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Review: Richard Youngs, “Summer Through My Mind”

When Richard Youngs agreed to record a country album for his debut on Ba Da Bing Records, it was like he had accepted a dare. “I haven’t got a country bone in my body,” he admitted to Ben Chasny in his 2012 BOMB Magazine interview. Label boss Ben Goldberg had given Youngs a whole list of dream records he’d like hear from him, which means other options must have been on the table, but the British singer-noisemaker elected to try his hand at America’s Appalachian offspring anyway.

What he ended up with doesn’t sound like Jimmie Rodgers or Hank Williams at all, though there’s more going on here than meets the ear. Youngs uses all the right tools—acoustic and slide guitar, banjo, harmonica—but his songs are looser and more exploratory than most things in the country canon. Looser because they sound as if they were committed to tape by osmosis; Youngs captures most of his ideas rough-hewn and leaves them that way. More exploratory because, without a drawl or a connection to the style’s traditions, and without a backing band to rein him in, Youngs is free to improvise on his idea of the country sound and free to ignore the usual conventions.

Read the rest at Dusted Magazine

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Song of the Night: “El Paso”

heisenberg_hatIf you haven’t seen the last episode of Breaking Bad, you may want to stop reading now. I spoil more than the name of a song in what follows.

Seeing that Marty Robbins tape land in the seat next to Walter at the start of the episode caused me to throw down a little fist pump, because I knew which song was going to come on right away and because the connection between “Felina” and the music hit me immediately. I should have thought of it the second I read the finale’s title a week ago, but it was probably better that the realization came during the show.

Most people have probably looked the song up by now, but if not, check out the lyrics and the song below. With a little imagination, they line up with the plot almost perfectly.

For what it’s worth, I thought the ending was perfect too, or as perfect as it could get following the craziness of season four. Writers and fans complaining that the conclusion was a little too “neat” or “safe” should take the time to think about what happened in the last four episodes, and how little Walter actually accomplished before checking out.

He managed to save his family from Lydia and the Aryan Brotherhood, but Hank died in the process, he lost his son, his wife, and his daughter, and insured that his legacy will be that of a criminal that abandoned his family. Neither Skyler nor Walt Jr. will ever know that Walt is behind Gray Matter’s future donation, Walt Jr. will never know that Walt didn’t pull the trigger on Hank, and then there’s the whole trail of death and destruction Heisenberg left behind in his desperation. A trail that Walt paved because, by his own admission, he enjoyed it. He was good at it.

Walt half-won in the end, but only because he didn’t go out 100% Heisenberg. Some tiny part of his family-man’s-self remained. Enough to help him poison one person, threaten two more, and kill most of the rest. What is neat or safe about any of that?

But enough ranting – that’s just my two cents. I enjoyed the show and the ending and this song has been stuck in my head all night and day.

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa’s cantina;
Music would play and Felina would whirl.

Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina,
Wicked and evil while casting a spell.
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden;
I was in love but in vain, I could tell.

One night a wild young cowboy came in,
Wild as the West Texas wind.
Dashing and daring,
A drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina, the girl that I loved.

So in anger I challenged his right for the love of this maiden.
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore.
My challenge was answered in less than a heart-beat;
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor.

Just for a moment I stood there in silence,
Shocked by the foul evil deed I had done.
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there;
I had but one chance and that was to run.

Out through the back door of Rosa’s I ran,
Out where the horses were tied.
I caught a good one.
It looked like it could run.
Up on its back and away I did ride,
Just as fast as I could from the West Texas town of El Paso
Out to the bad-lands of New Mexico.

Back in El Paso my life would be worthless.
Everything’s gone in life; nothing is left.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death.

I saddled up and away I did go,
Riding alone in the dark.
Maybe tomorrow
A bullet may find me.
Tonight nothing’s worse than this pain in my heart.

And at last here I am on the hill overlooking El Paso;
I can see Rosa’s cantina below.
My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
Down off the hill to Felina I go.

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys;
Off to my left ride a dozen or more.
Shouting and shooting I can’t let them catch me.
I have to make it to Rosa’s back door.

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side.
Though I am trying
To stay in the saddle,
I’m getting weary, unable to ride.

But my love for Felina is strong and I rise where I’ve fallen,
Though I am weary I can’t stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.

From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I’ll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.


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Songs of the Day: George Jones, “White Lightning” and “She Thinks I Still Care”


I can’t count the number of times I’ve sang along to “White Lightning.” Embarrassing videos exist to prove it. It’s one of my favorite country songs. Maybe one of my favorite pop songs period.

George Jones died today in Nashville, TN. He was 81 years old. If you want to read a colorful, sad, and absolutely amazing obituary, check this one out at The New York Times. Here’s just a few excerpts:

“White Lightning,” a No. 1 country hit in 1959, required 83 takes because Mr. Jones was drinking through the session. On the road, playing one-night stands, he tore up hotel rooms and got into brawls. He also began missing shows because he was too drunk to perform.

At one point his wife hid the keys to all his cars, so he drove his lawn mower into Beaumont to a liquor store — an incident he would later commemorate in a song and in music videos. They were divorced not long afterward.

In his last years, Mr. Jones found himself upholding a traditional sound that had largely disappeared from commercial country radio. “They just shut us off all together at one time,” he said in a 2012 conversation with the photographer Alan Mercer. “It’s not the right way to do these things. You just don’t take something as big as what we had and throw it away without regrets.

“They don’t care about you as a person,” he added. “They don’t even know who I am in downtown Nashville.”

Rest in peace, George.