soundtracking with Jordan Zivitz october 2009: Iris DeMent, Patty Griffin, Kasey Chambers

October 11, 2009

This month: Country songs whose loneliness goes a lot deeper than
tear-in-my-beer truck-stoppery.

Iris DeMent: Our Town

I’ve been unable to dislodge this from my brain ever since seeing DeMent sing it at the Pop Montreal festival on Oct. 4, 2009. I love lonely songs that make you feel less alone…there’s no doubt Our Town is a heartbreaker, but it’s Our Town, not My Town. If things are going to hell, we’re all in it together … until the last verse, when the narrator moves on. Hammer-on-the-head singer/songwriters would turn that development into a triumphant break for freedom, but DeMent makes it the saddest part of all. Some people find DeMent’s trembling voice kind of shrill, but I think it’s honest and true and untameable, much like Emmylou Harris’s. Oh, look … there she is.

Patty Griffin: Making Pies

Now, this is a lonely song that makes you feel totally alone. And yet,
it’s profoundly uplifting, thanks to Patty’s gift of finding the grace
and honour in invisible lives, like the one documented here. The last
line has to be one of the most understated but penetrating “choose
life” sentiments I’ve heard: “You could cry or die, or just make pies
all day … I’m making pies.” For my money, Patty is the greatest
songwriter to emerge in the last 15 years, including whoever wrote
Cheeky Song/Touch My Bum. (Next month. I promise.)

Kasey Chambers: Nullarbor Song

If that Iris DeMent song comes from a certain type of town, this one
comes from a more specific place: the vast, desolate plains of
Australia. Lonely, huh? The narrator of Nullarbor Song wouldn’t have
it any other way, happy to be where “dingoes howl just to break the
silence.” This may be one of the most anti-social songs ever written,
but there’s no anger or resentment in it. Just contentment at being on
your own, in a place where nobody knows your name … because there’s
nobody there at all. Except for those dingoes.

Jordan Zivitz is a friend of mine and if things do go to hell, I’m going on a farewell road trip with him and his iPod. dd


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