Thursday, January 14, 2010

Man Of Constant Sorrow

My Dad is a country music guy. Not what they call country music today, which is nothing but pop music with a twang, but old school country music. Hank Williams. Patsy Cline. Chet Atkins. Roy Acuff. Charlie Pride. Hank Snow. Johnny Cash. Jim Reeves. Bare bones music with the singer telling a story or bemoaning loss.

One of my indelible memories of being a kid is falling asleep in the top bunk up at camp in our little bedroom. The walls stopped a couple of feet from the ceiling and so the soft glow of the lone lamp crept over the top logs, the crackle of the wood stove if it was a cool night, my parents talking quietly while Hank Williams sang about another broken heart from the eight track player, powered somehow by a car battery.

And then waking up hours later, the smell of coffee and bacon, the wind in the pines, the woodpeckers at work, an obnoxious crow, now the radio, again turned to the country station, Dad listening for the weather.

I was never a country music guy as a young man but over the years I’ve listened to some of the old school country and I have a few Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline CDs laying around. Like my father I have no use for what they call country music today. Like nearly everything on the radio its garbage (and yes, there I am showing my age). ;)

When we returned to Toronto from the States we had just over two years between our arrival and the arrival of our first child. I spent a lot of that time wandering about a city which I had been nearly five years away from, rediscovering many lost haunts but mostly finding new ones. One of those was a little hole in the wall joint called Graffiti’s, down in the Market. I’d head down there on a Saturday and meet my old pal and we’d drink pints and watch bluegrass. In the summer they would open the front of the restaurant to the heat and the music would roll out into the crazy old streets with their tumble down tenements and shops and crowds of hipsters and punks and beautiful girls in skirts and sandals and we’d drink our cold beer slowly in the heat, the buzz seeping through us as a singer in a cowboy hat and black shirt would wail about a girl he knew long ago.

It was oh so good. May have to head back there some day soon.


There’s not much that can be said about the Oilers these days. The signing that the GM hung his hat on last summer is having back surgery, out for twelve weeks, as Tyler Dellow tweeted to Khabi’s agent, he’ll be back for the playoffs. ;)

Ty has been all over the Khabibulin move since it happened. If there was a blogger Pullitzer he would deserve it. Loser move by a loser franchise indeed.

Horcoff haters have all of the ammo they need with his anemic offence and clubhouse leading minus twenty one. The kids are pretty well all stagnating, the veterans look like they would rather be any place else but with those contracts where the hell will they go?

Presently it looks like the race to the bottom will be between the Oilers and the Leafs as Carolina has come on hard since Staal and Ward’s return (hard being all relative, I guess, but they have made up a seven point deficit in a matter of days).

The Oilers have terrible goaltending and the fact that they have only a few legitimate NHL forwards on their club is in their corner but the Leafs can move a lot of their guys at the deadline, unlike the Oilers, so that may be the tipping point. Of course if the Leafs do finish last overall then they don’t even get their pick so it will be interesting to see if Burke will actually take someone on and spin it as part of the rebuild, send expiring contracts to a club for a big salaried player, maybe, or take on a big salary after dumping guys like Stajan.

These days have been coming for a long time now, ever since the summer of 2006, as Lowe dithered and tried to have his cake and eat it too and more than anything that is what is frustrating. The last three years this club could have really really sucked and picked up more top young prospects or it could have replaced outgoing quality with more quality and not tried to break in scads of prospects all at once and they might have been competitive. Instead they have sucked but not completely. The three picks they might have had for Penner would have helped, especially considering that the big guy is only two years out from being a UFA now. Those and a few more top five picks and things would look better.

Wasted years. No wonder there’s a tear in my beer.


Scott Reynolds said...

"The Wasted Years" - From the day of the Chris Pronger trade until the day Steve Tambellini gets fired (oh please let it be at the end of the regular season). Thanks for continuing to write. I sure hope the Oilers give a mountain to the B's for that Toronto pick. On the one hand, we don't have much to give. On the other hand, I do wonder if something like Grebeshkov, Cogliano and Brule (and more!) for Ryder and Tor 1st could be possible. And I'd happily swap out Grebs for another D. I just imagine them being loathe to pick up a long term contract.

B.C.B. said...

