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!

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The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of September 11, 2017)

I usually try to start off these posts with a joke or by saying something clever about it being Monday. However, since today is the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11, I’ll start instead by taking this opportunity to remember those we lost on this day sixteen years ago.

The Tracks I’m Playing 

Tyler Childers- “Feathered Indians.” This song had me from the very first lines:

Well my buckle makes impressions
On the inside of her thigh
There are little feathered Indians
Where we tussled through the night”

Damn.

Tyler is a great songwriter and his Kentucky accent makes these songs even more enjoyable to listen to. With that being said, if anyone has an extra ticket to Tyler’s show at Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House in DC on September 29th and would be willing to part with it, I would be forever in your debt! Help a sister out!

Kip Moore- “Blonde.” If you haven’t listened to Kip Moore’s new album SLOWHEART stop what you’re doing right now and go listen! It just came out on Friday so I don’t really expect you to have listened to it yet. I’m still listening to it myself and so far “Blonde” has been my favorite song. I might be a little biased if I say that this is a great album because admittedly I have a huge crush on Kip Moore.

“You ain’t even blonde girl
Or even true to your roots” 

Ryan Bingham- “Southside Of Heaven.” I don’t believe in heaven but if I did I would want to be on the Southside of it, that’s for sure. I love Ryan’s rough voice and his accompanying rough exterior. If guys that sing like this are on the Southside of heaven, then that’s definitely the side I would want to be on.

Luke Bell- “Loretta.” Is there anything more country then Luke Bell singing a song about a woman named Loretta? I didn’t think so. The next time someone tells you that they aren’t making country music like they used to, play them some Luke Bell and watch them shut up as you prove them wrong. Even the cover of his self-titled album looks like it belongs in a past decade. As long as he keeps making songs like this, I’ll gladly keep him around in this decade!

Lucinda Williams- “Lake Charles.” It’s funny how some songs find their way into our lives and this song is no exception. I saw a line from this song on the back of a Lucinda Williams t-shirt a few weeks ago. The guy wearing the shirt was standing in front of me in line at the Ray Wylie Hubbard concert at Hill Country BBQ in DC. The line on the back of his shirt read, “we used to drive through Lafayette and Baton Rouge in a yellow Camino.” There might’ve been more but that’s all I remember. And I think there was a yellow Camino on the front of the t-shirt. I figured the song that this line came from must be really good to have its own t-shirt so I looked up the lyrics later and found “Lake Charles.” I’ve listened to it over and over and the more I listen to it the more I wanna go to Lake Charles, Louisiana. I’m grateful to that random man in front of me for choosing to wear that specific shirt on that specific night and peaking my curiosity enough to look this song up. I understand why this song got its own t-shirt now!

“We used to drive
Through Lafayette and Baton Rouge
In a yellow Camino
Listening to Howling Wolf
He liked to stop in Lake Charles
Cause that’s the place that he loved”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- “Chaos and Clothes.” It’s been awhile since I’ve included Jason Isbell so don’t give me that look! After watching his incredible NPR Tiny Desk Concert last night (recorded last month), I thought it would be fitting to have him on today’s post. Not only was Jason cracking jokes during his performance (including one about Abraham Lincoln- very DC of him!) but he even called a random person from the audience up to play guitar during “Last of My Kind,” which is my favorite song off of his latest album. Shout out to Ashwin, wherever you are! He started off the concert with “Chaos and Clothes,” another great song from The Nashville Sound that I’ve come to love since this album came out this summer. If you’ve got 20 minutes to kill (or 20 minutes that you wanna spend wisely) check out Jason’s performance of these two songs along with “Molotov” from the NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

R.I.P. 

Not only are we remembering those lost on 9/11 today but country music also lost two great artists last Friday- Don Williams a.k.a. the Gentle Giant and Troy Gentry, one half of Montgomery Gentry. In their honor, I’m including some Don Williams and Montgomery Gentry songs in this week’s post.

Don Williams- “Tulsa Time,” “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” and I Believe In You.” Ever since hearing the news about Don, I’ve set my watch back to Tulsa Time in his memory. Don had some great songs during his career including my three favorite songs listed above. Earlier this year, some of my favorite artists (The Pistol Annies, Brandy Clark, Jason Isbell, Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks) even recorded an album featuring his best songs titled Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams. I’m glad he got to see this come together in his lifetime!

“Some broken hearts never mend,
Some memories never end,
Some tears will never dry,
My love for you will never die”

Montgomery Gentry- “Lonely and Gone” and She Couldn’t Change Me.” These are probably my two favorite Montgomery Gentry songs. It’s been a long time since I really listened to these guys but now seems like as good a time as any to start playing them again. I can remember thinking how great of a song “Lonely and Gone” was when I was younger. And I loved the whole story behind “She Couldn’t Change Me,” from the hair dying to the change in the woman’s taste in music as she changed her life and her relationship.

