By Daniel Ford
I’ve been on a country music kick ever since the Nashville episode of Dave Grohl’s “Sonic Highways.”
Songs about heartache, drinking, and loss fit perfectly with my recent efforts to develop a character who wears Army boots all the time, drinks Bud Lights with his brother, and spends a lot of time alone in cemeteries and diners.
Here are 10 songs with twang that are sure to send your creativity right to the honky-tonk:
“Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band
Zac Brown got Dave Grohl to produce an album for Zac Brown Band even though the Foo Fighters’ front man had never heard of him. That’s impressive.
What I love about Brown and his band is that they embody exactly what country music should be: humanistic storytelling, pitch-perfect harmonies, and outstanding musicianship. Every country song should double as a short story. Every time I hear the above song, I crave a bourbon and the quiet end of a long, wooden bar.
“Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter
I could have easily chosen “Ring of Fire” or “Folsom Prison Blues,” but this is the song that I typically gravitate to when I need an extra boost of creative fuel. The song is essentially the story of angry, fed-up lovers daring each other to walk away. It’s clear when you hear Cash and Carter sing this tune that neither one of them are going anywhere.
“Lost in the Fifties Tonight” by Ronnie Milsap
No one in music sounds like Ronnie Milsap. His voice is simply one-of-a-kind.
I can’t tell you how many times I listened to this song as a kid. It’s the perfect diner tune; it sounds exactly like something you would play on the jukebox while waiting for your greasy burger and fries.
In addition to providing the right mood for an angsty main character, this song would also be terrific as a first dance at a wedding. Brass band, big voice. It would be an epic slow dance people would remember.
“I Still Believe in You” by Vince Gill
Being a successful writer comes at a cost. It’s a lonely act that can occasionally come before the people you love most. This song serves as a reminder to take a moment, acknowledge the important people in your life, and allow them to feel a part of your creative process.
Also, Vince Gill can fucking play the guitar. The man knows how to make music.
“City of New Orleans” by Willie Nelson
How often do your creative neurons start go haywire when you travel? There’s something about a train, plane, or “rusted automobile” that inspires writing in a way few other things can. Willie Nelson’s “City of New Orleans” wakes that feeling up even if you’re standing still or sitting at your computer. It’s a tale of everyday life that can’t help but be optimistic despite its grim finale:
“But all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream/And the steel rails still ain't heard the news/The conductor sings his song again, the passengers will please refrain/This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.”
I’m pretty sure the bad news is that the writer on board realized everything he or she just wrote in his or her notebook is crap.
“Check Yes or No” by George Strait
Struggling with a love story? Listen to this George Strait song and figure it out. It’s not that hard.
“If Drinking Dont Kill Me Her Memory Will” by George Jones
I think the title of this song is pretty self-explanatory. Try not to hurt yourself or others while listening to it.
“Kiss an Angel Good Morning” by Charlie Pride
The outfits in this clip alone should inspire you.
If that’s not enough, listen to this lyric on repeat:
“Kiss an angel good morning and love her like the devil when you get back home.”
“Jolene” by Dolly Parton
Yeah, Jolene stole that guy.
“The Dance” by Garth Brooks
I’ll just cry myself out.