Monday, January 31, 2011

"Chunk Style"

Song: "Fit to Kill and Going Out in Style"
Artist: Billy Joe Shaver
Search Term: "Chunk Style" [This song is from Shaver's album I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal]

I'm hardly the first person to observe that in the past 20 years, the country music genre has become sodden with millionaires writing pandering swill about how blue-collar Americans are the real Americans. (Trace Adkins's execrable "Ladies Love Country Boys," for one, is lazy enough to rhyme the word "subdivision" with the word "chicken," while clucking his tongue at those who live in the former and have never fried the latter.) So it's kind of refreshing to hear a song like this otherwise nondescript 1981 honkytonker, in which Billy Joe Shaver basically spends three minutes in character, boasting, "Get me! I'm rich!" Specifically, he crows that he's "got a wad of bills that'd choke a whooping crane," and he goes on with some pride about how he and his special lady are the toast of the town, all delivered with a Roger Miller-style wink.

It's an endearing little number that one might play while getting ready for a night out: An unserious fantasy of living high on the hog for an evening. (The fact that it reminds me of a less exaggerated version of "Weird Al" Yankovic's celebration of wealth "This Is the Life" probably tells you more about my frame of reference than about the song itself, but that's what occurred to me.) As I said, there's really nothing about the tune to distinguish it from a billion other upbeat country songs, but I think "Fit to Kill and Going Out in Style" is valuable as an artifact of an era when country singers shared their typical listeners' financial aspirations and--oftentimes--frustrations in a way that came across as authentic, rather than condescendingly chuckling, "Aw, ain't you lucky to be living hand-to-mouth like that? Seeing as we're kindred spirits and all, perhaps you'd like to help a fella out by purchasing an item from my clothing line? I call it Alan Jackson's Running Through Thunder."

Incidentally, I visited Shaver's page on Wikipedia to double-check his album title and found the following information about a 2007 incident at a Texas saloon: "Shaver shot a man, Billy Bryant Coker, in the face with a handgun. Coker's injuries were reported as not life-threatening. Witnesses interviewed by police report hearing Shaver saying, 'Where do you want it?' and then, after the shot was fired, 'Tell me you are sorry,' and 'No one tells me to shut up.'"

I include this material just because I think it adds a little unintended color to the song title.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Disclaimer Randomized Song Lexicon: Welcome

Having long grown weary of mentally categorizing songs whose titles delve no further into our shared vocabulary than the words "baby," "love," "rock/rocking/rockin'," "you," and "song" (or, in the case of the disreputable genre of punk rock, "wanna"), I have concluded that there is an unmet need for a song lexicon that celebrates a broader love of language--or at least a broader familiarity with language than that of a second grade remedial language arts group.

Most weekdays or whenever the muse moves me, I plan to type a word or term randomly selected from my idiolect into the Soulseek file-sharing mechanism. I shall then download one song by an unfamiliar artist from the list of returned songs. (It's possible the search term may not end up being a word in the song title itself, but may be part of the band name or the title of the album from which the song hails. This is the way Soulseek's search engine works, and I have decided to embrace it. Furthermore, there will be no effort on my part to download only songs belonging to musical genres I typically gravitate toward; my hope is that this project will expose me to music beyond the indie rock and electronica I most frequently choose to enjoy.) Upon listening to this song once, I shall write a quick review of it and post it here.

I will also post an MP3 of each described song so that you may have some idea of what I'm talking about. Shared MP3s will be available for roughly 30 days, though if you happen to be a copyright holder for one of these songs and you would like it removed from the blog sooner, e-mail me at and I'll gladly do so. "Gladly" meaning "with the same amount of put-upon eye-rolling and sighing that accompanies most of the unsavory activities I undertake to ensure I am not running afoul of the law."

This will continue until there is a song associated with every word in the English language. I expect this project to be completed in April 3566. (I reserve the right to include the occasional non-English search term, be it a foreign word or simply a nonsensical string of letters that I find amusing.) There will be no intentional methodology governing which search terms are used in which order as we proceed. If one were so inclined and had sufficient knowlege of my personal schemata, I suppose it would be possible to determine a pattern to the words chosen, but that does not seem to me a profitable endeavor. Particularly since the conclusion would likely be something on the depressing order of "If Chris Willie Williams hears the word 'enhancer' on an episode of Tabatha's Salon Takeover, he will soon add the word 'enhancer' to his silly blog thing."

As this blog becomes more and more comprehensive as the years and decades pass, the clever reader may be tempted to assemble a musical dictionary on her iPod, to be deployed during moments of social discussion where she perceives that her conversational reputation may be boosted by making an instant connection between a companion's observation and a similarly-titled song--or as an appropriate means of filling what would otherwise be an uncomfortable lull in the conversation following a boorish acquaintance's ill-timed utterance. It is for this listener that I must emphasize that some of these songs are sure to be awful. Just as you would gain nothing from delving into your Bartlett's among polite company only to retrieve a quotation from Bob Uecker, so too should you not indiscriminately assume that, simply because your host has used the word "Popsicle" and you happen to have handy the song "Rectal Mucus Popsicle" by Autoficial, its inclusion in your discussion will automatically be greeted with appreciative nods and applause. Though I hope that my reviews of the songs in this lexicon will provide some manner of guidance as to which are worthy of the listener's time, I'm afraid some manner of personal discretion remains necessary.

I hope you find this useful and I look forward to your undivided attention as we undertake this lengthy mug's game.
-Chris Willie Williams
Bangor, 2011