Country Music History – Essential Releases of 2005
“Bill, you were just licking blood out of my head. I don’t think it gets much more personal than that,” Sookie Stackhouse.
- “Alcohol,” Brad Paisley. Brad Paisley covers the medicinal/poisonous impacts of booze on “Alcohol,” noting one of the attributes of the magic liquid is that it helps white people dance. Producer Frank Rogers, “It was (originally) more of a commentary song. Almost introspective sounding. It was a third person commentary. We went ‘this thing needs to be a party anthem.’” Paisley, “One of the things is that alcohol is a big part of your adult life – it’s at weddings, college or high school. You’ll have it on holidays. It’s one of things that’s there for the greatest memories you might have.” This was Paisley’s least successful single on the country charts from 2003 to 2011 and it peaked at #4.
- “Bad Things,” Jace Everett. Fort Worth native Jace Everett took a few stabs at Nashville before being signed by Epic Records in 2005. His biggest chart success was co-writing, along with Chris Stapleton and Chris DuBois, the 2006 #1 single “Your Man” for Josh Turner, The dark psychobilly sound of “Bad Things” was released as a single in 2005 and was completely ignored by radio. The sinister aura of the song and it’s tagline “I wanna do bad things with you” made it a perfect fit for the theme of the HBO vampire drama “True Blood.” After being popularized on television, Everett’s composition went to #2 on the Norway pop charts in 2009. Everett, “I ripped ‘Bad Things’ off from Steve Earle. There’s a song on his ‘I Feel Alright’ that if you go listen to ‘Poor Boy Blues’ next to ‘Bad Things’ and it’s the same chord progression but minor instead of major. I told Steve this when we did a gig together and he just looked at me like I was an ass.”
- “Blame the Vain,” Dwight Yoakam. The 2005 “Blame the Vain” album marked the end of the long partnership between Dwight Yoakam and guitarist/producer Pete Anderson. The title track had a modern rockabilly sound with Dwight taking responsibility for a love gone wrong. Yoakam has released several Top Ten albums since this time, with no support from country radio. Respected by both country traditionalists and fans of roots rock, Yoakam’s legacy is that he moved country music forwards by going backwards and managed to become a mainstream artist in the process.
- “Don’t Ask Me How I Know,” Bobby Pinson. Bobby Pinson, the son of a high school football coach and a military veteran, isn’t a household name, but he has writing credits on five #1 singles for Sugarland and Toby Keith. He had one shot at a major label deal with the 2005 MCA release “Man Like Me” and went Top Twenty with the debut single “Don’t Ask Me How I Know.” The raspy voiced Pinson provides warnings on petty crime and Mexican water, as well as advice on love and relationships on “Don’t Ask Me How I Know,” with the unspoken implication that he’s made every possible mistake. Pinson released a 2007 independent album titled “Songs for Somebody” that was supposedly one of the best country records of that year and a decade later it’s absolutely impossible to find.
- “Down into Mexico,” Delbert McClinton. Delbert McClinton has always been difficult to pigeonhole, he went Top Twenty with his 2005 “Cost of Living” album and also won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. “Down into Mexico,” written by McClinton with Nashville hit machine Bob DiPiero and his old pal Gary Nicholson, is Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” mixed with Robert Earl Keen’s “The Road Goes on Forever.” The heist job was a seamless operation, but McClinton’s Vegas dancer accomplice still put a bullet in his chest. As Rick Johnson of Creem once wrote, “Every time you think you’ve made it to heaven, somebody moves the gate.”
- “Fathers and Sons,” The Del McCoury Band. “Fathers and Sons,” sometimes titled as “Between Fathers and Sons,” has been recorded by Waylon Jennings, Chris LeDoux, and Charlie Daniels. Not only has the title evolved over the years, but sometimes the song is credited only to Gary Nicholson and sometimes John Barlow Jarvis gets a co-writing credit. (Jarvis currently plays piano for Vince Gill, however, he should be terminally incarcerated for crimes against humanity for co-writing “Love Can Build a Bridge.”) “Fathers and Sons” is a tale of young men being genetically too spirited to accept hard earned paternal advice. The bluegrass instrumentation/traditional Appalachian sound reinforces the timeliness of the dilemma.