“She changed direction, headed back home
She changed her tune, it’s all Haggard and Jones
Had her dark brown hair pulled back and the bluest eyes you ever seen
She changed everything when she couldn’t change me”

R.I.P. Don and Troy!

Beltway Boots on Spotify

Don’t forget that all of the music featured in my posts can be found on my Spotify playlists (beltwayboots)!

Currently listening to: A whole lotta Sturgill Simpson! Not sure if I’ve told y’all (I have) but I’m seeing him in concert on Friday! I’ve been listening to so much of him in preparation for the big night and still haven’t gotten sick of him. A true testament of a great artist! Be on the lookout for a post on Friday where I’ll write about my favorite songs from The Sturge!

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”

The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of August 21, 2017)

As y’all know, there’s a solar eclipse happening today. I guess this is the universe’s way of trying to make a Monday exciting. I’m honestly scared of going blind so will probably not be going outside to watch it and will stick to watching it online. Lame, I know.

The Tracks I’m Playing

Townes Van Zandt- “Waiting Around to Die.” I know what you’re thinking and it’s probably something along the lines of, “come on, Brittany, this old song from 1968!?” Well, let me explain myself. I actually first heard this song thanks to Whitey Morgan and the 78’s who covered it on their 2015 album Sonic Ranch. However, as these things usually go, I found the original Townes Van Zandt version soon after and realized how amazing it is. So while this song may be old as dirt, it’s a classic and deserves recognition for being so. It also came in at number 31 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “40 Saddest Country Songs of All Time.” Even if the song might make you blue, I would still suggest that you go ahead and give it a listen, I mean, it’s easier than just waiting around to die!

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s- “Bad News.” Since I talked about Whitey above, it only seems fair to give him his own mention here…even if he is bad news everywhere he goes and always gettin’ in trouble and leaving them girls that hate to see him go. Slow your roll, Whitey!

Anderson East- “All On My Mind.” Though not “country” per se, this American rhythm and blues artist dates Miranda Lambert and is featured on the Southern Family album that I wrote about last week, so I see no issue with including him here. The rhythm and blues world that he’s a part of is not one that I had really tapped into before and shame on me because this guy is great and everything I’ve heard so far I really like. Take “Satisfy Me” and “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em,” for example. Both are excellent songs!

Margo Price- “Four Years of Chances.” Whether it’s been four days, four weeks, four months, or in Margo’s case, four years, there’s a good chance that at some point you gave someone way too many chances. Hopefully you realized it before 1,461 days had passed by! My favorite thing about this song? When Margo sings the word, “chances.” She realizes she gave you several years too many of these and it can’t help but come through when she sings.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats- “I Need Never Get Old.” Like with Anderson East, I’ve been exploring artists that I typically wouldn’t have since starting this blog and Nathaniel Rateliff is one of those. His sound is influenced by folk, Americana, and vintage rhythm and blues so I guess this places him somewhere in the middle. Whatever category you choose to place him in, I’m a fan. I particularly like the saxophone and trumpet that are found in this song. If you’re a fan and haven’t seen his performance of this song on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series, I would suggest checking it out.

Sturgill Simpson- “It Ain’t All Flowers.” This song is from The Sturge’s album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and it’s one of his many songs that I’m currently digging. I’m not 100% sure what a metamodern sound is, especially in regards to country music, but I feel like this song comes pretty close to being the epitome of what that sound might be. I’m slowly counting down the days until I see him in concert (25 days!) and making sure I’m prepared by listening to as much of him as I can. Needless to say, it’s been great!

“But it ain’t all flowers
Sometimes you gotta feel the thorns”

Thanks for the Shout Out, Mr. Hubbard!

Ray Wylie Hubbard- “Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can.” Since I saw him in concert on Friday night and since his new album by the same name came out on Friday, it only makes since that Ray Wylie Hubbard is on this list. And Eric Church sings on this song, along with Lucinda Williams, so yeah, I’m including it!

Also, on Friday, August 18th at approximately 11:30 p.m., Ray Wylie Hubbard mentioned Beltway Boots while on stage at Hill Country BBQ in Washington, DC!!! I kid you not he actually mentioned “Beltway Boots” while on stage and said, “she’s supposed to be here tonight.” Well, I was definitely there and I definitely heard you mention Beltway Boots! That was pretty freakin’ awesome so thanks, Ray Wylie! I’ve finally achieved my 5 seconds of fame, y’all!

