The Spooky, Scary Tracks I’m Playing

Happy All Hallows Eve and first day of Day of the Dead a.k.a. Dia de los Muertos to all y’all! On the occasion of these two celebrations, I wanted to shine a spotlight on a couple of songs that I think are appropriate for these two holidays.

Zac Brown Band and Dave Grohl- “Day For the Dead” (from The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1)

So Zac Brown Band made an album with David Grohl. That’s right- Dave mother f**king Grohl! “Day For the Dead” is one of four songs from that joining of forces, released in 2013. I have a ton of respect for Dave Grohl, as a musician and as a fellow Virginian (though he was technically born in Ohio his formative years were spent in V to the izz-A). Everything this guy touches turns to gold- from Nirvana to Foo Fighters, so naturally when he teamed up with ZBB, they made some pretty darn good songs, including this one about the “day for the dead to dance among the living.” You can watch their performance of this song from the 2013 CMA Awards here.

I would like to know when The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 2 is planning to come out. Seriously, I’m waiting!

“I see them rise
From beneath the ground
Life was lost but now it’s found
The ghosts want somethin’
To take their turn
To dance around the stone
Work the fingers to the bone
Hold on to nothin'”

 

Ruston Kelly- “Black Magic” (from Halloween)

I wrote about this song back in June on my first “The Tracks I’m Playing” post but it’s perfect for Halloween so I’m posting it again. Do I need any more proof that this is an ideal Halloween song besides the fact that it’s from an album titled Halloween?? No, I don’t. But I’ll give you another reason anyway- the first line in this song goes like this, “Halloween is here with me you left it in this home, stitches on my body, closets full of bones.” Pretty spooky, huh? While the song isn’t actually about Halloween, it’s about black magic (kinda) and love, which seems fitting enough for me for today.

I also want to take this opportunity to say congratulations to Ruston Kelly and Kacey Musgraves on their wedding, which took place earlier this month! The pictures are gorg! See for yourself here. Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Kacey Musgraves!

“Halloween is here with me you left in this home
Stitches on my body, closets full of bones
Blood that won’t stop running ‘cause this wound won’t ever clot
Like the ringing in my ears that don’t ever seem to stop”

 

Other great Halloween and Day of the Dead songs include:

Eagles- “Witchy Woman
Jason Isbell- “If We Were Vampires
Willie Nelson- “Gravedigger
Michael Jackson- “Thriller
Creedence Clearwater Revival- “I Put a Spell on You
Ruston Kelly- “Halloween (Downstairs)”

You can find all of these on my “All Hallows Eve” Spotify playlist here. While these songs may not hold a candle to Monster Mash in the category of Halloween anthems, I think they’ll make a perfect addition to your Halloween playlist. Also, does anybody really know how to do the Monster Mash??

I hope everyone has a great Halloween and Dia de los Muertos! And if you don’t celebrate either, Happy October 31st!

Currently listening to: Werewolf Bar Mitzvah. Because I can’t think of something being spooky, scary without this song coming to mind! If you watch 30 Rock, you get the reference!

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Erica Church: Finding Your Inner Chieftess (A Halloween Post)

Halloween is for Erica Church 

If Sundays are for (Eric) Church, then Halloween is for Erica Church. Who is Erica Church, you ask? Well, she’s the female version of Eric Church and my finest creation to date. She made her debut on Halloween in 2015 and has only come out a few times since then. Much like her male counterpart, Erica enjoys wearing black leather jackets and American flag scarves and keeping her sunglasses on inside. On occasion, you can find her recreating one of his album covers (see below).

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Halloween 2016. Erica Church recreating the Sinners Like Me album cover. (Shout out to the bartender at Right Proper Brewing Company in DC who took his photo!)

 

Erica Church’s Debut (Halloween 2015). Recreating the Chief album.

 

Erica Church 101

With just two days left until Halloween, you might still be trying to decide what you’re going to be. Or, if you’re like most people, you probably went out last night, in which case, you can use these costume tips for next Halloween. Well, might I suggest Erica Church for the ladies? (Sorry fellas, this post is mostly for the ladies.) If you’re not sure how to compose your own Erica Church costume, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! It’s a pretty simple costume and you probably already own some of the pieces.

First things first, you’ll need a pair of sunglasses. Try not to go with heart-shaped lenses or any funky colors. A simple pair of aviator glasses will do the trick. Be sure to wear these all of the time. Yes, even when you’re inside. Yes, even if it’s not bright where you are. No, I don’t care if you can’t see. Keep them on (or at least try to!)

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A rare sighting of Erica Church in Pittsburgh (April 2017).

This next piece might cost you but I promise it’s a worthwhile investment. It’s a black leather jacket and it’s a great addition to any wardrobe. Not only is it perfect for crafting your Erica Church look but can be worn on many different occasions- a night out on the town, a biker rally, a wedding, you name it. You can pretty much wear it anywhere. If you prefer a different color leather jacket, like burgundy, that will also work as Eric has been known to rock this look himself.  Underneath the jacket, I would go with a black t-shirt. In past years, I’ve worn a Johnny Cash t-shirt but I think a plain black t-shirt will work well.

Pledge allegiance to the American flag scarf! Though not absolutely necessary for this look to work, you’re gonna want it. Trust me. It really completes the look and gives it a little more Church-y feel à la “Springsteen.” It can also double as a blanket on those cold late-October nights.

