Friday, January 27, 2012

SOTW - January 27, 2012

imagery [im-ij-ree, im-i-juh-ree] noun The formulation of mental images, figures, or likenesses of things.

Your SOTW for 1/27/12 is chock full of it. One beautiful component of music is its ability to take us to a time or place, real or imagined. I wish I knew how many times I'd driven down the road listenting to this song and trying to see in my mind the drugstore cowboy utopia that it describes so vividly. From "Annie Rich's" parlor, to the lonley switchman by the "river bridge," to rolling praries of grain, you won't hear a better example of imagery in music. Backing vocals by Emmylou Harris give it all an angelic shimmer.

Gram Parson's story is an endearing, if tragic, one. Having grown up in Waycross, Georgia (the biggest town in the biggest county in the biggest state east of the Mississippi), he made it his mission for country and rock to become one. Blazing trails with the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds (see Sweetheart of the Rodeo), he picked up what Ry Cooder started and taught the Stones how to rock, Hank Williams style. (A fly on the wall at the "Exile" sessions at Villa Nellcote in the summer of '72 would have seen Gram there.) The Stones, in turn, gave country its proper place in the lexicon of Rock, which had been a R&B and blues dominated genre up to that point. Thus, country rock became pop. I'd submit that what we affectionately call "alt country" today would not be what it is but for Gram Parsons's dedication. He managed to kill himself with drugs and alcohol at the ripe old age of 26. The only fitting way for his story to end was for his friends to steal his body from LAX, take it to the Joshua Tree National Monument, and send him back to dust with an impromptu cremation. What he left behind endures, and I am thankful for it.

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