Guest writer, Jason Gartshore of the Americana Review shows you his roots
On my way to work one day listening to "The Big D" Dallas Wayne do his usual outstanding morning show on Sirius/XM's Outlaw Country channel, a subject was broached that spawned this piece. He stated there were three albums that stand out in his mind as being the most impactful, most complete and powerful records that have simply blown him away. One of them was an album by Steve Earle, "Guitar Town", an album and singer that was ahead of his time when that record was released. While Dallas was talking albums, I'm going to focus on three songs that have forged my tastes in music over the years: songs that still sound as fresh today as they did when I first heard them years ago. I will confess one of the songs is a recent release, say within the last two years. No matter, it's one of the best written songs that I've ever heard. Here's my big three:
1. The Dark End of the Street, Flying Burrito Brothers version: Written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman, this song has been covered many, many times by a range of artists as diverse as Percy Sledge, The Allman Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams with Courtney Love, Aretha Franklin, Eva Cassidy, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, and Richard and Linda Thompson. A beautifully written story of lust and sin, it's no wonder this song has been covered so many times. But for me, this version by the Flying Burrito Brothers is the definitive version. A group that was at the forefront of the country-rock movement in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the musicianship and harmonies on this version are second to none. The vocal performance of Gram Parsons on this track captures the pain, longing, fear and guilt of the narrator as if the man was living the story himself. It was this song that introduced me to the early country-rock sound that existed before the Eagles came to prominence. A vastly underrated group in their time, the influence of The Flying Burrito Brothers, and especially member Gram Parsons, is still being felt in popular music today. A movement exists to have Mr. Parsons inducted in to the Country Music Hall of Fame, but that's a whole other topic for another day.
2. The Grand Tour, George Jones version: Written by Norro Wilson, Carmol Taylor and George Richey, this song became Mr. Jones's sixth number one song in 1974. I was only one year old at that time, but my first memory of this song was not long after, if one can believe it. I can remember sitting in the back seat of my dad's 1976 Ford LTD when I was four years old and hearing that song for the first time in 1977. Clearly I was much too young to appreciate the subject matter of the song, but what struck me back then as it does today was the sadness and the loneliness that Mr. Jones had in his voice during that performance. As the year's rolled on and life happened, my appreciation for the story and performance of this song deepened. There will never be another George Jones, one who can convey pain and heartbreak in such a way as to make one feel like they were not alone in this world ... that someone else had experienced what one was going through and they made it. We are blessed to have recordings such as this song that remain a part of Mr. Jones's legacy. This is the quintessential version of this song.
3. Waiting on June, Holly Williams: Written by Ms. Williams, this biographical tale is one of the greatest songs ever written. Told from the perspective of her grandfather on her mother's side, it is a tale of her grandparents’ life story together. The story begins as 10 year olds in the cotton fields, and ends as we all meet our inevitable end. But what a story that exists in between. This song and performance is an outstanding, lasting, and beautiful tribute to her grandparents. I can actually make it through this song without tearing up now, not an easy task. One should not be surprised at the level of talent that exists with Holly Williams. Her family lineage is well established, as the daughter of Hank Williams Jr., and granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr. With this song and this performance, Ms. Williams sets herself apart from the field of her legendary predecessors. It is an honor to have Holly Williams in the Americana field. She will have a long, lasting career as a singer and songwriter. This song alone has established that.