Saturday, March 1, 2014

SOTW - March 1, 2014 - "Try Not to Look So Pretty"

Dwight Yoakam is the Genuine Article; a Music Lover's musician. Yoakam is a lineal descendant of the badass masters of the Bakersfield style (stylistically if not geographically). Unlike so many in his genre, he writes his own songs. It's hard to imagine him holding an instrument on stage unless he planned to play it, and well. Looking at him, you get the feeling that cowboy boots are less a stage prop than an integral part of his being.

Despite growing up on the Georgia Coastal Plain, I've never been a Country kind of guy. Modern Country in the Garth Brooks vein, while accessible, always felt too engineered. Like Rock, Country diverged from its roots, but I never felt it did so with the same success. Still, I could never help but be intrigued by Dwight Yoakam. His piercing tenor demands attention; it's the kind of voice that focuses the mind of the listener no matter his genre preference. While knowing little about Dwight, I've always had the feeling that, if his name came up in a room full of serious, Old School Country Fans that cut their teeth on Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard, you'd see nods of approval and hear things like, "Hell yeah, Dwight's the real deal."

On Sunday nights during high school, mostly out of sheer boredom, Zackary Wade and I would often go and ride for miles and miles. It's the way young and restless minds fill time in Wide Open Spaces. I well remember floating up I-75 in a crystal blue '91 Buick Reatta with Zackary, skipping around Dwight's modern classic, This Time. Zackary had an infuriating (for me) propensity to skip around to singalong choruses (his cassette copy of the Allman Brothers Decade of Hits had jagged edges before and after the long solo in "Blue Sky"), and the advent of the CD fed the habit. But, your Song of the Week for March 1, 2014 was one that Zackary never had any problem sitting through (the mark of true musical greatness). While "Try Not to Look so Pretty" would barely get you half way from Vienna to Unadilla on a northbound trip up 75, it left an enduring imprint on my young mind.

A song of heartbreak should not be so lovely. Void of pretense and resorting to only pragmatic metaphorical device (no storms brewing in the distance or fires burning here; only a "useless thought," thrown away at night), the song boils the sentiment of the heartsick lover down to a totally useless plea. The pain lies in the beauty before the narrator, and there's nothing that can be done about that, but he must beg anyway. A timeless modern Country classic, "Try Not to Look so Pretty" exudes resolute, straight-faced heartbreak in the great Country tradition.


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