Tip your ballcap! Again, not totally necessary. Since Eric himself can be seen both with or without his hat, you can feel free to do the same. Especially if you wanna avoid hat hair! BUT if you own a Von Dutch hat then you MUST wear this. Those are the rules! See picture below for the explanation as to why.

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Eric Church in a Von Dutch Hat (picture from Rawhide and Velvet)

If hats aren’t your thing, or you don’t feel like buying one, you can also feel free to wear a black snow cap like the one he wore in the “Springsteen” video. But again- hat hair! Or I guess cap hair in this case.

These Boots! No other footwear will do. It’s gotta be boots! And if the soles are worn out on ’em, even better! This is probably a pretty easy one for most of us ladies. Good thing Halloween takes places in the fall so it’s already boot-wearing season! If you don’t already have a pair (really ladies- who doesn’t own a pair of boots?!), you can order some from Eric’s boot line, These Boots (online store here.) But I’m gonna warn ya, these will cost you a pretty penny!

Mad Props! The best way to give your costume a little something extra is to add some props. If you want to carry around a bottle of Jack, that would be totally acceptable, though probably not allowed by a lot of establishments. It might be a good idea to empty out some of the mini plastic bottles of Jack and carry these around. Either way, if you really want to be in character, you must drink some Jack, otherwise how else will Jack Daniels kick your ass?

A chief badge necklace would also be a nice finishing touch on an Erica Church costume (you can find one on Eric’s website for $20 here.) I don’t own one of these but have considered making the investment.

Have a record year! Another great prop, especially if you’re having a record year, would be some of the records he sings about in his song “Record Year.” A few weeks ago I found a used copy of Songs in the Key of Life at my local record store and picked it up as I thought it would be perfect for this occasion. It’s also a classic Stevie Wonder album that I now own so a win-win for me! Bonus points if you’ve got Red Headed Stranger or are getting down with old James Brown and finding New Grass Revival (and their albums!)  Another great Erica Church prop is a guitar. Though my reservation with this is carrying it around it public. Not only would you get tired of toting it around but you would probably keep hitting people with it and you don’t wanna be that person!

 

Erica Church 2015. The guitar did not come out with me. Neither did the bottle of Jack Daniels. 

If you wanna switch up this look and add a few extra things to customize it to tailor to your inner-Erica Church, by all means, go on right ahead! Just remember to always keep “WWECD?” in mind. What Would Eric Church Do? If it doesn’t scream “Chief!” then leave it!

 

I know some of you ladies might be thinking that this doesn’t sound like the most feminine costume. So if you wanna make this costume a little female (more Erica, less Eric), I suggest wearing a black mini-skirt, maybe with some tights if it’s cold. The skirt will also look great with the boots!

The most important part of this costume is not a piece of clothing like a leather jacket or a prop like a record, but it’s your personality. If there’s a specific Eric Church song or album that you’re trying to channel, be it Chief or Mr. Misunderstood, go with it! Embrace your inner Chief! Or rather, your inner Chieftess! Be Mrs. Misunderstood! Have a record year! Catch yourself a round here buzz! Put a drink in your hand! You get what I’m saying!

I realize this costume is for women but men can also try this look out if they want to be Eric Church. But gentlemen, I’ve got to warn you, if you’re trying to be Eric Church, you’ve got a lotta boot left to fill!

Other Church-inspired Halloween costumes include:
Chattanooga Lucy – another one for the ladies
Hungover and Hard Up” – this one does not require an actual costume, just simply wake up the morning following your Halloween celebrations
Country Music Jesus” – for all you long-haired, prophetic types

My own Erica Church hasn’t come out for this year’s Halloween but we’ve still got a few days left. Even though Halloween is on a Tuesday, she’s got nothing against having the club going up on a Tuesday!

Happy Halloween, y’all! No matter what you dress up as, have fun and be safe!

Currently listening to: Eric Church- “Lotta Boot Left to Fill

The Tracks I’m Falling For (Week of October 9, 2017)

Happy Fall to All Y’all! 

Since we’re now in the second week of October, and pumpkins and Halloween candy are everywhere, I think it’s safe to say that are definitely in the fall season, even if the weather in Washington, DC hasn’t received the memo yet. Seeing as this is my first “The Tracks I’m Playing” post this season, it makes sense to write about the songs I’m fall-ing for. Here they are!

The Tracks I’m Fall-ing For 

Paul Cauthen- “Saddle.” When I first saw Paul Cauthen (on the picture on his album cover) I thought he was Amish, or a mobster, or an Amish mobster (which is totally a thing- Amish Mafia was an actual show on the Discovery Channel which means it must be a real thing.) Come to find out he’s actually from Texas and as far as I know there are no Amish there (though there may be mobsters.) Not that any of this matters, so I’ll quit my mindless rambling. In an article from last September on “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know,” Rolling Stone recommended Paul Cauthen to people who are fans of Waylon Jennings and seeing as how Waylon is one of my faves, it makes sense that I’m also now a fan of his. In fact, Paul and Cody Jinks (another one of my recent favorites) cover Waylon’s classic “Luckenbach, Texas” here, if you want to take a listen and decide for yourself how Waylon-esque he is.

