Damn Good Songs: "Drinking Champagne"

Craig Ferguson is in a league of his own when it comes to late night comedy, but that's not what this post is about... [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kutwVKksi6w]

Last week, I gifted the new Willie Nelson record, "Country Music," to a friend & Willie fan, and in the process thought "What the hell, get one for yourself." In retrospect I maybe should have just waited to see my friend, let her thank me for the thoughtful gift and simply asked her to burn it for me? But at least this way I can feel as though I contributed to Willie's latest high. 3 thoughts as I just wrote that: 1. They should sell all of his merchandise that way..."Contribute to Willie's high" 2. do you even feel it anymore when you smoke as much weed as Willie Nelson? and 3. I never understood how people like him get away with practically advertising that they have enough marijuana on their tour bus to sedate a Hippo. thoughts? Is it because he's Willie Nelson? does that hold up in court? If a rookie cop doesn't realize he's just pulled over Willie's tour bus, citing "vehicle was cool," and writes up a summons for small man with red pigtails...does the judge, in turn, reprimand the rookie for bringing in Willie Nelson? I read a Rolling Stone article on Willie once, and there was a picture...A PICTURE (i like pictures)! of the man on his bus with what looked like a cocktail tray, covered in buds...that's just out there for anyone to see!  I apologize for this paragraph getting out of hand, and I also apologize if for some reason, Willie Nelson gets busted for this. Not exactly how I wanted my career to go... "JACKASS ROOKIE BLOGGER SENDS WILLIE PACKIN" although, I think Rolling Stone's readership is significantly higher (get it?) so if they can do it, I should be in the clear...but anyway, also not what this post is about...

The new Willie Nelson record is a classic occurrence: "Heritage artist covers standards and damn good songs."  There are any number of ways this kind of project comes about, but my fantasy is Willie Nelson calls up T-Bone Burnett and says "Hey T-Bone, I wanna record some damn good songs." and T-Bone happily obliges. Let's just assume that's the way it goes.

Instantly, upon first listen,  I hear the wonderful sounds of T-Bone Burnett. Is it just me? A self dubbed producer-lover, I truly enjoy hearing the stamp that great producers leave on records...I'm not taking away from the unmistakeable sound of Willie's voice, his ability to sing a lyric like no other human being, and his trusty, nylon acoustic, but the songs are drenched in T-Bones signature styles and that always makes me a happy listener. It's a good combination.

Now, if there's one common misconception I dislike, its the state of country music. I'm not entirely against today's "country music" but it's not what I would call it. There are some insanely talented country artists, and having had the experience to meet a lot of the popular ones, they are also some of the most genuine people in comparison to a lot of the pop stars of today. BUT, some of the "no shirt, no shoes, no problem" stuff can take a hike in my book. To me, "Country Music" comes in the form of a song so well written, you keep listening just to wrap your mind around how someone could come up with something so simple yet so effective. It's the style of music that you hear and suddenly you understand the taste of good bourbon. It's like the moment you grew a taste for coffee. One day you're a kid, you think girls are icky and coffee is just your parents excuse to keep you in the restaurant and away from your toys at home for another 15 to 25 minutes. The next day you're a grown up because you can take a sip of a hard drink without cringing and you understand a great country song.

Willie Nelson's new record is called "Country Music" and that's exactly what it is. It's traditional, and it's a compilation of some damn good songs, of which only a couple were written by Willie. Otherwise, what would be the point? This isn't an ego trip for him, in my mind, it's a shot at preserving great American music. The man has written some amazing songs, though, so if you only know the name and not the legend, I suggest hitting the back catalogue.  Let me get you started: "Hello Walls", "Funny How Time Slips Away" (this live performance showcases how amazing a guitar player he truly is, and also how BADASS Kris Kristofferson will always be), and finally before you spend all your money on his music, here's Willie himself, reciting the lyrics to "Me & Paul", equally interesting & creepy.

Back to "Country Music"...As with any new album, I have to first listen from start to finish at least once, and then feel free to skip around. The one song I go back to over and over and over and over is "Drinking Champagne" which, I believe was written by a man named Bill Mack. I wish I knew how this arrangement came about. Did Willie bring it to T-Bone, or did T-Bone say to Willie "let's do it this way, with an old Venice feel" (i think it was Willie, because i'm pretty sure its something he's been playing for a while) but the intro alone, kills me.

What I'm ecstatic about, is that this is on a record that's been released in 2010. This shit is still alive folks. What I'm even happier about, is that I keep stumbling on songs like this and I like to imagine this is how people felt when they first heard them in the 50's and 60s. How do they write this stuff?! When you take a look at the lyrics to some of the best songs ever, you see just how simple they are, genius & simple. I have a hard time describing it, but in my head, I hear it as a circle. It starts with a verse/chorus, there's a little bridge type thing, a simple instrumental and back to how it started. It just goes round and round, and if you chose to not stop it, say, if you were in a hoe down?, you could keep going around and around until the sun comes up. Here are the lyrics:

I'm drinking champagne, & feeling no pain til early morning

dining & dancing, with every pretty girl I can find,

I'm having a fling, with a pretty young thing, til early morning

knowing tomorrow, I'll wake up with you on my mind...

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Guilty conscience, i guess

though, i must confess

i never loved you much, when you were mine

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so i'll keep drinking champagne, and feeling no pain til early morning

dining and dancing, with every pretty girl i can find

having a fling with a pretty young thing, til early morning

knowing tomorrow, i'll wake up with you on my mind.

THATS IT! The sheer power of a song like this is unmeasurable. Plain and simple. BUY THIS SONG

There are a handful of versions out there, but to me, Willie sings it true. There are no signs of 'modern country' in this recording, it may as well have been recorded in 1962 on 2010 equipment, and that's why I love it. Call me a purist, but it's better that way.

I'll leave you with The Highwaymen doing Kris Kristofferson's "Loving Her Was Easier (than anything I'll ever do again)" because...it's a damn good song:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zGGzsiA1dA&feature=related]

see ya soon

-M