oh and I feel you re. exurban music, I love a lot of that stuff and didn't read it as a pejorative. The Appalachian strain in mid 80s country fascinates me; pass over Dolly because by then she was in her own category, but think of the Judds: there is something wild in their music, despite the soft-core production: e.g. in "Why Not Me?", listen to how Wynonna's vocal quivers, and how that builds up the song's central plea (and I know it's a Harlan Howard song, but it's Wynonna's vocal that brings the heat).
― Euler, Wednesday, 18 February 2009 16:56 (4 years ago) Permalink
i think a significant turning point was august/september 1990, when chesnutt and garth both released versions of "friends in low places." chesnutt's is unimpeachable—classic barstool honky tonk, a little bit of self-pity mixed in with the swagger. but then garth's is, to me, the far superior version, even though it's emotionally less complex and he's not nearly as good, technically, as a singer. he just made what could have been a nice but fairly ordinary song into this huge, rousing, pop phenomenon anthem.
― mte, Wednesday, 18 February 2009 17:12 (4 years ago) Permalink
OTM. but I think "friends in low places" is a better than ordinary song in chesnutt's hands while garth strips it of melancholy and reverses its meaning in a way that's almost perverse -- classic honky-tonk doubt and self-pity turned into a pop-bombastic drinking anthem.
― m coleman, Wednesday, 18 February 2009 17:44 (4 years ago) Permalink
yeah, definitely better than ordinary. but very much in the classic honky tonk template, i guess is what i meant. in a way garth's isn't.
― mte, Wednesday, 18 February 2009 17:49 (4 years ago) Permalink
Those are great thoughts on "Friends In Low Places"; I'm a little ashamed to admit that I don't know Chesnutt's version (I loved his singles in the early 90s, but never bought the albums, something I think I'll soon remedy). I wouldn't say that Garth strips it of melancholy, but more that he, as you say, inverts the melancholy into something to be proud of. Getting burned was something to brag about---and why not, given the performance's hugeness?
― Euler, Wednesday, 18 February 2009 17:49 (4 years ago) Permalink
One of the things I find most striking about Whitley is how he can turn his own vulnerability into something like swagger, without coming across as either wimpy or a braggart. On "Don't Close Your Eyes"...
yeah no, he ignores vulnerability altogether. it's an important choice he made, but he went with what's written in 'don't close your eyes,' as opposed to playing up an emotion we do immediately see in the situation. (and the arrangement of the track, the swelling of the chorus, helps it along.)
the closest the narrator comes to any admission of even the possibility of a problem on his end is 'maybe i've been a fool' for staying(*), and that 'maybe' dismisses its potential as a seriously considered notion before he even gets to 'but i keep hoping someday / that you'll see the light.' the narrator really has an immense faith that he can make her happy: not only the 'see the light' line, but also, of course, 'you'll find more love than you've ever known.'
if whitley had inserted an awareness of vulnerability where none was written, the brutality of the song would've been diminished (and this ties directly into what mte says about him seeming like he's pouring himself out, without really doing it). expressing a vulnerability implies a knowledge that pain is on the way. but the narrator isn't tensed for the blow. he doesn't know he's inadequate. but we do. we know he's a fool to hope, and that's what wrenches our hearts for him.
(* which might be the only line that can rival the, indeed, shockingly frank 'don't pretend it's him' for highest pain quotient--i mean, 'maybe'? look, pal, you understand that you're begging her to, you know, acknowledge you during sex, right?)
― paper mohney, Friday, 20 February 2009 18:33 (4 years ago) Permalink
garth strips it of melancholy and reverses its meaning in a way that's almost perverse -- classic honky-tonk doubt and self-pity turned into a pop-bombastic drinking anthem
zackly--because it's not just a pop bombastic drinking anthem, it's also a pop bombastic redneck pride anthem. (don't forget that the fiddle in garth's version deserves no small amount of credit for the bombast. it may not keep up with garth, exactly, but darned if it don't hang awfully tough.)
― paper mohney, Friday, 20 February 2009 18:37 (4 years ago) Permalink
wow, those are great posts! One thing we haven't noted about "Don't Close Your Eyes" is how he lets his voice trail off at the end of each line on the verses (e.g. "and even now in my armmmmmmmmmmmmmmms..."). He holds the note a long time, so that his voice fades under the guitars but is still there. To cut to the case: it sounds like sobbing. I think it's extremely effective. I don't know antecedents for this off-hand but I suspect there are some: I'm listening to Lefty and George Jones looking, and will turn to 70s Elvis and Roy Orbison next: I have to listen closely to hear this.
― Euler, Friday, 20 February 2009 19:53 (4 years ago) Permalink
22 years ago today.
Listening to the last record today, what stands out right now is how he well he wears the mask of a miserable heartbroken man, and yet we know how it ended. His singing, as we've talked about before, has technique; it would be wrong to call him a raw singer. But when he sings of Tennessee courage, part of the beauty, if we can call it that, is that we know he knew of what he sang. To be able to sing so vulnerably, and really be that vulnerable: his voice takes my breath away too.
― Euler, Monday, 9 May 2011 16:28 (2 years ago) Permalink
23 years ago today.
― Euler, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 21:13 (1 year ago) Permalink
I missed the anniversary this year, but close enough.
― Euler, Tuesday, 14 May 2013 19:01 (1 week ago) Permalink