If you’re a longtime reader and listener of the Levon Walker songwriting collection, I’m sure you’re wondering by now when the new album will be coming out. That would be album #5 (and perhaps this a good time to familiarize yourself the last four), and it will likely be the biggest hit of the fall with my painting crew who will have to listen to the mixes on my JVC jobsite boombox.
I’ve been talking a lot about the influence of Pop Country on this new music, and that’s been a legitimate concern to a lot of folks. I’ve gotten lost, some would say. Given up. I’d just like to say once and for all, in order to clear the water, that of course I think Pop Country music is terrible. Just like I think Romantic Comedy is a terrible film genre. And why frozen pizza is a terrible culinary excuse for dinner. Even if it’s an “Amy’s Organic Pizza.”
My crew works a fifty hour week and I make bids and contracts and runs to stores a lot more than that. My little man is demanding, my wife very insistant on a myriad of issues. I make it to the gym at 5:30 if I can make it all, and I rehearse my songs usually only on Sunday mornings before everybody wakes up. I take music way too seriously, and I don’t want to think about it in a typical day. Top 40 Country is “life backdrop music” for the next run to Lowes on a trip that I need to have already made yesterday.
But it isn’t just laziness. If it was, why not NPR or just regular Pop Music (meaning the same thing as Pop Country only with drum machines and less Telecaster riffs)? Because NPR switches to the “Morning Concert” at 9:00 and a Concerto in D Minor could make somebody fall off a ladder, asleep. Or, we’ve got excellent radio stations like WDVX and even the college station to play better music than Nashville’s formula that can actually be reduced to charts written with only a few numbers to allow any song to be played on sight by a group of musicians that still can’t read music. Ouch, I’m being harsh.
You’d be forgetting one thing to only mention the negatives of this music. That would be the “Everyman Factor.” It’s why Romantic Comedy works, why frozen pizza sells, and why three chord songs about beer will always get played in bars. If there is a formula to follow, there is something to be said for following it very well. Doesn’t anybody watch Breaking Bad?! I don’t like country music most of the time, but sometimes I really do, and as someone who thinks of themselves a songwriter, I love the study of it. The formula, I mean. I hear it’s mostly Canadians over there in the Middle Tennessee dust bowl, and they certainly have a lot of things pinned down. I don’t think a good ol’ boy would even know what sets him apart enough to write such a song.
Well this was quite the rant, back to my plug about the album. It will be produced and engineered by myself and sound like primitive bluegrass recordings. The songs will be easy and familiar. Yes, formulaic. I promise nothing metaphorically ambiguous or nihilistic and existential. Way too artsy. No, this is “Country boy can survive” kinda shit. ”Three chords and the truth,” to quote John Prine, I think. I’m forfeiting the artistic license I took in my twenties to let slackness slide in the name of creativity. Nope, creativity is the result of disciplined mastery and not sloppy guessing. Even to the tune of a formula.