Sunday, March 29, 2009

Writer's Block: A Good Year For The Roses

Last night my fortune cookie said "Success Is In The Details."

The author of that cookie fortune probably works part time as a country music songwriter, because the advice is dead on. When you want to write a song about a break up, you don't want to come right out and say: "You broke my heart and now I'm sad." It's much better to show it. And the best way to show is with poignant details.

This evening's case in point:

George Jones - A Good Year For The Roses (buy)

The author of this tune is Jerry Chestnut, who in 1996 was elected into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall Of Fame. The performer, of course, is the great George Jones, as fine an interpreter of country songs as has ever lived.

I can hardly bear the sight of lipstick
On the cigarettes there in the ashtray
Lyin' cold the way you left them,
But at least your lips caressed them while you packed

And a lip print on a half-filled cup of coffee
That you poured and didn't drink
But at least you thought you wanted it
That's so much more than I can say for me

It's been a good year for the roses
Many blooms still linger there
The lawn could stand another mowin'
Funny, I don't even care
When you turned to walk away
As the door behind you closes
The only thing I know to say
It's been a good year for the roses

After three full years of marriage
It's the first time that you haven't made the bed
I guess the reason we're not talking
There's so little left to say, we haven't said

While a million thoughts go racing through my mind
I find I haven't spoke a word
And from the bedroom the familiar sound
Of our one baby's cryin' goes unheard


Like the very best country songs, this one's slightly pathetic ("But at least you thought you wanted it; that's more than I can say for me."). As a married-with-children suburbanite, my favorite line is the one about the lawn needing "another mowing." I know the feeling. Suddenly such typically important tasks like lawn care don't matter anymore. But the lingering rose blooms represent a minor victory amid the chaos of the crying baby and the broken home.

Well done Mr. Chestnut and Mr. Jones.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I Heart Blue Note Records

[Editor's note: I'm double posting this at Star Maker Machine as part of their "Record Labels" theme week. If you've already seen this there, then just skip down to the bottom of this post where I've added one extra track. If you haven't been to Star Maker Machine lately, you should go check out the other "Record Labels" posts, covering labels such as Twin/Tone, Apple, and Revenant. And while we're talking about posts elsewhere, I think you'll like what's happening over at Groover's Paradise, which is my latest blogging endeavor.]

Blue Note Records
is one of the preeminent labels in jazz history, known mainly for its hard bop releases, a style that combined bebop with elements of soul and R&B. Blue Note recording artists include Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Eric Dolphy, Dexter Gordon, Horace Silver, and Donald Byrd.

As great as the music was, Blue Note is perhaps equally lauded for its contribution to the graphic arts. Cover artist Reid Miles developed a distinctive style that used black and white photographs with limited color palettes to great effect. There simply aren't any cooler album covers. See more here and here. Now enjoy some great jazz music!

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Moanin' (buy)

John Coltrane - Lazy Bird (buy)

Jimmy Smith - Back At The Chicken Shack (buy)

This last one's "hugely" angular, but it works, especially on a warm, rainy night:

Eric Dolphy - Stright Up And Down (buy)

What is your favorite Blue Note cover?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sorry You're Sick

Well folks, that's it for the drinking songs. Another box checked off the STWOF to-do list...

I know I missed some good ones, but I'm all out of booze (and out of steam), so the rest will have to wait for another day. Right now, I just need some sleep!

Until we meet again, enjoy these tunes:

Ted Hawkins - Sorry You're Sick (buy)
Lefty Frizzell & Johnny Bond - Sick, Sober & Sorry (buy)
George Jones - Heartaches & Hangovers (buy)
Kris Kristofferson - Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down (buy)
Hank Thompson - Hangover Tavern (buy)

I'll be back when the cuckoo wails and the lonesome blue jay cries...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

You know what to do.

