For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved country music. I’ll admit that I wandered into the genre in the 1990s, like most, a fairweather fan of hugely popular acts, and didn’t know anything about its past. It wasn’t long before country music, with its charm, simplicity, and oh-so-relatable themes had won me over completely. I’ve since spent a great amount of my time listening to and learning the makings of and history of country music. Likewise, I’ve began to love every cliche’ image commonly found in the country song, and I’ve made it a point to familiarize myself, at least to some degree, with everything from the neon signs of the smoke-filled barrooms to the wide open fields and even the prison cells.
Luckily, I’ve had no experience with prison cells (except what I see on Lockdown), and though I have enjoyed the view, I’ve not spent any great amount of time in corn fields either. No, my time under the country music atmosphere has mostly been spent at any number of watering holes on the east side of the Mississippi River. I can honestly say I know just how great it feels to plant your tired ass on a bar stool and order up a remedy for your broken heart. As any of my friends will tell you, the first thing I like to do upon arrival in a new city is to go visit their various restaurants and pubs. And then, after some sight-seeing or event-going, I’m usually the first one ready to sample the liquor at a different establishment the next night. I enjoy people, I enjoy socializing, and without sounding too god-awful pretentious, the modern-day bar scene is really the last bastion of the kind of face-to-face networking and general person to person contact that has all but vanished from society. How much of your contact with other people is limited to your time behind a screen, be it computer or cell phone?
For that reason alone, the occasion of listening to a great song with a room full of friends and strangers is a satisfying feeling. At least it is to me. But I’ve also found that atmosphere affects your listening experience, sometimes to the point that it can color your like or dislike for certain sounds and lyric combinations. Some songs just sounds better in different places. This is why I always stay put in those clubs that have elected to provide one of those dandy TouchTunes jukeboxes, instead of the now-standard karaoke deejay. Lately I’ve noticed there’s usually only a handful of us brave enough to risk alienating themselves to the entire room by taking the long walk over to that screen and choosing a handful of songs. I could categorize us, but I won’t. Depending on where we’ve stumbled into, I’m still likely to find another protege of Alan Jackson’s instructions to not rock the jukebox.
The American Legion’s Post 471 in Portsmouth, OH has an excellent club right downstairs from their meeting house. Now, most weekends, you’ll find the locals belting out the hits themselves, but if you go in on a weekday, you’re likely to find a nice little lady playing country sounds on that digital jukebox. And you’re just as likely to see me standing in line, dollar bills in hand, behind her waiting my turn to fill the room with my own favorite country songs, and even a few that aren’t so country. But they fit my mood at the time, so they work just as well as my country standards. On my most recent outing, I decided to jot down the songs I was playing on the old jukebox and wondered if everybody has pet songs to play on the jukebox, or just to a room full of people in general. I know I like to show off what I consider my own good taste in music, and I’ll bet you do too. Here’s what I played this week:
Trisha Yearwood & George Jones – Bartender’s Blues … I prefer Trisha Yearwood’s cover of the James Taylor song that Tanya Tucker brought to George Jones just slightly to the Possum’s own. It certainly helps that he was still in fine voice on the entire Bradley Barn Sessions album, and that he matches Trisha line for line here. It’s not easy to find – you have to be willing to pay extra for Super Search – but this combination is worth it.
Dolly Parton – Halos & Horns … Sure, there are Dolly fans in the house. But most don’t know about her stunning trilogy of bluegrass albums. It’s our duty to educate them, one way or the other.
Damn Yankees – High Enough … I have a weakness for 80s monster ballads. And this is a good one.
Steve Wariner – Some Fools Never Learn … I also have a weakness for saccharine Steve Wariner songs. This is a really drawing melody that most folks over 30 will remember with me.
Trent Tomlinson – One Wing In The Fire … Tomlinson’s second single, and biggest hit, is still very much remembered as well, as this song that peaked at #11 in 2006 gets many singing along by the chorus, and even some appreciative applause at the end.
Doug Stone – I’d Be Better Off In a Pine Box … Brilliant. Sadder than hell. And pure country. What else would you play in a bar?
Toby Keith – Knock Yourself Out … This unknown album cut sent most people talking among themselves, and allowed me to quietly enjoy one my favorite Toby Keith cuts from the past decade.
Dwight Yoakam – Suspicious Minds … And then I ended with Dwight Yoakam covering Elvis. I didn’t mean for it to, but this track sums up the country twang with a little rock sensibility of my selections pretty well, I think.
So tell me, what do you spend your dollar on at the jukebox?