Getting Out of My Southern Comfort Zone

When I’m not writing about country music, I’m either traveling or planning my next trip. I recently returned from a trip to Kenya (hence the major delay in posts) and am already thinking about where I want to travel next (Uzbekistan? Georgia (the country not the state)? Armenia?) It should come as no surprise that there aren’t too many country songs (or any really) about the places I travel to or about traveling in general. However, there is one song that stands out to me and resonates well with us wanderlusting, country music fans (I can’t be the only one, right?) That song is Brad Paisley’s “Southern Comfort Zone,” in which he sings, “I can’t see this world unless I go outside my Southern Comfort Zone.” The music video, which I’ve included below, even includes scenes that were shot in Kenya!

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Dallas Pub, Maasai Mara, Kenya (July 2017)

What I love about this song (besides the obvious play on words of “southern comfort” and “comfort zone”) is that it discusses getting out of your comfort zone when you travel. I’ve always said that traveling (I’m talking cheap hostels, taking public transportation in foreign countries, trying new (and sometimes questionable) foods) makes you grow because you’re forced to get out of your comfort zone. Brad touches on this in his song with lines like “I know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand” and “I know what it’s like to be the only one like me, to take a good hard look around and be in the minority.” Although Brad mentions traveling to Rome and Paris in his song, where they most likely will also speak English (though maybe not with a southern accent), it’s likely that he has found himself in situations where people did not understand him when he spoke. Finding yourself in situations like this serve as a good reminder that the whole world is not like you. As Brad points out in the beginning of the song, not everybody drives trucks, drinks sweet tea, owns guns (I’ll hold my tongue on this one), and wears a ball cap, boots, and jeans. When you’re around people who are just like you (people who talk like you, think like you, live like you), it’s good to be reminded that your way of life is not the only way of life. This is probably the most important lesson that one learns when they get out of their “southern comfort zone.”

“I have walked the streets of Rome, I have been to foreign lands
I know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand
I have seen the Eiffel Tower lit up on a Paris night
I have kissed a West Coast girl underneath the Northern Lights”

When traveling, you also begin to miss some of the comforts of home and in return you develop a newfound appreciation for these things. For Brad, it was “biscuits and gravy, fireflies dancing in the night.” For me, especially during the year that I lived in London, it was sweet tea and Chick-fil-A (a number one with a sweet tea, thank you and please!) As Brad travels he realizes how much he misses his Tennessee home, for me it’s my Virginia home.

I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to 20 countries so far (if we’re including that one time I had to stay in Dubai for a night due to a missed flight, which I am.) While traveling, one thing that never fails to surprise me is when I hear country music in the most unexpected places. In Chiang Mai, Thailand I not only heard someone playing Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” but the live band performing in a local town square performed Old Crow Medicine Show’s (not Darius Rucker’s!) “Wagon Wheel” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” These were Thai men in cowboy hats singing American country music and I loved everything about it. Just this month in Kenya, I heard Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses” playing in a boat rental office (on what was probably a Christian gospel radio station) at Lake Naivasha. And at the airport in Nairobi while waiting to head back home, I heard what must’ve been a collection of country love song duets as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood’s “In Another’s Eyes,” Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black’s “When I Said I Do,” and Vince Gill and Reba McEntire’s “The Heart Won’t Lie” played over the speakers. Brantley Gilbert sings that “Country Must Be Country Wide,” but perhaps it’s also worldwide.

While many people are often scared to travel for fear of getting out of their comfort zone, I’ve learned that once you step out and meet new people, you realize that humans are not all that different from one another. If the songs of John Denver and Merle Haggard can resonate with people from Chiang Mai, Thailand then we really can’t be all that different now can we?

The music video for “Southern Comfort Zone” (below) contains scenes from different 8 different countries (which he covered in 8 days!) including Ireland, France, Norway, and KENYA! Major kudos to Brad for not only including the animals of Kenya in this video (giraffes, elephants, zebras, etc.) but also the people. Scenes of the Masai people, who I spent some time with on my trip, can be found this video. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any country music videos being filmed while I was in Kenya.

I’d like to end this post with the same message that Brad ends this music video with: “See This World.”

 

Currently listening to: Thomas Rhett- “Die A Happy Man.” Here Thomas also makes a reference to seeing the Eiffel Tower at night, which seems to be quite a big deal in the country community.

“If I never get to see the Northern lights
Or if I never get to see the Eiffel Tower at night
Oh, if all I got is your hand in my hand
Baby, I could die a happy man”

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The Eiffel Tower lit up on a Paris night” (March 2016)

 

Celebrating America’s Diversity in Country Music

Happy Fourth of July, y’all!

For Independence Day, I wanted to do something other than just listing out all of the best flag-waving, red white and blue, freedom loving country songs. Mainly because that’s already been done and also because that list would be far too long. Instead, I’m choosing to write about the country songs that focus on my favorite things about America like its diversity and acceptance of those differences. 

