Yesterday they set me free, just like we hoped. Now it’s a matter of time. Unless anything more exciting occurs than “it hurts to bite,” I’m going to be moving on in matters of this blog and leaving the subject behind. (Erica says thank you).
There is something more important at hand to speak about. As Americans, this affects each of us and the way we live. This Fall we will each have to make a decision, and I’d like to talk about that for a second. The question is (and are you ready):
Will I or will I not support a step in the right direction for Country Music, America’s storytelling, and get the new Levon Walker album, should it ever come out?
Think back a second.
I remember on the school bus when everybody had their CD wallets out and looked over the seats to compare. If you were in my eighth grade class, you didn’t want to not have Green Day, Silverchair, Better than Ezra, or the Smashing Pumpkins. You couldn’t let it be said of yourself. You might as well have your mom on the bus with you.
It isn’t like that anymore. Or maybe we’re old and it still is, I don’t know. But I remember listening to albums over and over and not liking them. I would tell myself, okay one more time and it will come. Just be cool. Truth is, I never found much connection to anything until I heard jazz, and secondly gospel. Thirdly, my dad’s old stuff. I did have a crush on Janet Jackson, but who didn’t.
There’s about as much jazz influence in a small Midwestern farm town who relies on coal mining, the Pennyrile Parkway, and a General Electric plant as there is in some parts of the Grand Canyon, and only under certain rocks even there. We had a dry county until I was about 17. I think I carried around the local jazz scene in my CD wallet. Musically speaking, the closest thing we had to a jazz club was the local Pentecostal church. And that’s where my piano teacher led the band, Ms. Francis. From the piano or the Hammond, whichever she felt. She taught me you could literally hit someone in the face with a dominant 13 chord.
Of course the musical depth of the Passion Movement overcame us all in the 90s. Keyboard players fell on their shields and acoustic guitars gave us G, C and D.
Or C, D and G.
Maybe C, Em, G and D.
And D over F#, some of the better ones.
I held a string pad for about 5 years. You could hold an open fifth, put a chair leg on the sustain pedal, and catch a little nap. I told you already how I amassed 19 keyboards in my early 20s to accompany the acoustic guitar and its mysteries.
My elitist attitude has subsided over time. I started out writing complicated jibberish that I couldn’t remember, couldn’t teach a throw-together band, and nobody found relatable or enjoyable. It was like a never ending Herby Hancock funk solo on a screeching synthesizer when you’re thinking, “Oh my goodness, please stop.”
If anything, my decade of resistance to the four chord song has made me write them more deliberately. There is a reason why they work. Sort of like a photograph takes more understanding of composition than the physics of light. But you’d need to know the physics of light to be a good photographer.
Willie Nelson said “Three chords and the truth, that’s what a country song is.”
I believe it may always take me four, but I’m trying.