I have to admit that I’d just about given up on country music for the 21st century.
Everything I heard seemed to sound pretty much the same and none of it sounded all that good. (And if there’s anything worse than not sounding all that good, it’s everything sounding not all that good all the same…)
Somehow, the twang was gone.
Everybody, of course, has their own personal definition of country music and how it’s supposed to sound, but if it doesn’t twang, tell a sad story of lost love or mention beer and Texas, it’s not for me.
(In a pinch, old pickup trucks, smooth whiskey, rodeo clowns and loyal dogs can be substituted or used to accentuate the aforementioned elements.)
I’m also a big fan of late songwriter Steve Goodman’s required country music ingredients, as enumerated in his 1975 hit “You Never Even Call Me By My Name.”
In it, Goodman points out that the ultimate country-western song would be woefully incomplete without the inclusion of mama and trucks and prison and trains and gettin’ drunk.
The tune begins:”I was drunk the day my ma got out of prison…”
You get the idea.
Steve knew how to write ’em, but that was then and this is now and there’s been a sorry lack of real country music the past few years.
Sure, there was “new country” and “young country” and even something called “urban country,” but it wasn’t anything I wanted to listen to.
One would-be country crooner even started singing about golf.
Not even gettin’ drunk golf or golf in prison, but just (shudder!) golf.
And then, just as I was ready to chuck the whole genre and spend the rest of my life listening to Hungarian operettas, I accidentally punched up a country station on my car radio and was transported to “Brokenheartville.”
A ballad of lost love first recorded by Joe Nichols in 2002, “Brokenheartville” has enough twang to register on the Richter scale and never mentions golf – not once.
Hank Williams Sr. can stop spinning in his grave.
Joe’s song tells the story of a sweet-talking devil who uses a cowboy hat to cover up his horns and steals the singer’s girl away in a fire-engine red Coupe de Ville.
Our hero is, appropriately enough, gettin’ drunk as he sadly contemplates “the girl who wrecked my world, the angel who did me in.”
I thought solid gold lyrics like these disappeared around 1997, but they’re back and better than ever:
“I think the devil drives a Coupe de Ville. I watched them drive away over the hill, not against her will and I’ve got time to kill, down in Brokenheartville…”
Joe concludes with: “He revved it up, she waved good-bye. Love’s gone to hell and so have I…”
Hey, does that say it all or what, amigos? Admittedly, there’s not a word about mama or prison, but that’s nothing a healthy dose of twang can’t cure.
My faith has been restored…
Originally published June 29, 2003
(I remember one of Dad’s favorite country songs was “Feed Jake” by Pirates of the Mississippi. It was written about the singer’s dog, and featured the lyrics “if I should die before I wake…..feeeed Jake).