First up is Dierks Bentley- “Home

Though this song was released in 2011, I think it’s more relevant now in 2017. No, America isn’t perfect, as Dierks sings, “shes’s got her scars.” But trying to make America better and healing those scars should be something that we are constantly working towards. We shouldn’t try to bring America back to the past by making it “great” again but rather we should try to make it greater than it’s ever been. That means moving forwards, not backwards. Because for a lot of people, America wasn’t great to them in the past. Perhaps these are the scars that Dierks references in the beginning of the song. As Dierks repeats in the chorus, “it’s been a long hard ride, got a ways to go, but this is still the place that we all call home.”

“Free, nothing feels like free
Though it sometimes means we don’t get along
Cause same, no we’re not the same
But that’s what makes us strong”

This verse is my favorite because it serves as a reminder of the rich diversity we have in this country. No, we are not all the same, we are many different races, religions, cultures, etc. “But that’s what makes us strong,” as Dierks correctly points out. I think that now, more than ever, we need to stop seeing these differences as barriers that prevent us from coming together and instead to look at them as an expression of what makes America great.

Waylon Jennings- “America

Next on the list is my man Waylon Jennings. Though he may have been an outlaw, this man was still a patriot. “America” is truly a song of acceptance. Though Waylon wasn’t the first to record it, that was the song’s writer Sammy Johns, his version is the one I’m familiar with. In “America,” Waylon sings about his acceptance of all types of Americans. Although he may be from Tennessee (at least for the sake of this song) he sings that the people in California are nice to him. Proving that no matter where you roam in this country, Americans are good people. He also mentions the men who went off to war and “lived through hardship and pain” while also recognizing those who chose not to fight in a war that they did not support- showing his acceptance of people in each of these camps.

“The men who could not fight, In a war that didn’t seem right, You let them come home, America”

This song includes a message of racial acceptance as Waylon refers to those from other races as his brothers. He also acknowledges that America must make good on its promises to the Native Americans. We could use more country songs like this!

“And my brothers are all black and white, yellow too
And the red man is right, to expect a little from you
Promise and then follow through, America”

I also love the way Waylon adds an extra syllable to the word “America,” just like Sammy Johns did. It’s not A-mer-i-ca, it’s A-mer-rer-i-ca.

Aaron Tippin- “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” 


It’s not so much the song as it is the music video that earns this 2002 hit from Aaron Tippin a spot on this list. Although this song was used by Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucuses in 2016, Tippin came out and said, “I’m not endorsing anyone, but I hope that my song will help get folks out there and do their patriotic duty…vote!” Regardless of what Aaron Tippin’s politics may be, this video left such a lasting impression on me that I would regret not including it.

This video was filmed in New York in September 2001 right after 9/11 and includes scenes of the rubble, members of the NYPD and FDNY, and images of cards with messages like “God Bless America” written on them. It also includes close-up shots of American citizens from a wide range of diverse backgrounds, including Hasidic Jews, a Buddhist monk, a Sikh, among others. I remember watching this video as a kid and having my curiosity peaked as these images of diversity flashed across the TV screen. At the time, I lived in a town that had very little diversity- I can say with certainty that I had never seen a Hasidic Jew, a Buddhist monk, or a Sikh before. I’m sure this was the case for a lot of people in rural America at the time. I’d like to think that the message that Aaron had in mind when filming this video was one of inclusion and of putting aside our differences to come together as a nation, especially after September 11th. This was the message that I received at least. This video resonated with my eleven-year-old self so much that I can still remember watching it to this day. I’m also pretty sure that this video is what led me to become interested in world religions- something that would go on to shape the rest of my life.

 

As Aaron Tippin sings in this song, “there’s a lady that stands in a harbor for what we believe.” As you celebrate today, please remember the words of Emma Lazarus from her poem “The New Colossus” that are written on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Currently listening to: Shooter Jennings- “4th of July.” To be honest, this is my all-time favorite 4th of July jam! He’s also Waylon Jennings’ son which is pretty dang cool! I’ll be listening to this all day today…and other days that aren’t July 4th as well!

“You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me
And your happy to be with me on the 4th of July
We sang ‘Stranglehold’ to the stereo
Couldn’t take no more of that rock ‘n’ roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along”

Happy Independence Day, A-mer-rer-i-ca!

Just letting y’all know- I’ll be heading out to Kenya in a couple of days and will be gone for about two weeks. I’ll be sure to post once I’m back stateside.

The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of July 3, 2017)

Lorrie Morgan once sang that Monday was never good anyway but when you don’t have to work on Tuesday, I would beg to differ. It also doesn’t hurt to have some good music to listen to on your Monday, like the songs listed below. Turning my attention now to another Lori is Lori McKenna who is starting off this list.

