Song of the Day: When the Kinks Go Twang
My journalism teachers would hate me for burying the lede here, but bare with me. I have a story to tell.
This story is about the funny way our musical tastes change as we get older, morphing into something new, reverting back to old sounds and even subverting everything we thought we loved all the while.
Take country music. There’s nothing I disliked more in high school. Surely, it was because I was surrounded by it growing up in the mountains as I did, and surely it had something to do with, as youth are wont to do, the need to rebel against something, anything.
At the time I claimed I hated the twang. Maybe there was some truth to it, that there was a surface dislike there. But I also think, in hindsight, that I was underexposed to country music, having listened only to Top 40 CMR. And there’s also the point that I couldn’t relate to country music’s lyrics of failed loves, cheating wives, pickup trucks and whiskey. I don’t know what that says about me now that I love just about any country that’s not on the radio, but I’m getting ahead of myself.See, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve returned to my roots in many ways, picking up old albums by Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Jimmie Rodgers, George Jones and more. I’ve grown to love that twang, the melancholy of a steel guitar, the soulfulness of a gruff voice grown scratchy and ragged from a life of smokes and scotch. It’s the white man’s blues, so I hear.
While my tastes have expanded in these ways, it’s also returned to my early love of ’60s pop music, expanding into explorations into the Kinks, Nick Lowe and more.
Then, today, these two loves married each other in a very unexpected way: The When You Awake mixtape of Kinks’ songs countrified.
There are tracks by a band you’ve probably never heard of, The Black Keys (jokes!), a cut by Big Star, Holly Golightly, the 13th Floor Elevators, the band headed by Roky Erickson, who’s like the Daniel Johnston of old psychedelia. There’s even a cover of "Well Respected Man," the cut featured on the "Juno" soundtrack, by Boudewijn De Groot, one of Holland’s most respected singer-songwriters.
My favorite, however, is Mark Lanegan’s cover of "Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ Bout That Girl." Lanegan’s voice is old and slow, eeking out each syllable as if the words scratch and hurt his throat as they rise up into the microphone. It’s reminiscent of late Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails’ "Hurt."
The music is less traditional country, though; it features a little twang, but something with a touch of world music or tribal Native American influence, too.
The whole mixtape can be downloaded for free over at WhenYouAwake.com.