The Pogues - The Parting Glass (buy)
The Pogues featuring The Dubliners - The Irish Rover (buy)
The Dubliners - Whiskey In The Jar (buy)
Liam Clancy - All For Me Grog (buy)
The Clancy Brothers - Finnegan's Wake (buy)

This one's too good for just one version:

The Clancy Brothers - The Parting Glass (buy)

Today's drink, of course

Monday, March 16, 2009

Photostory: Georgia In A Jug

Johnny Paycheck - Georgia In A Jug (buy)

Mason jars on the dresser filled with dollars and quarters,
Savin' em' for our trip around the world,
But now that you changed your tune, there'll be no honeymoon,
So tonight I'm going there without you girl...

I'm going down to Mexico, in a glass of tequila

Going down to Puerto Rico, in a bottle of rum

Going out to Honolulu, in a Mai Tai mug

Then I'm coming back home to Georgia, in a jug.
We'll never ride that bus to Mexico City, that's a pity

We'll never sail our ship into old San Juan

You'll never walk with me, on the beach at Waikiki

And we'll never share that brick suburban home

Today I'm taking that money out of that jar
Tonight I'll by my "ticket," at the corner bar...

* * * * *

Here's another version that I enjoy.

Read about it before listening:

Eugene Chadbourne - Georgia In A Jug (buy)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Whiskey whiskey on the shelf, you were so quiet there by yourself...

Things were fine 'til they took you down, opened you up and passed you around.

When the talk turns to drinking songs, Wynonie Harris is a name that can't go unmentioned. Harris was a blues "shouter" who recorded in the 1940s and 1950s. His upbeat jump blues style (which didn't shy away from sex and booze) was an important precurssor to rock and roll. My eyes were opened up to Wynonie through coverage on Big Rock Candy Mountain (a great blog). Here are some of my favorites:

Wynonie Harris – Quiet Whiskey (buy)
Wynonie Harris – Don't Take My Whiskey Away (buy)
Wynonie Harris – Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well? (buy)
Wynonie Harris – Drinkin' Sherry Wine (buy)
Wynonie Harris – Wine Wine Sweet Wine (buy)

Enjoy your Wynonie Harris with whiskey and wine, of course.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tonight in a bar alone I'm sitting...

If I were sent to a deserted island and was told that, for music, I could bring only the complete catalogs of two artists, I'd probably pick two Bobs: Dylan and Wills. Each has a catalog that is deep, varied, and capable of holding up well after repeated listens.

(If a third artist were offered, I might take Miles, but that would mess up the Bob theme. Which two or three artists' catalogs would you take?)

The point is that the Texas Playboys' music is near and dear to my heart. Tonight's post features two great versions of one of my favorite Bob Wills' songs, which also happens to be about drinking, at least indirectly:

Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys – Bubbles In My Beer (buy album)

One more time:

Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys – Bubbles In My Beer (buy album)

Drink it all in... With a beer, of course.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

When I switched to the whiskey, I knew that I was gone...

"Sweets for a sweetheart, that is what you said to me, as you handed me a shot glass, and I drank down hungrily."

A confession, a caveat, and a peace offering.

First the confession: It’s time I said it. I’m really not all that wild about Apart from a few exceptions (Uncle Tupelo, early Neko Case, the first few Old 97’s records) I find it to be mostly boring and derivative. Sorry. I hope this fact won’t get between us. (Please feel free to vent in the comments.)

Now the caveat: When I say “,” I’m talking about the music that calls itself "," not the long tradition of music on the alternative or rocking side of country. I really love 1980’s cowpunk, 1970’s progressive/outlaw country, 1960’s country-rock, 1950’s rockabilly, and 1940’s hillbilly boogie. But it all kind fell flat for me in the 1990’s, right about the time they coined the term “” Not sure why. Maybe I'm just old.

And, finally, the peace offering: Despite my newly expressed reservations about the genre, today I’m posting a great song performed by two artists I really do like, Amy Allison (the daughter of Mose Allison) and Laura Cantrell.

You can have this song two different ways: As a shot of straight-up bourbon whiskey (the original by Amy Allison) or on the rocks with a sprinkle of cool branch water stirred in (the smoother, but equally delicious, cover by Laura Cantrell). Try them both, as they've each got a different feel. Either way, it’s a fine drinking song, and about as contemporary as you’re going to get out of me in this series.

