Friday, July 03, 2009
Been ignoring the Country, haven't we?
Well, in acknowledgment of this weekend, what could be more 'Merican than songs about drinking and cheating? Particularly if they take place in the same tune?
Gary Stewart, while beginning his arc in the 60's, really got his honky tonk ball rolling in the 70's, when Country became more explicit with it's demons. The decade of swingers, the Rhinestone Cowboy (the song and culture, not the movie) and Countrypolitan produced some of the most hedonistic music available. And all from the "family values" arm of Nashville, and dripped in saccharine instrumentation. (Someone should really write a book or essay on the whole 70's Country culture).
Into all this relativism Gary Stewart dropped some records of hardwood honky tonk, while still winking and nodding to the changing culture. Not quite an "Outlaw" alongside Willie, Johnny, Waylon, et al, Stewart still hewed to a traditional style, his voice sharing similarities with George Jones. Stewart got his start, like many in Nashville, as a songwriter, penning tunes for Stonewall Jackson, Billy Walker, and Cal Smith, among others. He's one of the last greats of the Music Row production line, penning classic songs that last beyond a three-month chart trajectory. Of course we have to deal with the label-mandated production and arrangement, which can get a bit much at times (much the way 80's pop suffered from a tin-eared flatness), but Stewart imposes his hardwood sensibility to each song imbuing his records with a classic sound and lyrical phrasing of a bygone time.
Loneliness is a recurring theme, even couched in the "good time" stompers, which makes Stewart's suicide less than a month after his losing his wife to pneumonia all the more telling.
It's his broad range of drinking songs that Stewart is most remembered for these days (and there's alot of them). "Drinkin' Thing" and "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinking Doubles)" are acknowledged classics of the genre. Our favorite song by Stewart, though, is "In Some Room Above the Street", which borders on pure honky tonk poetry.
So how about letting Gary Stewart help you through your Holiday weekend. It's as American as apple pie, cheap beer, and infidelity.
Gary Stewart: Drinkin' Thing (mp3)
Gary Stewart: She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles) (mp3)
Gary Stewart: In Some Room Above The Street (mp3)
Gary Stewart: Your Place Or Mine (mp3)
Please support your local, independent swingers bar and no-tell motel.