Tuesday, June 27, 2017

'Nobody knows when she started her skid' -- country songs as small lives writ large

One thing they don't tell you about the blues
When you got them
You keep on falling cause there ain't no bottom
And there ain't no end, least not for Lillian
Nobody knows when she started her skid
She was only 27 and she had five kids
Could-a been the whiskey, could-a been the pills
Could-a been the dream she was trying to kill
But there won't be a mention in the news of the world
About the life and the death of a red dirt girl
Named Lillian
Who never got any farther
Across the line than Meridian

(full lyrics)


Fuck country music. I don't know how to listen to song a like this, by veteran country singer Emmylou Harris, feeling moved to tears. It must be a special skill some people have, like their own personal super power.

Of course, you say "country music" and people turn off, thinking walking cliches in stupid hats singing cliched songs... or worse... these days they think it means rich white frat boys in the horrific "bro-country" subgenre, with its "party on dudes... but on a truck" shtick and its intense objectification of women.

(Steve Earle recently called bro-country "hip hop for people who are afraid of black people" and if you think that was exaggerating, try listening to this fine example of the genre from Florida George Line featuring Luke Bryan.

To be honest, bro-country does not even deserve to be called a musical genre, any more than I should be considered a marine biologist because I can identify a goat. It's connection to country music is up there with the connection between Mexican fighting fish and the wombat. In fact, goats, the study of marine biology, Mexican fighting fish and wombats all have more in common with, say, Hank Williams Sr than "bro-country" does.)

But country music of the sort associated with what is sometimes called the "singer-songwriter" tradition, or possibly "folk" (tho that is an abused term too...) is as deeply moving and poetic a form of popular music as I have come across. Or at least as deeply moving and poetic as any other. It is an art form. And "Red Dirt Girl", from Emmylou Harris's 2000 album of the same name, is a great example of the genre. It is small lives writ large. Ordinary people's live turned into poetry. Fuck yeah.


Red Dirt Girl


Me and my best friend Lillian
And her blue tick hound dog Gideon,
Sittin on the front porch cooling in the shade
Singin every song the radio played
Waitin for the Alabama sun to go down
Two red dirt girls in a red dirt town
Me and Lillian
Just across the line and a little southeast of Meridian.

She loved her brother I remember back when
He was fixin up a '49 Indian
He told her 'Little sister, gonna ride the wind
Up around the moon and back again"
He never got farther than Vietnam,
I was standin there with her when the telegram come
For Lillian.
Now he's lyin somewhere about a million miles from Meridian.

She said there's not much hope for a red dirt girl
Somewhere out there is a great big world
That's where I'm bound
And the stars might fall on Alabama
But one of these days I'm gonna swing
My hammer down
Away from this red dirt town
I'm gonna make a joyful sound

She grew up tall and she grew up thin
Buried that old dog Gideon
By a crepe myrtle bush in the back of the yard,
Her daddy turned mean and her mama leaned hard
Got in trouble with a boy from town
Figured that she might as well settle down
So she dug right in
Across a red dirt line just a little south east from Meridian

She tried hard to love him but it never did take
It was just another way for the heart to break
So she dug right in.
But one thing they don't tell you about the blues
When you got em
You keep on falling cause there ain't no bottom
There ain't know end.
At least not for Lillian

Nobody knows when she started her skid,
She was only twenty seven and she had five kids.
Coulda been the whiskey,
Coulda been the pills,
Coulda been the dream she was trying to kill.
But there won't be a mention in the news of the world
About the life and the death of a red dirt girl
Named Lillian
Who never got any farther across the line than Meridian.

Now the stars still fall on Alabama
Tonight she finally laid
That hammer down
Without a sound
In the red dirt ground

BONUS!!! Swedish country sister-duo First Aid Kit play the song "Emmylou" dedicated to Emmylou Harris and other country singers at an awards night with Emmylou in the crowd and she cries!!!


I'M NOT CRYING, YOUR FACE IS CRYING!

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