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You Read What’s On My Mind: The 52 State Pick-up Mix, Part 2

September 25, 2010

Welcome to the second installment of the series I began last week.

Ah, the South.  Old times there are not forgotten….and we never stop reminding them about it either, let’s be real.   Sometimes Southerners can be their own worst enemy, but in music, the talents are put to better use.  There will be controversy in my picks, I’m sure, but I will take my lumps.  It is inherently Southern to question the meaning of where you’re from, the good, the bad, and the damned.

Louisiana

Louisiana is the Pelican State – I can probably guess the state bird, too.  There are a LOT of songs about New Orleans, but the state itself doesn’t get nearly as much love in songs.  Be that as it may, I didn’t really feel the need to research too hard, when sitting right there in my own jukebox is Bobbie Gentry’s song Louisiana Man.  While it’s not my favorite of hers (tie: Fancy and Ode to Billy Joe), nor is it as sultry as Slow Cookin (a song like the sweat on Ashley Judd in A Time to Kil), but it’s a quality tale that captures the region.  Bonus points for: a) a favorite genre of youtube video, the spinning record, and b) the song having a key change.

Arkansas

Is Arkansas the South?  I was not sure for awhile.  Like Texas, it certainly feels Southern but the nudist-motto-sounding Natural State seemed like a foreign land to me growing up, having primarily spent my childhood in Virginia, Georgia, and Mississippi.  Then awhile back I got a subscription to Oxford American and that is based in the University of Arkansas, so I stand corrected.  This song was another easy choice, as my own jukebox had this lovely number from the team of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra.  Like Bobby Gentry, I’ll take any excuse to put them on a mix.

Alabama

I really, really, really wanted to put Drive-By Truckers into this slot for Heart of Dixie (yep, that’s the official state motto); their song The Three Great Icons of Alabama is a great piece of storytelling as well as a minor history lesson about the notorious figures that have come to represent the state: George Wallace, Bear Bryant and Ronnie Van Zandt.  However, for a mixtape, you want songs that hold up under multiple listens, and a seven-minute talking song does not fit that criteria.  So, I commit sacrilege and risk getting chased out of the state:  I’m choosing Neil Young’s song from his classic album Harvest.  (If you want to know why this is a controversial pick, listen to the runner-up song I just described.)

Mississippi

Speaking of controversy, this song was banned in parts of the South when it came out in 1964, most likely including the Magnolia State.  I can’t give the region a free pass on its troublesome parts of history (or any other region, really).  Some folks from The Sip might be upset that I chose their slot to cover some of the more…distasteful elements of their history, let’s say, please think of this:  it’s Nina Simone!  Just like no press is bad press, no song by Nina Simone is a bad thing.  Well, ok, I can’t really handle that album of Beatles songs, but we’re talking about a song that is one of her masterpieces here.  Sometimes complicated words do not properly capture the rage and frustration and exhaustion of tragedies, so we reach for the simple ones that we can all understand: cussing.  “This is a show tune, but the show hasn’t been written for it yet.”

Georgia

The Peach State, and my home from 1984 to 1995, is lucky to have lots of songs featuring the name in the title, the most frequently played being Georgia on my Mind (Ray Charles’s version gets top bidding as a native, Willie Nelson’s is great too though) and the second runner-up is Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down to Georgia.  All of these songs are in my personal jukebox, I adore them all, probably because I went to the Stone Mountain laser show1 every summer and they were standard programming.  They are, however, played a lot.  I was only a breath away from selecting one of my favorite songs, Vicki Lawrence’s The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia, or even The Mountain Goats’ Going to Georgia (I see you, Unscrambled) but in the end, I decided to instead highlight a song that most people probably haven’t heard.   This band, The 1900s, is actually from Chicago (my current home) and it is technically more a song about a girl named Georgia, but then again, so is Georgia on my Mind – they decided in the songwriting process to make the language vague because songs about the South were popular at the time.  But when I returned to my hometown last year after nine years away, I had this song on repeat in the car as I drove through the north Georgia mountains to find my way back to Atlanta.  Plus, I’m a sucker for songs and bands with male/female combined vocals.

Thanks for tuning into this edition of the 52 State Pick-up Mix. Next week:  border states!

__________

1: If you are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, please click here and watch this presentation which explains why I know every single word to “Proud to Be An American” without trying, as the show always concluded with this song + fireworks.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2010 9:29 am

    Lee Greenwood!!! I’ll be back in a bit.

  2. bonnie sue wade permalink
    September 25, 2010 9:34 am

    RTJ. I love the 52 state pick up mix. In some ways, I feel like a southerner. After all, Miami, was really a little backwater places back in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s. This piece and the music you include is close to my heart and brought me joy as I read it this morning….I’m thinking of what my own southern mix tape would include…a little Dolly for sure – In My Tennessee Mountain Home, among others. Thanks for helping me experience a bit of joy. xoxox

  3. September 25, 2010 11:14 am

    Submitted for your approval:

  4. September 25, 2010 12:06 pm

    bonnie wade! Miami doesn’t always feel like “the South”, but the rest of the state sure has it’s place! thank you so much for adding your suggestion.

