At its best, music is a time machine. It can take you back to the good or bad moments in one's life at a single listen and drop you into another world—usually the world past. Of course, I'm talking about hearing the songs from your past. My favorite song of puberty was When I Fall In Love by The Lettermen (followed closely by The Beach Boys' In My Room) because it was so sweet and slow, you didn't have to dance—you could just lean against the girl and smell her hair. Rock & Roll was "Louie Louie"—the Raiders' version—and during my stoner days, nothing fit the bill better than Van der Graaf Generator's "Pawn Hearts" album. They all take me back to a point in time, usually a better point (whether it really was or not). Of course, it seldom works when the music is not original. I personally will not sit through anyone's rendition of Dark Side of the Moon nor will I stay in a venue featuring a band playing Beatles' music exclusively. It is just not my thing (and the music would not take me back). That's what I was thinking before I put on Eilen Jewell Presents Butcher Holler: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn. Now I'm thinking if Eilen Jewell comes to town, I might just check her out.
I know Loretta Lynn. I couldn't get away from her music growing up and couldn't wait to get away from the small logging town of Sweet Home, Oregon because I couldn't get away from her music. Not just her music, but any music that dominated the juke boxes of the myriad of taverns in that town. We call it "honky tonk" now but back then it was Country & Western and even cry-in-your-beer music. I would have said crap because that is what I was thinking back then, being a young Rock & Roller to the Nth degree, but time has a way of creeping up on you and returning you to your roots. That crap was what I was brought up on. Like it or not, it is evidently in my blood.
So when Jewell and crew started cranking out Fist City, I was surprised to find myself back in Sweet Home, a town with equal numbers of churches, taverns and gas stations; a town where people who drank and cussed and whored and beat their wives went to church on Sunday to absolve themselves of their sins (and, no, they mostly were not Catholic); a town where, when a serious fight broke out in a bar or tavern, it more likely than not ended up in the street blocking traffic; and a town where jukeboxes and not radio dominated the local musical scene. The stars there were not necessarily the stars everywhere else—or the songs were not necessarily the hits, anyway. Mostly, they were the songs that lived in the taverns—by Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, Lynn Anderson and, of course, Loretta Lynn. What I am saying is that in my hometown, radio didn't control country music, the jukebox did, so when the jukebox picked up the latest single, most people in town knew it before (or even if) it became a hit.
Why am I telling you this? Because seldom does an album recorded today capture what the music was then—in any genre. Welcome to a real exception. When I hear this album, I again am walking past the open door of the Frontier Room, a dark and cigarette smoke-filled cave, and hear the jukebox blaring Country & Western full blast. I again hear the clinking of glasses and the laughter and shouts echoing into the street and see the drunk men and women occasionally staggering to their cars. I again see myself leaning against the wall outside, waiting for a song I particularly like to end. Butcher Holler nailed it. They captured the sound and the feel and, by proxy, even the smells of those days. This is Country & Western. This is what it was.
Weird thing is, I haven't thought this way for years. A few weeks ago, I discovered an exceptional album of originals recorded by a Seattle band called Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers and zap! I'm back in the old hometown. What is it they say about lightning striking twice? Damn! Zapped again.
For those who love the fifties and sixties and Country & Western, this is a gem. You might want to check out Zoe Muth, too. Both have my good barkeeping seal of approval. Makes me wonder why I didn't like this kind of stuff back then. Must have been hormones.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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