Saturday, March 13, 2004

Needful break from diss, which I've been at pretty hard since, hmm, 6:45 this a.m.. I am going to finish this section today if it breaks me. A little tough right now anyway, what with the dogs upstairs. I ought to write about last nights Akerman (which might be last in the series that I'm able to go to), but for now....

I don't think I've said anything nasty about contemporary/mersh country lately (ever?), so I assume my blog friends aren't calling me out (baiting me?) specifically. Perhaps I gave the wrong impression when we discussed this face to face (though Jane was masked). So I'll go on record as being entirely sympathetic to the genre, probably more so than your average art-rock snot. I'm not following it now, true, but there were significant chunks of the '90s where So Cal's KFRG was one of my presets, and I still check in with available equivalents on longer car trips. (There's at least one station between here and Tucson that mixes current hits with older ones, some Roger Miller even, and I find that the most palatable mix.) Garth's "Papa Loved Mama" was in (very) heavy rotation when I last listened regularly, and I turned it up everytime; the last specific song I remember liking a lot was "I'm the Fool in Love with the Fool Who's Still in Love with You" (though that may not be the actual title, and I have a poor grasp of the relevant capitalization conventions).

Worries about hybridization or authenticity are obviously nuts; what the hell do you call "Lovesick Blues"? (Or R. Cash's "Seven Year Ache," pretty much disco-via-pre-'rootsy'-John-Hiatt. Man, I think I'll listen to that right after I post.) I also have no principled problem with the hyperslick production; the notion that Telecasters might be made to sound glossier/brighter that the output of your average digital workstation is both interesting and appealing (and I wouldn't mind knowing how it's done). Really, I'll take (what I count as) a good song wherever I can find it.

I do (as Jane has heard) find both my pleasure and my appreciation somewhat diminished by an apparently new attitude toward rhyme, on which any two words containing the same vowel 'count.' Life/right/time/died/gripe/pie -- all are one. I'd love to know how and when this arose; I suppose your 'real' folksongs have a lot of this, though to somewhat different effect, but most of the pre-'80s mersh country I'm familiar has it's game down pretty tight in this respect. This is idiosyncratic, perhaps, but it's not just because I'm a showtune snot -- I'm not expecting Sondheimian anality outside of the theatre (where it's just part of the rulebook), much less 'originality,' and I find it much less distracting in uptempo numbers than in ballads, power or no, where a good bit of weight is being placed on every syllable/note of the vocal line. Maybe this is just a craft issue; I find the image of Music Row staffers hacking it out in their whiteboarded cubicles fairly romantic, but that doesn't mean I want to hear their evident desperation. But also, when a big couplet doesn't 'close up' right, I just can't, well, feel it in the intended way.

I will confess an intense, entirely personal aversion to Shania's "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" Around the turn of the millenium, Bree was taking singing lessons, and got sucked into a couple of 'cabaret performance' classes which climaxed in 'showcases' (generally attended only by friends) at McCabe's Guitar Shop. It appeared to me that these classes were largely attended by older professional persons, more for the purpose of 'building confidence' than in pursuit of any particular musical ambitions. A woman whose name I remember perfectly but will not reproduce performed "Man..." at one of these, backed by a keyboardist-w/cheap-rhythm-programming, in a breathy, putatively sultry -- also, flat, metrically inept, and utterly confident -- manner that ruined the song for me forever. You do not want to hear the "whoa-ho-ho" bit sung by someone with poor pitch, trust. Actually, her delivery could best be described as Dylanesque, which might have been interesting but was not. (Her other choice was "Black Coffee," which I know best in a great Rosemary Clooney version -- another travesty.) I can muster some admiration for the difficulty (I learned that night) of phrasing the chorus naturally, though the song's meet-me-at-Bennigan's vibe fails to resonate, as they say, with my own experiences, and puts me in mind of mid-'70s talk-show appearances by the author of "(A Woman's Look At Men's) Buns," perhaps too vividly.

Bree, if you're wondering, sang "Milord," a lesser-known Edith Piaf song, with intense pathos, and not in translation either.

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