Amy Allison – The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter (buy album)

Laura Cantrell – The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter (buy album)

Both of the albums from which these tracks come are well worth your money—especially if you actually like

If you're looking for more drinking songs, be sure to head right over to Star Maker Machine, which is featuring the same theme this week.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gimme a pigfoot and a bottle of beer (hold the pig's foot)

Billie Holiday

I've actually never tried a pigfoot, pickled or otherwise. So maybe after a few bottles of beer I could give it a go. It's just that feet don't sound too appetizing right now. Beer pretty much always does, though.

What can I say about Billie? She was one of the alltime greats. Look it up. One of her main influences was Bessie Smith. Here's her version of one of Smith's standards:

Billie Holiday – Gimme A Pigfoot (And A Bottle Of Beer) (buy album)

And here is the original:

Bessie Smith - Gimme A Pigfoot (buy album)

For today's songs, any bottle of beer will do.

One more One For My Baby:

You've already heard Frank's version (a few posts ago). Here's Billie's version. For those keeping score, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra are my two favorite vocalists of the 20th Century. And they both sang my favorite drinking song. Life is good.

Billie Holiday - One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) (buy album)

This torch that I've found must be drowned...

Bessie Smith

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)

I'm a music bloger because I love music, not because I love writing.

Putting music into words has always been a real struggle for me. Heck, music exists because it communicates in a way mere words can't. So it would be a fool's errand for me to try to explain, in mere words, the utter brilliance of Gary Stewart's She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles).

Luckily, I don't have to. You can just listen and hear it for yourself.

(Of course, if I did have to call your attention to one especially great part of the song, it would be from 1:02 to 1:10, where Gary tell us that his heart is breaking "like the tiny bubbles." Wow. Good stuff!)

Gary Stewart - She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles) (buy album)

How about a double Crown Royal on the rocks with this one?
P.S. I've noticed—especially lately—that your comments on this blog have been superb. The extra information and insight you all provide really adds a lot. So, thanks for helping to make STWOF a truly collaborative experience.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Feeling the amber current flowing from my mind...

Like a high mountain or broad river to the intrepid explorer, alcohol sometimes seems larger than life to the committed drunk. It's a place to get away from it all, especially when the mind is clouded by thoughts of a lost love. So it's not surprising that we have a few songs using geological features as a metaphor for alcohol. Here are a couple of good ones:

Moe Bandy - Barstool Mountain (buy album)

Willie Nelson - Whiskey River (buy album)

You might enjoy this evening's selections with a bottle of Old Whiskey River Bourbon.

Can you think of any other drinking songs of this sort (i.e., sea, ocean, canyon, cliff)?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee

Today's featured song is either about a drink called "spodi" or it's the basis for the drink's name. It's not entirely clear whether the song or the drink name came first. Spodi is a party drink prepared in a large bucket with liquor and fruit (not unlike Jerry Jeff Walker's recipe for sangria).

Stick McGee (brother of bluesman Brownie McGee) recorded the original version of the song in 1947, but it did not become a hit until Stick re-recorded it for Atlantic Records in 1949. Notably, Stick's 1949 recording of Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee for Atlantic Records was the first major hit for that legendary label.

Over the years there have been many covers, probably most notably by Jerry Lee Lewis. I've always really liked Lightnin' Hopkins' loose bluesy cover and the Malcolm Yelvington version is fantastic (click on his name to learn more about it).

Stick McGee - Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (buy album)

Malcolm Yelvington – Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (buy album)

Jerry Lee Lewis - Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (buy album)

Sid King & The Five Strings – Drinkin' Wine Spoli-Oli (buy album)

Lightnin' Hopkins – Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (buy album)

And now—for the fourth time on this blog—here's that sangria song I was talking about before. It's brilliant, but of course you already know that:

Jerry Jeff Walker – Sangria Wine (buy album)

Tonight's selections should be enjoyed with a big bowl of spodi, or at least a nice cool pitcher of sangria.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

I've Got My Own Double Cross To Bear

Today's feature song is the less well-known drinking song on Tom Waits' classic Small Change album (the best from his 1970's barfly era). It's my favorite track on the album. Not for the music, which is sort of plain, but for the plethora of fantastically pathetic drunken/heartbroken lines.

Tom Waits - Bad Liver & A Broken Heart (buy album)

I got a bad liver and broken heart
I drunk me a river since you tore me apart
I don't have a drinking problem, 'cept when I can't get a drink
I wish you'd a-known her, we were quite a pair
She was sharp as a razor and soft as a prayer

So welcome to the continuing saga
She was my better half, and I was just a dog
So here I am slumped,

I've been chipped and I've been chumped on my stool
So buy this fool some spirits and libations
It's these railroad station bars
All these conductors and porters, and I'm all out of quarters

And this epitaph is the aftermath
I choose my path, hey, come on, Kath
He's a lawyer, he ain't the one for ya
No, the moon ain't romantic, it's intimidating as hell,
And some guy's trying to sell me a watch
So I'll meet you at the bottom of a bottle of bargain Scotch
I got me a bottle and a dream, it's so maudlin it seems

You can name your poison, go on ahead and make some noise
I ain't sentimental, this ain't a purchase it's a rental,

And it's purgatory
Hey, what's your story?, well I don't even care
Cause I've got my own double cross to bear

And I'll see your Red Label, and I'll raise you one more
And you can pour me a cap, I just can't drink no more
Cause it don't douse the flames that are started by dames
It ain't like asbestos, it don't do nothing but rest us assured
And substantiate the rumors that you've heard...

This one is best if consumed with an entire fifth of Red Label Scotch.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Loser's Lounge

The drinking life isn't all glamour.

Today's selections take a look at the down-but-not-quite-yet-out side of the life inside an imaginary tavern called "The Loser's Lounge," circa 1970. The first, recorded by Dick Curless, comes from the bartender's perspective. Dick's sneering character has seen the same story play out time and time again. Bottom line: No matter what they order, they all end up the same...

Dick Curless – Loser's Cocktail (buy album)

The second, recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis, comes from the other side of the bar. Here, our protagonist knows that he probably shouldn't be in that place, but every time he starts to leave they play another song, and then someone buys another round, and, well, you know the rest of the story. . .

Jerry Lee Lewis - What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me) (buy album)

The Jerry Lee song probably has the funniest title in the history of country music. And that's saying something.

For today's drink selections, I recommend a whiskey sour with the first tune followed by a delicious can of Schlitz for the second.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Drinking Songs: Hallelujah For Beer

Today’s entry, recorded by the generally underrated Sammi Smith in 1977, isn’t very well known, but I think it’s great. It’s got a fun attitude, proper reverence for the subject matter (and then some), good lines (“there’s times of the day when my mind is way too clear”), and even a pop-the-top sound effect at the end. Way to go Sammi! Sing it!

Sammi Smith – Hallelujah For Beer (buy album)

Today’s selection is best enjoyed with whatever type of beer makes you sing praises to the alcohol gods. (My co-favorite, Spaten Lager, is pictured above.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Drip, drop, drip, drop: The steady trickle of drinking songs begins today...

Hey folks! Thanks for all of your wonderful drinking-song suggestions (many of which are not yet in my collection.)

I had been planning to put together one big post of drinking songs for St. Patrick's Day, but that idea was too daunting. So instead I'll just let them trickle out one or two per day from now until the 17th. Cheers!

Let's start off with a bang. This one, from 1959, might be the greatest drinking song ever recorded:

Frank Sinatra - One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) (buy)

Hey Frank: I've been there brother...

This evening's selection is best enjoyed with two glasses of Jack Daniel's on the rocks, but Irish Whiskey will also work.

Frank relaxin' with his best friend.

Be sure you come back for more tomorrow...