The Lori McKenna Party

Lori McKenna- “The Bird & the Rifle and Old Men Young Women.”  I mentioned last week that I was late to the Lori McKenna party but now I’m afraid that I’ve become that party guest that just won’t leave. And it’s why I’ve got not one but two Lori McKenna songs listed this week. The first is “The Bird & the Rifle.” My favorite thing about this song is its symbolism- a woman (the bird) is trapped in a relationship with a man (the rifle) who’s afraid to let her spread her wings and fly. The rifle possesses all the characteristics that you would expect- “he’s dangerous, stubborn, and strong.” He tries to keep the bird from flying away but one night she does anyway. This song reminds me of so many women who’ve had big dreams that were crushed by the rifles in their own lives. I’m glad the bird in this song finally got away from hers.

“And the bird is always dreaming out the window
Looking at that big wide open sky
And the rifle, he used to be a dreamer
But he wasn’t meant to fly”
-The Bird & the Rifle

There’s something about “Old Men Young Women” that reminds me of a certain president. Maybe it’s the reference to this being “wife number three.” And then there’s also the fact that she wants the lights off and he wants the lights on (Come on! You know Melania wants the lights off! I also just threw up a little bit in my mouth.) But as Lori sings, “it’s nobodies business what you’re willing to trade” for the things that he can buy. Yep, I’m definitely gonna be sick.

“Old men, young women
Only work in the beginning
She’s the past in summer dress
He’s a ride in a red corvette
She’s a prize, he’s winning
She thinks it is what it isn’t
And neither one can change what’s missing
Old men, young women”
-Old Men Young Women

If anyone is capable of writing a beautiful song about gold diggers it’s Lori McKenna (no offense to Jamie Foxx and Kanye West.)

Sunny Sweeney- “Bottle by My Bed.” If you saw Sunny Sweeney’s name and thought that we had left the Lori McKenna party I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Seeing as how Lori helped Sunny write this song, we are still very much at the Lori McKenna party. However, you shouldn’t let this divert your attention away from Sunny Sweeney and her deeply personal song.

Just seeing the title “Bottle by My Bed” and knowing country music, I immediately assumed this song was about a bottle of alcohol (probably Jack) by Sunny’s bed. Boy was I wrong! Instead, this song is about a baby bottle and Sunny’s longing to have kids of her own. It tackles that age-old proverb, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” She has the bright lights and the glamorous life and wants a family while her friends are home with their kids wishing they had a more glamorous life. This song is incredibly personal as Sunny and her husband have been struggling with infertility. Sunny even had a miscarriage two weeks before putting the final touches on this song, which is reflected in the emotions you hear coming through in Sunny’s voice.

“My only bed time story is a ‘People’ magazine
I’d rather be in a carpool line than this big cold limousine
I’d trade every pair of high heel shoes for a highchair in the dining room
Don’t even know you yet, but I know I love you”

The Cowboy Hat is Back

I have an announcement to make- the cowboy hat is back! I repeat- the cowboy hat is back! And the fellas who are bringing it back are none other than Sam Outlaw and William Michael Morgan. If a man in a ten-gallon hat tickles your fancy then I suggest checking these guys out.

Sam Outlaw- “Bottomless Mimosas.” A California Cowboy singing about bottomless mimosas? Yes and please! “Bottomless Mimosas” if off of Sam’s newly released album Tenderheart. On this album, and on Sam’s first album Angeleno, you’ll find his unique style of SoCal Country. According to Sam, “There is something special about Los Angeles, a special sadness. There is a faded beauty that is here, that kind of strange following of dreams while dreams are being crushed in a regular basic. You can sense that. That’s why there’s a unique type of country music that comes out of L.A.” And could anything be more SoCal than bottomless mimosas? I think not.

There are also very few last names that I would ever be willing to change mine for and Outlaw is one of the names on a very short list that I would change for. Brittany Outlaw- sounds good, don’t ya think?

“You might get low, but you never will run out
You might not know, but nobody’s got it all figured out
The future’s bright in your favorite horoscope
You might get low
You might get low”

William Michael Morgan- “Missing.” He’s been compared to George Strait which is quite an honor because those are some pretty big boots to fill! The first time I remember hearing this song was on the radio as I was driving and I remember thinking “sometimes missing is my favorite place to be” was such a great line. This man has a great voice- smooth, with a southern twang, that harkens back to the way country used to be. Let’s hope this guy doesn’t go missing anytime soon!

“So don’t cha go missing me
‘Cause sometimes missing is my favorite place to be”

Changing the Nashville Sound

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit- “If We Were Vampires.” I’m sure you’re probably sick of hearing about Jason Isbell and this song but I don’t care. It’s getting talked about for a reason and that reason is that Jason Isbell has crafted an amazing song. It’s listed last here but if we were ranking these songs, it would be first.

Unless you’re like that couple in The Notebook that died creepily in each other’s arms, you or your partner will most likely have to spend some days (months, years) without the other after one of you dies. That’s what this song, off of Isbell’s latest album The Nashville Sound, addresses. It’s not a light subject but if anyone can capture the emotions that surround this topic in a song, it’s Jason Isbell. What’s impressive is that he is able to sing about death in a way that doesn’t make you depressed (at least I don’t feel that way). What I hear instead is a beautiful love song being sung by Jason and his wife Amanda Shires, their voices perfectly harmonizing as they sing about life and death.