  5. September 25, 2010 12:07 pm

    @nycpenpusher: I do love Diane Schuur’s voice! thanks for that.

  6. September 25, 2010 12:33 pm

    I love this thread so much. I love this series. I humbly submit this ditty from Dolly:

  7. September 25, 2010 12:39 pm

    dudes, Tennessee is becoming harder than New York or California!! I’m sweating.

  8. September 25, 2010 12:41 pm

    Oh God, that Stone Mountain Laser Show is phenomenal. I keep promising my boyfriend that we’ll go one day (I’m actually “from” GA, while he’s a transplant from CA…he’s lived here since he was 5, though, so he almost counts as a Southerner. Almost.) so he can witness the “statue coming to life.” I just don’t know that I can take the Lee Greenwood.

    I love this list, by the way!

  9. September 25, 2010 12:44 pm

    I’m glad! I was thinking of you while wringing my hands over Georgia. My friend Traci suggested this song too.

  10. September 25, 2010 1:29 pm

    Dang! Perfect list! I love it. I’ll have to mull this one over.

  11. September 25, 2010 2:40 pm

    Hahaha…..My “niece” used that song as her ringtone for her “Georgia Family”(me, her uncle, and her grandparents–they’re her “real” family). Her grandmother thought that it was really sweet until the actual rap started; I thought it was great because, like the guys in Field Mob, my “small city is Albany”. Even if I know that’s a horrible slant rhyme.

    I love that Drive-By Trucker’s song, by the way. I’m not a big fan of them, but every now and then one of their songs will grab my attention. “Racism is a worldwide problem, and it’s been since the beginning of recorded history. And it ain’t just white and black, but, thanks to George Wallace, it’s always a little more convenient to play it with a Southern accent.” Amen.

    You know, Georgia On My Mind was also about a woman, but in the same way that Georgia by The 1900’s is; GoMM is technically about Hoagy Carmichael’s sister, but was written ambiguously enough because “no one ever lost anything writing about the South.”

  12. September 25, 2010 4:38 pm

    You know, Georgia On My Mind was also about a woman, but in the same way that Georgia by The 1900′s is; GoMM is technically about Hoagy Carmichael’s sister, but was written ambiguously enough because “no one ever lost anything writing about the South.”

    Ha! So true.

  13. September 25, 2010 5:14 pm

    @eieioj: There are a few DBT songs that are on my “favorite songs of all time!!” list, but the rest of their prolific catalog is just eh to me. I would like to see them live someday though.

  14. September 25, 2010 9:52 pm

    @Ray: I was lucky enough to see them at AthFest a few years ago. They were really phenomenal live, and the live version of “Let There Be Rock” was great, but it made me realize how disappointing their studio work is.

    @Snarky: I know, right? I mean, apparently the South is a mystical land. I can dig it, but damn, it’s hard living up to those expectations. Time to go sit on my bedroom balcony wrapped in a shawl that hides Confed’rate pistols and sip on a mint julep.

  15. September 26, 2010 12:05 am

    @eieioj – when I moved to the south I was in awe of how it lived up to everything – good and not so good – I imagined. The iced tea is really better there. And the people are really nice as pie, even when they’re talking smack to your face.

    Also, the “Triangle” is not in fact a real triangle nor is it viewable as such from the window of an airplane. That was the only real letdown I experienced in the south.

  16. September 26, 2010 8:48 am

    LOL re: Triangle.

  17. evmaroon permalink
    September 26, 2010 5:04 pm

    I wholeheartedly concur with Mississippi Goddamn in your list! I was hoping I’d see Simone as your MS placeholder.

    I think of Arkansas as the South, most definitely. My mom lives in Eureka Springs, and wow, I wouldn’t call it the Midwest or the Plains, no way.

    Whenever I see the word “Alabama,” however, I hear in my head: “My home’s in Alabama.” I could never pick another song for that state.

  18. September 27, 2010 1:16 am

    I wanted to come back to say I liked these choices alot… and I remember hearing that Bobbie Gentry song as a child!

    The Nina Simone is really interesting. I’m just considering the upbeat fast tempo of the song, and how that somewhat softens the message of the music. I guess it makes it palatable for those that it targets, which is the only way you’d get them to hear it!

    Great stuff!

  19. September 27, 2010 9:04 am

    Thanks Ev and Dean!

  20. September 27, 2010 10:21 am

    I heard Neil Young sing about her, but I confess that I still associate this song with Alabama:

  21. September 27, 2010 10:36 am

    @redlami: you should definitely give a listen to the “Three Icons of Alabama” song too! It’s a good song that unites the two, storywise.

  22. September 27, 2010 11:11 am

    @redlami: Oh, that song. Guaranteed to get drunk folk up and dancing within 2 notes. I was in a bar in Shellman, GA (try to find it on a map, I dare ya!) where the band’s guitar player introduced Sweet Home Alabama as “the national anthem of Georgia.” Yep.

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