Sunday, January 18, 2015

Willie's Country Roadhouse and me

When I finally heard "Green Green Grass of Home" all the way through, listening to all the lyrics and not just thinking of it as some cornball song delivering by someone like Tom Jones, I started to think of it like an O. Henry story After it gets to the spoken part about "I was only dreaming," it becomes clear that it isn't just some "I want to go back home" song. Then there's the double metaphor about how he'll touch that green green grass again - from beneath it. It's great writing.

I've been thinking of that a lot lately. At the end of November, I bought a new car and it came with a three-month trial of Sirius XM radio. A few weeks ago, my son was fiddling with the Sirius dial and came across Willie's Country Roadhouse, a station "hosted" by Willie Nelson that plays nothing but "Classic Country." And they're right about that. I've heard folks that I know and others that I've only seen in print: Kitty Wells, Del Reeves, Buck Owens, Stonewall Jackson, a whole lotta Waylon Jennings (I think they play him once every hour), Hank Thompson, Charley Pride.

The thing that I love about this music is that these people know how to spin a yarn. They sing about the same topics: lovin', drinkin', loneliness, the Good Book, cheatin'. But they manage to put original spins on it each time. Charley Pride has a song called "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger" and it's not until the end of the first verse - which follows an opening chorus - that you get the whole plot line, as it were: His wife is going out to the shows without him, which is cool, but she's leaving her wedding band at home. Rather than asking, why are you cheating on me, he asks the title question, saying he can get it adjusted at the jewelry store.

When was the last time it took a whole paragraph to outline a Kenny Chesney song?

Another great aspect of this station is they have a really vast playlist. I'm still hearing new songs and when they play songs that I've already heard, there is usually a period of several days in between the overlap. While the djs probably record their breakers in advance, it has a live feel. Plus their downhome delivery is infectious.

There's also a lack of pretense in the music. The arrangements are often similar, with a meowing pedal steel playing in the intro, but everything works towards the message of the song, not sounding slick. The only time I felt like things started to sound bland was during an Oak Ridge Boys song that I heard a few nights ago. "Y'all Come Back Saloon" sounded like it was focused more on the group's voices to the exclusion of the storyline itself, which got a little muddled. When the chorus repeats that much, you're going more for crowd-pleasing singalongs than storytelling, and showing a line to more "modern country."

I'm sure I won't subscribe to XM radio once the free trial is up, but it's almost tempting.

But music like this is what's keeping me from listening to, and writing about, more music here.

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