Cowboy Junkies

This well-rounded piece on The Bold Italic about the best places in San Francisco to listen to classic country music got me in so many ways.

It first caught my eye because of the graphics used for the story– creations made out of paper by artist Chloe Fluery that somehow remind me of the work of  Wayne Thiebaud.

Then, the wonderful intro essay (below) by Sasha Darling about coming around to classic country music later in life after an early education by her dad totally sucked me in. I too developed a love of the music I grew up listening to with my dad– though it was more along the lines of The Rolling Stones, early soul, and anything with a good beat to dance to– and Darling put it more eloquently than I ever could have.

Finally, I love reading a good city guide (or really reviews of anything, also inherited from my dad) in the same illogical way that I love reading a cookbook cover to cover. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to read such things as leisure reading, when they’re meant for specific research. You can’t take advantage of the acquired knowledge at that moment. But still, just immersing yourself in the details takes you on a little escape as your imagination creates a preview of the thing you’re going to do/cook/go to/read/etc. Point being, I loved reading the descriptions of all these country joints that I now definitely want to check out in SF!

Below, the essay by Darling, and click over to the article to read about the spots she highlights.

“My dad bought me my first turntable when I was in third grade, and searching for records was our bonding activity. We spent all weekend hitting up record dealers and flea markets in search of rare scores. We agreed on almost everything when it came to music – except that I refused to listen to country.

Country was for rednecks and I was becoming a little new wave, punk rock girl. I couldn’t understand how my incredibly cool father could listen to such crap. He insisted that when I grew up I would appreciate country music. I firmly stated, never!

Of course as I grew older, I ate my immature words. In my late teens I got involved in the budding rockabilly scene. This new world of ex-punks turned hillbilly opened my mind to honky-tonk. As the years went on, I found myself putting on George Jones and Patsy Cline more often than the Descendents or The Smiths.

I was shocked at how connected I felt to the music. As much as I tried as a child to block out the lonesome and rebellious crooners, I knew the words to every country standard by adulthood. I still love all types of music, but these days I’m definitely a little bit more country and a little less rock and roll.

In this rock- and electronic-heavy city, it can be hard to find some good honky-tonks to hang out at, but with a little country know-how, you can find that hillbilly spirit within these urban confines.”

This one’s for my dad – if there’s a country singer, or rather duo, he loves, it’s Waylon and Willie, and particularly this song. He bought me an album of their duets before a cross country road trip, and I’ll forever associate the album with that trip. We even made a detour to go through Luckenbach, TX, just so we could listen to this song there.

Listening To: Ray Charles Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music

I just do not get sick of this album from 1962.  I love hearing Ray’s arrangements of these classic country songs.

The album was his idea, as he wanted to cover and pay homage to these country songwriters whom he greatly admired, but the studio had little faith that it would have any success.  Thus, they basically left him alone to create it on his own with his recording supervisor, not thinking it would ever go anywhere.

Much to their surprise, the album had multiple hit singles (that went on to become classics in Ray’s repertoire), and created a interesting cross-polination of audiences, from country lovers who never otherwise would have listened to R&B but wanted to hear their favorites reinterpreted, and of Ray fans who never would have been interested in exploring country.

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