“It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we’ll get forty years together
But one day I’ll be gone or one day you’ll be gone”

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Independence Day filled with lots of country music!

Currently listening to: Lorrie Morgan- “Except for Monday

Finding the Devil Through Church

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I hope everyone enjoyed the first July Saturday night of the year last night! l’m impressed to see that you guys made it to Church this Sunday!

Today’s post in the “Sundays Are For Church” series is about me finding the devil through Church. I know y’all are probably thinking that I’ve up and joined the Church of Satan but don’t worry, I still belong to the Church of Eric. Stick with me through this post and everything will all make sense.

Mr. Misunderstood (I Understand)

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Although I probably would’ve found Ray Wylie Hubbard eventually, it took one misunderstood guy to first make the introduction. Eric describes “Mr. Misunderstood” as being the “weird kid in his high-top shoes, sitting in the back of the class” who was “always left out, never fit in.” While his friends were listening to the Top 40 radio, Mr. Misunderstood preferred his dad’s vinyl, which included artists like Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Jeff Tweedy. I figured if Ray Wylie Hubbard was good enough for Mr. Misunderstood that I too should give him a listen and so I did just that. This is how I wound up finding the devil.

“Now, your buddies get their rocks off on Top 40 radio
But you love your daddy’s vinyl, old-time rock and roll
Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and think Jeff Tweedy is one bad mother
Mr. Misunderstood, Mr. Misunderstood”

Hubbard Goes to Hell

The first time I listened to Ray Wylie Hubbard’s 1999 song, “Conversation with the Devil,” I was hooked. What caught my attention wasn’t a catchy chorus (because it has no chorus) but rather it was the storytelling aspect of this song. It’s a narrative in which Hubbard walks you through a dream he had about being cast into hell and having a conversation with the devil, as the song title states.

As one would expect, he’s confused as to why he’s there. After all, Hubbard ain’t a bad guy. He tries to convince the devil of this by letting him know that he always pays his union dues and he doesn’t stay in the passing lane (this is unheard of in the D.C. area- this man is a saint!) The devil comes right back at him and asks him about all of the whiskey and the cocaine that he’s used, to which Hubbard replies with what is probably one of the best lines in the song, “Well, yeah, but that’s no reason to throw me in Hell, ‘Cause I didn’t use the cocaine to get high I just liked the way it smelled.”

The devil takes Hubbard on a tour of hell and all of the unlucky people who wound up there. He starts by pointing out the preachers, or “clowns” as he calls them, and expresses his dislike for them, after all, they’re always blaming him for everything wrong and they’re hypocrites.

“Over there’s where we put the preachers, I never liked those clowns
They’re always blaming me for everything wrong under the sun
It ain’t that harder to do what’s right, it’s just maybe not as much fun
Then they walk around thinking they’re better than me and you
And then they get caught in a motel room
Doing what they said not to do”

The next stop is the fiery lake, where all of the murderers and the rapists go, along with “most of the politicians and the cops on the take.” Mothers who wait until they get to K-Mart to spank their kids also wind up here along with dads who abandon their daughters and sons and “anybody who hurts a child’s gonna burn until it’s done” in this lake of fire.

If all of these people are in hell, Hubbard wants to know who’s up in heaven, to which the devil replies:

“Oh, some saints and mystics and students of Metaphysics 101.
People who care and share and love and try to do what’s right.
Beautiful old souls who read little stories to their babies every night.”

The devil also makes it clear that “What you won’t find up in heaven are Christian Coalition right-wing conservatives, country program directors, and Nashville Record executives.” Damn.

After conversing some more with the devil, Hubbard decides it might be best to try and suck up to him. He brings up the time that the devil went down to Georgia and played fiddle against a kid and lost. In his attempt to earn the devil’s favor, Hubbard tells him, “To be honest, I thought your solo was the better of the two.” Even if Hubbard was just sucking up, I completely agree with him on this, which worries me that the devil and I might actually get along quite well…

Hubbard soon wakes up from his dream, which he takes a sign from God. He then decides to change his ways including giving up red meat. As Hubbard proves from his own personal experience of meeting the devil in a dream, “Some get spiritual ’cause they see the light, And some ’cause they feel the heat.” I guess he had to feel the heat.

With songs like this, it’s easy to see why Mr. Misunderstood preferred listening to his dad’s vinyl over the Top 40 radio.

Getting to the Devil as Fast as I Can

This isn’t the only time that Eric and Mr. Hubbard have led me to the devil. In fact, they’re currently leading me there now with the help of Lucinda Williams. Due out in August is Hubbard’s next album, “Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can.” The title track from this album features both Eric Church and Lucinda Williams who help Hubbard sing the chorus.

If you feel like indulging your inner Mr. Misunderstood, some other Hubbard songs that I would recommend are “Snake Farm” and “Drunken Poet’s Dream.”

If you’re gonna be in Washington, D.C. on August 17th and 18th, Ray Wylie Hubbard will be at Hill Country BBQ. Get your tickets here!

