This past Sunday we had our annual countdown of our favorite songs and albums of the year. We sit around and, one by one, play for the other our top 20 songs while drinking a lot of beer. My girlfriend calls it “dork day” and she’s exactly right I’m sure. But there’s something about the mutual love of music we share that allows the day to put a comforting stamp of closure on the previous 12 months. There were a few disappointed groans (“this is your favorite song from The Stage Names?”) and a lot of high 5’s (“niiice, I think “1 2 3 4” is a fucking awesome song too, but I chose ‘I Feel It All’”). And by the end we’re taking pee breaks after every 2 or 3 songs. I didn't think I'd make it through "The Past Is A Grotesque Animal".Anyway, Ryan Bingham. John was very excited this year because his “#1” was going to not only be a surprise, but would top mine. He was right on one of those assertions. A few months ago John caught Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses in an opening slot for the Drive-By Truckers and was blown away. He picked up the CD and it became his 6th favorite of the year, but wound up housing his favorite song, “Southside of Heaven”.
If it were up to me I’d say it’s a nice choice, but sounds a little too “Lost Highway-ish”. Unfortunately, I’m not referring to the classic country song but instead the over-production just about every record Lost Highway puts out seems to have. But I’m sure John loves the weepy pedal steel, chugging acoustic chords, and ghostly harmonica that puts the setting squarely in some broken down Western desert town. I’m sure he loves the voice - a non-ironic mix of Mellencamp and a 75 year-old bluesman - and I’m sure he loves the imagery: trains, cocaine, lonesome highways rolling on, poor men, West Texas, and “been gone so long, Lord it’s getting cold”. I’m sure he thinks the tempo changes and 6-plus minute running time add an epic sense to Bingham’s story of a man’s search for a home. He's right about all of it.
There’s something unabashedly romantic about the song, and there’s no doubt Bingham has at least soaked in the great old records of his idols if not the lifestyle he describes. Sorry John, it’s not even close to being as accurate or important as All My Friends, but it’s good. Very good. And no, I didn’t see it coming.
MP3 :: Southside of Heaven
(from Mescalito. Buy here)
I got drunk and I fell down. More fun with John:------------------------------------------