Monday, March 08, 2010

Jerry Jeff Walker

We can't believe we've made it this far (and our anniversary is comin' up, so stay tuned) without havin' a little somethin' to say about Mr. Jerry Jeff Walker.  Sheesh.  Let's fix that right now.

Some generic stuff you should know first, which you can probably find elsewhere, but what the hell.
Walker was actually born and raised in New York.  We won't hold that against him, as his move to Austin, TX, and subsequent friendships with the likes of Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, and the mighty Townes Van Zandt  begins the period of his musical career we're most concerned with. 

Early 70's, then, and some might call it the heyday of of Outlaw Country, and Austin musicians in particular (though we're still waiting on Blaze Foley to make his true mark).  'Course, earlier Walker made his mark with Mr. Bojangles, but the less said about that the better (yes, he wrote that song, but don't hold it against him).  In a ten year period Walker produced some of the finest records to be found in the Texas Country (whatever that is) canon.  We're talkin' records like "Driftin' Way Of Life", "Jerry Jeff Walker", "Viva Terlingua", "Walker's Collectibles", "Five Years Gone", and "Ridin' High"  (our time frame's a littled skewed, but deal with it, it's all of a "piece" if you know what we mean). You're well served huntin' those records down.

Now, again, Walker got a bit of the "outlaw" tag pinned on his well-soaked liver, and tunes like "Pissing In The Wind" and "Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother", big favorites of the 'Mountain, certainly contributed to this status, but his catalog suggests a more intimate reading of the Americana (which definer certainly did not exist at the time) oeuvre.
One need only look to his cover of Guy Clark's essential tune, "L.A. Freeway", and Walker's own "Hill Country Rain" to see a songwriter and interpreter of keen insight and profundity.  Yeah, we still like his more racuous hill-stompin' stuff (see below), but we like Walker in his more singularly introspective moments as well.

With a voice weathered and weary, taking equal parts East Coast cynicism and Texas drawl (inherited?) humour and situational sincerity, Jerry Jeff Walker is Mountain approved, and very much part of the aesthetic we try so hard to achieve 'round these parts.  We think y'all would approve.  

"I Like to Sleep Late In The Morning" is the quintessential Big Rock Candy Mountain song (along with our eponymous title, Little Feat's "Willin'", and Townes' "Rex's Blues", plus a hundred others too numerous to count).  "Pissing In The Wind" comes damn close (and a shout out to "lost friends" (Brent, we're talking to you)).  "Hill Country Rain" is simply the beauty in the heart of sadness.  And "Sangria Wine" is a typical, yet revelatory, drinking song in the 'Mountain tradition.  There are so many more great Jerry Jeff Walker tunes and records that are well worth yr time.  Collect 'em all!  You won't be disappointed!

As ever, please support yr local Independent whatever.  Once the corporate structure starts telling us what we like, we're pretty much fucked.  So, there's that to consider. 


peterrocker said...

So true!! A real pioneer and original songwriter plus an oh so good interpreter of other material.
Love ya JJW.

Mark said...

Every Saturday night in college we played Ridin' High, each cut a drunken singalong. Then we'd throw on Viva Terlingua and sing some more. Pick up the tempo!

Greg said...

Thank you so much! I was a huge fan back in the day (his and mine) and he does live on. I still own my vinyl copy of Viva Terlingua! (And I've been to Terlingua, but that's another story.)

schoppenaas said...

The answer my friend, is pissing in the sink. Ain't that true.

Anonymous said...

In 1973, between my junior and senior year in high school I was "forced" to move to Austin when my father was transferred. 2 things got me through it. Texas had just lowered the drinking age to 18.(huge mistake) and the Austin music scene. Jerry Jeff, Michael Murphy, Willie, Willis Alan and of course, my hero, the man that should be in the Hall of Fame, Sir Douglas his self, Doug Sahm. What a time. Thanks for the JJ stuff. Once he fell off the stage right in front of me.

Duncanmusic said...

Late in posting but adding my own.
Two things: One, I Had a friend thirty years ago who went to High School with Jerry a/k/a Ron Colby in Oswego, NY near Syracuse & eastern end of Lake Otnario. Two, Anonymous story has some creedence...I heard that at one of Willie's early picnics in Texas Jerry Jeff was so drunk he fell off of flatbed truck used as stage at BACK of stage into knee deep mud where everyone was pissing.