were popular, and there was a heavy emphasis on mod-influenced clothing styles. Named after the record label Trojan Records, these skinheads identify with the subculture’s Jamaican rude boy and British working class mod roots.

Because of their appreciation of music played by black people, they tend to be non-racist, unlike the white power skinheads. Trojan skinheads usually dress in a typical 1960s skinhead style, which includes items such as: button-down Ben Sherman shirts, Fred Perry polo shirts, braces, fitted suits, cardigans, tank tops, Harrington jackets and Crombie-style overcoats.

In the 60s white and black working-class youths came together around their shared love of the phenomenal range of music exploding out of Jamaica and onto the London & Birmingham hi-fis and pirate radio stations of Jamaican immigrants. Discovering reggae, ska, and rocksteady at the same time as the hardcore punk scene it was easy to find welcome musical company in the leaven of traditional Spirit of ’69 skins sprinkled throughout the US & Canadian punk scenes. The early 80s advent of the white power skinhead identity drove countless Trojans –myself included– into the ranks of the hairy to avoid association with a very ugly, very public, and very guilty Western social movement. Rude boys can not fail.

Cause you’ve given up your sanity
For your pride and your vanity
Turns you sad on humanity
And you don’t give a da da da da da…