Friends I’ve Met through (Eric) Church

I hope everyone is having a great Sunday catching up with all of their Church friends! I’ve been catching up with some of my favorite people that I’ve met through Church and wanted to introduce y’all to some of these guys. These are all friends that I’ve met through Church, or rather, in Eric Church songs. If it hadn’t been for Church, me and these friends might’ve never met!

Without further ado, let’s get the introductions started!

My Friend Danny

On Mr. Misunderstood On the Rocks Live & (Mostly) Unplugged, Eric’s live album from his shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre last summer, he includes a version of “Mistress Named Music,” which is the “Mistress Named Music-Red Rocks Medley.” In the middle of this song, he breaks out into Bob Seger, Loggins and Messina, Little Feat, Billy Joel, and George Strait, turning this song into an almost nine minute long medley with his musical idols weaved into the middle of it. One of the songs that he sings is “Danny’s Song” by Loggins and Messina off of their Sittin’ In album. Even though Eric only sings the chorus in this song, it was enough to make me wanna find the whole song. I instantly fell in love with this song and am so thankful that Danny (and his song) are now a part of my life.

It was also in this song that I met Lowell George, Bill Payne, Roy Estrada, and Richie Hayward aka the guys of Little Feat. Together me and these guys have gone from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonapah- the places mentioned in their song “Willin‘,” which Eric also sings in this medley.

My Voodoo Queen Friend Marie Laveau 

In “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)” Eric references Bobby Bare and it was through this song that he and I first met. And as Church connections usually go, Bobby Bare then introduced me to Marie Laveau. Now I’m not one to partake in Church gossip, but if I was, Marie Laveau would definitely be at the center of it. I mean, after all, she’s a voodoo queen who casts spells on men and makes them disappear. While she may be the topic of Church gossip, we could all use a friend who possesses the power to make people disappear, so I’m keeping her around!

My Red Headed Stranger Friend

It was at Church that I met a red headed stranger from Blue Rock, Montana. Over time, this stranger and I have become quite good friends and I’m happy to say that he’s no longer a stranger (nor a redhead as he’s mostly grey these days). The friend I’m talking about is none other than Willie Nelson. His album, “Red Headed Stranger” is one that Eric rediscovers during his “Record Year,” while also getting down with some James Brown. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know who was Willie Nelson was but learning about his discography, and specifically about the Red Headed Stranger album, was something that came from Church. If I could offer one piece of advice for getting to know my Red Headed Stranger friend, it would be “don’t cross him [and] don’t boss him!”

Eric also sings about New Grass Revival in “Record Year.” Apparently, I had found them years ago in the form of Garth Brooks’ “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and just didn’t know it. This is one of my favorite Garth songs (the live version, especially!) but I gotta give credit where credit is due because if it weren’t for NGR this song wouldn’t exist.

For more NGR, check out “In The Middle of the Night,” which I discovered on Eric’s Spotify playlist, “Round Here Buzz.”

My Misunderstood Friends

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

I wrote about Ray Wylie Hubbard in my post about finding the devil through Church. Ironically, he’s been one of my favorite people I’ve met through Church. Hubbard was mentioned in “Mr. Misunderstood” along with Elvis Costello and Jeff Tweedy. Of course I knew who Elvis Costello was before Eric name dropped him in “Mr. Misunderstood,” but despite knowing who he was, I never gave him much attention, that was until Eric convinced me to give him a fair chance. The first Elvis Costello song that I really came to like was “A Good Year for the Roses.” After looking this song up, it was easy to see why I liked this song so much- it was originally a country song, first sang by George Jones. From Church to Costello to The Possum, the connections I’ve made through Church have been endless!

While I’m still not sure if Jeff Tweedy is really one bad mother, I’ve been trying my hardest to get into Wilco, which has been Tweedy’s band since 1994. One Wilco song I’ve found that I really like is “Jesus, etc.” (fitting for Church, right?) It’s been said that Eric’s “Mr. Misunderstood” resembles a 1996 song from Wilco titled, “Misunderstood” in that it “matches a touch of melody and tempo” and shares themes found in this song. If Jeff Tweedy was the inspiration behind “Mr. Misunderstood,” then I guess he really is one bad mother.

I’m happy to have Tweedy join my group of misunderstood Church friends along with Costello and Hubbard. After all, Church is supposed to be about inclusion, right?

Are You Sure Eric Done It This Way? 

