22/09/2019: “It’s Nothing To Me” by Sanford Clark

Country music has produced a slew of dark songs with lyrics about fights and murders. More than a few came from Leon Payne (aka Pat Patterson), a blind songwriter who also wrote the weird cult classic “Psycho”.

Sanford Clark released this song as himself, but it is also sometimes credited to “Harry Johnson”.

The song tells of a bar fight, caused by a drunk guy getting too close to the wrong lady, and getting killed for it.

The delivery is stone cold, a fantastic example of outlaw country music. The deep and matter of fact tone of voice used here is perfectly menacing.

The song is arranged around the country core of a simple double bass and unadorned drum part. But the distorted violin adds a darker tone, and of course, the cowboy-esque twang of the guitar.

“It’s Nothing To Me” was first released in 1957, by Loy Clingwood. Sanford Clark recorded his version a decade later, in 1967.

23/08/2019: “The Pill” by Loretta Lynn

When you think of country music in the Deep South from the 70s, you don’t tend to think of feminism. Yet, although it is very far removed from the kind of feminism prevalent today, Loretta Lynn’s straight talking defense of women’s reproductive rights is in many ways more powerful than the more explicitly political feminisms of today.

This song was actually banned by many country radios, because of its “controversial” subject matter. Regardless of the ingrained misogyny of the time, the tune still reached number 5 on the U.S. Country chart.

The chilled out country guitar goes very well with Lynn’s strong singing voice. Her thick Southern accent makes the forthright, humourous nature of the lyrics even more effective. It’s basically a dialogue with a husband telling him she’s on the pill. The fact that Lynn had 4 kids before she was 20 probably goes some way to explaining her feelings about it…

The track can be found on the album Back To The Country, which was released in 1975.

15/03/2019: “The Jitterbug Waltz” by Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins is surely one of the best guitarists of all time. Not just for his technical ability, but for his ability to turn the guitar into an emotional weapon.

When wielded by him, the guitar truly transcends its nature as a lump of wood with six metal strings, and becomes more like a paintbrush.

“The Jitterbug” for example, is for me highly evocative of Hawaii. It’s got that distinctive twang and bend common to a certain type of Hawaiian song. In fairness, that style is well known in certain varieties of Country music as well.

Country music is really the tradition in which Chet Atkins is most firmly rooted. He does do a lot of Jazz as well, which is where this song is from. This is his interpretation of the 1942 song by Fats Waller and His Rhythm, which is very different, not least because it’s driven by a Hammond organ.

Chet Atkins’ version of the song was released in 1951 as a single.

There are a few versions around, but I like this one best!

So bewitching!

24/12/2018: “Christmas Eve Can Kill You” by The Everly Brothers

I will do a happy, traditional Christmas song tomorrow. But today, I wanted to do something different.

“Christmas Eve Can Kill You” is a reminder that for a lot of people, Christmas is a sad, lonely time. Think of the huge numbers of homeless people who are cold and lonely at a time of extravagance and “good cheer”.

It’s about a man hitchhiking on Christmas Eve, and getting ignored, so he has to trudge in the snow, alone.

The song is very much an Everly Brothers standard template, which is a good thing. It’s obviously a melancholy song, but very beautiful. It’s a country-esque instrumental, with guitar fingerpicking, and a mournful steel guitar. The Everly Brothers’ harmony singing is wonderful here, and the story is expressed movingly.

A line like “take pity on the stranger in the cold” makes its meaning pretty clear…

The song was written by David Linde, and released by the Everly Brothers in 1971.

A thought provoking take on Christmas.