YouTube is an old country back road, a place where I go to relive the music that I love so much and the life that I’ve experienced up to this point. These are trips I don’t make enough, but journeys I spend lots of time on when I make them. Sometimes I simply listen to good music that I’m too lazy to pull out of my collection. Other times, I revisit the history of a genre I’ve grown to love like a close family member. I frequently feel ambivalent about these jaunts through time–happy about such wonderful contributions to an art form I have been in love with for the better part of forty years, but also heartbroken about what I now consider the complete death of the genre as I knew it.
I listen to music like Ricky Skaggs, and this gem from his 1980’s album (yes, I have it on album) Highways & Heartaches:
That song reminds me of the early 1980’s and my life as I grew up in a Southern country town, buying Country Song Roundup every week at the grocery store’s magazine rack. It also reminds me of my 20’s and weekends in Nashville, cruising the streets looking for forgotten legends’ homes and other landmarks and listening to Bill Cody on 650 WSM. And then Ricky Skaggs causes me to think of his friend, Keith Whitley, who recorded a beautiful song that, 30 years later, speaks volumes about the “country music” scene:
“A true song as real as my tears. There’s no need to fear it; for no one will hear it, for sad songs and waltzes aren’t selling this year.” With all respect due to George Strait and Alan Jackson and certainly to Larry Cordle and Larry Shell, Willie Nelson wrote “Sad Songs and Waltzes” a bit more differently than “Murder on Music Row,” didn’t he?
(Trivia: Cake recorded this song, too. No, Cake isn’t country, but the rock group had Charlie Louvin open for it way back in 2003, so I’ll tip my hat to the group for that. Also, Bob Dylan sang the song one time in 2015. Rare audio is on YouTube, but you’ll want to punch some people in the face for talking while he sings. And I can’t be responsible for such violence)
Who did it best? I’m putting my money on Keith Whitley. Although I have much respect for songwriters and definitely Willie, in my book Keith Whitley wins–most of the time. Visit again tomorrow when I elaborate.
But for now, I close with one more video, a Wade Hayes song from around the end of my country music radio years, one referencing, like Ricky Skaggs’ album, “Highways & Heartaches”: