It’s funny: sometimes these things just jibe in lockstep like this.
I’m from northern Indiana, and most of my extended family is from Michigan, where yes, you can see Confederate flags flying upon certain edifices and… mobile edifices. I started thinking of southern rock as a sort of subtle genus, though, for some reason, and it might have something to do with a recent discussion I had with a professor: I started feeling suffocated by the stuffy literary culture of post-industrial New York which seemed to just emulate Britain. Literally, every prominent early female writer I could think of offhand which I found of interest was from the south, from Flannery O’Connor, to Eudora Welty, to Maya Angelou, to Harper Lee. My prof. even introduced some woman named Rawlings, who apparently got sued by a moderate acquaintance for her subject matter resembling his real life self.
So the south is something. Nobody would deny that. It’s something a lot of us northerners make fun of. Nobody would deny that either (no northerner, that is).
I’ve lived in the south briefly. It’s not the place for me. But this is all the more reason to indulge in this art, just as the listener of Wu-Tang doesn’t necessarily want to walk down a block in Staten Island.
Is it summed up by the beautiful, spectral irony of Caleb Followill’s ultimatum: “I cut you some flowers / Now don’t be afraid”? Probably. Is it summed up by an old drunk like Lucinda Williams actually having good music taste (“We’d put on ZZ Top / And turn it up real loud”)? Probably.
But look at something else on the list. It’s all white. The Chuck Berry listing is a cheat on my part. They put Heartless Bastards’ Cincinnati right on the Mason Dixon line… they’ve got Chuck Berry’s St. Louis a little north of it.
So was Skynyrd a little ballsier for writing that ballad about Curtis Loew? Was their use of the term “picker” a close approximation of something else, some veritable a**-covering semantic device?
Well, sure, but equally ballsy was putting a song as damaged, deliberate and real as “Tuesday’s Gone” on their very primary album. At this point, Skynyrd have no musical career. This is their basket, of their musical eggs. But the whole thing’s contrapuntal, holistic, and this is rock music made closer to where the blues originally came from.
But for the record, the north still makes better music videos (Smashing Pumpkins).
The Allman Brothers Band – “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”
Chuck Berry – “Roll Over Beethoven”
The Black Crowes – “Sister Luck”
Steve Earle – “Fort Worth Blues”
Fastball – “Fire Escape”
Heartless Bastards – “Could Be So Happy”
Indigo Girls – “Galileo”
Kings of Leon – “Trani”
Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Call Me the Breeze”
Meat Puppets – “Flaming Heart”
My Morning Jacket – “Knot Comes Loose”
Dex Romweber Duo – “Gurdjieff Girl”
Toad the Wet Sprocket – “P.S.”
Widespread Panic – “Airplane”
Lucinda Williams – “Lake Charles”
ZZ Top – “La Grange”
Kings of Leon – “Dusty”