Eric’s Carolina album includes the song, “Lotta Boot Left to Fill,” in which he sings, “I don’t think Waylon done it this way, And if he was here he’d say Hoss neither did Hank.” This line is inspired by a Waylon Jennings song, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” In these two songs, Waylon and Eric are each critical of the state of country music at the time of their writing and wonder about how their idols did things in their time. For Waylon, it was Hank Williams and for Eric it was Waylon Jennings that set the gold standard on how things should be done. I have no doubt that this song played a huge role in my love of Waylon Jennings that started years ago as it began around the same time that I saw Eric perform this song in concert back in 2011. Out of all of my Church friends, I’d have to say that Waylon and I are the closest. I mean, after all, ladies do love outlaws!

There’s already a song about about Eric’s music (Marc Leach’s “She Don’t Go To Church,” which I wrote about here) and I wouldn’t be surprised if years from now someone is singing, “Are You Sure Eric Done It This Way?”

That’s How I Got to Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare, and Whitey Morgan

I mentioned in my post about Eric’s live performances that he often plays a song specific to the city that he’s in when he’s on tour so when Eric performed in Southaven, Mississippi, which is just minutes outside of Memphis, it only made sense that “That’s How I Got to Memphis” was on the setlist. Originally sung by Tom T. Hall, this song has been covered by Bobby Bare, Whitey Morgan, Roseanne Cash, The Avett Brothers, Buddy Miller, and many others. I’m not sure how these guys got there, but Eric Church is how I got to Memphis. He’s also how I made some friends named Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare, and Whitey Morgan.

Meeting Friends through Church Recommendations 

It hasn’t just been through his music that Eric has turned me on to new artists but also through his recommendations. In an interview Eric did with Bobby Bones three years ago (that I watched on YouTube in London- before I even knew who Bobby Bones was), Bobby asked what artists Eric liked and he gave the names Amos Lee and Brandy Clark. Immediately after, I gave each of these artists a listen and became fans of both. To this day, Amos Lee’s “Chill In the Air” is still one of my all-time favorite songs. I also found Brandy Clark’s “Stripes” which led me to her first album, 12 Stories. A few months later, after I had returned from London, Brandy was the opening act at an Eric Church concert that I attended and I made sure to meet her and get her autograph that night. My only regret about doing this was that I practically missed all of Dwight Yoakam’s performance while I was waiting in line to meet her. Sorry, Dwight!

Amos and Brandy are two examples of friends that I didn’t necessarily meet through Church but rather because Church recommended them to me.

Church Friends Ain’t Just for Sunday Mornings 

I knew that going to Church was good for you but I never knew it could lead to so many great friendships! Just look at all the awesome people I’ve added to my friends circle because of Church!

Though these might be my Church friends, I prefer seeing them on Friday nights, not Sunday mornings, so this coming Friday (8/18), I’ll be going to see Ray Wylie Hubbard at Hill Country BBQ in Washington, DC. Come on out if you’re in the area!

Currently listening to: Dwight Yoakam- “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.” Sorry for missing your performance that one time, Dwight!

New to Me: The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of August 7, 2017)

In the two months since I started writing this blog, I’ve learned so much about country music. The fact that I called myself a country music fan just a few short months ago is laughable. As the saying goes, “the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know” and that is exactly how I feel about country music. For example, I knew about some of the greatest country singers like Willie, Waylon, and Johnny but I never knew about John Prine or Gram Parsons. I’m now in love with John Prine and think he’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time- I just wish I’d known about him sooner.

There have been some other changes besides just the new music I’m discovering. For example, I no longer listen to the radio. Like practically never. I used to sometimes listen to Bobby Bones on my morning commute but after realizing how many great new artists are out there that he’s not playing, I figured why should I? I also never liked that he didn’t give Eric Church’s songs a lot of play. I’m not sure how much of this is actually Bobby or the higher-ups making the calls but either way, I’m no longer wasting my time listening to the same Jason Aldean and FGL songs continuously playing on a loop. And it’s not just Bobby Bones. You’d be hard pressed, especially in the Washington, DC area, to find a radio station that plays some of today’s best artists- I’m talking Sturgill Simpson, Brandy Clark, Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Cody Jinks, and many others. I used to at least hear Kacey Musgraves on the radio when “Merry Go ‘Round” first came out but now you never hear her. What happened? I am, however, thankful to the few stations that still play the old stuff (Thunder 104.5 in Fredericksburg, VA WHADDUP!) like Waylon and The Oak Ridge Boys so to those stations who are still spinning those old records, I just wanna say thank ya!

Not only am I learning more about country music and discovering new artists and songs in this genre, but in other genres too. I’ve added a bunch of new rock, oldies, hip-hop, etc. to my music collection over these past few months as well.

