Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The "Perfect" Country Song?

A few weeks ago Paul, the proprietor of one of my favorite music blogs, Setting The Woods On Fire, posed the question of what would be the most representative country song, or, the “Perfect” country song.

As Paul mentioned in his post, in 1974, Steve Goodman and John Prine wrote what they considered to be the perfect country song. “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” was recorded by David Allan Coe after he suggested that Goodman include lyrics about “mama, trains, trucks, prison, and gettin' drunk” in order for it to be considered the “perfect” country song. I’ve included the song on the Bus for those of you who missed Paul’s original post.

I can’t argue with or add to Pauls’ four point (and two extra point) litmus test for the perfect country song. Clever lyrics, a regret-filled storyline, a “stalwart, but flawed, protagonist,” and a peddle steel guitar are the timeless ingredients that made the country music of the late ‘40s to the ‘70s such classics.

Although I may have made a few different selections for top contenders, the selections that Paul chose as runners up are all very deserving. Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams are all to be expected on any list of great country artists. As his selection for The “Perfect” Country Song, Paul selected George Jones’ ”He Stopped Loving Her Today”.

What would my choice for the “perfect” country song be? To be honest, I haven’t given it much thought. Perhaps I’ll open a 12-pack of inspiration one weekend, warm up the old turntable and give it some serious research. How about the riders on the Bus? What song would you nominate as the “perfect” country and western song?

Here are a couple tunes to get the gears moving.

David Allan Coe - You Never Even Called Me By My Name.mp3
D.A.C. website: officialdavidallancoe.com
Buy it here: Amazon.com

Dave Landers - Draw Up The Papers, Lawyer.mp3
Yet another gem from our good friend Walt’s Cousin Wes and his amazing collection of 78s.
Dave Landers was a singer and impressionist. This record was released Jan. 1950.
Landers does impressions of all the greatest country artists of the time.

The Notorious Cherry Bombs (Vince Gill & Rodney Crowell) - It's Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long
(YouTube video)
One couldn't make a list of "perfect" country songs without including this modern video classic.


Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Nothing against George, Johnny, Hank and the rest but my choce for the perfect country song comes from north of the border, "Four Strong Winds." In this country the perfect country song must also contain the magic word Alberta.

January 08, 2008 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see your post about "You Never Even Call Me by My Name" and Steve Goodman. He often doesn't get his due. You might be interested in my new 800-page biography, "Steve Goodman: Facing the Music." The book delves deeply into the genesis of "You Never Even Call Me by My Name," including John Prine's contributions and debunking the notion that David Allan Coe had anything to do with the culminating, classic last verse. In case people want to get the book, please know that the first printing just sold out, and the second printing probably will be out in late February. To sign up to be notified about the availability of the second printing, visit my Internet site (below) and click on the "online store" page. Just trying to spread word about the book. Feel free to do the same!

Clay Eals
1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
Seattle, WA 98116-1958

(206) 935-7515
(206) 484-8008

January 09, 2008 1:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Billy Connolly's "C&W Super Song" from 1979 is another attempt - although not a very good one - using a formula that includes a dying grandmother, a blind orphan, a car crash and a priest.

January 09, 2008 5:40 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

While I have always thought of Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds" as a folk song, you are absolutley right! It does fit all of the criteria of the "perfect" country song (and one of my al-time favorites.)

January 09, 2008 7:28 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Thanks for reminding us of your outstanding book. I got my copy earlier last year when you first let the riders on the Bus know of it.

For those riders that do not have a copy I highly recommend picking up one of the second printings when available. This large, very well research book is a must-have for any fan of Chicago Shorty's.

January 09, 2008 7:31 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Billy Connolly's "C&W Super Song" does contain just about all of the required ingredients, but as you point out, it falls short in exectution.

January 09, 2008 7:33 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...


Thanks for the kind words about my website. I'm looking forward to hearing the perfect-country-song nominations from your astute readers!

January 09, 2008 8:42 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

A hearty word of "thanks" back atcha, Paul.

January 09, 2008 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Ed, I. Am. Speechless. This is a humongous undertaking ... but first, the question MUST be asked: IS there such an entity as 'The Perfect Country Song' ... ? Excellent as these tunes today are, I'm sure there'll be folks with their own ideas about what constitutes 'perfection'. All I can say by way of offering an 'entry' is that I'm happy whenever a tune includes low humor and / or cheap shots as a bonus in addition to the prerequisites already listed ... I know you're down for the challenge - good luck with the hunt ...

January 09, 2008 3:51 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I may have bitten off more than I can chew. Not only are there many opinions on what constitutes "perfection", but I'm starting to wonder about the definition of "country" music.

January 09, 2008 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I agree with George Jones and Ian Tyson. It's very difficult to choose a "perfect" country song. Your loyal riders will definitely need some time to make a considered opinion. Great question, though!

January 10, 2008 6:16 PM  

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