Thursday, June 01, 2006
I'm back. Actually I was back a couple of days ago, but two nights of free Cubs tickets beckoned. How can one say no to Wrigley Field?
This post goes out to my madman brother-in-law John, who saved my life during my sojourn in Lincoln, Nebraska. Not in the literal sense, but in the "you will not die of boredom while I'm around" sense. From karaoke dive bars in little towns like Sprague (where I performed kick ass drunken versions of "Like a Rolling Stone", "It's the End of the World as We Know It", and "King of the Road", almost joined the locals in a brawl against a gang of "slumming" frat boys, and ended the night politely averting my eyes from a bachelorette party who didn't want to keep their clothes on while doing "I Touch Myself" (well, maybe I peeked once. Or twice)) and Malcolm ("Chug a Lug", "Keep Your hands to Yourself", "...Rolling Stone" again, and $4 dollar pitchers (!) of PBR) to some damn fine bbq and outdoor grilling. Thanks John.
John's a good ole boy in all the best ways, and the man should be a country music star. If he'd just learn to play his guitar. It's his version of "Barstool Mountain" that got me thinkin' it was about time for a Johnny Paycheck post.
I'd recommend checking out Living In Stereo's repost of list entitled 20 Easy Rules for Writing About Country Music The Way the Pros Do It! by Cheryl Cline before reading further It's a really fascinating and drippingly sarcastic treatise on the way country is written about these days.
I mention the above link because Paycheck represents some of the quandaries involved in how folks approach his work. While Paycheck is no David Allen Coe, he's had some, how do you say, issues. And the tendency seems to be to either gloss over or glorify. He was who he was, he made his own decisions, and I'll leave it to the scholarly types to parse his legacy in what way they see fit.
I'm more concerned with his astonishing string of barroom country perfection. A traditionalist with a flair toward the modern rockist side of country, he's the link between "The Fightin' Side of Me" and "Copperhead Road". Merle to the Earle, with a John in the middle. His biggest success, of course, was Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It", but don't let's forget his classic sides throughout the 1960's and 70's, where he followed the George Jones model with a booming twang as pure as mountain dew. Naturally adopted by the "Outlaw" movement for his songs about trouble and drinkin', Paycheck stayed slightly removed, preferring the voice of the "regular folks", less interested in remaking and reinterpreting than in simply making great country music. Period.
Johnny Paycheck: Barstool Mountain (mp3)
Johnny Paycheck: I'm the Only Hell Mama Ever Raised (mp3)
Johnny Paycheck: Fifteen Beers (mp3)
Support your local, independent record stores. If there are any left.