Ms. Misunderstood 

Unfortunately, I didn’t find Ray Wylie Hubbard when I was in high school like Mr. Misunderstood did. Instead, I had my own sort of “Ms. Misunderstood” discovery in high school when I began listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and AC/DC. Perhaps I had already started heading towards the devil during these years through songs like “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Highway to Hell,” and “Hells Bells.”

Locking Horns With the Devil

I’m not really sure what my affection for songs about the devil says about me but songs about this pitchfork-wielding guy with horns always seem to catch my attention. Church has helped me find the devil on other occasions too including through his song, “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)” from The Outsiders album. The song starts off with a spoken monologue (Princess of Darkness) that leads into “Devil, Devil,” which describes a man who has just been left by his woman and now finds the devil preying on his mind as he contemplates suicide with “one foot on the platform and the other on a train.” At the end of the song he asks an angel with a “heavenly body in holy jeans” to wrap him in her wings and love the devil out of him. The words “devil, devil” are repeated up until the song comes to an end and no matter what your relationship to the devil may be, you’re sure to find yourself singing along and calling out the devil’s name.

“Devil, devil, I feel you preying on my mind
I got nine things going wrong right now
And her leaving makes a dime
I’m mad as hell, and drunk, and well
Tonight, I guess we’ll see
If devil, devil, you’re bad enough to lock horns with me”

When Church Beat the Devil

One of the most important songs in Eric Church’s life deals with the devil- that song is Kris Kristofferson’s “To Beat The Devil,” which Eric credits for saving his life many years ago. He talks about the impact that this song had on him right before playing this song at The Life & Times of Kris Kristoffersona filmed concert held in tribute to Kris Kristofferson in March 2016. Eric also discusses the impact that this song had on his life and career in a 2015 Rolling Stone article, saying,

“This song saved my life, pretty much. Kept me in Nashville when I wanted to quit. I was broke. I’d been in town more than a year, working at the Home Shopping Network. I remember putting in the Kristofferson CD I had, and that’s what “To Beat the Devil” talks about: being in town and having a rough patch and being a songwriter. The next day, I got a call that ended up leading to a record deal. That one more day meant this world.”

I know that I speak for a lot of people when I say that I’m glad Kris Kristofferson taught Eric how to beat the devil!

In “To Beat the Devil,” Kristofferson sings about being down and out in Music City. This song reminds me of “Prelude: Princess of Darkness” where Eric sings about the people who didn’t make it in Nashville. What these two songs share is that they show you the ugly side of Nashville- the struggling people who are trying to make it and the ones who never do.

“The devil walks among us folks and Nashville is his bride”
-Eric Church, “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)”

I think it’s safe to say that Church and Kristofferson will agree with the devil in Hubbard’s “Conversation with the Devil” when he said that what you wont find in heaven are “country program directors and Nashville record executives.” As Eric sings in “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness),” – “devil, you can go screw yourself, and then go straight to hell.”

 

Currently listening to: Ray Wylie Hubbard and Eric Church- “Screw You We’re From Texas” (from Eric’s show in Dallas on the Holdin’ My Own Tour where he called Hubbard on stage to sing with him)

When Cairo Went Country

Two-Step Like An Egyptian 

Okay, so Cairo was never actually country. My apologies if you clicked on this post after reading the title expecting to see images of Hosni Mubarak in a cowboy hat and boots or Gamal Abdel Nasser learning how to two-step. However, if these pictures do exist, someone please send them to me ASAP!

Instead, this post is about a country song and a music video by two female artists from the 90s: Pam Tillis’ “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial” and Shania Twain’s “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You),” for which the music video was filmed in Cairo and Saqqara, Egypt.

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt” 

Just call Pam Tillis “Cleopatra” because she is the “Queen of Denial” in this 1993 hit. No, this is not Pam’s country accent causing her to mispronounce the river’s name – this woman is really in denial! Her man is obviously a good-for-nothing liar yet she keeps buying his alibis. Pam honestly believes that he couldn’t buy her a ring because he didn’t have any money yet he was able to go out and buy himself a new brand new pick-up truck. Come on girl! Read the hieroglyphic writing on the wall!

As Pam sings in this song, she is “floatin’ down a river of lies” from all the stories this guy has told her. And if he really does lie as much as she says, his “river of lies” sounds comparable to the that of the Nile, measuring in at 4,258 miles long.

“I caught him dancin’ last night with a girl in leopard skin pants” 

In this song, Pam Tillis catches her man dancing with a girl in leopard skin pants, which I swear wasn’t me! Honestly y’all, I didn’t even own these pants back in 1993 (see below)! But can Pam really blame him? Leopard skin pants are pretty hot (see below again)!

