Friday, April 23, 2010


Willie's hands on his old Martin---from the Internet

The best line in all of country music was written by the husband-wife team of Ed and Patsy Bruce.

The song is “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” and the line is a world and a philosophy and a creed, all in a small quatrain:

Cowboys like smoky old poolrooms and clear mountain mornin’s.

Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night.

Them that don’t know him won’t like him, and those that do sometimes don’t know how to take him;

He ain’t wrong, he’s just DIFFERENT, and his pride won’t let him do things to make YOU think he’s right.

Breathless over that. Simply undone.

And then there’s one that Alabama sings---Randy said that once when they were on tour, a man handed him a tiny tape recorder and asked if they’d listen to it when they got time. And so, after the performance, and in one of those endless midnight drives to the next appearance, they did. And to quote Randy (sorta): There was nothin’ NOT GOOD on that tape.

The song which captured them first:

There’s an old flame burnin’ in your eyes,

Which tears can’t drown and makeup can’t disguise.

That flame might not be stronger, but it’s been burnin’ longer,

Than any spark I might have started in your eyes.

I think of the long-night sittings in hotel rooms, dingy apartments, on someone else’s couch, with a pawnshop guitar across your knees, letting the words pour out, taking them apart, letting them flow, as the sorrows and the blues and the grims mingle into an anthem or a shout or a hymn of lost love or old times or friendships tried and proved.

The old poets wailed and praised and put words into unforgettable tales and lauds, but few used their words as cleverly to tell their stories as do the writers of Country Music.

And if Kris Kristofferson had never done another thing in his life, this would be enough:

Well I woke up Sunday morning,

With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.

And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,

So I had one more for dessert.

Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes,

And found my cleanest dirty shirt.

An' I shaved my face and combed my hair,

An' stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

I'd smoked my brain the night before,

On cigarettes and songs I'd been pickin'.

But I lit my first and watched a small kid,

Cussin' at a can that he was kicking.

Then I crossed the empty street,'n caught

the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken.

And it took me back to somethin',

That I'd lost somehow, somewhere along the way.

In the park I saw a daddy,

With a laughin' little girl who he was swingin'.

And I stopped beside a Sunday school,

And listened to the song they were singin'.

Then I headed back for home,

And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'.

And it echoed through the canyons,

Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,

Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.

'Cos there's something in a Sunday,

Makes a body feel alone.

And there's nothin' short of dyin',

Half as lonely as the sound,

On the sleepin' city sidewalks,

Sunday mornin' comin' down.

Country music is a force of its own, the true American anthem, born of the smoke-filled, heat-seared moments with naught between you and life save guitar and words. And how many of those thousands of hopeful pilgrimages to Nashville result in success, I wonder. How many send the minstrels and the poets back home to the bays of mechanic's shops or farm chores or cubicle warrens, where the words-which-could-have-been languish in a forgotten drawer.

How many a Poet Lariat shares his thoughts and prayers and tunes with only night air and the stars? And how many of the song-filled people persevere, how many still compose and rhyme, their sparks never flickering out.

I’ve been thinking about this subject for a long time, and yesterday Keetha wrote such a wonderful post in that I thought I’d put down a little bit so I could link it today.

She’s a fresh-air read, and knows the South. She also puts words together like nobody's business.

And is there a line in a song which captures YOUR interest or imagination? Is there a BEST EVER one for you?


Anonymous said...

Yes - the Kris Kristoferson: Why Me Lord, What have I ever done, to deserve even one, of the Blessings you've shown.....

Keetha said...

Blogger keeps eating my comments. I hope like eight of them don't show up at once.

Thank you, Rachel! I appreciate your kind words.

I'm so glad you mentioned Sunday Morning Coming Down. I thought of that song when I was daydreaming about great country songs. It's a hard hitter - so sad and so apt.

Anonymous said...

There probably is but not one that immediately springs to mind. I'm not a great fan of country but your post sent me scurrying off to youtube to have a look at some of my fave Loudon Wainwright 111 videos (my fave song of his is 'your mother and I' - though I don't have any experience of his subject myself - and then I went haring off to find his children's music. And am now listening to Martha Wainwright for the first time. So I have to thank you for that!