The fact that I’m constantly learning about new artists and finding new songs that I love means that I’m achieving one of the goals that I set out to accomplish when I started this blog. My love of country music has only grown stronger and I have developed a deeper appreciation for it. Since I typically write about new music in my “The Tracks I’m Playing” posts, I wanted to change it up this week and write about some of the old stuff that I’ve discovered since starting this blog, or rather, the songs that are “new to me.” Here they are!

New Artists 

John Prine- “In Spite of Ourselves.” John Prine knew that the world needed more songs about sniffing someone’s undies and so he gave us this gem. He also knew that people needed to know what Jesus was up to in his missing years so he gave us, “Jesus, The Missing Years.” He also wanted us all to blow up our TV and throw away our paper so he gave us, “Spanish Pipedream.” Finding these songs has truly bettered my life. Now I just need to go blow up my TV.

Gram Parsons- “Love Hurts.” So this song isn’t “new to me” at all but this version of it is. I’ve known the Nazareth cover of this song for years and was a fan after hearing it for the first time in high school. Not that these two versions are competing against each other or anything but any version of a song that contains the angelic voice of Emmylou Harris automatically wins out in my book.

New Songs

Merle Haggard- “Sidewalks of Chicago.” I could listen to Merle Haggard sing the phonebook. And I’d probably download that song and listen to it everyday. Merle’s voice has the power to make you feel the emotions behind the song that he is singing. What I love most about this song in particular is the way he goes back and forth between singing and talking. I also love the way he says certain words in this song like “wine” when he talks about how if he buys bread, he can’t afford the wine. By the end of this song, you actually feel sorry for this guy and the fact that he can’t afford both bread and wine.

Willie Nelson- “Shotgun Willie.” Why is Shotgun Willie sitting in his underwear? Why is Shotgun Willie biting on a bullet and pulling out all of his hair? I don’t know and I also really don’t care. This song is great just the way it is- no explanations are needed. Shotgun Willie- you keep doing you!

Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter- “Honky Tonk Angels.” My all-time favorite country music couple right here, ladies and gentlemen! Any song these two sing together is perfection so of course their version of “Honky Tonk Angels” is gonna be a good one. Even though the original singer of this song was Kitty Wells, Waylon and Jessi made it their own in this performance. Waylon also jokes that Jessi hurt his feelings in this song. Toughen up, Waylon!

Steve Earle- “Guitar Town.” I’m still waiting for a man to tell me that one of these days he’s gonna settle down and take me back with him to the Guitar Town. Just know that when that day comes, I’ll be ready!

Jerry Reed- “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” One of the greatest life lessons can be found in this song- “when you’re hot, you’re hot and when you’re not, you’re not.” Where would be today as a society if Jerry Reed hadn’t come along to teach us this valuable lesson? I don’t even wanna know!

See also: “Amos Moses.” This poor boy’s daddy used to use him as alligator bait! Bless his heart!

Emmylou Harris- “Queen of the Silver Dollar,” “Bluebird Wine,” “Hank and Lefty,” and Boulder to Birmingham.” If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of the Pieces of the Sky album. And if I could be the queen of anything, it would be the Silver Dollar, as she sings about on this album. As I mentioned above, Emmylou Harris has the voice of an angel. No, really. That’s probably why Gram Parsons included her on his Grievous Angel album that he did with his band “The Fallen Angels.” The man liked to surround himself with angels and Emmylou Harris was no exception. No voice has yet to come along in country music that can rival hers.

The Oak Ridge Boys- “Y’all Come Back SaloonandLeaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.” Me and The Oak Ridge Boys go way back, after all, these are the guys who taught another one of life’s most important lessons in country music- “trying to love two women is like a ball a chain.” I’m just gonna have to take their word on that! When they’re not teaching you about the struggles that come with loving multiple women, these guys are singing other great songs like the ones listed above. And of course, let’s not forget about “Elvira.Giddy up oom poppa omm poppa mow mow. 

I hope none of y’all are judging me for not knowing these songs and artists until recently. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and maybe I wasn’t meant to find these songs until now. Perhaps if I had known about them years ago they wouldn’t have meant as much to me. The important thing is that I know them now!

Currently listening to: John Prine – “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian.” A language I’m now really regretting never taking the time to learn! I’ve always said that you haven’t really mastered a language until you can talk dirty in it. Actually, this is the first time I’ve ever said that, but I’m gonna start saying it.

Celebrating America’s Diversity in Country Music

Happy Fourth of July, y’all!

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

First up is Dierks Bentley- “Home

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

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

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

Waylon Jennings- “America

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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