Sunday, June 15, 2008

The twangy dark heart of the American century

Dana Jennings on country music:

"Country music knows that the dark heart of the American Century beat in oil-field roadhouses in Texas and in dim-lit Detroit bars where country boys in exile gathered after another shift at Ford or GM. Bobby Bare might've pleaded in 'Detroit City' that he wanted to go home. But we all knew he wouldn't, that he couldn't. Country profoundly understands what it's like to be trapped in a culture of alienation: by poverty, by a [lousy] job, by lust, by booze. . . . If you truly want to understand the whole United States of America in the twentieth century, you need to understand country music and the working people who lived their lives by it."

Obviously, that wouldn't give you a complete understanding (and certainly, understanding jazz, blues, folk and rock would also be necessary stops on the musical culture trail), but there is much truth to that sentiment.

The above quote comes from a review by Jonathan Yardley at the Washington Post of Dana Jennings's new book Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death and Country Music. It sounds like a fascinating book, but Yardley points out a few flaws as well. The review is well worth reading if these kind of things interest you.

It also sparked a bit of YouTube searching, which brought up a very nice version of Bobby Bare singing 'The Streets of Baltimore', which, for personal reasons, was quite nice to find.

Bobby Bare, 'Streets of Baltimore', live in Zurich.

One of my favourite country artists wasn't mentioned in the review (but is undoubtedly in the book): George Jones.

Here's one of his best:

George Jones, 'If Drinking Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)'

See y'all later.

Previous post on a related topic: 'Till things are brighter...'

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