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The Sphinx, Giza, Egypt (July 2014)

I would be remiss to not take this chance to say that the actual Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile, is nothing like the woman in this song. She was extremely intelligent and a strong monarch, reigning as the last active ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt. She is well-known for her romantic affairs- one of her most famous lovers was Julius Caesar who was also her political ally. In Rome, she was regarded as his mistress since their Egyptian marriage was not recognized by Roman Law. Caesar did not try to conceal the fact she was his mistress, in fact, he even erected a statue of her in the temple of Venus Genetrix, which scandalized many Romans. He also openly claimed their son, Caesarion. These were bold statements, especially as she was unpopular with the Romans because she was outspoken and powerful. While she was married to Caesar, she had been forced to also marry her brother Ptolemy XIV in order to keep in line with Egyptian custom. After Caesar’s assassination, in order to prevent any challenges to Caesarion’s succession, she had her brother Ptolemy XIV killed. Another of her lovers was the Roman general Mark Antony with whom she allied herself with after Caesar’s death in order to help prevent Egypt from becoming a vassal to Rome. Although she did play hard to get at first by refusing Antony’s first two requests to meet and discuss their political alliance she eventually met with him and won him over with her charm. Though sources prove that Cleopatra and Antony truly did love one another, even having three children together, their relationship also proved beneficial to Cleopatra in her goal of expanding and protecting her empire. When it came to relationships, unlike Pam Tillis, Cleopatra wore the (leopard skin) pants!

There is, however, one thing that Pam Tillis and Cleopatra have in common and that’s heavy eye makeup- eyeshadow for the former and kohl for the latter.

 

From the Sticks to the Sahara 

I’m sure the days of country artists filming music videos in Egypt are long over but in 1995 this was a completely normal thing to do. In Shania Twain’s music video for “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You),” she can be found riding horseback through the pyramids, dancing at the oldest mosque in Cairo (The Mosque of Ibn Tulun), and hanging off a felucca boat over the Nile. It should come as no surprise that this is one of my favorite music videos- it’s Shania Twain….in Egypt!! Masha’Allah! 

You may be wondering why she was riding a horse and not a camel at the pyramids. Well, let me tell you, as someone who had ridden many a camel, nobody looks good riding one. Although if anyone could’ve pulled it off, it would’ve been Shania!

The most surprising thing about this video is the fact that none of the men in it seem to notice Shania. Yeah okay, you expect me to believe that Shania Twain, one of the most beautiful women in the world, went to Egypt and wasn’t bombarded with Egyptian men constantly hitting on her? Not buying it!

In Robin Eggar’s Shania Twain: The Biography (2001), this video is discussed briefly. It was filmed over the course of three days with Shania waking up at 3 a.m. so that she could be ready when dawn broke at 5:30 a.m. This video was filmed in the month of July and having been to Egypt myself in July (back in 2014) I know firsthand how hot it can get. I’m mostly impressed by the fact that she didn’t sweat out all of her makeup in this video!

Here’s a short snippet from her biography where she discusses making this video:

“All these women were around me. They were in black, I was in white. In Western culture, white is always the sign of innocence. In Egypt, white is considered a flamboyant color, whereas black is a humble color. We did some magnificent scenes with the women. They were wonderful. If my shawl was to come off, or if I took it off for a second, the women would run up to me like mothers and cover my shoulders for me… The mystery of the place just got to me. I got choked up for a bit while we were doing a take.” (Page 236)

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Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo, Egypt (July 2014)

I too visited the Mosque of Ibn Tulun when I was in Cairo (pictured above). Though the rules must’ve changed since Shania was there as I don’t think they allow dancing anymore.

Yalla, y’all! 

Both of these music videos are posted above so if you haven’t watched them yet go on ahead and do it! Yalla, y’all!

Currently listening to: The Brother Brothers- “Cairo, IL” and Natalie Hemby- “Cairo, IL” (not the same song though it is about the same place- the abandoned City of Cairo, Illinois)

The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of June 26, 2017)

Happy Monday, everyone! To quote Mark Chesnutt, “Well it sure is Monday, isn’t it now? Gotta get myself through the week somehow.” Hopefully the songs below will help get you through your Monday and the rest of your week!

New Tracks

Miranda Lambert– Smoking Jacket.” I was unaware that I wanted this kind of man until Miranda made it clear with this song (thanks, girl!) I’ve been listening to her album The Weight of These Wings like crazy and “Smoking Jacket” is one of the many songs that I just can’t get enough of, which is probably because I have a huge crush on whoever this man is. He’s velvet and refined? Sign me up!

“I want a man with a smoking jacket and
A deeper pocket with money to burn
I want a man who knows his status
And he makes a habit of loving me till it hurts”

Other songs from The Weight of These Wings that I’ve been playing on repeat are “Highway Vagabond” and “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Steve Earle and The Dukes– “So You Wanna Be An Outlaw.” If I ever thought I was cut out to be an outlaw Steve Earle and Willie Nelson made sure to set me straight with this song. Living a life where you can never go home and you can’t trust anybody (not even your own momma) ain’t no life for me. This song is the title track from Earle’s latest album, which also features a duet with Earle and Miranda Lambert titled, “This Is How It Ends” that I highly recommend. (Not sure if y’all can tell but I love me some Miranda!)

