Monday, April 23, 2007

"Dixie Chicken"

This is just great. A slow-burning groove, honky-tonk, soul and blues all wrapped up into one seriously hip-shaking piece of lazy good-time music. Lowell George's voice is just fantastic, a hint of Boz Scaggs' half-swallowed gargle and plenty of raw southern emotion.
It's one of those stories of misadventure that manages to inject humour as well as a little pathos. Instead of pain, we get hungover regret and a sense that he got what he deserved: "Many years since she ran away/Yes that guitar player sure could play/She always liked to sing along/She always handy with a song/But then one night at the lobby of the Commodore Hotel/I chanced to meet a bartender who said he knew her well/And as he handed me a drink he began to hum a song/And all the boys there, at the bar, began to sing along."
Listen to this: these guys are seriously talented. The whole song, the feeling, the rhythm, all are utterly, utterly effortless. I can't shake the image of a bunch of bearded, heavyset guys, sitting round someone's front room and laying down this blistering groove.
"We made all the hotspots, my money flowed like wine/Then the low-down southern whiskey, yea, began to fog my mind/And i dont remember church bells, or the money i put down/On the white picket fence and boardwalk/On the house at the end of town."

Monday, April 16, 2007

"You Belong to Me"

One of the things about growing up that I don't think I'll ever forget was how goddam important everything was.
From being selected for the first team in sports, to being invited to the coolest party on the weekend, to having my girlfriend tell me how much she loved me, to telling her how much I loved her.
If anything didn't work out, it was as if the earth had turned itself inside out and all the madness and badness had been let loose.
Remember all that?
A while ago I blogged "Here Comes My Girl" by Tom Petty, and it reminded me of how I looked at the world and felt about things when I was a spotty teen with too much of some things and not enough of others.
Now that a lot of water's gone under the bridge, I've come to think of this song as an older companion to the Petty song. Both songs are about how important a particular woman is, how she makes them feel, how they feel about her and what they plan to do about it.
So far, so vanilla.
But where Petty's song is all youthful agression and determination -- "When I got that little girl standing right by my side/I can tell the whole wide world to shove it" -- Steve Earle is older, wiser, sadder and a lot more bruised.
"Now your mama said you could do better than me/Baby I know that's true/But you believed me instead, and every word I said, and I did too/Now every day's a little bit harder out there no matter what I do/I could carry the world on my shoulders girl, 'long as I got you."
And while Petty's protagonist comes across as wild, unfocused, determined and a bit like Marlon Brando in "The Wild One", Earle's got too much experience for blind optimism. He's got the bumps and scrapes to prove it, though there's still a spark deep inside: "Well my shining armour is rusted and worn/There's a heart inside here entrusted and sworn to you/Just tell me baby what I need to do/I can win you over again if you want me to."

Monday, April 09, 2007

"Into Dust"

This is a blog about a feeling. About learning how the feeling is caused, about how much it hurts and about the song that brings it back, every damn time I hit "repeat" on the stereo.

How do we hurt people? In a hundred million ways, small and large, very day of our lives. Anyone who's managed to get through a life without hurting or being hurt by other people is either lying or living in a sealed bubble somewhere out beyond Betelgeuse. To get through even one day without doing so is a stretch.

From the father who cuffs his child because the child knocked over a bottle in a restaurant, to the child who betrays his or her parents' trust for the hundredth time, to the commuter who stalks guiltily past the old man huddled over a steam grating for warmth, to the lover who dredges up any unpleasant, insulting, hurtful remark he can to make a clean break from his devoted partner; we've all hurt and we've all been hurt.

We all know how it feels to be hurt. And, with luck and some awareness, we know what it feels like to hurt someone in just the same way: the churning, acid tumbling empty space in the pit of our stomach.

It doesn't, however, stop the cycle from turning, slowly, inevitably, around to the next dose.

There's something just as inevitable about the vibe on this song; the ethereal, helpless voice, the interminable, constant guitar picking, and the caress of the cello as it lays you down on the floor in preparation for your next experience, your next let-down.

This song is the sound the soul makes as it looks up from the pit of despair.