Apparently there’s no video up for this song on YouTube but if you wanna listen to it, I’ve added it to my Spotify playlist “The Tracks I’m Playing” where you can find all of the songs that I write about each week.

The Dime Store Cowgirl Birthday Girl 

And since today is this Dime Store Cowgirl’s birthday, Kacey Musgraves- “Good Ol’ Boys Club is also a track I’m playing. This is one of my favorite song of hers because it further affirms my longheld belief that trying to be a part of the good ol’ boys club just ain’t worth it! Cigars and handshakes? I appreciate ya but no thanks! Happy Birthday, Kacey!

“I don’t need a membership to validate
The hard work I put in and the dues I paid
Never been to good at just goin’ along
I guess I’ve always kind of been for the underdog”

Currently listening to: Bonnie Tyler- “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Isn’t this what everyone is listening to today? Be sure to protect your eyes today people! I don’t want you to be singing “Blinded by the Light” when it’s all said and done.

That Good Ole Liberal Country Music (Yep, you read that right!)

It’s hard being a liberal country music fan sometimes, especially when you’ve got artists like Toby Keith and Alabama performing for Donald Trump. Toby Keith even took things a step further by performing for Trump on his trip to Saudi Arabia in May. Was he finally going to put a boot in their ass for 9/11?? Nope. Instead he went to kiss some ass (who goes by the name of Donald Trump) by performing a free concert, which was for men only. This might’ve been the first time in Saudi history that women had the advantage over men by not having to sit through that. Though it has been said that Toby Keith is not a supporter of Donald Trump, actions speak louder than words, and his actions are saying otherwise. And Alabama, really!? The same band that sings, “Daddy was a veteran, a southern democrat, They oughta get a rich man to vote like that” in “Song of the South!” Where did these guys go?

Not only do you have country artists cozying up to Trump but the lyrics of some country songs are pretty dang awful. I practically had to pick my jaw up off the ground when I was listening to David Allan Coe’s “If That Ain’t Country” not too long ago and heard the n-word. I even Googled the lyrics just to be sure I didn’t mishear him. I didn’t. He actually said it. As I looked more into Coe’s music, I found that in the ’80s, he released an underground album with a song that has a title too offensive to post here because it contains, you guessed it, the n-word again. If you’re curious about this song, there’s a whole world wide web where you can look this up for yourself. It might just be the liberal snowflake (sarcasm) in me getting offended by things but I think these songs should offend most people, not just us beautiful snowflakes.

Thankfully, for liberal country music fans like myself, there are people like Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, and Will Hoge out there who have restored my faith that there are other like-minded people in this genre.

Not Your Typical Country Song (And Thank Goodness!)

On Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit‘s new album, The Nashville Sound, there’s a song called “White Man’s World.” In addition to discussing race, looking at both African Americans and Native Americans in this country, this song also takes a swing at the patriarchy.

Isbell appeared on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah where he discussed this song along with the emotions that he was feeling the day after Trump won the election, especially in regards to his daughter. In this interview, Isbell said, “The thing that popped into my mind first was ‘Thank God she’s an infant, because I don’t have to explain any of this to her. She’ll figure it out as she grows up, but if she was a couple of years older I would have to be like, ‘OK, honey here’s what happened today and this is why your father doesn’t really know anything about human people in this country anymore.'”

In “White Man’s World,” Isbell brings up the emotions that he was feeling in regards to his daughter after the election by singing about how he once thought this world could be hers, but her momma knew better (her momma being Jason’s wife, singer/songwriter Amanda Shires Isbell). He also talks about looking into a black man’s eyes and “wishing [he’d] never been one of the guys who pretended not to hear another white man’s joke.” These are all topics you’re not likely to find in many country songs, making this song, and Jason’s outspokenness about politics, all that more important and necessary in these troubling times.

Love Trumps Hate


Not only are country songs dealing with the political issues of the day but so too are their music videos. In his video (see below) for “All Around You,” Sturgill Simpson shows a young boy draped in a cape with a superhero mask across his eyes who goes on to battle an enemy who has an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump (take a look at minute 2:34, which is also pictured above.) He manages to defeat this Trumpian enemy with his heart-shaped shield, which he uses to make a hole in this guy’s wall (sound familiar?) for people to walk through. Hearts appear in other parts of the video from the ring on the young superhero’s finger to the shape of the stars that illuminate the sky after his defeat. This song comes from Sturgill’s Grammy Award winning album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, which he wrote as a letter to his son and wife. I can only imagine that Sturgill sees his sons (he now has two) reflected in the little boy in this video. The fact that he’s probably teaching them to use love to combat the hateful things taking place in this world makes me love Sturgill even more than I already did (and that was a lot!)

