Originally we had planned to go in and out of Tennessee more times than any other state. (It’s wicked wide, that state.) But, the best laid plans and all that jazz. Turns out, it will be only this second pass before we head south. So here’s a song dump of some of the best that our most musical state has to offer.
That’s How I Got to Memphis: Of the many versions out there (including the one from the series finale of The Newsroom), Bobby Bare’s interpretation is flawless and remains my favorite.
All my Ex’s Live in Texas: So I hang my hat in Tennessee! Sure, there’s misdirection on my part here, but we already know that the pile of Texas songs will be stiff competition and George Strait deserves a spot on a list somewhere. Might as well be where he currently resides. The lyrics are playful and cautionary. And, yeah, the apostrophe is misused in the title.
Graceland: Can I cheat? Can I just ask you to put on the whole album for this one? I mean, Jesus Christ, Paul Simon was at the top of his game and then some on every single track here. And the lyrics, the characters! Fat Charley. The bat-faced girl. Al. Put this on and cruise through the western edge of the state. It’s like being hypnotized. (And, yeah, I only added Graceland to the current playlist; there will be more entries from this album in the next couple months as Arizona and Louisiana are both mentioned.)
Cumberland River: Dan Baird opened his 1996 album, Buffalo Nickel with a rock-solid rocker of a rock track, “Younger Face.” The rest of the album falls short of the grungy glory of the first song. But coming in second is a sideways ode to the Cumberland River and how it “winds it crooked way through this crooked town.” Nashville must have done a number on Baird because his second album didn’t come out until 2017.
Crazy as a Loon: Might as well follow up on the Nashville negatives with this funnier song by John Prine. He went down to Nashville to get his feelings hurt. I sure am glad he didn’t end up on the wrong side of a broom.
Stuck Inside of Mobile with Memphis Blues Again: The best version for my money is the one off Hard Rain where Dylan made a second Rolling Thunder run to far less acclaim/infamy. Despite folks not really digging the Rolling Thunder Revue II shtick at the time, I think the album has aged well and the tunes really rollick. The long pauses on this track, the stinging single notes before the song lapses back into madness is absolutely brilliant.