Category Archives: Country

“She made me feel unwanted”

Gram Parsons and the International Submarine Band – “Millers Cave” from Safe at Home [1968]

If you need proof that Gram Parsons invented country rock, look no further than this Cowboy Jack Clement cover from GP’s one and only LP with the ISB. Indeed, the whole album has a killer shuffle that never breaks down and, more importantly, never betrays its roots (love that twinkling piano). Special credit is due drummer Jon Corneal and future Parsons collaborator Chris Ethridge on bass.

While GP’s songwriting and vocal performances aren’t nearly as pained or expressive as later recordings with the Byrds, Burritos, and by himself, Safe at Home confirms that his winning streak began very early on.

Parsons lived only five years after the release of this album.  I have been thinking about how premature deaths in music (and art generally) add to the myth of greatness.  Is it truly “better to burn out than to fade away” as my man Neil Young puts it?  Please weigh in.

Stay Safe at Home

also, check out the excellent Parsons documentary

Posted by Jordy

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Filed under 1960s, Country, Rock

“There’s one in every crowd/for cryin’ out loud”

Waylon Jennings – “Honky Tonk Heroes” from Honky Tonk Heroes (1973)

The exploration of country music has been a recurring theme on this blog (as well as on some of our favorite brother-blogs such as Setting the Woods on Fire and The Rising Storm).  For me, this exploration has been largely defined by seeing past the stigmatization of the faux, good-ole-bro sentiment of modern country to a rich tradition of creativity and rebellion embodied in artists like Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Earle.

During this time, I have particularly identified with Waylon Jennings’ Honky Tonk Heroes.  It is the ideal crossover album for country-curious rock and rollers.  But this is no mere cosmic American hybrid.  Billy Joe Shaver’s songs are braced firmly in the country genre while Waylon and the band plow through them with the ferocity of any contemporary rock band minus the extensive, wanker guitar solos of the era.

Good times.

Buy it here

Posted by Jordy

4 Comments

Filed under 1970s, Country, Rock

Country Blues

Hank Williams – “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” (1950)
Hank Williams – “Weary Blues From Waitin’” (recorded ca. 1951)

Weary. Lonesome. Long Gone. This is the sound of stately anguish. Like all the greats, Hank Williams creates a world with his music, a world that intersects with this one but also takes you a million miles away; a world that, for a few minutes at a time, renders other music unthinkable.

Paul over at Setting The Woods On Fire knows way, way more about Hank than we ever could. Check out his excellent blog for more.

Buy Hank here

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1950s, Acoustic, Country

Favorite Song to Play, Part II

Emmylou Harris – “Goin’ Back to Harlan” from Wrecking Ball [1995]

Wrecking Ball is a perfect album.  There is no other to compare it to.  Combine the production of Lanois with the additional production sensibilities of like-minded Malcolm Burn (one of my favorite producers), bring them to Emmylou Harris and you get a genre-bending masterpiece.

This song was penned by Anna McGarrigle, whose debut album I have yet to obtain, although I plan to sometime in the very near future.  I like to play this song most often on an electric guitar and a Shure SM-57, looping some vocal beats and finger-picking the rest out.  It’s a damn good time, and spooky as sin.

I go crazy in the head when I hear this song.

Tabs for those who need them

I can’t believe you don’t own this album.  Honestly.  Buy it yesterday.

Posted by Phil

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Filed under 1990s, Americana, Country

“They dug for their coal ’til the land was forsaken/then they wrote it all down as the progress of man”

John Prine – “Paradise” from John Prine (1971)

I’ve had the great fortune to spend a lot of time this summer with my brothers, both of whom live states away. When we get together, we start playing guitars; when we play guitars, we eventually get to this song. “Paradise” packs in a lovely evocation of childhood idylls and uses that as a basis for a stirring indictment of environmental destruction.

Prine’s debut is a masterpiece, by the way. A few of the protest songs sound quaint, but others could have been written in our own day of ill-advised war and jingoism-for-show; cf. “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.”

Get halfway to heaven, with Paradise waiting

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1970s, Acoustic, Country, Folk, Singer-Songwriter

“Come to my house/I got whisky and chairs”

16 Horsepower – “Horse Head” from Hoarse [2001]

Whenever I speak with fellow aficionados of 16 Horsepower, we can all agree on the importance of the crazed, drunken preacher with hellfire in his eyes coming out of frontman David Eugene Edwards, just as we can agree that this band has rekindled the fear of the Lord in our souls. But I never hear about the importance and soul-crushing weight of Pascal Humbert’s low end: on Secret South‘s opener “Clogger,” the whole album starts with a massive, speaker-rattling bowed contrabass. It’s got some physical weight to it, which is a nice counterbalance to Edwards’ hysterical yelping.

This track is particularly ominous, primarily because the low end acts as the song’s pallbearer; jerky guitar interpositions, hair-raising fiddle, and gawky yells into an old ribbon microphone act as the clouds, rain, and crows flying over the funeral procession.

This is one of the scariest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s a drunken man in a torn shirt, hurriedly staggering towards the instigator of a crop fire, pistol in one hand and a bottle of gin in the other.

Put the fear of the Lord in ya

Posted by Phil

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Filed under 2000s, Country

“The sun is gonna burn into a cinder/before we ever pass this way again”

Cat Power – “Silver Stallion” from Jukebox [2008]
The Highwaymen – “Silver Stallion” from Highwayman 2 [1990]
Lee Clayton – “Silver Stallion” from Border Affair [1978]

Here we have three versions of the same song by three different artists. The three versions of the song are all very different and as such, elicit very different moods. Clayton’s electric guitar-drenched original sounds almost triumphant, while The Highwaymen do a pretty straightforward country rendition. My personal favorite is the most recent version, sung by the nonpareil Cat Power (real name Chan Marshall). Ms. Power’s version evokes the sadness of the classic ramblin’ song. Her voice sounds as if she’s spent a few too many late nights drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes, and she woke up early one morning singing this song with a sleepy, hungover resolve to make a change in her life.

I have a thing for female singers with smoky voices, and Ms. Power is my current favorite. I discovered her just recently, after seeing her eccentric, mesmerizing performance on Letterman. Shortly after watching that performance several times over (thanks to TiVo) I picked up her Jukebox album, which is a curious collection of covers ranging from “Silver Stallion” to Kander and Ebb’s “New York, New York” to Dylan’s “I Believe in You” along with a few of Ms. Power’s own songs, including a great re-working of “Metal Heart” from her 1998 album Moon Pix.

Ms. Power has a penchant for doing a lot of odd covers and making them all her own. Jukebox is her second covers album, the first being 2000’s aptly titled The Covers Record. In addition to having a terribly sexy voice, Ms. Power has a pretty interesting story as well. This 2006 New York Times article (in addition to this blog post, of course) offers a nice introduction to the world of Cat Power.

Despite a cleverly deceptive opening paragraph, this post is really about how great Cat Power is.

Posted By Adam

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Filed under 1970s, 1990s, 2000s, Country