As a past English teacher, one of the literary archetypes I really enjoyed teaching was The Everyman. In literature, as well as all art presumably, the Everyman is this iconic hero of normality. I spent most of my time teaching American and English Literature, so in the context of my classes, the first real exposure to the Everyman idea was with the English Romantics and then continued by the American Transcendentalists.
Thomas Gray wrote about the many heroes in the world born to blush and die unseen, never remembered, but no less heroic. They are now names in an old church cemetery, and like flowers that grow far from where feet tread, they were no less beautiful. Henry David Thoreau traveled to a cabin on the outskirts of Boston so that he could remember what life was like when every moment mattered outside of a mundane routine. In doing so he immortalized the idea that rather than sucking the marrow from life, we live lives marching in lines like ants. The difference between the two ideas, being that Gray, a Romantic, and Thoreau, a Transcendentalist, is that Romanticism was still rooted in philosophical contemplation. It spawned Transcendentalism in America, fathered by Ralph Waldo Emerson, as an extension of that meditation into action. In other words Romanticism was Passive whereas Transcendentalism was Active.
Enter The Man in Black. (Hopefully you read the first part of this series, my review of Laura Hamlin Love You Most. This dialog intro fits right into my contemplations from yesterday, so yes, here we are full circle, back to Johnny Cash. But here is one thing that makes me shake my head in disdain of how ridiculously branded our culture has become. I cannot even begin to count the number of Johnny Cash shirts I see in Gilbert. Either the middle finger Cash shirt, or the one that looked like a Jack Daniels bottle and says “The Man in Black”.
Let’s look at the lyrics to Man in Black (abridged) shall we.
Well you wonder why I always dress in black / Why you never see bright colors on my back / Any why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone / Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.
I wear the black for the POOR and the BEATEN DOWN / Living in the HOPELESS, HUNGRY side of town / I wear it for the PRISONER who has long paid for his crime / But is there because he’s a VICTIM of the times.
Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose, / In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes / But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are HELD BACK / Up front there ought to be a Man in Black.
I wear it for the SICK and lonely OLD / For the RECKLESS ones whose bad trip left them cold / I wear the black in mornin’ for the lives that could’ve been / Each week we lose a hundred fine YOUNG men.
Well, there’s things that never will be right I know / And things need CHANGIN’ everywhere you go / But till we start to MAKE A MOVE to make a few things right / You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.
Johnny Cash was an Everyman. And I really have a hard time not seeing the hypocrisy in most of the people that I observe wearing his shirts. He is like the sullen shadow of a gargoyle at work who wears black everyday and pontificates about social issues and putting your money where your mouth is. Hmmmm.
Jim Bachmann & the Day Drinkers are these kind of heroes. And that is what is beautiful about true country music. Again, alluding to my musings from yesterday’s Part I of this series, there is this tendency to trivialize the everyday. It’s not political enough, it’s not big enough. It feels like a Lifetime movie. But, it is anything but. It is a celebration, in poetry, just as literary as Wordsworth, or Blake, or Emerson, or Tennyson, or Whitman, or Willie, or Cash, or Haggard, of The Everyman. As a hero. As your neighbor. As you. And that journey, is a Lifetime, and it is common, but it is unique to each of us. Poetry – music – that manages to genuinely tap into that emotion – is necessary. That feel good chord that strums in your soul when you know you have lived a good day and will sleep well that night – is worth celebrating.
Saturday night, hot off being declared Best Local Band of Phoenix by The Phoenix New Times Reader’s Choice awards, Jim Bachmann & the Day Drinkers are going to serve that Arizona Burrito up on the most heavenly paper plate possible, raise a glass, and remind us – each and every one of us – that we ought to take a moment, remember the words of another Arizona Outlaw, and say, “here’s to life”.
Arizona Burrito, the second album from JBDD, is nothing dynamically new. It is nothing you haven’t heard before. It does not bend any time honored rules, or chart new paths into Nuevo Country. But, if you have spent enough time in Arizona, you know you can spend an awful lot of time going to supposedly New, Fresh, Food Network Infused, Handcrafted, wanna be joints looking for something Vitally missing in an old classic, and realize in the end, you just need to keep going to that old family joint that has been there for generations. We don’t want a Nuevo Burrito. We don’t want you to fix what ain’t broke. We want exactly what we remember, what we adore, and what pulls at our heart strings and says, “Yes! Now that is an Arizona Burrito!”
JBDD’s new record is a tight collection of eight songs that you seriously will find it difficult to skip through. Nowadays, I think it is overly easy to be critical of a shorter record. There is this idea somewhere that says it needs to be 10 songs. But think old school. Think vinyl. Think Sun Records. Four songs a side. Tight. You could slide that shiny new record out, put it to spinnin’ and listen to the entire thing in one sitting, maybe using the flip time to get another beverage. Arizona Burrito is that kind of tightly rolled goodness.
