Monday, 4 June 2012

Walkin' After Midnight

The Blues Brothers, on arriving to play a gig out in the sticks, are told "We got both kinds [of music]. We got country *and* western."  Not to Jake and Elwood's taste, but they give it their best.  It's not to my taste either: I'm not ambivalent about it, I don't like country music.  And yet, sometimes we come across specific instances that make a nonsense of our prejudices based on generalisations.

Some years ago I was pointed in the direction of the Cowboy Junkies, and in particular their breakthrough album, The Trinity Session, which starts with this track.  Well, the "Cowboy" in the band's name notwithstanding, I listened and I was won over.  Find it, listen to it, it is a modern classic.  And that's the closest I have come to liking country music (and part of me still says the Junkies are not real cowboys).

Now the closing track of The Trinity Session is "Walkin' After Midnight", originally recorded by Patsy Cline.  As you can see, you can't get much more country than Patsy (or should that be western?), and as she sings it, it is pure C&W.   But hold on, even in Patsy's take, is there a hint of a bluesy feel there?  A note that flattens by a semitone in bar 3 of the melody ("out in the moonlight"), coupled with that strange lyric that tells of obsession.  Perhaps this tune can stray a little too, go out walking to some different places:

All of which leads me think about the labels we like to place on musical genres, and ask if these are simply lazy assumptions that may be keeping us from richer experiences. By saying "I don't like that sort of thing", I might be filtering some good stuff from my experience.  After all, music has always been about cross-fertilization and as ever, the most interesting places are always edges and boundaries.

Other versions of "Walkin'" that I found along the way and liked:


  • Melissa Lauren Pisarzowski (the upload post makes my point "Patsy Cline tunes are great to sing on a gig. Sometimes we do them really bluesy, sometimes really country...")

But of course, I always have to come back to the Cowboy Junkies version: Margot Timmins' dreamy, floaty voice over that muscular, somewhat grungy guitar, laid back but still insistent.

And of course, I'm fooling with this on my tenor sax, and, well, here's how it's going ...

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