“So you wanna be outlaw, better listen up kid
Steal a million dollars and you have to keep it hid
Ain’t no place to spend it in the desert if you did
And you can’t take it with you when you go”

Chris Stapleton– “Them Stems.” Let’s just get one thing straight- I’ve never smoked “them stems.” But I can totally sympathize with being in a bad, bad way, as Chris Stapleton describes it in this song, where it seems like nothing’s going right. I guess you could say that metaphorically I’ve smoked “them stems.” In any case, this song has a beat that’s sure to make you groove no matter how relatable you find its content.

“This morning I smoked them stems
Yeah, that’s the kinda shape I’m in
I’m in a bad, bad way again
‘Cause this morning I smoked them stems”

New to Me

Lori McKenna– “Salt.” It’s no surprise that the lyrics in a Lori McKenna song caught my attention. After all, this is the same lady who wrote “Humble and Kind,” which was a big hit for Tim McGraw and a song that I think will go down in country music history as one of the greatest songs of all time. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this as this song won Song of the Year at the 2016 Country Music Awards, Best Country Song at the Grammy’s in 2017, and Favorite Country Song at the 2016 American Music Awards. I realize that I’m late to the Lori McKenna party as “Salt” came out in 2013 but better late than never! “Salt” is about leaving a man who ain’t worth a whole lot, as Lori lists out in this song, not even her weight in salt.

“But you ain’t worth the time
You ain’t worth the pain
You ain’t worth the spit in my mouth when I scream out your name
You ain’t worth the cost to repair the hole in the kitchen drywall
You ain’t worth the good advice written on a dirty bathroom stall
Or my weight in salt”

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s- I’m on Fire.” I’m a big fan of Bruce Springsteen so I was interested to see how Whitey Morgan and the 78’s chose to cover “I’m on Fire,” which was featured on their 2008 album Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels. While I do enjoy the country feel that his cover has, nothing beats the original Springsteen (sorry Whitey!) This isn’t the only time that Whitey Morgan has covered The Boss- his 2014 album Grandpa’s Guitar also features a version of “Highway Patrolman.”

For all you D.C. peeps- Whitey Morgan will be performing at the Fillmore in Silver Spring on July 19th. I’m afraid I’ll probably be too jetlagged to attend but y’all should go check him out!

“At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
And a freight train running through the
Middle of my head
Only you can cool my desire
I’m on fire”

Currently listening to: Mark Chesnutt- “It Sure Is Monday.” You ain’t lying, Mark!

A View From the Church Pew

Put on your Sunday best…it’s time for Church!

I know that I already discussed my love for Eric Church in my first post in the “Sundays Are For Church” series but in case y’all need a reminder- I’m a REALLY big fan. I even had a friend recently ask me if I moved to Falls Church because of Eric Church (fair question, but the answer is no.) As I’ve already mentioned, the first reason I give when people ask me why I love Eric Church so much is that he’s a gifted songwriter. My second reason? He’s an incredible performer.

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The First Time I Went to Church

Eric Church first won me over when I saw him perform as one of the opening acts for Jason Aldean at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA in March 2011. Aldean might’ve been the headlining act but it was Eric’s performance that made that night memorable for me. I was already familiar with some of Eric’s music and liked the songs of his that I knew like “Love Your Love the Most” and “Hell on the Heart.” However, it wasn’t until I saw him perform live that I became a true fan. I can still remember how energetic his performance was that night over six years ago- at one point he even sprayed his can of beer on the crowd (which must’ve been the trend that night as the lady in front of me also spilled her beer on the guy in front of her, however, he was not so thrilled.) It was also my first time hearing some of his songs that are regular crowd favorites and that I now look forward to hearing each time I see him in concert like “Lotta Boot Left To Fill.”

Attending an Eric Church concert is an experience you won’t forget. If you’ve ever seen him live, you can surely attest to this. Below I have provided a rundown of some of my favorite things about being in the pews at a Church service.

Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Vamanos, Vamanos

If you’ve ever been to an MLB game, you know that when the player walks up to bat, a song of their choice is played. Whenever the topic comes up amongst friends about what our own walk-up song would be (please, like you’d ever see me playing baseball), my answer is always, “the same song that Eric Church plays before coming out on stage at his concerts.” That song is “Electric Worry” by Clutch. More specifically, I would play the chorus which goes, “bang, bang, bang, bang, vamanos, vamanos” (0:57 in the video link above) as this is the part of the song that I think gets people fired up the most and is probably why Eric plays this song before taking the stage.

It look a few concerts for me to catch on that Eric plays this song before coming out on stage at each of his shows. Although on his most recent Holdin’ My Own Tour, it was played right before his second set with Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” (originally recorded by Leonard Cohen) being played before the first set (Eric also covers this song on his most recent live album, Mr. Misunderstood on the Rocks.) I enjoy the familiarity that comes with hearing this song- you know that when it comes on you better have your butt in your seat and be ready for the show to start. When Clutch tells Eric to “vamanos, vamonos” he listens.

