Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Drive-By Truckers - Go-Go Boots

You can tell you've reached dangerous levels of fandom when you try to play little parlor games with yourself on the release of a new album. In this case, I correctly guessed, based on the titles, that "Pulaski" and "Cartoon Gold" would be Mike Cooley songs, but I picked the title track to be the third instead of "The Weakest Man."

I have to say, I don't feel like Cooley has really been bringing it on the last couple albums (by the admittedly high standards he established over the last decade), but this song is just beautiful:

There's a subtlety here that's rare in his earlier songs (so maybe I need to get to know these songs a little better before judging). He's working in an established genre of country songs. To give you some idea of what I'm talking about, listen to Elvis' "Long Black Limousine" (this song was previously recorded by Merle Haggard, and from what I can tell the original version is by Wynn Stewart, not on YouTube. Those versions are probably closer to what Cooley's going for, I'm just more familiar with the Elvis version).

I'm sure there are other songs in this genre, but "Long Black Limousine" is a pretty obvious point of comparison. But Cooley's song is different. While "Limousine" dwells on the lurid details, "Pulaski" leaves out what seems like the most important information. The song is clearly meant to be a cautionary tale, as emphasized by lines about how she "turned her back on her Baptist ways" and took to wearing "clothes that barely covered," but what are we supposed to learn from it? The message remains cryptic.

Meanwhile, this is one of Patterson Hood's best songs ever. It's the kind of song that you don't even realize on first listen how great it is, how unusual the sentiment is. It's a song about Patterson (or the narrator of his song) missing his departed mother, but it's not a sad song. It's almost deliriously happy. And really, it's not about him missing her, because he says she's always with him. This isn't something he tells himself for comfort, he believes it with all his heart, and his love for her produces nothing but joy.


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