i would like to trade up, please

November 17, 2009

I also have a more personal, selfish reason for writing about [George] Strait. My girlfriend’s father, a wonderful, sweet, sensitive, brilliant man, is a big fan of Strait. He likes to drink whiskey, listen to George Strait, and call up his children to tell them how much he loves them. That’s an image and a trait I find enormously endearing. He also cries every time he watches Strait’s sole cinematic vehicle, Pure Country.

nathan rabin’s girlfriend’s father, will you be my dad?

if you continue reading the article, you will find this gem of prose:

Being a fan of the deplorable practice of drinking alcohol, I appreciated that half the songs on Strait Country glorify drinking. If you took a shot every time Strait mentions whiskey on his debut, you’d be drunker than a Kennedy at an open bar by the end of the album. 

the more i follow rabin’s “nashville or bust” columns, the more i love them. there’s something lovely about watching someone fall in love with the same music you love, watching him appreciate the same facets of the music that draw you to it. to wit:

As for me, I prefer songs about drinking to songs about Jesus, songs about prison to songs about patriotism, uptempo songs to ballads, Western swing to Countrypolitan, and dark humor to uplift. 

So the aptly named Strait Country perfectly suited my preferences. It’s filled with songs about whiskey, devoid of sappy ballads and rooted in the fundamentals of country.

nathan, if that’s what you like, then i have some mix cds that would rock your world.

and now, to change topics, sort of: no discussion of george strait can avoid mentioning “amarillo by morning.” i discussed this song before, in a way that really didn’t work out too well (weird, considering how much i’ve thought about it over the years), but i don’t think that i really discussed how much i love the spare lyrics. so let’s take another crack at it, shall we?

Amarillo by morning, up from San Antone.
Everything that I’ve got is just what I’ve got on.
When that sun is high in that Texas sky
I’ll be bucking at the county fair.
Amarillo by morning, Amarillo I’ll be there.

They took my saddle in Houston, broke my leg in Santa Fe.
Lost my wife and a girlfriend somewhere along the way.
Well I’ll be looking for eight when they pull that gate,
And I hope that judge ain’t blind.
Amarillo by morning, Amarillo’s on my mind.

Amarillo by morning, up from San Antone.
Everything that I’ve got is just what I’ve got on.
I ain’t got a dime, but what I got is mine.
I ain’t rich, but lord I’m free.
Amarillo by morning, Amarillo’s where I’ll be.
Amarillo by morning, Amarillo’s where I’ll be.

a couple weeks back, a friend sent me a chuck klosterman article, wherein he discusses his favorite music for getting in the writing mood and specifically mentions dbt’s southern rock opera:

“In terms of using sparse language to explain complex ideas (and in terms of using straightforward music to express a sense of time and place), I can’t think of a better record than this. It always sounds totally real, and the details are thick (particularly about Bear Bryant, George Wallace, and Blue Oyster Cult). I probably listened to this CD 100 times while I was writing Downtown Owl. It was absolutely the single-biggest influence on that novel.”

now, in part i loved this because it’s an intersection of my favorite band and an author i really like, but more importantly, i felt like he really hit on one of my favorite aspects of dbt’s music, the way they take simple lyrics and bend them in creative and complex ways. the song “zip city” ends on the line “i got 350 heads on a 305 engine / i get ten miles to the gallon / i ain’t got no good intentions.” that’s simple and straightforward and yet it so completely evokes a specific kind of place and experience (at least, it does if you’re me and you know exactly what kind of guy that refers to).

to bring this all back around to the main point, this is the same thing i love about “amarillo by morning.” when you listen to the lyrics, they create this kind of beautiful, spare, sad atmosphere. they’re simple and yet so evocative. they create this scene, this world that you can see so perfectly in your mind. and they’re deceptively simple: seemingly straightforward, and yet you can ponder the wealth of meanings behind them for hours (or at least i can).

there are so many things i want to say here, thought processes i want to sort out, but i can’t seem to turn it all into something coherent. in fact, i was going to comment on the original av club post, and realized that everything was coming out trite and sycophantic and pointless, so i scrapped it. this is why i always hated literary criticism: i can’t be analytical about things that speak to me emotionally. so forgive that rambling; i’m afraid it’s the best i can do today.


One comment

  1. […] song or a book or whatever, i struggle to write about it in any sort of coherent way (as some of my previous attempts prove). i can’t even really explain why i love it […]

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