EDIT: Oops…I rambled again, but I promise I talk about music towards the end. The full Raw Yee-Haw playlist featuring more songs is available here.
Being born and raised in the Southern U.S. (for simplicity’s sake, Texas is included in this post; although, I do agree Texas is “its own thing” that I cannot begin to cover in one post; y’all sit tight for that) comes with an interesting set of characteristics. You can leave them, but they never truly leave you. A gremlin. While largely undetectable (when sober and calm) to Midwestern ears, my gremlin shows itself in my pin-pen merger.
At one point, I prided myself on having a largely indistinguishable accent. After all, people outside of the South don’t take too kindly to Southerners (especially my Mississippi and fellow Bama, friends), and really, I empathize. As I once explained to a Chinese guy who asked me what Alabama was like, we have “a rich history of racism.”
However, time passes and I feel more comfortable with the parts of myself that aren’t changing. I am humored by my Southern-ness. And why not? It isn’t going away anytime soon. Lord, knows I’ve tried.
I think another gremlin that’s stayed with me is the draw to roots, singer-songwriter, folk, and country music. I did my fair share of time pretending I liked shit, pop-country– for the sake of journalistic integrity, I will admit I had a Kenny Chesney phase. Luckily, my hometown (WTWX) had a great little radio station that played a solid amount of 60s, 70s, and 80s country. Apparently, they also play Rush Limbaugh. It’s true that no one is perfect or blessed, even in Jesus’s beloved Bible Belt.
Luckily, there have always been some rebels in country music– and certainly singer-songwriters and folk music. Like a good piece of fried chicken, the best of these are a bit crusty on the outside and tender on the inside.
It seems that at the end of each year, I am also in a crusty and tender state. I want to reiterate that I am not in S.A.D mode yet. However, I am reflective, as many folks are this time of year. 2019 has been a year of many emotional growths and challenges. I have pushed myself a bit more (with some Ws and some Ls), had some big family changes, and, you know, all that. I have been unusually vulnerable, and it freaks me out. After reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and generally wearing my body and soul out, I have tried to lean into those feelings. Oddly enough, it ties into the stoicism I have discussed in my previous posts.
However, I have absolutely exhausted myself running around during this time. My insides feel like their caught in a tide that goes out, and I can’t breathe. Then it all comes roaring back again. Then out again.
During this vulnerable time, I have had to be very selective about the music I am consuming. I need something comfortable and familiar. Some of the songs I am clinging on to are sad. Some are hopeful. Some are a bit of both. This is my “Raw Yeehaw” playlist:
- “Rowboat” (1996)- Johnny Cash (cover of Beck)Sam introduced me to this song What has not been said about Johnny Cash? When I am my most troubled, I can see him sitting beside me at the bar. “Rowboat” was originally a Beck song, but just like “Hurt”, Johnny Cash made it better. I love this song because the lyrics and rhythm remind me of a nursery rhyme. However, Johnny Cash puts emotion behind it that is a bit soul-crushing.
- “Drive Like I Never Been Hurt” (2008)- Ry CooderPerhaps he isn’t a household name, but Ry Cooder should be as a multi-instrumentalist, Oscar-nominated, producer of the Buena Vista Social Club album, should be a household name. “Drive Like I Never Been Hurt” is a well-done masculine take on heartbreak.
I’m gonna drive like I never been hurt,
Down the road like you never lied,
I’ll find my way like I never been lost,
And you never laughed and I never cried.
The instrumentals alone on “Drive Like I Never Been Hurt” are excellent. If you don’t know Ry Cooder, it is time for some learnin’.
- “Teeth White” (2014)- The StavesSo, I guess we can let the English in on this too. The Staves are three English sisters that, quite frankly, do the damn thing on “Teeth White”, an anthem for women who are damn tired of trying to be perfect (like me).
- “Clay Pigeons” (released 2010; posthumously)- Blaze Foley
This song is the most tender on the list by perhaps the most crusty guy. Blaze Foley, a Texan, is a legendary figure that met an untimely end. In “Clay Pigeons”, he captures the lostness with a slim strip of hope that only comes with heartache and grief.
Ride ’til the sun comes up and down around me,
‘Bout two or three times,
Smokin’ cigarettes in the last seat,
Tryin’ to hide my sorrow from the people I meet,
And get along with it all.
A big feel song from a larger than life figure.
- “Sittin On Top Of The World” (1964) – Doc Watson (cover)So many of the simple tunes hit you right in the feels. This is a traditional country-blues riff with lyrics that make you think the song is going in one direction (“Was in the spring, one sunny day…”) and then it completely goes into sadness (“My sweetheart left me, Lord, she went away.”). BUT THEN….it pivots again to deliver us one of the greatest set of lines of music or poetry of all time:
If you don’t like my peaches,
Don’t you shake my tree,
‘n Get out of my orchard,
Let my peaches be.
- “From The Rivers To The Ocean” (2007)- Bill CallahanI don’t know how to describe Bill Callahan’s voice, but it is one that makes me feel in my belly. I think “From The Rivers To The Ocean” is one of the only non-heartbreak or pissed off-ish songs on this list. I can only find it on Spotify as of now (if someone has a YT link, holla).
It is also a song that is extremely sexy to me (please listen to the lyrics) and has another one of my favorite lines of all time:
Well I can tell you about the river or we could just get in.
Happy holidays and stay safe, my lil tenders!