Chips off the Old Blocks

Shooter Jennings- “Outlaw You.” Aside from having the greatest Fourth of July song of all time, titled, well, “Fourth of July,” I hadn’t really listened to much (or any) Shooter Jennings. Why? Well I’m not really sure, especially considering that his dad, Waylon Jennings, is one of my all-time favorite artists (you may remember me saying this in the paragraph above.) And together with Jessi Colter, his parents are my favorite country couple of all time. It would only make sense that I would also love their son’s music and well, from what I’ve heard so far, I do. “Outlaw You” addresses the current state of country music and how many of these so-called country singers should be outlawed. They wear baseball hats but they couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat and they wear boots but they’re only from their record label’s image group. He ends the song by talking about his dad and his struggles to make it Nashville, referencing two of his records, This Time (1974) and the Wanted! The Outlaws (1976), which I very much appreciated as this is my favorite album. Like if I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one album to listen to for eternity, it would be this one.

“Hey pretty boy in the baseball hat
You couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat
Country ain’t just about where you’re at
It’s about bein’ true to what’s inside
You say you’re an outlaw with your perfect boots
That you got from your record label’s image group
Sing another man’s song with a big drum loop
Listen, son, you ain’t got a clue
You can’t buy true, tell you what they should do
They should outlaw you”

There is one line in this song that I’m a little confused by: “Those old boys with long hair and braids (Waylon, Willie, and Tompall Glaser, obviously) stayed true to their sound and freed the slaves.” What slaves exactly, Shooter? Maybe I’m missing something here.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real- “Find Yourself.” The first time I ever heard a Lukas Nelson song was also the first time I ever saw Lukas Nelson perform. That performance was at the Outlaw Music Festival, which I wrote about here, this past September. Lukas and his band, Promise of the Real, played several songs from their self-titled album which just dropped in August. This song stood out to me from that performance because Lukas had the crowd join him in singing the chorus- “I hope you find yourself before I find somebody else to be my love.” I also just learned that Lady Gaga is the woman singing the backup vocals on this song! I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga (or Mother Monster, if you prefer) so I was stoked to learn that was her in the background. There are several other songs on the album that I really enjoy- “Forget About Georgia,” “Four Letter Word,” and “High Times.” Don’t be fooled by the fact that Lukas Nelson is Willie Nelson’s son because he’s got a sound that’s all his own! The hair is pretty much the same though, just needs some braids!

I’ll be seeing them in Baltimore next month and am excited to actually know the songs that they’ll be singing this time around!

Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash, John Paul White- “It Ain’t Over Yet.” I’ve included this song under “Chips Off the Old Blocks” because Roseanne Cash if of course the daughter of Johnny Cash. Chips off the old blocks aren’t always sons, sometimes they’re daughters! Looks like we’ve got the kids of three quarters of the Highwaymen represented this week.

On this award-winning song, Rodney Crowell is joined by his ex-wife Roseanne Cash and one half of The Civil Wars, John Paul White. I found out about this song last month after it won “Song of the Year” at the Americana Music Association Honors and Awards. Everything about this song is beautiful- from the way Rodney sings with so much truth in his voice, to Roseanne Cash and John Paul White adding their voices; from the lyrics, to the melody of Rodney’s guitar and the harmonica that comes in at the end of the song. You don’t win “Song of the Year” by not having these things!

 

I Keep on Fall-ing…

Ray Wylie Hubbard- “Lucifer and the Fallen Angels.” I can’t find a video for this song but if you go on Spotify (you can find the Beltway Boots Spotify playlist here), you can have a listen to Ray Wylie Hubbard singing about one of his favorite topics- The Devil. I wrote about Ray’s song, “Conversation with the Devil” a few months back in this post. Much like that song, which takes you through a conversation he has with the devil in a dream, in this song he is also conversing with the Lucifer, or Lou, as he’s given permission to call him, and his fallen angels after picking them up on the side of the road. Ray Wylie is heading to Nashville to get a publishing deal and Lou and the fallen angels are heading to Mobile. Along their drive, Lou tells Ray Wylie that nobody is going to want to publish his songs- he might be cool but he’s old. They also stop to pick up some Seagram’s Seven and Lou winds up robbing Nervous Charlie’s Fireworks and All-Night Liquor Store, after which he asks, “how do you think that clerk likes take your sons to work day now?” (This is why I never pick up hitchhikers!) He also tells Ray Wylie about getting thrown out of heaven and delivers the best line in the song, “it’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.” You got that right, Lou (if I may)!

This song is off Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest album, Tell The Devil I’m Getting There As Fast As I Can. As I already said, this man loves singing about the devil.

Aaron Lee Tasjan- “Little Movies.” Just looking at Aaron Lee Tasjan, you might think he’s a bit eccentric with his big sunglasses and sparkly suit (as he wears in this video). This look would not fly in mainstream country but seems to work just right for him in Americana. It’s because of artists like Aaron Lee Tasjan that I now listen to Americana and have really stopped listening to mainstream country. In fact, Rolling Stone featured a story on how he’s breaking the mold in this genre. This same story also discusses how some of the material from his album Silver Tears, which features this song, was compiled while he was micro-dosing LSD. Far be it from me to judge how an artist gets their inspiration, I mean, after all, some great music has been made through the help of drugs- have you ever heard of The Beatles or Fleetwood Mac? I thought so.

