Well, shee-it, ahm purty good at drankin’ beer
Don’t get me wrong. I love what some people call “real” country music, and as such have done a pretty good job at avoiding the stuff by that name that gets played on radio — what gets branded as “new country” — like the plague. But, as some of you readers may have gleaned, I started working a while back. What I haven’t talked about much is that now I share an office with a guy who likes to listen to country music on the radio. Unfortunately for me, the country music that gets played on the local station he likes, the CBS-owned affiliate KNCI, is not the hard-swingin’ Buck’n’Merle shitkicker music I grew up listening to on KRAK radio, 1140. Whose AM frequency, ironically, is now occupied by a sports talk station, and its sister station, KNCI, is parked on the FM frequency once occupied by KZAP, originally a free-form rocker before it got taken over by fat guys with walrus mustaches who foisted midwestern mullet-headed rawktwaddle like Head East and REO Speedwagon ad infinitum, along with Night Ranger, Journey, Styx and the rest of the late ’70s major label satin jacket brigade.
I like my job, and I like the guy I share an office with, and I’d like to think I’m a lot more mature than I used to be. Time was, I’d get all butthurt and rattled and demand that my office mate listen to Trout Mask Replica in its entirety, or maybe some Lotte Lenya singing Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht songs in German, but I don’t roll that way anymore. I get curious. It’s like, well, what makes this tick? The easy-to-grasp thing about KNCI is that they have a rotation of about five songs, and they play them over and over. And over. And over.
So there’s this one song getting lots of airplay right now that sounds like a flaccid-weenie rewrite of Hank Williams’ “Kaw-liga,” in a minor key and shit, and it’s wedged in my craw pretty good. The singer’s got one of those skanky-chick voices like those crepuscular ladies who might’ve been hangin’ out at some dealer’s house when you went to cop some of the bad shit circa 1978 or 2005 or so, sitting there hitting off a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd records and babbling about weird orgasms she had on midway Rock-o-Plane rides at the San Joaquin County Fair while you waited for your appointment with the man.
“No more biscuits and gravy. No more tochis and nay-nays. Take me down to that little white church,” Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild sings in that abraded-sphincter white gospel style that seems to be quite popular wherever corn dogs are sold. “No more beej’s on Mondays. No more freebie vajayjay. Take me down to that little white church.” Yep, you know, the house of worship where the guys in the white Spy vs. Spy suits roast the big cross on Friday nights and stuff. Mm-hmm, sanger’s been livin’ in thayut see-in, and Reverend Virgil-Bob Sneedleroy’s gonna make an honest woman out of her, thus ending the poontang parade for yet one more relationship, ’cause you know that married people ain’t gonna be gettin’ any, or at least the doing of the deed falls of precipitously after that visit to the little white church. Ah, this song must be good country music, because it sure makes me want to drink powerful liquor, and I don’t do that anymore.
The other tune wedged in my craw opens with a Jim Beam-hangover headache of an oop ba-doop ba-doop guitar line and proceeds to delineate a reasonably unenthusiastic life. Nope, sometimes I don’t feel like doing much work, either, and if I drank beer, well, maybe that’s what I’d feel like doing, too. That said, this song doesn’t quite ring true, and its lyrics cynically try to connect with Mr. Regular Joe: Hell yee-haw, ahm purty good at drankin’ beers, too, and I wish I could do thayut an’ get paid f’r thayut kinda gig.
Too bad songwriter Troy Jones then namechecks a cerveza by brand that completely shitcans his credibility. I mean, Bud Light? Oh, man. C’mon, lads, that swill ain’t even dog piss; it’s chihuahua piddle, and it ain’t even ‘Murkan; parent company A-B InBev is headquartered in Belgium and Brazil, to which the Frank Booth character in Blue Velvet would have six little words: “Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!” That’s the trouble with these Nashville songwriters like Jones, who penned this butt nugget for Billy Currington: They sit around in their Nashville backyards staring into their navels or thinking too much about what musically ultraconservative programmers like whoever it is at KNCI who green-lights this stuff — “Ooh! Sounds like warmed-over Skynyrd mixed with old F-150 ad jingles? Yep, that’s country” — and they’ve lost touch with the zeitgeist. I mean, Bud Light.
I’ve heard that Currington cut for like every hour of the work week for months now. Talk about your tired. But at least it’s catchy; far worse is a Carrie Underwood track whose chorus sounds like some “nyah nyah na na nyah” playground taunt, which worked in 1982 when the Waitresses did it (r.i.p., Patty Donahue) but blows now to such a degree that I have to leave the room whenever it comes on. I mean, Simon Cowell should have nothing to do with anything related to music, much less country music. Pure vomit. Same goes for another song by some guy I won’t even bother to look up. Um, if you’re gonna sing “na-na-na-na-na” in your chorus, just do the world a favor and stick to covering other less-lazy writers’ tunes instead. Please spare us the misery of your lazy songwriting.
I don’t want to bag too much on this. It’s country-flavored product, what Velveeta is to real cheese. Lots of people like Velveeta. And I wouldn’t even bother to listen if I wasn’t a captive audience, and even then I’m not vehemently objecting (unless that execrable Carrie Underwood comes on, at which point I usually make like Paul Desmond and take five), because it’s just wallpaper. And corporations serve up poop all the time and call it food, like marketing “smooth jazz” as jazz or “active rock” as rock or Fox News as news. As long as there are bucks to be churned and chickens to be plucked, someone’s gonna do it.
Anyway, as for the headline, for any of you friends who might be worrying about me, well, my drinking habits can best be described as Mormon, one day at a time, although I do drink the Cokes and coffee so I guess no Temple Recommend for ol’ Jacky Boy. My underwear is normal, too. However, what’s a real cool time to this lad is sangin’ and pickin’ old-school liquored-up hillbilly shit when no one else is listening — “There Stands the Glass” by Webb Pierce, “She Thinks I Still Care” by George Jones, “She’s Actin’ Single, I’m Drinkin’ Doubles” by Gary Stewart, “Honky Tonk Amnesia” by Moe Bandy,”I’m Not the Man That I’m Supposed to Be” by Lefty Frizzell, “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down” by Merle Haggard, “Playboy” by Wynn Stewart, “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down” by Charlie Walker and a million others (boy, that Harlan Howard could write, couldn’t he?) plus some other stuff, which doesn’t exactly pass muster with the Word of Wisdom crowd.
Then again, what does? Clearly, not the 100-proof shit. —Jackson Griffith