Back when I was pretty young, I liked country music. Heck, I remember having a Greatest Hits album of Mel Tillis. But as grew older, I got interested in classic rock icons like The Who, the Beatles, The Doors, Neil Young, and The Rolling Stones, et al., and then I got into "alternative" rock, heavy metal, blues, jazz, and finally "alt country" (however you define that genre) much later on.
Country music faded from my musical consciousness because there didn't seem to be anyone really making all that interesting stuff in that genre except for maybe Steve Earle, a man with his share of demons and ex-wives. And where I grew up, northern Iowa, isn't exactly a hotbed of country music. I remember as a kid when we visited relatives over in northwest Iowa: our family went to a dance where the primary music played was polka music. That's right, polkas. "Roll Out the Barrel," accordions, and all that stuff. And where and when I went to high school, hard rock and metal ruled.
And now there's that pop country crap dominating the airwaves that connoisseurs of true country music loathe. If I'm going to listen to country, it's going to be someone like Cash, Waylon, Merle, Shooter Jennings, Willie, Hank Williams Sr., Robert Earl Keen James McMurtry, and I have to admit I like the Dixie Chicks. And there's a guy I recently discovered reading Rolling Stone as my kids got their haircuts. Two days after I read the article, I watched him perform at Farm-Aid 2009 via one of our satellite TV channels.
The guy I'm referring to is Jamey Johnson, and he does interesting work. I can't say I'm crazy about every song on his album, That Lonesome Song, but there are some real gems on it. "High Cost of Living" is one of those gems.
Click HERE watch him talk about his album some and then play the song.
Here's a portion of the lyrics:
That Southern Baptist parking lot is where I'd go to smoke my pot,
Sit there in pickup truck and pray.
And staring at that giant cross just reminded me that I was lost.
And it just never seemed to point the way.
As soon as Jesus turned his back, I'd find my way across the track,
Lookin' just to score another deal.
With my back against that damn eight ball,
I didn't have to think or talk or feel.
My life was just an old routine.
Every day the same damn thing.
I couldn't even tell I was alive.
I tell you the high cost of livin'
Ain't nothing like the cost of livin' high.
As one of my friends likes to say when he inveighs against pop country, he wants to hear about "real people and real problems."
Jamey Johnson will give that to you.