My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: Tanya Tucker – ‘Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)?’

tanyatuckerwouldyoulaywithmeAs we have already seen, Tanya was never afraid of controversial song choices, and in 1973, when she was still only 15, she picked David Allan Coe’s song ‘Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)?’ as the title track and lead-off single of her third album, released in December that year. In fact, this song was controversial mainly because it was someone of Tanya’s tender years singing it rather than because it was intrinsically shocking.

It was undoubtedly an adult lyric. Defenders of the song pointed out that the ‘field of stone’ of the title referred to a graveyard, and the song was about til-death-do-us-last true love, rather than anything sordid, but the imagery is quite strong at times, and Tanya’s earthy vocal belied her youth. If her age was not known, no-one would guess this was sung by such a young girl. The controversy did not affect the single’s commercial success to any degree. It became her third straight #1 hit early in 1974.

Does the track stand up today? Unquestionably yes; I’ve been listening to it repeatedly while working on this review, and it hasn’t grown tiresome. The production is impeccable. It opens in rather subdued fashion, with Tanya’s voice starting unaccompanied, joined within a couple of bars by a soft bell-sound. The song is allowed to build gradually as Tanya’s vocal becomes more urgent and is joined by a choir of echoing background singers, with more instruments joining the mix and swelling strings as the vocal gets yet more intense in the chorus.

Although much of the controversy centered around the inappropriateness of the song for an underage girl, and I have read that Coe originally wrote the song for a friend’s wedding, in some respects I think it does actually reflect a young person’s absolute attitude to love, sex and marriage. She wants a commitment for life from her lover before she commits herself to him, and sounds rather vulnerable as she asks:
“would you lay with me in a field of stone …
wipe the blood away from my dying hand
If I give myself to you?”

There are a number of semi-religious allusions in the lyric – the “stream of life”, for instance, conjures up thoughts of the ‘river of life’ in the Book of Revelation, and thoughts of eternity, and a love that lasts beyond death; yet a lot of the imagery is physical if not overtly sexual:

“If my lips were dry would you wet them, dear,
In the midnight hour, if my lips were dry?…

Will you bathe with me in the stream of life
When the moon is full, will you bathe with me.”

Then the religious imagery returns with
“In my time of trial will you stand by me?”

The song is constructed quite unusually, with a lot of repetiton of phrases, just as the lyric as a whole consists of a series of repeated questions, never actually answered. The title line is repeated frequently in the verses, but is not in the chorus. This makes the variation in the intensity of the vocal and the backing all the more vital.

The chorus verges on the melodramatic:
“Would you go away to another land
Walk a thousand miles through the burnin’ sand”

and then there’s that reference to bloodstained death quoted above. These elements contribute to understanding the song as something more complicated and adult than the typical wedding song. It is a love song, but not a romantic or sentimental one. It’s about the strength of love versus the harsh realities of life, and it is about questions rather than answers.

Grade: A+

You can listen to the song on youtube or at LastFM

You can download the song at Amazon

The album from which it came was re-released on CD a few years ago, as a two-on-one deal with its predecessor What’s Your Mama’s Name.

6 responses to “Single Review: Tanya Tucker – ‘Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)?’

  1. Razor X June 6, 2009 at 9:54 am

    I’ve never bought the argument about a field of stone referring to a graveyard, because the next line in the lyrics doesn’t fit with that scenario:

    Would you lay with me in a field of stone?
    If my needs were strong, would you lay with me?

    That being said, there really isn’t anything shocking at all about the lyrics, even by 1973 standards.

  2. J.R. Journey June 6, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I never heard this song until a few years ago when I was studying up on Tanya and her hits from before my time. But the first time I heard it, I was a bit taken back by the imagery in the lyrics – and especially the fact that a 15 year-old was singing it. I agree with one of the comments on an earlier Tanya review that her label probably intentionally pitched her these kinds of controversial songs for their publicity value as much as the quality of the songs. And this has both in spades.

    • Occasional Hope June 6, 2009 at 4:37 pm

      That may well be true – and it’s possibly also the case that those predisposed to be shocked looked at Tanya’s previous controversial song choices and weren’t inclined to give her the benefit of any doubt.

  3. Dee June 6, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Here is what I can tell you…. when Tanya performs this song live today, it blows away both recorded versions. It is such an emotional song live it is hard to describe, certain acapella (sp) sections of the song you can hear a pin drop in the venue because everybody is stunned to the point of silence. It’s just that good. Concert Version A++

    (Tanya often does a bar stool medley of Jamestown Ferry, Blood Red and Goin Down, What’s Your Mama’s Name and Would You Lay With Me)

  4. Bob Suomela June 6, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    This is, by far, one of Tanya’s best tunes written by David Allen Coe. I was just a young kid at the time…9 or 10. Loved Tanya since Delta Dawn, but this song stuck with me. I thought it was really beautiful. Didn’t know about the controversy until I got older…..I agree with Dee. Go and watch Tanya sing it live. It is awesome!

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