Nikki Lane- “Right Time.” I’m hesitant to write that this song has gotten stuck in my head because I don’t think that’s necessarily a sign of a good song. Just because a song is catchy doesn’t mean it’s got substance. In fact, the problem with so many “hit” songs today is that they are only hits because they’re catchy and tend to get stuck in your head, not because the song actually has an important message. Thankfully, while this next lady may get stuck in my head, she’s also got something to say, so I’ve got no qualms about including her here. For example, in this song, she’s saying that “it’s always the right time to do the wrong thing.” Here’s to hoping that Nikki Lane gets stuck in my head again this week…even if she is a bad influence! 

Nikki will also be performing with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real next month and I can’t wait to see her perform!

Amanda Shires- “You Are My Home.” Amanda won “Emerging Artist of the Year” at this year’s Americana Music Association Honors and Awards. And with songs like this, there’s no doubt that she deserved this achievement. When collecting her award, Amanda said, “Thank you to the Americana fans, because, without you, there might be no other place for me.” I’m also thankful for the Americana fans for providing a home to so many wonderful artists like Amanda Shires and her husband, Jason Isbell. These two are becoming one of my favorite couples in music right now though I doubt they’ll ever reach Waylon and Jessi status. Sorry but those are tough boots to fill!

“Your six-one frame
My address is your name
High ceilings, grand halls
Walls are just walls
You are my home”

I hope everyone enjoys listening to these songs and fall-ing in love with them like I have.

Currently listening to: John Prine- “Picture Show” featuring Tom Petty. Since many of us are still mourning the loss of Tom Petty, I thought this song made sense for this week. It’s featured on John Prine’s The Missing Years album which was released on Friday as a double LP 180 gram vinyl and features Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt in addition to Tom Petty.

Two Empty Seats: Eric Church Pays Tribute to Las Vegas Victims

We Won’t Back Down!

I usually start these posts with a cheesy pun about Church but this Sunday is different. Given the horrific attack that took place exactly one week ago in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, this week’s “Sundays Are For Church” post is taking a more serious tone. My heart goes out to everyone who was the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival last Sunday and to everyone who lost somebody because of this heinous attack. My heart also goes out to the artists who were part of this festival, especially Jason Aldean and his band members who were performing when the shots began. Despite my changing musical tastes as of late, Jason Aldean will always hold a special place in my heart. I saw him in concert (with Eric Church as one of his openers) back in 2011 and his songs are still on the iPod I’ve had since 2008. (Not that my feelings on Jason Aldean matter- I wouldn’t wish this type of thing on anyone no matter what place they held in my heart!) Jason opened Saturday Night Live last night by saying, “This week we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone I’m struggling to understand what happened that night and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal.” He then played Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” which I think relayed an important message that Jason, and the country music community, won’t back down to the hatefulness that led to this attack. Well, I won’t back down either!

Two Empty Seats


On Wednesday, October 4th, Eric performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, giving a moving speech about the attack in Las Vegas before his performance. Forty-eight hours before the shooting last Sunday, Eric performed at The Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas. He spoke about how the people in that audience were his crowd- they held up their records during “Record Year” and they held up their boots during “These Boots.” During “Springsteen” he even went out into the crowd and shook people’s hands. A place that had brought Eric and his fans so much joy witnessed carnage just 48 hours later. Despite not wanting to perform on Wednesday night, Eric did so anyway, because of a video that someone sent to him of Heather Melton, the wife of Sonny Melton, who died protecting her on Sunday night. The video was Heather’s interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, in which she is wearing a Church Choir t-shirt, and talking about her husband Sonny. When asked what brought them to Las Vegas, Heather replied that they were there to see Eric Church because he was Sonny’s guy- he was “his guy.” She then mentioned that they were supposed to see Eric that very night at the Grand Ole Opry. Eric then pointed out two empty seats in the audience meant for Heather and Sonny. The reason that Eric showed up to play on Wednesday, despite not wanting to, was because of Heather and Sonny, and all the people that were in that crowd. Eric saw those people, he saw them with their boots in the air, and said “what I saw, that moment in time that was frozen, there’s no amount of bullets that can take it away.”

“Why you and why not me?” 

Eric ended his speech by saying, “That night something broke in me, on Sunday night, when that happened, and the only way I’ve ever fixed anything that’s been broken in me is with music.” He then played a song that he wrote for the Las Vegas victims called “Why Not Me.” When tragic events like this happen, we often find ourselves asking questions like “why did this person die?” and “why not me?” It’s those types of questions that this song touches on.

“Why you from Tennessee did life capture, And me from Tennessee get away?”

You can listen to Eric’s speech below along his performance of “Why Not Me” at the Grand Ole Opry.

The lyric video for this song can be found here.

A Call for Gun Control

Last Sunday, this country witnessed its largest mass murder by a firearm- 58 people were killed and nearly 500 were injured. The fact that people were killed and injured at a concert, an activity that many of us participated in, makes me sick! The fact that people are killed in movie theaters, elementary schools, college campuses, nightclubs, etc. because of mass shootings in this country makes me sick! Something needs to be done about gun control in this country. We are way past the point of needing to have a conversation about these types of acts because every time something like this happens we talk and talking gets us nowhere. Actions and real legislation involving gun control and access to guns needs to happen. In this day and age, when we are constantly bombarded with news, it’s easy to forget these types of events as our attention turns to the next big news story. But we have to remember these events, and how we felt hearing about them, because if we keep forgetting them, nothing will ever get done. And sadly, until something gets done, another mass shooting is right around the corner. And as we’ve seen, these things can happen anytime, any place, and to anyone. The people attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival were just going to a country music festival, the parents who sent their kids to school at Sandy Hook thought it was going to be a normal school day, and the next mass shooting that happens will also be talked about in this same way.  I’m glad to see members of the country music community speaking out about gun control like Roseanne Cash (Roseanne Cash: ‘The NRA Funds Domestic Terrorism’) and Caleb Keeter of the Josh Abbott Band. Caleb was there on Sunday night and spoke out saying, ““I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.” In a genre that so often glorifies guns, I hope that more country artists speak out like Roseanne and Caleb have.

Currently listening to: Tom Petty- “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” from his album Wildflowers. This week, the world lost one of its most iconic singer-songwriters. Tom Petty influenced musicians across genres, including Eric Church. In a 2012 interview about his most influential albums and songs, Eric named Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, saying ‘”Seriously — the first record I made out to in high school. ‘Nuff said.”

“Let me run with you tonight
I’ll take you on a moonlight ride”

R.I.P. Tom Petty!

In Memory of The Original Chief

Happy first Sunday of fall, y’all! It’s time to go to (Eric) Church!

The Chief! Photo from Urban Cowboy

“Three Chords and The Truth” -Harlan Howard

It’s been said that “country music is three chords and the truth.” That saying probably comes from the fact that country music isn’t afraid to discuss the difficult issues that life throws at us. Sure, all genres deal with heartbreak, loss, and grief, but when it comes to songs about things like cancer and Alzheimer’s, I don’t think any other genre can compare to country music. Since September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I wanted to use the last “Sundays Are For Church” post of the month to bring awareness to this disease.

Many people don’t know that Eric Church not only writes his own songs, but he’s written songs for other artists as well. He wrote “The World Needs a Drink,” which was recorded by Terri Clark and he also helped to write “All Alright,” which was featured on the The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1, an album from Zac Brown Band and the legendary Dave Grohl. Another of his songs was just included on William Michael Morgan’s album Vinyl. That song is “I Know Who He Is” and it fits perfectly with this week’s theme.

The Original Chief 

While William Michael Morgan might’ve been the artist who got to record this song, Eric actually sang it first. It was unofficially titled “Alzheimer’s” and Eric performed it at the Country Radio Seminar in 2015 (video below). In this song, Eric describes a situation that many people know all too well- visiting a friend or family member who can’t remember you anymore because of their battle with Alzheimer’s. For Eric Church, that person was his maternal grandfather, Rusty, the original Chief. Rusty served as the chief of police in Eric’s hometown of Granite Falls, North Carolina and he’s the man the Chief album is named after (read more about how Eric got this same nickname here.) When Eric was ten years old, his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his experience dealing with this comes through in this song.

This song describes the conversations that one has with doctors when visiting their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s. While listening to the well-meaning doctor talking about your loved one’s condition and throwing around medical terms, all you can think about is how happy you are that they’re still around. Sadly, I think many of us can relate to the emotions that Eric is feeling in this song. For me, this song brought back memories of my time working in a retirement home throughout high school and college. In my seven years there, which was largely spent working in assisted living, I saw firsthand what Alzheimer’s and Dementia does to a person. This disease doesn’t care if you’ve got kids, a spouse, or loved ones. Or, as was the the case for Eric, if they’re “your dad, your coach, your friend.” Or “the voice behind ‘boy where the hell you been?'” Just as Eric Church watched his grandfather suffer from this disease, I saw many people’s grandparents also dealing with it. It’s a sad thing to witness up close and personal and anyone who’s ever had to deal with this can understand the words of this song all too well.

“I don’t wanna hear “he’s going downhill,”
What about “thank god he’s around still?”
Looking right through me is not at all the way I see him,
I don’t mind at all remembering for him,
He don’t have to get why I adore him,
He don’t have to know me, ’cause I know who he is”

Country music is sometimes described as being depressing, probably because of songs like this. But I don’t think these songs are meant to make you sad but instead they’re to help you realize that you’re not alone in whatever it is you’re going through. I hope this song has helped others to know that they are not alone.

“My Dad, my coach, my friend
The voice behind “Boy where the hell you been” 
The lover of my mamma through thick and thin 
The best man I’ve ever known 
All time quarterback when us kids were in a bind 
Cheek full of Red Man in a duck blind 
And no offense Doc
But if you don’t mind I’d like some time alone”

Hear William Michael Morgan’s version of this song in the video below.

 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and by 2050, this number could be as high as 16 million. For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association and to donate, please click here.

Currently listening to: Glen Campbell- “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Glen lost his life last month to Alzheimer’s. R.I.P. Rhinestone Cowboy!

“Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo”

Sturgill Simpson: A Metamodern Country Philosopher

Image result for sturgill simpson
“The Sturge” (Photo from RollingStone.com)

Apparently going to bed the night before a Sturgill Simpson concert is more exciting than going to bed on Christmas Eve. After counting down the days until I get to see him in concert for what seems like forever, the day has finally arrived! I’ll be seeing “The Sturge” in concert tonight at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland and wanted to do a post on the man himself for the occasion. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can say about him that hasn’t already been said. As Jason Isbell said (in an article that accurately called Sturgill a Country Philosopher), “Sturgill writes and sings songs exactly as a man named Sturgill should. He’s the genuine article, and his work reminds me of the country music I fell in love with as a kid: ornery, smart, and soulful.” And according to some commenters on YouTube, “Sturgill Simpson might be the greatest thing that ever happened to country music” and “goddamned philosopher ole Sturg is.” (Well said!) These comments pretty much describe what I think about “ole Sturg” so I won’t spend too much time talking about him as I would rather talk about his songs and let the music speak for itself. I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 favorite Sturgill Simpson songs below so that you can see for yourself what a great songwriter and singer this man is. But before I begin, I want to congratulate “The Sturge” on winning Album of the Year for A Sailor’s Guide to Earth at the Americana Honors and Awards this week. This is in addition to his Grammy win from earlier this year for “Best Country Album.”

The Sturge’s Top Ten

9 and 10. In his song “Life Ain’t Fair and the World is Mean,” from his first album High Top Mountain, Sturgill sang about hitting the road and finding the end of that long white line. Well, on his next album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, he followed through, releasing a song about doing just that in “Long White Line.” I enjoy the consistency found in Sturgill’s music and how certain themes flow from one album to the next, this being an example of that.

The former song also contains some great life advice because life AIN’T fair and the world IS mean!

“You ain’t gotta read between the lines you just gotta turn the page”

8. “Voices

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again- I’m not sure what a metamodern sound in country music is. Whatever that sound may be though, I’m totally into it, as it’s probably the sound that describes “Voices” and all of the other songs on Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. How many of us can relate to wanting the voices inside our head to go away? After all, as Sturgill says, “they ain’t got much to say.” As will be evident in the songs mentioned below, Sturgill is an incredible lyricist and “Voices” is a great example of where this talent shines through.

“I hear voices all around me in society’s depression
Over and over they recite their first impression
The rivers are all crying but the ocean cannot speak
Until her waters crash into uncharted shores so dark and bleak”

7. “Turtle’s All the Way Down

This might be Sturgill’s best known song as it’s his only song I’ve ever heard playing in public. To fully understand this song you might actually need to be strung out on drugs since this is what the song is about (he said so himself!) With that being said, I don’t fully understand what he’s singing about, but the Religion Major in me loves all of the religious references found in this song- from Jesus playing with flames in a lake of fire to Buddha showing him a glowing light within. Learning about the infinite regress problem of “turtles all the way down” in cosmology might also help you understand this song but I still say you need to be on drugs.

If you need a good laugh, watch minute 3:04 of his NPR Tiny Desk Concert as he winks after performing this song. I’m hoping he does that same wink at the concert tonight!

“So don’t waste your mind on nursery rhymes
Or fairy tales of blood and wine
It’s turtles all the way down the line”

6. “Call to Arms

Are y’all ready for a political song? Well Sturgill has got ya covered! He starts off the song by listing the countries of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea and asking how many more people are we going to send. He talks about sending our sons and daughters off to die for oil and to control heroin. His criticism doesn’t stop with the government though as the whole of society is also targeted in this song. He criticizes the average citizen saying, “nobody’s looking up to care about a drone, all too busy looking down at our phone.” I love that Sturgill isn’t afraid to sing about controversial topics like the ones found in this song. If there was ever an artist who was going to bring about a country music revolution, it would be this man and it would be because of songs like this.

This is the first song that really stood out to me on A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Not only did the lyrics grab my attention but so too did the wide variety of instruments found in this song like trumpets, trombones, and even bagpipes!

A hint of fatherly advice also comes through in this song as he sings, “well son I hope you don’t grow up believing that you’ve got to be a puppet to be a man.” Well said, Sturgill! (More about the fatherly advice found in this album below.)

“Wearing that Kim Jong-il hat
While your grandma’s selling pills stat
Meanwhile, I’m wearing my ‘can’t pay my fucking bills’ hat”

5. “Sea Stories

If you’ve ever wondered what life in the Navy would be like, just listen to this song. Sturgill’s speaking from experience in this song as he spent some time in the Navy himself after high school, getting some salt in his veins. He describes his military years as “thrilling and monotonous.” The more thrilling aspects included partying in Tokyo, which he describes as “out of control with women, drinking and fighting.” His time as a sailor is not only seen in this song but rather throughout the entire album (hence the title A Sailor’s Guide to Earth), which was written “from the perspective of a sailor going to sea and not knowing if he’s ever coming home.” This is a theme found in Sturgill’s family as his grandfather served in the Army and was in the South Pacific during World War II. He had written a goodbye letter to Sturgill’s grandmother and his newborn son while overseas as he thought he was going to die (he did wind up making it back home- five years later!)

It’s the last line in this song that’s my favorite and the cherry on top of a song that’s already great throughout- “but flying high beats dying for lies in a politician’s war.” Once again, ladies and gentlemen, here’s Sturgill singing about things that not a lot of other country artists will. I salute you, Sailor Sturgill!

This song will also give you a great Asian geography lesson!

