This is my new column for Country Standard Time Magazine. It won't be out for another couple weeks or so, but you lucky people get to read it right now.
Let’s Get Emotional
I don’t know how many country songs I’ve heard in my lifetime. I guess a gazillion would be a conservative estimate. I do know that out of that number, there are only a handful of songs that never, no matter how many times I’ve heard them, lose their ability to emotionally get to me. It might be goosebumps or a lump in the throat. It might be more embarrassing that that – that’s right, tear duct activity. I wonder why these songs retain their power and other songs that once affected me now leave me cold, but I’m not going to try and figure out why here. I’m going to talk about a few of the songs I never got over and hopefully stimulate you to think about your own such list.
The oldest one that still gets to me was recorded before I was born. Some of you may remember me talking about “El Paso” by Marty Robbins before. Well, I’m going to do it again. There is more going on in the 4 minutes and 45 seconds of this song than there is in many 445 page books I’ve read. There’s love, lust, betrayal, murder, longing, gunfights and death. And some of the lines “Maybe tomorrow a bullet may find me / Tonight nothing’s worse than this pain in my heart” give me goosebumps every time I hear them. Hell, it gave me goosebumps just now when I wrote them out.
Things end a little more happily for the lovers in another song that always get to me – “Love at the Five and Dime” from Kathy Mattea – but there’s just as much emotion packed into them. In this song Eddie and Rita, childhood sweethearts, go the distance and are still in love and still dancing near the ends of their lives, after enduring parental disapproval, poverty, infidelity and the death of a child. Lorrie Morgan’s “Something in Red” is another song similar in theme that always affects me emotionally, and if you’re guessing it’s songs about love that lasts till death do them part that get to me, I think you’re on the right track. (By the way, I know Nanci Griffith wrote and originally recorded “Love at the Five and Dime” but I prefer Mattea’s version because I heard it first and because of the awesome backing vocals of the Gentle Giant, Don Williams.)
And then there’s “Austin” by Blake Shelton.
I admit that I’ve been known to talk on the cell-phone while driving. If the traffic is slow enough I’ve even been known to read or do a crossword puzzle while driving. But every time this song comes on the radio, I pull off the road. It just wouldn’t be safe any other way. I’ve got tears in my eyes when Shelton sings the first line of this song, “She left without leaving a number. . . ” and by the time we get to “This is no machine you’re talking to, Can’t you tell? This is Austin and I still love you” let’s just say I’m in no condition to drive.
Those are my always-emotionally-affective songs. What are yours?
-- Robert Loy