Yesterday morning, they played this song on the radio:
They were trying to argue that it was a kind of proto-rap, which is not really an argument I find that interesting. But I do think that the song has something in common with rap. Not just the rapid-fire delivery but with the joy taken in the sound of words, the playfulness with the very noise of language. These names of places are just fun to say.
I also like this song, because it reminds me that a lot of Johnny Cash songs have a kind of scary humor to them that may not always be immediately obvious. In this one, it’s only when you listen carefully, when you hear him say “I’m a killer” that you start to be very nervous for the guy who picked him up going to Winnemucca.
There is a tradition of kind of “talking” singing songs. Like, you can hear it in “Hot Rod Lincoln,” which, in my head, is a kind of brother to “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
But, clearly, this is about the noise the instruments can make and the story and the sounds of words is less paramount.
I was kind of thinking that this song, by Nathaniel Rateliff, has that same kind of joy in the sounds of words. Who knows what he’s saying? Who even cares? It just sounds like something.
I love this song, it is the most retro thing, BUT between this and Elle King I’m started to get weirded out by white artists copying the styles of black artists so closely. Is it just me?
I guess I feel like that’s the history of American music, so it doesn’t bother me that much. What I’m more weirded out by, and I’d lump Leon Bridges in there too, is how much everyone wants to sound like apolitical black music from the 50s and 60s. It seems like such a deliberate stance–look how much we sound like these people about to make huge artistic statements about our culture, but not quite yet–that I can’t believe that it’s not. I mean, if you made a piece of art that was just about Martin Luther King on April 3, 1968, we’d all still feel the anxiety of knowing his assassination is a day away.
I like this retro music, but I feel like the absence of politics from it is some kind of political signal. I just don’t know how to read it, exactly.
They keep playing this as a “Johnny Cash” song because of that TV commercial, but the hit original was by Hank Snow…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kGHmIZ4IUY