Thursday, June 20, 2013

SOTW - June 21, 2013 - "In a booth in the corner ..."

It's a love story as old as time. A smoke-filled dive bar, late at night. Packed and steamy hot. The din pulsates, warping the dimly-lit air. You can hear the juke box playing, the song indiscernible. Glasses and foreheads sweat. Things reach a crescendo. Romance abounds, floating, waiting to attach itself to two souls in (fleeting) communion. A man walks in. There's a lady in a booth in the corner. Eyes meet, then meet again. Seconds pass. Then again. No coincidence. People begin filtering out to find the Night's conclusion. Not these two. A pitcher of drinks. Then another...  

Daylight comes and birds chirp. No eye contact now. Only pleasureful shame. What the hell? They know the score. A love story as old as time, but a short one.

Loretta Lynn was 43 years years old when Jack White was born. Musically, several genres separate the Coal Miner's Daughter and The Pale Master. How and why they came to make music together, much less tell us a dazzling story of temporary lovers, I cannot explain. Such asymmetry in age, style, and experience can spell forced disaster; not here. Jack and Loretta are both too great for that. Plus, they really like each other. (Not how you are thinking.) This unlikeliest of musical unions - between a then 72 and a 28 year old- produced one of the great modern American albums, 2004's Van Lear Rose. If you grew up in the country, this crossover classic will carry you home, straight to Grandma's arms. It's sound evokes the wind rustling the old pecan trees out back on a hot July evening. Woven with themes of tradition ("This Old House", "High on a Mountaintop"), family ("Family Tree"), trial, and triumph (the title track), this was Americana before Americana was cool. It's essential material for any library and enrichment on a hot summer day.

The album's unforgettable track, and your Song of the Week for June 21, 2013, bucks the narrative arc of the album a bit and takes us back to our smoke-filled bar. The daydream haze of the intro segues into a gentle hook before blasting into the soaring highs of the main theme. Instead of the story of conquest and adventure that the music portrays, the listener is dropped into a little bar and a sloe gin fizz soaked story of one man, one woman, and an unforgettable night. "Portland, Oregon" is one big smile. "And a pitcher to go!"


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