“When I hit the ground running in Tokyo
From Kawasaki to Ebisu
Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Shinjuku
Shibuya, Ropongi, and Harajuku
Aw, from Pusan and Ko Chang, Pattaya to Phuket
From Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
Seen damn near the whole damn world
From the inside of a bar”

 

4. “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)

Many a country song has been written about being a dad. Take “There Goes My Life” by Kenny Chesney and “He Didn’t Have to Be,” a song about stepdads by Brad Paisley (which I wrote about for Father’s Day), for example. While there may be a plethora of great dad songs already out there, I think this song takes the cake. After all, the whole album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is about Sturgill becoming a father, being described as a “musical letter to his wife and kid.” Sturgill says, “I also wanted him [his son] to know that it’s very important to me that he doesn’t have to grow up and be this numb, callous person to feel like he’s a man.” This hope for this son comes through in this song, especially in lines like “I’ve been told you measure a man by how much he loves.” If Sturgill’s sons (since writing this album, he’s had another one) take the lessons from this album and apply them to their lives I’m sure they’ll grow up to be upstanding men.

The strings and horns in this song are also on point! Country music does not use enough horns, in my opinion. Thank you Sturgill for giving us horns (and great music!)

“I’ve been told you measure a man
By how much he loves
When I hold you
I treasure each moment I spend
On this earth, under heaven above”

3. “Just Let Go

Some people use music as a form of therapy and with songs like this it’s easy to see why. If there’s ever been anything you needed to let go of, this song will speak to you. It’s another one of Sturgill’s metamodern songs and contains references to Buddhism like transmigration and the bardo or “intermediate state.” This article can explain the concept of “bardo” a lot better than I can but to put it simply, “bardo refers to that state in which we have lost our old reality and it is no longer available to us.” The idea of letting go is important in the bardo, and as the same article also states, “when we have to let go, at times of great loss or when we depart from this body, then something else becomes possible. This is what emerges in the bardo—presence as the ground of being.” My background is not in Buddhism so the concept of the bardo is brand new to me, however, hearing Sturgill sing about this has made me want to learn more about it. A great songwriter will introduce you to new ideas and ways of thinking and that’s exactly what Sturgill does in this song.

Religion major nerd alert on full effect again!

“Am I dreaming? Am I dying?
Either way I don’t mind at all
Oh, it feels so good you just can’t help but crying
Oh, you have to let go so the soul may fall”

2. “You Can Have the Crown

“They call me King Turd up here on Shit Mountain but if you want it you can have the crown” 

Despite all the great lyrics discussed above, I still say that this is the best line in any of his songs. In “You Can Have the Crown,” he sings about the struggles of being a songwriter, and “trying to write a song that’ll pay the bills.” If only he could just get himself a record deal he wouldn’t have to rob a bank (kinda extreme, right?) This song is off his first album High Top Mountain and I think that now, with three stellar albums under his belt, it’s safe to say that he’s gotten over his struggle and written a good song or twenty.

I wonder if he ever figured out what rhymes with Bronco….

“Well, I been spending all my money on weed n’ pills
Trying to write a song that’ll pay the bills
But it ain’t came yet so I guess I’ll have to rob a bank

I guess it could be worse it ain’t that bad
At least I ain’t sitting in old Baghdad
in the middle of the hot damn desert sitting in a tank”

1. “Water in a Well

Coming in at number one is “Water in a Well” off of High Top Mountain. Before performing this song on the NPR Tiny Desk Concert, he said that this one was for the ladies, then he later corrected himself and said they’re all for the ladies. On behalf of us ladies, we say thank you!

“Water in a Well” is a song about moving on after a love has ended but articulated and sung about in a way that only Sturgill can. When you find your love drying up like water in a well just put this song on and let Sturgill’s voice wash over you. I could write more about why I love this song or you could just listen to it for yourself and try to figure out why. Seeing as how I’ve included the video below, I think I’m gonna leave this one up to you!

“Lord knows I’ve tried to move on
And get you out of my mind
You find your way in to all of my songs
Every memory I manage to find
Someday if I’m standing on some big old stage
And you’re down in the crowd
Trying to tell your friends I used to know him when
But in your heart you’ll know it ain’t true somehow
Trying like hell but it’s too soon to tell
If our love has all dried up like water in a well”

 

Honorable Mentions: Live a Little (Brace for Impact),” “Breaker’s Roar” and “Some Days.” Or basically any Sturgill Simpson song!

Here’s to hoping Sturgill plays all these songs in concert tonight! Who knows? Maybe I’ll find some new favorite songs after the night is over. Also, if you’re at the concert, look for me! I’ll be the girl wearing the “Who the Fuck is Sturgill Simpson” t-shirt!

Currently listening to: Willie Nelson- “I’d Have to Be Crazy.” Sturgill covers a version of this song on High Top Mountain and does a damn good job!

You’re Preaching to the (Eric) Church Choir

Happy Sunday, y’all! I’m happy to see that y’all are choosing to spend it in Church!

It’s been a lovely weekend here in the DMV. Yesterday I even went to a Country Bar Crawl on 14th Street. I won’t spend too much time complaining about the posers that were there but I will say that not one person commented on my Eric Church t-shirt! And also only one of the bars was playing “country” music. There were, however, lots of people wearing flannel, boots, and cowboy hats. It kinda reminded me of a line from Sturgill Simpson’s “Some Days“- “I’m tired of y’all playing dress up and trying to sing them old country songs.” Anyway, enough about that. On a more positive and way cooler note, I’m seeing Sturgill in concert on Friday night and am super excited since this will be my first time seeing him live! And I’ve even got the perfect t-shirt for the occasion, it says, “Who the Fuck is Sturgill Simpson?” Thankfully, everyone at the concert will know who the F he is. And the concert should be f’in great!