I enjoy your blog more then any afternoon, I've had, at Graffiti's and the radio does suck. . . maybe that means I am older then my age claims?

If the Oilers could somehow get TO's pick, I would wait till after the draft to move K-Lowe to a non-hockey job, just so he could smile on stage at Burkie.

hunter1909 said...

I never liked c+w much either, until I found out it was the music of my crazy ancestors. Funny thing having hillbilly roots, when you realise that most of the bad things they do are no worse than anyone else, they just get more press.

Oilers gave me the perfect start in life, then went Coffey(who was considered the second best Oiler by many at the time, and a lot closer to Gretzky than anyone would admit now), then Gretzky himself(Ryan Smyth going away was nothing and I mean NOTHING compared to this), then Kurri skipped town and Messier for BERNIE NICHOLLS(?????), which has kept me from getting booted off Lowetide's site forever, because he agrees with me.

Finally after twenty fucked up seasons in a row, this team is mired firmly at the bottom of the conference, and soon the league. Finally, after twenty years, the fans are New York Ranger fan cynical.

It's glorious.

doritogrande said...

Fuck. One of the local bands did a cover of that song that I thought was dynamite.

I didn't know it was a cover, and now I realize it's a cover of a country song?

You just ruined a great song for me Pat. Thanks a lot.

YKOil said...

Piffle. Song isn't ruined if it gave you the song in the first place.

Which is to say - if you had never heard the cover you would never had heard the song.

And for good songs. Done well.

THAT is the ruin.

That said... poorly done covers are one of my few 'hates' in life. Feel free to hate bad covers of great songs, I'll not argue that cause a good, justified, hate is hard to find.

Bruce said...

Like nearly everything on the radio its garbage (and yes, there I am showing my age). ;)

Try CKUA. If you're outside of Alberta, Or as I call it, music for mature adults. Click on any program and check out a playlist or two from recent programs.

I too used to hate country music but have softened somewhat, in part due to listening to CKUA's "Wide Cut Country" on Saturday mornings. They eschew the Billy Bob Beefcake crap that gets played on commercial country stations, and play the people you mention plus the modern story tellers like Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Iris Dement, Mary Gauthier, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Wilco, etc.

In fact I have eliminated the words "country music" and "rap music" from my vocabulary due to negative connotations, and replaced them with "rural roots music" and "urban roots music" respectively. If the music passes that test it's often fit to listen to.

Oh yeah, and the Oilers aren't very good just now.

Mr DeBakey said...

The best thing about a good cover is that you have a brand new song where you already know the words.

The Oiler's way forward is a muddled mess.
“The Oilers have come to realize that they cannot win without a superstar” is perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

How about we take the guys with a Positive Relative Corsi, 11 of ‘em: Hemsky, Penner, Visnovsky, Stone, Gagner, Comrie, Gilbert, Souray, Nilsson, Potulny & Horcoff.
And the two small-sample sizers: Arsene & Mcdonald.
Top up the Defense: Smid, Grebeshkov, & Peckham
Add the Future: Paajarvi & Eberle.
And the Flipper-droppers: Stortini & Jacques

Get rid of the rest.
That’s 20 skaters, a good team, but a little light on scoring.
And reasonably cap friendly.


PDO said...

I think everyone thinks the music from their generation is the best... ;).

I don't think pop artists can play the guitar like Brad Paisley or Keith Urban...

Just sayin' is all.

Oilers suck. Hardly a surprise. Hopefully it gets better. News that Moreau actually has value around the league brought a smile to my face... now watch the Oilers keep him for a veteran presence.

Black Dog said...

dg - oh man, that song is a couple of hundred years old apparently and its wicked. A good song is a good song, unless its rap, then its just crap, imo. ;)

pdo - who said the pop guys could play guitar, not I. And for the record I think the best music was actually before my generation, although i do love my eighties and nineties music. Well, maybe i do think my generation is best, come to think of it. ;)

And thanks for the kind words B.C.B. As for Lowe, get him the hell out rfn, please.

Black Dog said...

scott - yeah I think the Bruins hold onto that sucker, they might be interested in a guy like Smid, I think they have a couple of D with expiring contracts, maybe, but really I think they just hold onto it, what a coup for Chiarelli or whatever his name is.