The Day Drinkers are: Jim Bachmann, Josh Williams, Mike Lopez, Pete Gonzales, John Rickard, and sometimes Jayson James. But in the studio Jim is joined by a host of talent! Shea Marshall, Todd Chuba, Ray Herndon, Patrick Clark, Jon Rauhouse, Meridith Moore, Mikel Lander, PH Naffah, Tony Martinez, Jerry Donaro and Greg Varlotta, Jennifer Robinson, Greg Muller, Gigi Conaway, Chip Hanna, August Manley and Dallas Moore all are represented in this Arizona Burrito!
Reap What You Sow Arizona Burrito leaps right out of the gate with a perfect, classic, lap steel tribute to every person in the bar. Without being preachy. I think that is one of the things about Country Music that is special. It really is EMO. It is! (Don’t hate me.) But instead of reveling in that Post-Punk “I’m F-ed” attitude, it celebrates it. You are sitting there in the bar, listening to Jim sing, “One day you stopped and you looked around and all you had was gone / You remember thinkin’ to yourself, ‘Lord, I must be living wrong’. And somehow, instead of crying in your beer, you are lifting it up, and just glad there is another schmo that gets it. Without preaching it. Cuz everybody hates that.
Play That Pretty One This song has been stuck in my head for days. I woke up last night and it had become the soundtrack to some fleeting dream that was instantly out of reach, but it was a pretty one. It is a song that just picks and grins its way to the truth that bar stars play songs everybody knows but nobody remembers their names. “You know the one. I know all the words. That pretty one, you know?” And the Barstar says, “You bet. I know the one.” And the song is exactly the way you remember it, as it should be.
Last of a Dying Breed If there is a constant in Country Music, going all the way back, some of the most memorable tunes are duets. Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Merle Haggard and Janie Fricke. Reba McEntire and Vince Gill. George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Johnny Cash and June Carter. Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, Brad Paisley and Alison Kraus. Well, you need to add Meridith Moore (The Sugar Thieves) and Jim Bachmann to that list. This is one of my TOP 3 on the record. This is everything you want in a country duet, but it isn’t a love song. Not really. It is a tribute to that person that just keeps on keeping on, because, well…. why the hell not? It is an Everyman Anthem.
What You Deserve It seems that there is a song on this record that hearkens back to some classic sound or classic song that you are reminded of. It is not derivative, not in the least, it is almost like a game. You give five people the same stack of Legos and see what different visions they produce. The Blues have often made me think of that. We all know Blues when we hear it, but the range artists are able to achieve within those confines are glorious. This song is like that, and like the rest of the record, it does not try to reinvent the wheel. It celebrates everything about the perfect wheel we ever loved.
Let’s Get the Band Back Together Everyone knows I love Rock. Everyone knows that I loved the Punk meets Country aspect of The Refreshments maybe a bit more than the Country meets Punk aspect of The Peacemakers. Everyone in the bar loves a good rockin country tune, and that is exactly what this song is. It is my favorite song on the record, and a perfect nod to The Everyman in me, that line about trying to live your dream knowing your alarm goes off at 4 AM is exactly, 100% my every day truth. But again, in classic country fashion, the song does not lament these realities. It celebrates, maybe even honors them, and somehow… that leaves us feeling hopeful, rather than hopeless. Even if we are all blooming in the desert, born to blush unseen.
Waitin on a Train Jim delivers a few lines at the end of this song as the track fades into completion, one that totally hearkens back to some of the classic country tunes that I remember, but it also really nails the bittersweet humor of us Every Folk waiting for our ship to come in. “Man, I ain’t got all day. I got things to do. Gettin’ kinda dark out here. Yeah man, I know.” Every time I am reminded that I am not Stephen King. LOL. Cheers, Amigo.
Upside of Down This is an eight track record, and I have already told you that you will find a hard time skipping through it. That said, if I even want to have a skosh of respect as a local critic, I can’t just rave about every single song I hear. This is a great record, but this is the other song I will put firmly in my Top 3. Maybe it’s because it mixes my love of Stranger Things with a Country love song, maybe it is because the poetry is beautiful, maybe it is because it is what Every One of us…. really want. As upside down as it may be or not.
Live Forever Speaking of duets. There are a bunch of really classic male duets as well. Willie and Merle. Brad Paisley and John Fogerty. Alan Jackson and George Strait. Toby Keith and Willie. Waylon and Willie. George Jones and Merle. Alan Jackson and Jimmie Buffett. What I really love about this song though, is the idea of immortality. If you ask kids in America nowadays, it seems every kid just wants to be famous, and figure out the fastest way to get there. That fame is all they seem to see. But there is another immortality, and it is one that EACH of us can aspire to…. to leave the world better than we found it through our children. They are our immortality. This song is a hidden gem on the record, and one that is so understanted in its purity, it is perfect. So again, you better add Dallas Moore and Jim Bachmann to that list. And while your at it, why not give Dallas Moore’s album Mr. Honky Tonk a spin? You won’t regret it.
Jim Bachmann & the Day Drinkers may include a bunch of Gringos, but damn…. they roll one helluvan Arizona Burrito. Get yourself down to the show on Saturday night, pick up a copy of this CD for yourself and that old school country guy you know at work. I’ll see you there, let’s have a beer!
Keep the Greasy Side Down, Amigos.