Editor’s note: After you’ve recovered from the hangover brought on by David Joy’s post, be sure to go back and read Brian Panowich’s entry from Wednesday and tune in to Michael Farris Smith’s playlist on Friday. Again, if any authors, writers, or musicians are interested in submitting a post for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @WritersBone.—Daniel Ford
By David Joy
I’ll stand firm in by my belief that the proposal made by Writer’s Bone editor-in-chief Daniel Ford, to Brian Panowich, Michael Farris Smith, and myself, involved each of us going out and getting hammered and then coming up with a 10-song playlist amidst tossing empties from pickup windows, firing guns into the dead of night, and slurring the words to Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother.” However, judging by Brian and Michael’s responses, I might’ve misheard the instructions. Then again I very well might’ve been drinking when he told them to me.
Going back through the Twitter feed I reckon what we were supposed to do was to come up with 10 songs that inspire you to write, or keep drinking (me being much better at the latter than the former). In all honesty, I wish I had a song that I could listen to that’d get me in the mood to sit down and write. I wish I had some kind of organized routine, preferably one that involved a shot of bourbon and a giant gong, to kick start my lazy ass every morning, but the fact is I’m afflicted with that Raymond Carver-like fall into bad habits. “When I'm not writing, like now,” Carver said, “it's as if I've never written a word or had any desire to write.”
Drinking, on the other hand, now drinking I can do. So I stayed true to what I swear was Daniel’s original proposal, and I sat down and drank and sang myself into oblivion. So what we have here is some pour-a-tall-glass, hang-your-head-and-cry drinking music. Here’s to hoping nobody blows their brains out…
American Aquarium “Losing Side of Twenty-Five”
We’ll start this smile festival off with my life in a nutshell because I’ve been on that losing side of 25 for the past six years. This song goes out to all the pretty boys marrying pretty girls and posting pictures of their pretty kids on the Facebook every single day of our lives. Yeah, you wound up with a nice job and a nice house and you’ve still got a full head of hair, but let’s be honest, Big Cat, it’s like old Chris LeDoux said, “It ain’t the years, son, it’s the miles.” Besides, that baby of yours is ugly as hell, and we’re all sick to death of seeing him.
Sturgill Simpson “Old King Coal”
So if you ain’t on the Sturgill bandwagon by now then there probably ain’t much hope for you. I think Sturgill Simpson’s “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” was for last year what Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern” was for the year before (likewise Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” will be that album for 2015). But I’m pulling a song from Sturgill’s first album, “High Top Mountain,” because to date I think it’s the finest tune he’s recorded. You want to capture the sadness of the Kentucky coalfields in a nutshell, here you go:
“My great grandfather spent his days in a coal mine/his nights on the porch in a chair/Now he’s in heaven and down here in hell/the rivers run muddy and the mountains are bare.”
Drive-By Truckers “When The Pin Hits The Shell”
I can’t make a drunken playlist without at least one Drive-By Truckers song. I was torn between “Heathens,” “Outfit,” and “Goddamn Lonely Love,” but I came with this one because, well, this a tune for all us fuck ups.
“Me and you, we liked our pills and our whiskey /but you don't want your head full of either one when the house gets quiet and dark/Feeling good, it used to come so damn easy/racing trains from Second Street to Avalon/Take a trip down memory lane but you don't see no friendly faces/All the houses have been painted and nobody knows your name/It's enough to make a man not want to be nobody's daddy/Well, all he thinks he's got to lift his hand out is guilt and shame.”
The Honeycutters “Me Oh My”
Now, a lot of folks might not be familiar with The Honeycutters. They just released their third album and this tune is off of the new record by the same title. I think Amanda Platt is writing some of the finest lyrics being recorded and this just might be her at her best. If the first three lines don’t grab you by the short hairs then you can get the hell out of this conversation and go drink by yourself:
“I had a baby and the good lord took her/She was an angel but her wings were crooked/I guess he figured he could love her better than me.”
Elephant Revival “Season’s Song”
I’m going to put an Elephant Revival song on this list just because I think more people need to be listening to them. I remember feeling the same way after I heard them for the first time as I felt after hearing Cloud Cult, which is to say that they were doing something original and beautiful that didn’t really fit into any of the boxes that would have most folks paying attention. I mean they’ve got a gal with a gorgeous voice playing a crosscut saw for Christ’s sake. All that being said, I think this is one of the cleaner song’s they’ve written. So if you’re looking for any type of lightness in my playlist this’d be the one.
Josh Ritter “Lawrence, KS”
Now old Josh Ritter is definitely a writer’s songwriter. Hell, he’s even written a novel (Bright’s Passage). But this tune is one of my favorites. There’s a Steinbeck-esque, Grapes of Wrath kind of vibe about this song that I dig the hell out of, and you have to love that Nick Drake kind of soft sounding futility:
“Preacher says that when the master call us/He’s going to give us wings to fly/but my wings are made of hay and corn husks/so I can’t leave this world behind.”
Hayes Carll “Chances Are”
Hayes Carll has got a delivery that makes a man wonder if that son of a bitch couldn’t just haul off and play a show in his sleep. There’s an easiness to his voice that’ll catch a man off guard in what he’s saying. I think he’s one of the finest fellows writing music right now.
"Chances are I took the wrong turn every time I had a turn to take/I guess I broke my own heart every chance I had a heart to break/And it seems I spent my whole life wishing on the same unlucky star/But as I watch you across the barroom I wonder what my chances are."
Willy Tea Taylor “Rue The Day”
Stumbling onto Willy Tea Taylor gave me a similar feeling to the first time I ever heard Blaze Foley. There are very few people who can capture the type of sadness that Townes Van Zandt and Blaze were known for, maybe someone like Ryan Bingham comes to mind, but few other contemporaries. Willey Tea is the real fucking deal. If you’ve been there then he’s got lyrics that are going to hit home, this song being all of that in a nice three-and-a-half minute nutshell. I can sum that up in two lines:
“The bottles on the shelf know nothing about forgiveness/They’ll turn a man to sickness as he’s drowning in his shame.”
Chris Stapleton “That's the Difference Between Whiskey and You”
I said it months ago before the album dropped and I’ll say it again right now, Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” will be the best debut album this year. We’ve had two heavy hitters come out of eastern Kentucky over the past two years with him and Sturgill, but Chris is bringing a bluesy-ness that hasn’t been present in country music in a long time. This whole album is stacked with tunes (my only beef with him being that he left “What Are You Listening To” off the album). Another one of my favorites is “Fire Away,” but I think this song will hang with me for a long time, a sentiment me and Brian Panowich share. If you want a drinking song, it doesn’t get much better than this, my friends:
“There’s a bottle on the dresser by your ring/and it’s empty so right now I don’t feel a thing/and I’ll be hurting when I wake up on the floor/but I’ll be over it by noon/That’s the difference between whiskey and you.”
Gillian Welch “I Dream A Highway”
We’ll end this here blow-your-brains-out playlist with a tune by Gillian Welch because I don’t think I’ve ever heard another woman aside from maybe Carlene Jones with the melancholic beauty of Townes. So pour those glasses tall, my friends, and polish off those bottles, because Gillian’s about to give us 14 minutes to ride this evening into oblivion.
Keep her between the ditches, my friends.