 

This isn’t the first time (and I’m sure it won’t be the last) that Sturgill Simpson has gotten political in his music. Take the lyrics from his song “Call to Arms” for example.

“I done Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran
North Korea tell me where does it end
Well the bodies keep piling up with every day
How many more of em they gonna send

Well they send their sons and daughters off to die
For some oil
To control the heroin
Well son I hope you don’t grow up
Believing that you’ve got to be a puppet to be a man”

Country music needs more artists like Sturgill Simpson who aren’t afraid to get political in their songs and music videos!

[Side note: if you aren’t familiar with the genius that is Sturgill Simpson, please take some time to familiarize yourself. This man is one of the best things to happen to country music in a looong time!]

Love Whomever You Damn Well Please

I couldn’t write this post without including my girl Kacey Musgraves. In 2014, she won Song of the Year at the CMA Awards for her song, “Follow Your Arrow.” Despite this achievement, Kacey got some crap for this song. With lines like “Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into” and encouraging people to roll up a joint (or don’t), people’s panties definitely got in a bunch over this song. According to Fox News, some people saw the song as an “attack on Christians” (insert picture of me rolling my eyes here.) With Trump’s announcement last week that transgender people will no longer be allowed to serve in the military, more friends of the LGBTQ community need to speak up and speak out. Kacey not only did this with her music but she also tweeted her support of pride month back in June and even wrote a love letter to the LGBTQ community featured on Billboard.

To all the members of the LGBTQ community- keep following your arrow!

That Damn Confederate Flag

Country music is synonymous with the south, which unfortunately often brings to mind images of Confederate flags. Thankfully, there are country artists speaking out against this ugly flag in their music. When it comes to the stars and bars, Will Hoge ain’t having it. In his song, “Still a Southern Man,” he makes it clear that you can be a southerner and not support the Confederate flag. However, he hasn’t always felt this way. Growing up in South Carolina, Hoge “used to proudly wave the Confederate flat at high school football games.” After all, his school’s mascot was the rebel soldier. It wasn’t until he graduated and began traveling and meeting people from different walks of life that he finally saw the flag for what it really is: a symbol of “slavery, oppression and secession.” He discusses this realization in his song where he calls the flag “a hammer driving nails in the coffin of a long dead land.”

“There’s a flag flying overhead
And I used to think it meant one thing
But now I’ve grown up and seen the world
And I know what it really means
I wanted it to be the symbol of a boy
Who wasn’t scared to take a stand
But now I know it’s just a hammer driving nails
In the coffin of a long dead land”

The artists that have been mentioned in this post are all newer artists, but as Steve Earle shows, the older guys are also getting in on this. Earle sang about his disdain for the Confederate flag in his 2015 song, “Mississippi It’s Time.” In this song, he tries to reason with Mississippi that it’s time for the flag to come down. As the song states, “we can’t move ahead if we’re lookin’ behind.” Another major kudos goes to the “Copperhead Road” singer for giving all of the proceeds from this song to the Civil Rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center.

Look away, Mississippi
Mississippi, you’re on my mind
All the crosses burned and the lessons unlearned
Left a scar across my heart and it’s ten miles wide
Sick of sloggin’ through the history of this wounded land of mine
Still payin’ the cost cause the war was lost
Mississippi, don’t you reckon it’s time

I wish I was in a land that never held a soul in bondage ever
Wouldn’t have to drag these chains behind 
Mississippi, it’s time

Us liberals know the true meaning of this flag (it’s slavery- anyone who says differently needs to quit kidding themselves) and appreciate artists like Will Hoge and Steve Earle for speaking up about this.

Final Thoughts

Although Johnny Cash never lived to see a Trump presidency (or evan a candidacy- that lucky son of a gun!), I’d like to think that if he were alive today, that he would be opposed to this administration. Because if not, what was wearing all that black really for?

The Soundtrack to My Safari: The Tracks I Played in Kenya

I have this thing where I pretty much have to be listening to music (or Netflix, etc.) at all times. With the exception of being at work, I rarely sit in silence. So of course when I travel, as there is often a lot of time spent waiting for planes, waiting in lines, riding in cars/buses, etc., I spend a lot of time with my headphones in listening to music. In preparation for my trip to Kenya, where I traveled earlier this month, I made sure my Spotify account was loaded up. Let me just say that one does not truly appreciate the download option on Spotify until they’re forced to go days without (or with very limited) Wi-Fi or data. Thankfully, being the planner that I am, I had downloaded plenty of songs beforehand, which was especially useful during my four day safari to Maasai Mara National Reserve and Lake Nakuru. I made sure to include both new music along with old favorites (like Waylon, Merle, and George.) In this post, I will focus on the newer stuff, all of which will forever remain on my playlists. I’m sure I’ll be calling these songs “old favorites” one day!