Now let’s get to the Church sermon.

“You’re Preaching to the Choir”

We all know the expression, “you’re preaching to the choir.” It’s used when someone says something that you already agree with. Or, according to Urban Dictionary (a very reputable source), “preaching to the choir means you are trying to make believers out of people who already believe, or convince people who are already convinced.” That’s often how I feel when I listen to Eric Church as many of the things he sings about express how I already think and feel. Eric Church isn’t just preaching to the Church Choir, he’s preaching to the choir as I think even people who aren’t members of the Church Choir can agree with a lot of the things he sings about.

Here are some of the statements that Eric makes in his songs that I wholeheartedly agree with, or rather, when Eric made me say, “you’re preaching to the choir!”

“Any song sung by George Strait is country at its best”

Image result for eric church and george strait
The Chief and The King. (Photo from TheBoot.com)

You got that Strait! (See what I did there?) Whether it’s “Amarillo by Morning” or “Troubadour,” you can bet that King George (as I like to call him) is singing a song that showcases country music at its best. Eric and I aren’t the only ones who feel this way about King George- the man had 60 number one hits in his 33-year career, more than any other performer in history. All Hail the King!

From: “Love Your Love The Most”

“I believe dogs are better than cats”

My loudest cheer at an Eric Church concert probably comes right after he sings this line. I’ve never felt so strongly about a song lyric before (joking, obviously). Though I do 100% agree that dogs are better than cats. Dogs love you no matter what but with cats you have to earn their love- ain’t nobody got time for that! You can’t take your cat for a walk. You can’t play fetch with your cat. Cats also won’t alert you when someone is breaking into your house. I could go on but I won’t- you guys get the point. Dogs > Cats.

From: “Before She Does” 

[Sidenote: this might be the only line in this song that I agree with. I’ll get to that in a later post.]

“Most days in life don’t stand out, but life’s about those days that will”

Ask me what I was doing on June 12th, 2012 and I wouldn’t be able to give you a very detailed answer. But ask me what I was doing on April 21, 2017 and I’ll tell you about the Eric Church concert I went to in Pittsburgh. Or ask me what I was doing on New Years Eve in 2013 and I’ll tell you about how I spent my holiday in Lebanon. These are days that stand out to me so it’s easy to remember exactly what I was doing on those days. Eric’s right in that most of the days in our life won’t stand out for being great but some days will, and it’s those days that make life worth living.

From: “Talladega” 

“I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for those I’ve loved along the way”

We’ve all lost someone at some point in our life, either from death or from life changes, like a breakup or a friendship ending. And as Eric points out, each person we’ve known and lost helped to make us who we are today. It’s a nice message- instead of being resentful to people for leaving, you should thank them for what they taught you and for making you the person you are today.

From: “Those I’ve Loved” 

“I don’t need baggy clothes or rings in my nose to be cool” 

I’ll even take this one a bit further and say that I don’t even need rings in my ears. I’ve gone 27 years without any piercings or tattoos and I’m still pretty dang cool. I don’t think the message here is that you are cool only if you don’t have piercings, tattoos, etc. but that you can be cool with or without these things. You just do you and don’t worry about trying to fit in. And if Eric doesn’t need baggy clothes or piercings to be cool then neither do I!

From: “How ‘Bout You” 

“The player’s gonna play and a haters gonna hate and a regulators born to regulate”

Since this song came out before Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” you can’t say that Eric stole this anti-player and anti-hater line from her. Although he may have been influenced by 3LW’s “Playas Gon’ Play….”  but that’s just speculation on my part. There’s not really much to say about this line as it pretty much speaks for itself. Players are gonna play, haters are gonna hate, and regulators are most definitely gonna regulate. Don’t say Eric didn’t warn you! Just stick with the Outsider crowd and you’ll be good.

From: “The Outsiders” 

“When you’re wrong you should just say so”

I already wrote about this line in my Father’s Day post, “Acting Like a Three Year Old: A Father’s Day Post,” but it’s such an important lesson that I have to include it again. Just admit when you’re wrong- it sounds simple but can actually be quite difficult, which is why this line can’t be emphasized enough. Fessing up to doing something wrong can be difficult at times but you’ll always feel better after you do it. And it’s also part of being a decent human being. If a three year old can do it, so can us adults!

From: “Three Year Old” 

Sundays are for Preaching

These are just a few of the examples of Eric Church preaching to the (Eric) Church Choir! I don’t mind listening to his preaching though, especially since I can often use the reminder. In fact, I might be going to hear him do some preachin’ next Sunday at the Outlaw Country Festival. After all, Sundays are for Church (and for Preachin’)!

 

Currently listening to: 3LW- “Playas Gon’ Play” and “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right).” Some of you may not know that I missed my true calling in life of being in an all girls group. I could’ve seen myself in a 3LW type group, or maybe even TLC. As long as I got to break out in a rap every once in a while, I would’ve been content. Since that never happened (and most likely never will), I’ll stick to dancing (and rapping) in my living room to these songs and pretending I’m in one.

“Playas, they gonna play
And haters, they gonna hate
Ballers, they gonna ball
Shot callers, they gonna call
That ain’t got nothin’ to do
With me and you
That’s the way it is
That’s the way it is”