Great Song #9 – Somewhere in Virginia in the Rain

Here’s another in a series of songs that dream up good stories…

You believe this one.  It’s a late night phone call between estranged lovers.  It was popular briefly when I was in school in Virginia.  Sung by Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan, you can just about feel it rain.

“Right front window’s busted, got it patched with cellophane”

Have a listen.

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Great Song #8 – Wabash Cannonball

Bob Dylan says that a song is a dream and you try to make it come true.  Here’s another in a series of songs that dream up good stories…

“Wabash Cannonball” is a infectious classic with a driving beat. It enjoyed a number of resurgences in the mid-Twentieth Century and still radiates the romance of train travel. I thought of it because we’re headed to Minnesota next week. It has been recorded many times, notably by the Carter Family and Roy Acuff, and became a favorite on the Grand Ole Opry.

One of the great things about living today is to be able to find without leaving your chair answers to questions you’ve had for years.  I always wondered if there was a Wabash Cannonball train.  It seemed strange that the song celebrates places from Minnesota to Birmingham since the Wabash Railroad served neither. There was a Wabash Cannonball train, but it was named after the song, not the other way round. Apparently it’s just a song, without any basis in fact, perhaps referencing a mythical train that carried hoboes to heaven.

“From the hills of Minnesota, where the rippling waters fall. . .”

Here’s Roy Acuff’s version.

P.S. Not long ago two friends of friends of son Jack came to visit on a driving trip.  They were New Yorkers and were headed from here to Nashville.

Me: Are you going to see the Grand Ole Opry?
Our guests: The what?

Good Song #7 – And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Bob Dylan says that a song is a dream and you try to make it come true.  Here’s another in a series of songs that dream up good stories –

“And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” is s a different take on patriotism. It references Australia’s unofficial national anthem, “Waltzing Matilda”, to skewer flag-waving and jingoism. Written by Eric Bogle in 1971, it tells the story of a young Australian at the disastrous (for the Australians) Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey in World War I. The song resonates strongly in Australia where they still resent the misuse of and lack of concern for colonial troops by the British general staff. Thanks, Jack, for sending it to me.

“Waltzing” refers to traveling around as a “swagman”, an itinerant worker. “Matilda” refers to the swagman’s bundle of belongings.

“The young people ask, ‘What are they marching for?’
and I ask myself the same question.”

Here’s the Clancy Brothers’ version.

 

Great Song #6 – Galaxy Song

Monty Python, God bless them for all the humor they’ve brought the world, are not just brilliant sketch comedians.  They also write some clever songs.  Here’s one to put us in our place in the universe, “Galaxy Song”.  It was written by Eric Idle (and long-time collaborator John Du Prez) for the movie, “Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life”.

Have a listen.

Great Song #5 – Choctaw Bingo

Singer-songwriter James McMurtry’s “Choctaw Bingo” describes a Western family through the story of a reunion at their Uncle Slayton’s.  It’s funny and right on target. One critic has proposed that “Choctaw Bingo” be the new national anthem.  It may miss out on that honor, but it’s a heck of a alt-country/outlaw song with a beat that keeps carrying it forward. James McMurtry is Larry McMurtry’s son.

“Uncle Slayton’s got his Texan pride, back in the thickets with his Asian bride.”

Listen up.

Great Song #4 – Kilkelly

This song will trigger emotions for fathers everywhere.  It was composed from real letters sent over decades in the nineteenth century by an Irish father to his son who had emigrated to America.  Going to America in the days of the potato famine was like going to the moon except that the emigrees were not expected to return. Some families even held a wake for the departed since they would never see them again.  Listen up.

Great Song #3 – The Model Church

Bob Dylan: A song is a dream and you try to make it come true.

I love songs that tell a story or capture a moment, especially when the music and lyrics fit perfectly, so I made up a list of songs that meet my requirements:

3.  The Model Church

When J.D. Crowe and the New South were in their bluegrass prime they approached perfection with every song.  This song in the gospel vein tells the story of a old man who worships in a model church.  The harmony is transcendent.

“[The Model Church] was not built for show.”

Listen up.

Great Song #2 – Marie

Bob Dylan: A song is a dream and you try to make it come true.

I love songs that tell a story or capture a moment, especially when the music and lyrics fit perfectly, so I made up a list of songs that meet my requirements:

2.  Marie

Townes Van Zandt, now deceased, was the quintessential singer-songwriter. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Townes Van Zandt song.  He wrote “Pancho and Lefty” which is pretty well known, so I’ll choose “Marie”, a vivid song about a homeless couple.  It has always amazed me how Van Zandt summoned up the imagination for these lyrics.  Listen up.

Great Song #1 – Congo Square

Bob Dylan:  A song is a dream and you try to make it come true.

I love songs that tell a story or capture a moment, especially when the music and lyrics fit perfectly, so I made up a list of songs that meet my requirements:

1.   Congo Square

This song describes a part of New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Park.  The square was originally an area where African slaves were allowed to congregate and continues to be a place where African-Americans gather to play music. The song was written by renowned musicians, Sonny Landreth, Mel Melton and Dave Ranson. The best version I’ve heard is the Neville Brothers’. They’re the real deal. Listen up.

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