As for the Oilers well news that Moreau may have some suitors does not surprise me. I remember HNIC last year and the panel was singing his and Staios' praises. I would bet that those guys are closer to the collective league opinion than we are. Which is fine. Moving those two would be a helpful start to climbing out of this cap mess.

Bruce said...

unless its rap, then its just crap, imo. ;)

BDHS: Those are the words of a reactionary old fuddyduddy. Open up your ears, man ... and your mind.

Only about 90% of rap is crap. :) Pretty much the same percentage as the other genres. But of the other 10%, some of it is pure poetry.

Consider the voice as a percussive instrument rather than a melodic one, and you're halfway home. It's all about the timing, and the rhyming. :)

If you want a kinder, somewhat gentler hip hop for mature adults, check out Buck 65. You might know him as Rich Terfry, host of CBC's Radio 2 Drive every weekday afternoon. A brilliant lyricist IMO.

PDO said...


I associate Pop Music with No Talent... rightfully or wrongfully.

Hence the comment on those two specifically. There aren't many, if any, bands either of those two couldn't play for.

I just tend to think country music radio gets a worse rap (and believe me, for playing "music" like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, they deserve every bit of criticism) than it deserves....

... but like I said, everyone loves music from their generation because it's what was on in the background while they popped their cherry ;)

hunter1909 said...

Once upon a time Beethoven was pop music, PDO.

Black Dog said...

Damnit Bruce stop trying to broaden my horizons! Now excues me while I go shout at some neighbourhood kids. ;)

PDO - I'm sure they could, I'm just yanking your crank a bit.

As for pop, well there's a genre that gets a bad rap as well, I guess, just for tis very nature. I mean the Beatles were pop. Would U2 be considered pop?

So much of it is dreck but you're right, your tolerance for it wanes as time goes on. I disliked a lot of 80s pop (could not stand Michael Jackson, for example) but there were a lot of bands I liked and listened to and still do.

Bruce said...

Damnit Bruce stop trying to broaden my horizons!

Hey man ... just trying to return a favour. :)

The other thing I forgot to mention about Buck 65 is he's a helluva storyteller ... kind of the BDHS of the hiphoposphere. :) Gritty, down-to-earth stuff about real people, with a remarkable eye for detail and a gift for a turn of phrase. Check out the CD "Talkin' Honky Blues", which is one of my favourite made-in-Canada discs of the past decade. The single was "Wicked and Weird" but the gems to my ears are the "Riverbed" series (7 tracks sprinkled throughout the CD). Buck (actually Rich Terfry, host of the weekday afternoon CBC program Radio 2 Drive) was a fine ballplayer growing up in rural Nova Scotia, which shines through in a couple pieces referencing baseball ("Roses and Blue Jays", "4-6-3"), which are also among my many favourites on this CD.

Musically it's a lot more accessible than you might expect, but it's true strength is in the stories. (review)

Scott Reynolds said...

Now, I used to watch pro wrestling all the time and whenever someone uses the "rap is crap" line I can't help but think of the West Texas Rednecks. I thought these guys were hilarious but I'll warn you ahead of time not to listen to more than one minute of the song:

Pete. said...

I've never been able to get into much rap released after about the early 90s, probably because I don't have any rap-listening friends. The stuff on the radio/TV is 99% garbage, but that's true of every genre, more or less. Buck 65 is good though: same with Outkast and K-OS. I'm sure there's a lot more, but I don't know how to sift through all the crap to find the gems.

Bruce: check out Edmonton's own Cadence Weapon, if you haven't already done so. He's clever and verbally dexterous, and name-drops a lot of local places, people, and things, which is always entertaining.

Music discussions beat hockey discussions for me these days.

Bruce said...

Thanks, Pete, I have indeed checked out Cadence Weapon. I caught him in a triple bill at MacDougall Church (!) a while back, with Buck 65 and Scratch Bastid. Acoustics were a bit of a problem so much of the verbal dexterity was lost unfortunately. Enjoyed the show nonetheless.

Two unusual facts about Cadence Weapon:
-- he is the grandson of Eskimo's great Rollie Miles.
-- he is currently Edmonton's poet laureate! A very "hip" choice by the city.