These Boots are Made for Waving in the Air 

Like a perfectly choreographed dance, when Eric starts playing “These Boots,” his fans take off one boot and wave it around in the air. If you’re close enough to the stage, and have a decent pitching arm on you, your boot might wind up on stage for Eric to sign and throw back to you. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in the crowd though, when you hear Eric say, “these boots,” you take off your boot and join in with the rest of the crowd as they too wave their boot in the air.

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“An’ tip our hats an’ raise our glasses of cold, cold beer”

Maybe this is what that lady in Charlottesville was doing when she spilt her beer on that guy’s head. I mean, poor guy, but that lady was just following Eric’s instructions as they are clearly stated in “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag.” And when Eric tells you to tip your hat and raise your glass of cold beer, you do it! This song is a longtime fan favorite and you can pretty much bet on Eric performing this song on any given night.

Merle Haggard (a.k.a. the Hag) passed away last year (R.I.P.) and at the two concerts I’ve been to since his passing, Eric has displayed his picture on the big screens at the end of this song. Needless to say, the crowd went wild with cheers and applause- truly pledging their allegiance to the Hag!

Location, Location, Location 

It doesn’t matter if you’re in London, England or London, Ontario- when Eric performs “Springsteen” you can bet that he’s gonna change up the end of the song to tailor it for the city that he’s in. For example, “like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night” becomes “like a soundtrack to a Washington, DC Tuesday night.” On the Holdin’ My Own Tour, Eric also incorporated songs about the city that he was in into his setlist. When I went to his concert in Pittsburgh, he played Sawyer Brown’s “Six Days on the Road” (the first line reading, “well, I pulled out of Pittsburgh, rolling down the eastern seaboard.”) In Louisville, he played “Blue Moon of Kentucky” as well as songs by The Kentucky Headhunters. Not only does Eric sing about the city that he’s in but he also incorporates local people into his shows. His song “Mistress Named Music” features a choir and in each city Eric got a local choir group to perform this song with him. At his Washington, DC show it was the choir from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, VA that had the honor of joining him on stage for this song. These little touches, like having Eric incorporate your city into his songs, help to make the night special.

Of course, he’s free to change this up, especially if something has recently happened that Eric feels is more important to sing about. When I saw him in Washington, DC in May, it was right after the passing of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell (R.I.P.) so Eric played a song in memory of him instead. The song he chose was Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage,” which was also later recorded by Johnny Cash.

The Chief Covers The Boss

If you’re a fan of Bruce Springsteen then you’re in luck because there’s a pretty good chance that Eric will play one of his songs right before jumping into “Springsteen.” I’ve heard him sing  both “Thunder Road” and “Born in the U.S.A.” at his shows. And if you were lucky enough to see him in Philadelphia this year, you got to hear him perform both a song about your city as well as a Springsteen song with “Streets of Philadelphia.”

Chief Merch 

Eric’s concerts are the perfect place to grab some new pieces for your wardrobe. Here you’ll find t-shirts for sale with slogans like “I’m A Sinner Somebody Take Me To Church” and “Good Girls Never Miss Church,” of which I own both. You can also pick up a new beer koozie, trucker hat, or bottle opener while you’re at it.

Something really cool that Eric started doing on the Holdin’ On My Own Tour is selling limited edition posters that are specific to the city that he’s in. I was lucky enough to score both the Pittsburgh and Washington, DC ones! Check out these bad boys below.

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Holdin’ My Own Tour in Pittsburgh (April 2017)
Holdin’ My Own Tour in Washington, DC (May 2017)

Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots….of Jack

I’ve seen Eric get his ass kicked on stage a time or two. After all, Jack Daniels does pack a mean punch. I don’t think I’ve ever been to another concert where the artist took shots of whiskey mid-performance but what else are you supposed to do when you’re singing a song about “Jack Daniels?

The Choir Loft

Eric cares about the fan experience and this is reflected in every aspect of his shows right down to the stage setup. Starting with The Outsiders World Tour in 2014, Eric created the Choir Loft, which are the seats located behind the stage that he opened up to create a 360-degree stage. Eric’s goal in creating the Choir Loft is to replicate the feel that his shows had from the very beginning when he was performing in small rooms, clubs, and bars. Having experienced a view from the Church Choir loft on three occasions now, I can attest to the fact that they are great seats. Eric always makes sure to include those in the Choir Loft during his shows by walking around and making full use of the 360-degree stage as he performs.

And you know what’s great about being in this Church Choir Loft? You don’t have to wear those ugly choir robes!

You’d Better Get Your Butt to Church

If you haven’t been to an Eric Church concert but still want a taste of what one is like, I suggest listening to his two live albums, Caught In The Act and Mr. Misunderstood on the Rocks, the latter recorded during his two-day concert series at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in August 2016. Even though these albums are great nothing beats actually being in the Church pew!

Eric is the epitome of what it means to be an entertainer. If you ever get a chance to be a part of the Church congregation, I suggest you take it. I can guarantee that some melodies will turn into memories!

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Currently listening to: Johnny Cash- “Rusty Cage” (after all, Eric’s the one who introduced me to this song)