Americana and Me
I heard once that one fool can ask more questions than a hundred wise men can answer. So, with that in mind, like in Waylon’s song, Honky-Tonk Heroes…. “There’s one in every crowd, but for cryin’ out loud, why is always turnin’ out to be me?’
Here’s my guess. I keep banging my head against the Americana wall. Willie Nelson said, “I’ve outlived my own dick.” And I’m living in a time I don’t truly understand. And, until recently, I smugly thought I did. But I’ve been thinking –
When I began playing Folk music, during the time of Hoot’nannys, when I spent days learning the chord changes for Lemon Tree and It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song (on a Kay Spanish arch-top guitar with the strings an inch above the frets), I was a true believer. I thought ALL folksingers were radicals, that music was a subversive thing and that I would always ‘understand.’
(Solzhenitsyn wrote, in my favorite novel, Cancer Ward, about Kostoglatov, my favorite hero. Because all Kostoglatov wanted was to be a ‘good Russian.’ But, he couldn’t stop asking questions. They even said to him in the book, “Kostoglatov, just shut up. Stop asking questions and people will like you. But he couldn’t do it).
So, when I began singing, playing and, yes, writing Folk songs, it was way back in a time when only men had tattoos. Not women. And those men worked, if they worked, in carnivals or, at best, at gas stations. They rode Greyhound buses and went out with women named Dixie, who had hair that was comic-book yellow. A black fingernail meant you’d hit yourself with a hammer. Black-Eyed Peas went on the plate beside pork. Every Southerner old enough to remember To Kill a Mockinbird was a flaming Liberal and I had a club I belonged to. I dangled that participle on purpose, because I’ve recently realized my boat has sailed. Here I was waiting for it to come in, and the damned thing has already sailed.
I love reading all the posts, the blogs and the other stuff on No Depression, and I’ll still be creeping around the edges of the property, even if you put out a guard dog. Because this is my music. Hank Williams sang Folk music. Lefty did, too. Even with Bergen White’s string section, Patsy Cline and Loretta were singing ‘folk’ music. And it’s the music I love.
I’m always amazed by the music that’s coming out now, slipping through the cracks, making noise that’s as subversive as We Shall Overcome. I’m proud to be a part of it all. And I don’t want you to think of me as the old guy who keeps your baseball if you hit it into my yard. I’m just trying to work things out.