Drivin’ back from a – hike upstate
Dad ridin’ shotgun, we were – running late
Stuck in traffic, had to – muddle through every
Goddamn CD we could – listen to
All about Vietnam, they were
All about Vietnam, seemed like
Every CD had at least one song, about a
Cool rocking Daddy gone to Vietnam…
I’m just out of college. Still wearing my Ronald Reagan protest beard. Well, protest goatee, on account of those youthful gaps between my chin and cheek hair, but let that pass. Eight more years of Republican White Houses lie ahead, hence eight more years of silly smudges on my face. Our housemate Rick brings home the new Springsteen LP, Born In the USA. Controversy: the Reagan re-election people want to use the title track as a campaign song. They didn’t listen to the anti-war lyrics, I guess: “Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand/Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man.” But let that pass. The beat pounds through the stereo like Thor’s hammer. With five notes and two chords Bruce lays bare the marrow of a generation, Born To Run no longer: “Down in the shadow of the penitentiary/Out by the gas fires of the refinery/I’m ten years burning down the road/Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go.”
Twenty more years down the road: Born To Run is reborn in a fancy new package while the country slogs through eight years of insanity – I’d have to put on a wolfman outfit to protest via hair this time. But let that pass. The blockbuster Born In the USA with its many hits is mostly forgotten. But a CD version now resides in my car. As does Danielle Miraglia’s Nothing Romantic featuring “You Don’t Know Nothing”:
I sang of Vietnam
With a reaper-like charm
Code Red and counting the dead
When an eight o’clock shadow
With eyes like arrows
Slammed down his glass and said
“You don’t know nothin’
You weren’t there
Till you’ve had shrapnel under your skin
You couldn’t begin.”
Then we put on Old Crow Medicine Show‘s self-titled CD. These super-authentic-sounding old-timey youngsters also have a song about Vietnam, “Big Time in the Jungle”:
That young man got his life turned upside-down
Turned his smile into a frown
Robbed that king of his crown
For an ideal he didn’t even know about.
Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” (“I learned a thing or two from ol’ Charlie don’t you know”) was on one of my self-burned road-trip compilation CDs I still can’t help calling “mix tapes.”
And so it went.
Johnny Cash, now – he wasn’t in the car with us at that moment. But I just saw the new Cash biopic Walk The Line, and his “What Is Truth” comes to mind:
A young man of seventeen in Sunday school
Is being taught the golden rule
By the time another year’s gone around
It may be his turn to lay his own life down!
Yep, seems you can hardly listen to more than a few minutes of American music without running into ol’ Charlie. Doesn’t seem to matter much if the person who wrote the song was even born at the time of that particular little conflict, either. Songwriters, unlike some soldiers, grow old and die, tapping into something eternal along the way. But war never dies.
Star Date: The Next Friday
But enough levity. Butt-kickin’ blues-rock is alive and well in Texas. Lookin’ for Texas, Brother 2 Brother‘s stew of blues, rock and soul goes down warm and sweet. It’s a studio recording with a live feel: this Houston outfit is not slick – in fact, they’re not always even very tight – but they’re good musicians who sound like they love playing together, which is more important. Clever, well-crafted songs complete the picture. “I Don’t Care” recalls Georgia Satellites via Jerry Lee Lewis, while “Fool Boy’s Road” suggests Jim Morrison and the Doors. You’ll hear some Fabulous Thunderbirds, a little Lynyrd Skynyrd, more than a pinch of soul from the excellent horn section, and plenty of Chicago blues in these eight songs; there’s even a shiver of the bayou in the accordian-led “Toobin’.” Altogether a wide variety of styles, served up with heart and a generous helping of fun. Brother 2 Brother is not literally a band of brothers, but their camaraderie shows in the music.
Wait a minute… “Band of Brothers”… John Kerry… Vietnam… Aughhhhhhhh!!!