The Soundtrack to My Safari

Kurt Vile- Pretty Pimpin.” This is probably the song I played the most. I mean you try listening to it without it getting stuck in your head (spoiler: you can’t). It’s the perfect song to play during almost any kind of activity- riding around in a safari van, getting ready in the morning, walking to work, you name it. You can guarantee that anything you do while listening to this song will be pretty pimpin!

Margo Price- How the Mighty Have Fallen” and other songs from her album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter including “Tennessee Song” and “Hands of Time.” What’s cool is that Margo’s commentary on this album is also on Spotify. It’s always nice to get a little background info on a song before you listen to it, especially when the songs are autobiographical and personal, like “Hands of Time.” In the period of time that has passed since I’ve come back from Kenya and writing this post, Margo has released a new EP titled, Weakness, which I’m excited to start exploring.

John Mayer- Never on the Day You Leave.” If there’s one person who understands breakups, it’s John Mayer. And of course he understands that you can still miss lots of things about someone even after you leave them- even their crazy family. Anyone who has ever missed someone after breaking up with them can relate to this song. I’m still not sure if this song is considered “country” but if John Mayer can write a post-breakup song this good, I think there’s a place for him in country music.

“No, it’s never on the day you leave
That you remember Christmas Eve
And all the things you miss about her crazy family
You’ll know how lonely it is to see 
A little drug store Christmas tree
But never, never on the day you leave”

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit-Last of My Kind.” This song about a country boy feeling misplaced in the city and wondering if he’s the last of his kind completely won me over. It also made me kinda sad because I realized that Jason Isbell is indeed the last of his kind. Sigh.

William Clark Green- Old Fashioned.” While I was listening to Jason Isbell singing about being the last of his kind, William Clark Green was also letting me know that “them good old boys are few and far between.” I’m afraid that the Jason Isbells and the “good old boys” are both dying breeds. If we could get a conservation group going for this endangered species that would be great. Just send me your donation for this great cause!

(In all seriousness, there are many actual endangered animals out there. In Kenya, two of the endangered animals are the Grevy’s Zebra and the Black Rhino, both of which I got to see on my trip. For more information and to donate to African Wildlife Foundation, click here.)

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats- S.O.B.” I looked Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats up when I saw that they were performing at the Outlaw Music Festival with Willie Nelson, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow, and the Avett Brothers in September. I figured if they were in such good company that they too must be good. Finding this fun, toe-tapping song was the result of that search.

Cody Jinks- Loud and Heavy.” I like songs that get straight to the point and this song does just that. Cody doesn’t waste any time once this song starts, jumping straight into that “loud thunder heavy rain” line in the first second. Cody makes great company for long car rides!

Sturgill Simpson- I know this is the first time I’ve mentioned “The Sturge” on this blog (better late than never, right?) but it’s mainly because I was holding out as I felt he deserved his own post. However, as I’ve yet to write that post, I didn’t want to leave Sturgill out too much longer. Some of his songs that I listened to were “Welcome to Earth (Polywog),” “Sea Stories,” and “All Around You.” All of these songs are from his latest Grammy Award Winning album A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. At other points on this trip when I did have Internet, I also listened to stuff from his older albums Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and High Top Mountain which made for a very Sturgill holiday. Trust me when I tell you that a post dedicated to “The Sturge” is coming. Also, how are y’all feeling about the nickname “The Sturge?” I’m kinda digging it.

When I listen to any one of these songs now, I’m reminded of a specific time during my trip when that song was playing in my headphones. I bet Jason Isbell never thought one of his songs would bring to mind a memory of driving around Maasai Mara looking for giraffes and elephants (although one of his best songs is titled, “Elephant,” so maybe? But probably not.)

I did listen to plenty of other songs not listed above, however, most of those songs have already been written about in my past “The Tracks I’m Playing” posts. This includes people like Lori McKenna, Ruston Kelly, and Ashley Monroe.

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Maasai Mara National Reserve (July 2017)

Thanks Kurt, Margo, John, Jason, William, Nathaniel, Cody, and “The Sturge” for coming with me to Kenya! I hope y’all enjoyed the trip!

Currently listening to: Chris Stapleton- “Traveller

“I’m just a traveler on this earth
Sure as my heart’s behind the pocket of my shirt
I’ll just keep rolling till I’m in the dirt
‘Cause I’m a traveler, oh, I’m a traveler”