I like Jamey Johnson’s “Even the Skies are Blue”. What captured me was the tone and the genuineness of the lyrics. This isn’t Candy Pop. This isn’t Life Fluff. This isn’t Kim Kardashian trying to figure out what hair product she’s going to use. This is life.
“These are sad times
World gone mad times
Men doing bad time
Lord what is this world going to
Between religions and wars
Drugs and divorce
Hell it seems like the whole world is fight'n
The sun might be shining
But even the skies are blue
These are hard days
Heavy old hard days
Dead string guitar days
And the devil is picking his tune
When daddy's quit staying
And the mommas quit praying
Even the children quit fight'n
God must be crying
Cause even the skies are blue”
Regardless of the media’s pronunciation that the economic recession is over and that things are getting better, things are not getting better for a lot of us. We’re still out of work. We’re still struggling paycheck to paycheck. We’re still worrying about what kind of people our children will grow up to be.
We live in a mixed up time – a time where 2 extremes continually coexist. We have the shallowness of Hollywood and reality shows and the depth of the songwriter troubadours that walk from bar to bar with guitars strapped to their shoulders. As I am writing this, it is striking me that the shallowness exists in this artificial world of nuts and bolts and bits and bytes. The depth is found OUT THERE – in the reality of life.
I love technology. I’ve worked in the information technology field for over 10 years. I like things that bring efficiency and ease to life. But we do pay a price. We get lost and forget about those tangible things that ground us – that help us feel our humanity. Last night I played tickle monster with my boys and I read a book to my 7 year old and then played Monopoly with all the kids. I left behind my stressful world of 80 words per minute and came back to myself and to them.
Musically, I believe we are also struggling. I had a conversation with a fellow musician the other day and he said that he now felt like if he had the choice of virtuosity and perfection v. mediocrity and authenticity, he would choose the mediocrity. And that hit me.
As a musician, I am proud of a certain level of musicianship. Intonation and timing are important. A well arranged song and well rehearsed band are much more important to me than some free-for-all that includes a lot of notes. But my friend is right. I’ve been saying for quite awhile that recordings from Nashville are the equivalent of making love on an operating table. I understand wanting good intonation and perfection. But when you sacrifice things like soul and genuineness – did you gain anything at all with that pristine recording?
Musicians are recording more and more at home. This is opening doors to people that probably have no business playing music. THIS can be frustrating - because talented and professional musicians give up gigs for hackers. But I wonder if we should learn something from our highly average peers? I wonder if their genuineness is resonating with people and THAT is what we are missing?
Is there a middle ground? Are we working on finding that? Some people are saying that Jamey Johnson is one of the front runners in leading this movement of genuineness in the mainstream. Maybe. I hope that we can come back to genuineness. I hope that we can find our way musically to allow a modern John Hughey to place his melodic mark on a contemporary Conway Twitty’s “I’ve Just Destroyed the World I’m Living In”.
Every day I want to give up hope. Every single day I want to quit. And every day I change my mind and remember that I want the music bad enough that there’s a chance I could make a difference.
My sister, Hilary Sloan, has a CD release party this Friday, September 17 at Rudyard’s in Houston. She’s another genuine spirit. She captured the authenticity of our times in a song I recorded called “Some Things They Can’t Take Away”. LISTEN
You’ve been looking for work now for such a long time
Once again, they cut off the telephone line
What you had for supper was the same yesterday
The landlord keeps knockin and there’s no way to pay.
I’ve noticed that you haven’t laughed in awhile.
You’ve done some hard time that’s taken your smile.
It’s just getting harder to get through the day
But some things they can’t take away.
Hold on to the little that’s left of your pride
Keep it close to you – deep down inside
And remember there’s one who will love you always
Some things they can’t take away.
You imagined that you’d find a better life here
Couldn’t get no worse – this must be your year
If you could only break even, then you’d be okay
But you’re back to begging – you’d do anything.
Everyone wants their money – they don’t understand.
They can’t see you doin the best that you can.
But don’t even listen to whatever they say,
Cause some things they can’t take away.
They can’t take the good things you’ve done in your life
The rain or the sunshine or the silvery moonlight
And no matter what happens I’ll love you always
Cause some things they can’t take away
Some things they can’t take away.