- “Georgia Hard,” Robbie Fulks. Robbie Fulks on the title track of his 2005 album, “I really tried not to write that kind of song for all my life, and I don’t know, I felt like giving myself license to do that the last couple of years. I guess at a certain point, you think, ‘Well, I’m old enough. Maybe I can give this a try and not come off sounding too pretentious or stupid.’” “Georgia Hard” is about following a woman from Dixie to Chicago and feeling lost after she leaves him. Fulks still gets in some cheekiness with his reference to “a mailroom job that isn’t all glamour and fun,” but sounds legitimately humbled when he begs to get his farmhand job back in Macon.
- “I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” Lee Ann Womack. “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” is about the type of love that is like a bad drug addiction – the temporary high overwhelms good judgment. There’s a bit of “Dusty in Memphis” meets Nashville in the production sound on Womack’s last Top Ten single. Songwiter Odie Blackmon, “My neighbor was a lovely young lady that I was friends with, and as we lived there, our relationship developed, and then it undeveloped. After it undeveloped, we were living next door to each other (laughs), so then an on-again, off-again relationship developed. One morning, I was sitting on my side of the duplex, (thinking), ‘I’ve gotta move.’ I can laugh now, but I was heartbroke and sad about the situation, but realized that I was going to have to give up my cool apartment to move on from this deal.”
- “Slim Chance and the Can’t Hardly Playboys,” Billy Joe Shaver. “They’ve got a new song out on Polish Records/It will be a Polish hit real soon,” Billy Joe Shaver tells us about “Slim Chance and the Can’t Hardly Playboys.” Singer/songwriter Kevin Fowler joins the party, with lyrics about an incompetent saloon act and the lead singer’s hygienically challenged girlfriend. Shaver had once used that band name for his own more enthusiastic than skilled backing group. Shaver, “That’s the band that was playin’ on (the Johnny Cash duet) ‘You Can’t Beat Jesus Christ.’ Johnny Cash was coming to see us all the time. He’d sit in and stuff. He really did like us, so that encouraged us a lot. But we played all over the place.”
- “The Talkin’ Song Repair Blues,” Alan Jackson. Attentive readers know about my admiration for songwriter Dennis Linde and this was the last hit he wrote before his death in 2006. “The Talkin’ Song Repair Blues” is a conversation between a mechanic and a songwriter with both parties less than graciously sharing their knowledge of their respective fields. Inspirational lyric, “And I know you’ve been using a cut rate thesaurus/’Cause your adverbs are backed up into your chorus/Now your verse is runnin’ on verbs that are way too weak.” With Dennis Linde playing the puppet master, the songwriter obviously outsmarts the mechanic at the end, walking away with a repaired auto and money in his pocket.
- “We Can’t Make It Here,” James McMurtry. James McMurtry paints a bleak, but not an unrealistic, picture of how globalization gutted manufacturing jobs in America and decimated the middle class (“Now I’m stocking shirts at the Wal-Mart store/Just like the ones we made before”) on “We Can’t Make It Here.” He also takes deadly aim at unchecked capitalism and the American political class, describing a spiritually broken nation built to serve oil interests and the military complex. McMurtry’s response when asked if he was worried about polarizing his audience? “I’ve done that already.”
- “Where’s All the Freedom,” Merle Haggard. Merle Haggard on being inspired by Natalie Maine’s anti-war views to write this 2005 album track, “Somehow or another it didn’t offend me because I thought, ‘What’s new about grandma not liking the war? Or, for that matter, granddaughters?’ Women are just not known to be in favor of beating somebody up.” A born contrarian, Haggard bemoans both shrinking civil and religious liberties on “Where’s All the Freedom,” while also noting economic woes. He also returned to the charts in a minor way in 2005, both artistically and commercially, as a featured artist on the Gretchen Wilson #23 single “Politically Uncorrect.”
- “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long,” Hayes Carll. Ray Wylie Hubbard, “I really admire Hayes’ writing. It’s so nice to see someone that young that’s pretty much burned out and fried. Usually, you have to be my age to be that bitter and that resentful. Nah, Hayes is a great cat.” A Texas native and a graduate from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, Hayes Carll released “Little Rock,” his second album in 2005, which includes songs co-written with Guy Clark and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Hayes questions the Nashville scene on “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long” (“Do they do it for the money/Do they do it for the love”) and dreams of his departure from that city. Hayes is less contemplative on that album’s “Down the Road Tonight,” where he spits out phrases like a honky tonk Dylan.