Weekly Download No. 34

The Mermaid Parade by Phosphorescent.  Currently infatuated with this song (which is typically how a song ascends from “I like it” to “WD”). This song is country music in my mind (or at least how I want country music to be).  Country music that isn’t a crime against humanity like this or this, is called “alt-country”; “alt” presumably meaning “alternative.” They call it other things, “Red Dirt” around here for one, “outlaw country” or (my personal favorite) “insurgent country.” Regardless of what it’s called, I think it’s supposed to mean “something that kind of sounds like country music, but you can bet your ass Keith Urban won’t be singing it.”  And still I find it funny that what this guy sings is called country music and we are supposed to believe its a descendant of what this guy sang. Regardless, Phosphorescent is called “Alt-Country” along with (according to Wikipedia) Kings of Leon, Drive-by Truckers, Meat Puppets, The Decemberists, Big Star, The Gaslight Anthem, The Dixie Chicks, Wilco (which it also limits to “pre Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” material, thank you). Given that list, I don’t think it’s clear what alt-country is.  However, I think you can safely call it “stuff Matt likes, or might like, that they don’t play on any Oklahoma radio station.”  The list also includes Merle Haggard….Merle fucking Haggard is alt-country?  Merle Haggard invented country music.  I’m open to suggestions on what they should call whateverthefuck it is Kenny Chesney does, but Merle Haggard has dibs on “country music” you pussy.

I guess I’m musing on country music because I recently saw Crazy Heart, which was…eh (although I do really like the song that won the Academy Award, The Weary Kind, and Jeff Bridges is a solid broken down drunk).  But it did get me thinking about how much I really used to like “country music.” I’m talking about the early 90s triumvirate of Garth Brooks, Clint Black and George Straight.  Now looking back, it really makes me mad that none of those guys wrote their own songs. OK, not Clint Black, he wrote all his own stuff (but he’s clearly the least popular of the three. So what does that tell you?).  But Garth Brooks gets quite a bit of song writing credit for shit I’m sure he never did.  I can just picture him approaching his manager in ’89 and saying “hey, I’ve got an idea for song about a guy whose woman treated him wrong and he goes to drown his sorrows at his favorite bar.”  Manager replies “Yes, you’re a genius.  Let me give this great idea to the real musicians and have them turn it into a song.” Thus, DeWayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee gave us Friends in Low Places and Garth Brooks sells 17 million albums as a result. For perspective, that’s more than Dark Side of Moon, Purple Rain, Ten or Born in the USA.  George Straight, on the other had, lacks even pretense.  He’s a puppet, an automaton put on stage singing someone else’s words and shaking his ass in Wranglers.  Amarillo By Morning? nope. All My Exes Live in Texas? nope.  Carried Away (my all time favorite)? nope, courtesy of Steve Bogard and Jeff Stevens.  And for his trouble, George Straight has more #1 singles than anyone in the history of popular music.  I shit you not.  And Townes Van Zandt drinks himself to death.  Enjoy.

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