Saturday, June 11, 2016

Father: Daughters

Purchase [Daughters]

John Mayer's <Daughters> has plentiful references to fathers and their relations to their daughters within. As you might suspect, the general tone/trend of the song is that fathers (need to) look out for their daughters. Repeated several times throughout the song: "Fathers be good to your daughters.."

What means? You would assume that any parent (any adult) would be "good" to a minor - it's so basic an ethic standard that it is embedded in the law. It makes me think: is there something below the waterline here? And again in the lyrics: "lookin' out for every girl .." - My sense is that the underlying message appears to be that girls need more looking out for than boys. Wrong?

An article in the Guardian entitled "Girls have a right to roam too" highlighted the dicotomy of our (admittedly more liberal in this respect now than in the past) society regarding the way we "look out for" our daughters. The article focuses on how we limit the freedoms of unmarried girls in our effort to "protect" them: fathers (and mothers) place more limits on their girls' freedoms than on their boys' in a well-meant effort that is primarily focused on keeping them from getting pregnant [sorry: fact]. Life isnt fair: boys can roam/girls are at risk if they do- although even that, too, appears to be somewhat curtailed these days.

But, fathers:they get to roam.

Love the guitar work here from Robbie McIntosh. It's more than just an accompaniment to Mayer.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Father: Outfit

Outfit, by The Drive-By Truckers

The Drive-By Truckers are a group of novelists parading as a country rock band: amazingly well versed in telling stories in their songs, often done in the most literary ways. Adopting the voice of a character, using metaphor and image in ways seen traditionally in literature, sometimes even forgoing singing and just delivering lyrics as spoken monologues.  Not that this is unique in music, by the Truckers take on everything, from lyrical content to song structure, is 
rare and unmatched as far as anything else going on in the rock world. Their catalog is full of characters and settings that would be lucidly at home in any Flannery O’Connor story. My favorite member of this outfit is the now solo Jason Isbell. He’s delivered a library’s worth of southern gothic, tall tales and legends, outrageous characters and backwoods, down-home spirit in his music. My words pale in comparison and in accurately praising or describing the true-to-life and tangible literary landscape that Isbell is responsible for bringing to vivid life though song.

One of my favorite songs is the ballad Outfit, from Decoration Day. It’s a monologue, delivered to an unseen child by a distinctly opinionated, and somewhat weary father. The speaker’s voice is soaked in wisdom, perhaps whiskey, too, and the advice he offers covers some distinctly strange notions and concepts of how to live a good life. But in the end, it’s a story of a man’s love for his family delivered to a possibly wayward child who he fears losing, or perhaps sees slipping into the kid of life he himself could have had and because of his proximity and understanding of that particular danger, wants nothing more than for his child to do right. And in that worry about his child going wayward, we also read the father’s lamenting the life he’s lived. Good or bad, you can tell dad wants better for his own son, and though the advice is delivered out of love, there is a bit of envy, too: the speaker has lived a life, that while live primarily out of love, hasn’t been quite the one he wanted. His son, meanwhile, is a singer, as opposed to a house painter and refrigerator repairman.  When the father tells the son “Don't sing with a fake British accent”, there’s a bit of envy there. As if he should harbor such opinions.

But more, so, there’s the admonishment to not repeat the same mistakes and above all, to never act like “act like your family's a joke.” In the end, I suppose it’s a song about what every good father wants for his children: for their lives to be better than his own.  

Here's Isbell, post Truckers, doing Outfit on KEXP...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Father: Drive (For Daddy Gene)

Alan Jackson, Drive (For Daddy Gene)

Alan Jackson has certainly achieved elder statesman status in country music, and rightly so. But, I’ve always felt his work could be separated between the genuine country good, and the cheesy, cliché-ridden country bad. Songs like Midnight in Montgomery and Murder on Music Row delve into the tropes and images that divide ‘real’ country from the terrible pop, or “bro” country that dominates radio. Then, he cranks out stuff like Chattahoochee, which I know is popular, but has always struck me as appealing to the lowest common denominator of hillbilly ‘aw shucksisms. It’s like Eric Church, who is pretty darn cool in most regards, using ‘mom’s apple pie’ as a key image in a song: it lacks legitimacy and seems like taking the easiest road to wedging in a nice fitting rhyme. Or appealing to what’s comfortable and well known, in order to add some kind of inclusiveness to the music. But, shouldn’t music be about exploring new emotional venues? I don’t know—relying on hack cliché is my biggest gripe with country music, but then, what form of popular music doesn’t rely on the easily identifiable to sell a theme? And t-shirts.  Jackson has done more good than bad, and errs more towards the soulful legacy of Hank Williams than some of his elder contemporaries.  But, he can clunk with the worst of ‘em, too.

Drive (For Daddy Gene), a song about the bonding experiences between father and son, then son become father to his own children straddles the border between the genuine and the over-mapped imagery of “Dad”. But, it’s a wonderful song, with a soaring hook, and just the right amount of sentimentalism to relate to on a level that invokes unaffected authenticity.  Jackson mines the imagery of restoring first a boat with his own father, then a truck, and ends up doing the same with his own daughters later in life to talk not only about beautiful memories, but also of the sense of growth and of freedom that comes from learning to drive and being the pilot, so to speak. The idea of piloting moves from the actual sense of being at the wheel to being able to eventually pilot one’s own life according to and because of the lessons passed on from father to child. And I suppose a little sentimental cliché never hurt anyone, least not when we’re talking about dad (or mom, or little sis….). And really, what else is a father meant to do than teach his children to be better than he was?

And, I must confess, I put on Chattahoochee while I was writing this, and now its stuck in my head…grumble, grumble…