Weekly Top Ten (8/6/18) Are You Ready for the Country (Rock)?
Driving home from Alabama yesterday, after having laid my mother to rest, I heard an old song by Poco, “Crazy Love.” Such a romantic tune overlaid with country-tinged harmony. I started thinking how in the early 70’s I fell in love with country steel guitar, especially when it blended into Rock. A few nights after Mom passed, my brother and I were remembering the old Cliff’s BBQ in Bessemer (now Raggedy Ann’s) where the jukebox mainly contained country songs appealing to a generation before ours: Eddy Arnold, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, and ol’ John. I didn’t know what to make of these sounds, but they found a way into me, deeper than I thought possible.
So when my favorite rock bands began entering that world, I went too. And a part of me, a great part of me, never left. Never will.
10. “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” The Eagles. Maybe it’s too peaceful and easy, but it sure as hell was a great song to sing to and with. Even the guys I rode around with felt the need to harmonize whenever this one hit the Big 610. My friend Jim could play it on his guitar, too, so we exercised our voices even louder on those nights in Jimbo’s basement.
9. ‘The Last Lonely Eagle,” New Riders of the Purple Sage. Proteges of the Dead, this song came from their debut album. I don’t know anyone else who owns it, and didn’t back in ‘71when I got it. So I sang by myself in my old bedroom, which was actually my Nanny’s old bedroom before she died. So sad, this one, but man does it ring. My mother loved eagles, too.
8. “Uncle John’s Band,” The Grateful Dead. A fellow once told me that if I’m gonna listen to country rock, if I like my guitar on the steeled side, I ought to just go ahead and immerse myself in the Dead. It was good advice. I never became a Dead Head, but once in the Memphis airport on my way to a Faulkner conference, I was mistaken for one by a hippie girl in search of someone like me. I was wearing a reddish-orange tie-dyed shirt, and my hair was still long and wavy. Anyway…
7. “Go and Say Goodbye,” Buffalo Springfield. Richie Furay and Stephen Stills tear this one up. Furay later included it on a Poco album, and it sounds maybe better there. Still, the Springfield was so ahead of its time, and their variety of sound meant that great things would come, just not always from that iteration of artists. I wish I had caught on earlier than I did (1966), but even in 1970, I knew what was up with them, what had been up, I mean.
6. “Ballad of Easy Rider,” The Byrds. Not the country-est song they ever did, but every time I hear it now, I think of how wickedly innocent, or innocently wicked 1969–70 were. I appreciate versatility, and The Byrds kept trying and coming, until they finally went.
5. “The Highwayman,” Willie, Waylon, Kris, and John. Okay, so I cry every time I hear this song. If you don’t, quit lying to me and yourself. C’mon, just listen to these voices and think what we had when we had them all, when they were singing just for us — I know there was money, too, but the way they spent it didn’t make me think they were ever in this for riches. When I die, I want this one played early and often.
4. “Lay Lady Lay,” Dylan. In 1969, Bob tried his hand in Nashville. Again, kill me if you want, but Nashville Skyline is my favorite Dylan record, and when I first heard this song at age thirteen, I knew I had been missing something I never knew I wanted or believed. So simple and plain. So heartbreaking. One of the tightest songs ever, and the Steel keeps humming long after the morning comes.
3. “A Good Feeling to Know,” Poco. I traded a James Taylor record to get the Poco album containing this one. I played it endlessly, and thought about how much I wanted to be on any stage singing with such longing. “Somebody Loves you.” I’m gonna say that I was 22 or 3 when I first heard that feeling expressed to me. Don’t think she meant it, but I’ve heard it and have known it for 34 years now.
2. “Harvest,” Neil Young. “Did I see you down in a young girl’s town, with your mother in so much pain. I was almost there at the top of the stairs, with her screaming in the rain.” I guess it’s my all-time favorite album. Something has to be, right? Oh Neil, you really did save my soul back then, or gave it to me. “As the days fly past, will we lose our grasp….”
I almost put Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” here, but I’ll save it for another day.
- “Are You Ready for the Country?” Waylon Jennings. For those assholes who told me Neil Young sounded like a sissy, I bet you never said that to Waylon, who covered Neil’s tune here, a tune he played for his encore at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa back in early 1973 after he played both “Alabama” and “Southern Man.” They call that “cheeky” in some quarters. Anyway, miss you Waylon. And you too, Mom.