Thursday, July 23, 2009

489. Guitar Town- How the west won me over.

Album: Guitar town.
Artist: Steve Earle
Year: 1986.
Genre: Country Rock.

1. Guitar Town
2. Goodbye's All We've Got Left
3. Hillbilly Highway
4. Good Ol' Boy (Gettin' Tough)
5. My Old Friend the Blues
6. Someday
7. Think It Over
8. Fearless Heart
9. Little Rock & Roller
10. Down the Road

Guitar Town, Steve Earle’s debut, is technically a country album but not country as I thought I knew it. It’s not wagon trains, cattle, campfires and whisky it’s Truckstops, rigs, jukeboxes and beer. It’s either countrified Rock or rocked-up country depending which direction of the highway you’re travelling down. And Guitar Town is all about travelling. It’s an album for people driving from places in the Deep South to other places in the Deep South, usually in a big truck hauling a huge case of the blues. It’s lonesome music for heading into the sunset to. In fact the only way to listen to Guitar Town is driving into the sunset. I imagine the west coast of America is crammed with Steve Earl fans who keep putting on his albums and just heading west into the sunset. “Heck I’d sure like to visit my folks back east but everytime I gets anywheres near I puts on Guitar Town and dang it if I don’t wind up back here again.”

If you feel so inclined the lyrics of Guitar town are a perfect opportunity to play “Southern Cliché bingo.” In fact let’s play a round now. Cards ready? Good. I’ll call out the words and phrases and you tick them off...
Tennessee? Check.
Chevy? Yep.
Grandaddy? Yep.
Pretty baby? You betcha.
One horse town? Of course.
Texas? Yep again.
Pick up truck? Darn tootin.
Interstate? Yep.
I got me a...? Oh yes.
Sad and blue? Bingo!

Fun isn’t it? Guitar town ticks all the musical clichés as well. The pedal steel guitar comes in just when you expect it to and the vocal inflections are all so damn yeehaw it takes all your willpower not to boot-scoot west into the sunset.
While I was listening to Steve Earle’s first album I have to confess to feeling guilty on two fronts. The first is that I was actually kind of enjoying it. Not loving every minute and thinking “where has this been all my life” but not hating it as much as I thought I would. I was originally disappointed not to find Copperhead Road (the only Steve Earle Song I know) on it but once I rallied from the shock and realised it was a country album all the way I actually didn’t mind it. The second guilt trip was when I laid a heavy load of preconceptions on it and its creator. I imagined Steve Earle as being the sort of guy who created music for his people in the south and not those Innerlectuals in New York or those Hippie-types in Californ-i-a. I was sure Earle was the sort of person who railed against those who railed against the Gulf war. I had him tagged as a right-wing, redneck making music for the similarly inclined. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he’s actually a left-wing radical in the Springsteen camp. Earle might sound like a redneck but he’s much more hawk than dove.

Having overcome my preconceptions and prejudices I’m happy to declare Guitar Town an enjoyable listen, especially My Old Friend the Blues which is clearly the album’s stand out track.

Highlight: Actually not minding a country album.
Lowlight: Wondering why I was actually not minding a country album
Influenced by: All those old cowboy lads whose names I should know but don’t.
Influenced: Some really awful country artists who followed in his bootseps.

Favourite Amazon customer review quote: “Play "My Home Town" by Montgomery Gentry and then take it out and throw it as far as you can and put in "Guitar Town" and tell me who can write a song!”

-That’s a very specific set of instructions.

So is guitar town your favourite destination or somewhere you avoid completely? Let me know below.

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