THREE I LOVE: 03/30/08

I’ve been drinking and it’s time to talk about the music!

VAN MORRISON – INTO THE MYSTIC

I have yet to fully establish an opinion regarding Van Morrison. I can’t lump him into any particular category. I don’t know what he is. But this song never fails to impel me to lean back in my computer chair, crossing my arms and smiling fondly and thinking of boats I’ll never own.

This is in spite of some lyrics that would ordinarily give me some pause. You don’t ideally want people to sing things like “I wanna rock your gypsy soul” to you. I don’t really want Van Morrison doing anything to my soul, and I resent him labeling it a “gypsy” one. I don’t care WHAT he wanna. But dumb as it is, holy shit, that’s the part that floors me. Boy does he belt that out. Once he gets to the part where he’s quietly intoning “when that foghorn blows” over a lilting acoustic riff, my heart rate actually increases, because I know in a few short seconds he’s gonna lay into that “IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” like nothing I’ve ever heard. It’s the best sustained, gravelly held note in popular music. It’s too bad it ushers in a now dated and silly line, but it really only serves to prove his estimable vocal power. Who cares about whatever follows that thrilling “I”, the most compelling of all vowels? He could be saying “I wanna alphabetize your DVDs” or “I wanna read that Parade when you’re done with it”.

This is a case of some dopey words being nullified – no, for my money elevated and justified – by one of the best male rock vocals ever. He sells it, and I buy it, and I love it.

The song predates music videos, so enjoy this random couple’s vacation to the Grand Canyon. I find it only increases the poignancy.

LORD MR. FORD – JERRY REED

I cannot overstate my affection for Jerry Reed. I wish I could purchase him. I’d love to just have him around the house. I can think of no better pet than Jerry Reed. Sure, part of it has to do with the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies, and “Eastbound and Down”, which is now and forever one of the catchiest songs ever to come down the pike. But if you’ve any interest in countrified rock or guitar playing in general, do yourself a favor and seek out some of his lesser known work, including this novelty hit from the early ’70s.

“Lord Mr. Ford” is essentially a bunch of drawled corny observations involving the various problems that owning a vehicle can incur, and at face value it’s middling Dr. Demento at best. But what keeps me returning to it? My iTunes just loves to play it for me on shuffle (isn’t it odd how certain songs play more than others? it borders on creepy sometimes.), and I never, ever skip it. I’ve also put it on one or two mix CDs for the car, and while I tend to be a wanton skipper of songs while driving, I’ve never once skipped this one.

It probably helps that it’s about cars. But it choogles along so well, and Jerry’s humor, while lowbrow, is infectious, and his bark of a baritone is a wonderful instrument, unrefined but unfailing. I truly think his talents have never been adequately appreciated, and not just within the realm of music. Check him out in “The Survivors” or “Gator” sometime. Neither are particularly good movies, but his villainous turns in both are genuinely frightening. For all the knockabout redneck goofy charm he exhibited in his live concert performances and in the “Smokey” movies, there was a dark side to him, and he clearly relished the opportunity to indulge it. “The Waterboy” be damned, Jerry Reed is a great character actor.

But foremost, what an amazing musician this guy is. You’re not gonna find a better picker anywhere. There are riffs throughout “Lord Mr. Ford” that floor me every time, particularly the deliriously cascading coda. I submit that he could throw down with Yngwie Malmsteen anytime, or at the very least punch him out in a bar fight, and really, that’s all that matters in the end.

One time I burned a CD to play in my parent’s car when they drove us to see my grandmother, and I put this song on it. My dad laughed at every single dumb joke and smart-aleck comment Jerry Reed made. It did my heart good, and so does this song. I get a big ol’ kick of it, son.

Again, the homemade video above contains no actual footage of Jerry Reed, but here’s one that does. Highly recommended if you want to see a human guitar machine at work:

DROWN – SON VOLT

You’re causin’ it.

As far as Uncle Tupelo offshoots go, Wilco continues to get all the attention, but none of their perfectly good tunes have stuck with me as well as this single from Son Volt’s 1995 album “Trace”. It’s simple, it’s catchy, and it stops and starts at will throughout, all qualities I unfailingly respond to, and if I’m the one being asked, I’ll take Jay Farrar’s sad pleas over Jeff Tweedy’s sleepy excuses anyday.

Ideally, I just wish those guys would kiss and make up, but if they hadn’t gone their separate ways, I never would’ve gotten to hear “Drown”. What a great tune. It’s the musical equivalent of the old comfy jeans that only you think you look good in, and hell man, only you matters anyway.

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One Response to “THREE I LOVE: 03/30/08”

  1. […] bits of his Maine existence: curious garage sale finds; the forgotten frontiers of pop-culture; music, of course; and old comics scrawled in notebooks years ago, like the one posted above. And the ones posted […]

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