Thursday, May 26, 2005

gracelandscaping: a music review over lawnmower fumes

I just finished mowing the weeds that had risen above the patches of dead grass on our front lawn, essentially accomplishing nothing more than stirring up dust clouds and various allergens. The only real proof of my labor is the crooked pushmower tracks that now stripe the yard. It is a dry heat. The mower threatened to die at every turn, sputtering and coughing a faint black smoke on the rare occasions of having to deal with actual blades of grass. It was a free and had probably been on its deathwatch for some time before winding up with us. A young couple’s first house is generally where mowers, washers, and dryers are sent to die, though I’m sure I could kill a healthy one.

While doing so I listened to Gillian Welch’s Time (the Revelator), which is quite possibly the best record to ever come out of Nashville. Yes, it is even better than the one you just thought of. It is also better than the second and third ones. Oh, stop it. Just head out and purchase yourself a copy before trying to prove me wrong. Seriously.

Welch is one of those songwriters who make one immediately go out and try to write songs. Her music sounds deceptively effortless and her lyrics are one of the few examples of great songwriting that can also be described as great poetry. I tend to like very little poetry. The vast majority of self-described “poets” appear to do nothing more than take an overdose of emotional ex-lax before writing. The same thing goes with songwriting, regardless of the genre. You need only turn on your local college radio station and hear any number of the whiney “emo” bands on their playlist to know the importance of learning the art of restraint. You need only open a Nashville phone book for an example in the field of country music.

Sorry for the tirade. It appears that I have accidentally stumbled upon a soapbox. I should mention here that I first heard Welch on a college radio station and still find them the best source for anyone actually interested in hearing music, despite all the “emo” crap one is bound to encounter from show to show. Country radio, if they have ever played Welch, most likely only did so after the success of the O’Brother soundtrack. Johnny Cash had to die to get back on, and only then for a day or two before they returned to shitting in your ears with all the Tim McGraws and Reba McEntires of the world.

I have now cleared the soapbox out of the way.

I suppose my high opinion of Welch may be a bit clouded, as we share the common experience of having been adopted. It’s like if someone with six toes on each foot suddenly found out that Ben Affleck had six toes on each foot they wouldn’t be so quick to point out what a horrible actor Affleck is. People tend to stick together, and I easily relate to interviews with Welch where she talks about growing up wondering about her biological parents being musicians. A part of me still hopes to find out I’m a genuine Elvis Presley love child someday.
Perhaps I could then claim Graceland as my own and thus inherit a decent lawnmower.

3 Comments:

Blogger Calvin Coltrane said...

Rex, I am a bit disappointed that you made no metion of David Rawlings.

I heartily agree with your asessment that Tim McGraw and Ben Affleck are equally shite at their chosen profession. Ironically, McGraw ain't too bad as an actor. His performance in Friday Night Lights is a portrayal of a drunken bastard on par with Dwight Yoakam's star turn in Sling Blade. Perhaps Benifer should record a pre-fab Neo-Country turd.

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