Maggie McArthur said...

I'm ashamed to admit how late I came to appreciate Country. Here's on of my all-time faves, from Patsy:

I've got your picture that you gave to me
And it's signed "with love," just like it used to be
The only thing different, the only thing new
I've got your picture, she's got you

I've got the records that we used to share
And they still sound the same as when you were here
The only thing different, the only thing new,
I've got the records, she's got you

I've got your memory, or has it got me?
I really don't know, but I know it won't let me be

I've got your class ring; that proved you cared
And it still looks the same as when you gave it dear
The only thing different, the only thing new
I've got these little things, she's got you

Tonja said...

I'm working on my answer...I just have soooooo many that I like!

Southern Lady said...

Me, too, Tonja! I'll be back!

Great post, Rachel ... and yet another way we are kindred spirits.

Southern Lady said...

Here are lines from three of my favorite classic country songs, the first two written by the master songwriter Kristofferson, and the third written by Hank Williams, Sr. It just doesn't get any better than this, in my humble opinion:

Take the ribbon from your hair, Shake it loose and let it fall,
Lay it soft upon my skin. Like the shadows on the wall.
Come and lay down by my side till the early morning light,
All I'm takin' is your time. Help me make it through the night.

Lay your head upon my pillow,
Hold your warm and tender body close to mine,
Hear the whisper of the raindrops blowing soft against the window,
And make believe you love me one more time -- for the good times.

The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky,
And as I wonder where you are,
I'm so lonesome I could cry.

I could go on and on about the phenomenal talent of classic country songwriters. I don't care for today's "country music" sound, and love the song by George Strait and Alan Jackson called, "Murder on Music Row." I think it says it all ...

racheld said...

Oh, Y'all---you've brought to mind the most remembered songs of "my" era of Country Music. I DO think that our Country Balladeers are the true poets of our time. The REAL ones, with the life and the love and the loss to back up their words.

Some REAL buckle-polishers, there, and I could go dancing THIS MINUTE!

And VAL---welcome!!! I'm so glad you could make your site GEE HAW with this site, so you could comment. I'm so glad to hear from you.

Kim Shook said...

This is exactly the post that I want to show to people who make fun of country music. Is there a LOT of crap country lyrics? Sure, just like there's lots of crap poetry and jazz and classical music. Does that take away from the beauty in the stuff that ISN'T crap. Of course not!

LV said...

I love and enjoy good country music. One of my favorite is Kris Kristoferson's Sunday Morning Coming Down. Also, George Jones, I stopped Loving Her Today. We used to attend the Grand Ole Opry often and what a joy it was. Today's artist, I like Carrie Underwood.

Jeanne said...

Hi Rachel we have been in and out all day and we celebrated our anniversary with dinner and a play. A wonderful date night. smile.

I too love country music. I swear, when I listen to the stories those country songs tell, I start crying. HA!. When people say they dislike country music, they have never really listened to the words.
I love your post today. I also enjoyed the comments.

Thank you for your sweet comment about my aunt. She is my mom's youngest sister and we do love her dearly. My mom, no longer with us, always had a special love for Aunt Shirley.

Have a wonderful Sunday.
Hugs, Jeanne

Cape Coop said...

I love this song ala Billie Holiday
It cost me a lot
But there's one thing that I've got
It's my man
It's my man
Cold or wet
Tired, you bet
All of this I'll soon forget
With my man
He's not much on looks
He's no hero out of books
But I love him
Yes, I love him
Two or three girls
Has he
That he likes as well as me
But I love him
I don't know why I should
He isn't true
He beats me, too
What can I do?
Oh, my man, I love him so
He'll never know
All my life is just despair
But I don't care
When he takes me in his arms
The world is bright
All right
What's the difference if I say
I'll go away
When I know I'll come back
On my knees someday
For whatever my man is
I'm his forevermore...

Cape Coop said...

Waylon, Johnny and Willie... I adore them.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I woke in the morning to music. I heard it all day long where there was a radio..I was raised on it and now play it on the piano every chance I get. My kids play the guitar...I miss my Granddaddy something terrible right now!