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In Her Dreams She is Far Away: The 52 State Pick-Up Mix, Part 5

October 16, 2010

Last week touched on east coast/west coast, so today I shoot for the center of the country, or the heartland, as they are fond of saying. When you look at a map, it’s indeed pretty much right in the middle, but the middle also means equidistantly far from everything else.  The song choices have a range of songwriters from beyond the region, but the same feeling buzzes through all of the tunes: sparse, beautiful, tender, and, at times, stark as hell.

Nebraska

I love a good murder ballad, and this song isn’t about the entirety of the Cornhusker State, just about a murder spree between two lovers that started in Nebraska.  It’s the Boss, a Fry Butter favorite, so really there wasn’t much competition. If you are, however, interested in learning “is there anything of interest in the state of Nebraska?” you can give a listen to this song by the String Beans, a local band that makes kids music with awesome videos that might have been created solely with the Paint function. Here’s a spoiler: they invented kool-aid and the strobe light!

Kansas

You Can’t Go Back To Kansas by John Stewart
[Apologies, but I could not find a way to embed this video, no matter how many ways I tried!]

The Sunflower State produced a classic/prog rock group named Kansas, but sadly they have no songs about the state. When you name your whole band after the state, I guess a song would seem redundant. Lucky for me, John Stewart (of the Kingston Trio) is from the state, and wrote a few songs, including “Kansas Rain” and this song about the longing and disappointment in going home. And bonus points because there is nothing about the Wizard of Oz in this track.

Oklahoma

Ray Davies and company are from England, and I love this take they have on what is America, what is Oklahoma. It’s a beautiful sad song about loneliness and isolation of working class life that matches the sparse landscape, the distance between you and everything when out in the Great Plains of the panhandle in the Sooner State. Name-checking Shirley Jones and Rita Hayworth? Sure. Oh, and there’s an accordion, too. This song is quiet bliss, and you may be surprised by the Kinks.

Missouri

When I first was researching Missouri, there seemed to be only one song: Missouri Waltz, an old Americana tune that gained popularity when Harry Truman was elected president; he was a native Missourian, but supposedly didn’t care much for the song, though of course he couldn’t be too public about that, he had to represent. Johnny Cash covers the song, but I still wasn’t too excited by it. The Show-Me State was showing me little, until I found this local band from the central part of the state, singing about their home life with an original tune. I love the harmonica, the imagery, and the repeated refrain: “I think I’ll have myself a beer.” Only a native band could get away with singing “this is Miss-our-i”, rhyming it with ‘misery’, because they really know what parts are the hardest. I’m also a sucker for a song where the whole band joins in the singing at the end.

Iowa

Growing up in Atlanta, the Indigo Girls were a local favorite, so I always joke that I got into folk music before becoming a lesbian. Dar Williams was more college years for me, and even though Ani DiFranco was more hardcore and dykey, I was instead taken in by the sweet voice of Williams, the Meryl Streep of singer-songwriters: pure untouched beauty existing in a utopic liberal bubble. I still stand by The Green World as a really great album, but this track from her second album, Mortal City, is practically a standard on roadtrip mixtapes if you have any sort of connection to lesbian heritage. The Hawkeye State certainly does have some bosom-y hills.

~~~~~

I haven’t decided yet what part of the country or states to tackle next week, so if you have any requests, make them now!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2010 1:14 pm

    I ♥ Bruce Springsteen. Maybe next week just a whole mix tape of the Boss’ state references. Or Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest. Idaho? Is there a song Boise song out there?

  2. October 16, 2010 5:41 pm

    All of Mellencamp’s songs are about the heartland, but I don’t think he actually has any with state titles. My favorite is “Cherry Bomb”

    I am seriously love these mixes.

  3. October 16, 2010 7:53 pm

    Thank you for the lack of Wizard of Oz jokes. And I mean thank you from all of us.

  4. October 16, 2010 8:26 pm

    Dar was practically apologetic when she “came out” as straight. But I can vouch for the fervor of her lesbian following, having seen her perform at Wells College.

  5. October 16, 2010 10:57 pm

    @Noriko: I am taking a trip in November where I’ll be riding through Washington state and northern Oregon, so I might wait until after I’ve done the legwork to tackle the pacific northwest! And there could be bonus discs to this mix of just Springsteen and Mellencamp songs.

    @Snarky: I want to play autoharp on the beach real bad now.

    @Chris: you, and the whole state, are welcome.

    @redlami: I think it’s so funny that people hear the lyric from “Iowa” and that made her seem queer to them — I totally read it as she was outing herself as straight!

  6. October 17, 2010 4:11 pm

    Bruce was totally expected… a no brainer for certain.

    But here’s one for you that I know you weren’t expecting: Please jump right to the 6:20 mark to get right to it:

  7. October 17, 2010 10:00 pm

    Dean? You win.

  8. October 19, 2010 10:47 am

    having lived 90% of my life in kansas, missouri & oklahoma, i’ve been looking forward to this post!

  9. October 19, 2010 10:55 am

    The Midwest Grind Fest!!!!

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