Monday, May 16, 2005

The Perfect Country and Western Song

Well, not the most perfect country and western song of all times, because David Allan Coe has that covered and I'm not picking a fight with him about it because... well, because he's one bad-ass motherfucker and I'm a little afraid of him. But the most perfect country and western song out right now is "What's a Guy Gotta Do." I can't find who wrote it, but it's performed by... well, that's also tricky because I had been going on all weekend about how Blake Shelton just might be the most solid mid-level artist out there right now, with good songs like "What's a Guy Gotta Do" and "Goodbye Time" just chugging away on my radio, hooking me in. But it turns out Blake Shelton didn't record "What's a Guy Gotta Do," that other long haired handsome man, Joe Nichols, did. (Christ Jesus. All this fuss about stem-cell cloning and someone here in Nashville has perfected a way to clone long haired handsome dudes and no one says a word.) Anyway, back to "What's a Guy Gotta Do." I'm not saying this is the best country song out there at the moment, but just that this song is really the most ordinary country song currently getting airplay. I don't mean that in a bad way, I mean that George Jones could have recorded this in his "The King is Gone (So are You)" period (an awesome song about sitting around pouring liquor out of a bottle shaped like Elvis into a Fred Flintstone cup and bemoaning lost love--"Yabba Dabba Doo, the King is gone and so are you."--it's both unbearably hokey and unbelievably heartbreaking) or maybe Lefty Frizzell before that could have done it. It's just a good, solid, traditional country music song in a way that most folks don't think about when they talk about Country Music Tradition, like that's some monolithic and decided-on designation. Here's what it's got going for it: 1. Like a lot of good country music songs, it seems to be about a guy new to a place, trying to figure out the local ways and how he might fit it. 2. It's about wanting love, but not being sure how to get it. 3. It posits itself as working class and ordinary (with the reference to the produce aisle at the Super Walmart). 4. It's got sophisticated wordplay that passes itself off as corn-pone: "Well, ask anybody, I'm a pretty good guy/ and the 'looks decent' wagon didn't pass me by." 5. It's got sophisticated wordplay that is going to give musicologists fits in thirty years: "So I bumped into a pretty girl's shopping cart/ but all I did was break her eggs and bruise her artichoke hearts." Now, clearly there are two kinds of bruised hearts at play here, which you know is going to lead somebody to wonder whether, since the hearts have significance on two levels, if the eggs do as well, which will lead to someone doing a master's thesis on whether "shopping cart" is a euphemism for a woman's vagina. That's going to be awesome and I can't wait. 6. It's got a timeless quality about it. You hear it and you don't instantly know whether it's a new song or an old one you just didn't know about. 7. It's got a good sense of humor about itself, as far as songs go. So, I like it. It's not my favorite song on the radio right now (I'm kind of hooked on that Old Crow Medicine Show song that makes me want to quit my job and become a carney), but it's solid and has some roots and I appreciate that.


Blogger Peggasus said...

I love me some country music. Almost as much as I love long haired handsome dudes. Those two will do quite nicely, thankyouverymuch.

5/17/2005 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Well, Peg, if I can find out where they're cloning these guys, I'll steal you one.

5/17/2005 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Pick said...

I have to confess my complete disconnection from contemporary country music, but your posts get me to thinking I need to hear some of these guys. I'm all in favor of long haired handsome dudes, too. That cloning technology is way better than the short-haired cowboy hatted dudes they had been making about ten years ago, the last time I paid much attention to the genre. (I dig Shania and the Dixie Chicks, but I haven't heard much male country in a long time.)

I'm glad you pointed out the genius of "The King Is Gone (So Are You)." I haven't thought of that in a long time, but I'm gonna have to dig it out soon.

Now, a question. I clicked on the links to these long haired dudes websites, and noticed that each of them have their own individual music and video players. Since I'm listening to Aimee Mann on my computer right now, I can't launch those players. So, what's the story? Is this some new thing for all country artists? What do they give us? Music? Naked photos? Jokes? Inquiring minds want to know, but don't want to wait until they remember to look much later in the day.

5/17/2005 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

It appears you can listen to their music and watch their videos, which is very cool. You can also vote for their videos on GAC.

So, anyone can check out their songs, which is pretty cool for someone like me, who talks a lot about music that few people who read me know much about.

And, I say, long haired handsome men for everyone!

5/17/2005 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Peggasus said...


8. I love how when you listen to a country song, even if it's the first time you've heard it, you can always sing along and know what the next rhyming line will be.

That's awesome.

5/17/2005 12:56:00 PM  

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