Sunday, May 13, 2012

LINER NOTES: Movin' On Up/Down

Movin' playlist.

5 years ago I came across Dolly Parton's My Tennessee Mountain Home. I suppose it can be considered a concept record, but, really, it's less heady and just a straight-up memoir. It charts her rural roots, big city dreams and eventual move to Nashville. It's not one of her better know records, but it is an excellent, touching and coherent statement. From the late '60s to mid-70s, Dolly was knockin' out unfuxwitable records like Stevie. You can quibble about which one you prefer, but they're all of incredibly high stock. That's what I mean by unfuxwitable.

Around the same time I first heard this record, I had made my way through Nas' Hip Hop Is Dead, which is mostly memorable for having a memeable title. Yet, like all of Nas' records, he has his moments of clarity, as in "Not Going Back." Sure, it's hardly an empathetic sentiment -- "The hood's in me forever y'all / But I'm not going back" -- but it stuck in my craw mostly because Dolly Parton had a similar twinge of nostalgia. While Dolly actually goes back to check in on her folks on "Back Home," she comes to a similar realization that that life is in the past and is relegated to her memory, not her present-day reality.

Since then, I've been slowly building this idea of songs charting people's dreams through moving. The result is a story with a naive, optimistic beginning that ends in soul-crushing catastrophe. Rhythm & Blues standard "Kansas City" captures the swagger of strolling into the crazy "metropolis." Anthems like "New York State of Mind" and "Lullaby of Broadway" heap praises on the hustle and bustle of the center of the world. But "Lonely Town, Lonely Street" and "Back Side of Dallas" share the other side of the coin. And "Midnight Train in Georgia," "San Francisco Is A Lonely Town" and "Streets of Baltimore" document the defeated few that make it out before it's too late. In sum, we have stories of small-town kids realizing dreams, those that never realize it and the few that survive to count their losses.

Big fun with this one. And, once again, plenty of records I didn't get to, so it may be worth a re-visit. In the meantime, we'll see y'all again in late June. Not sure if we'll be at the mansion by then, but the summer is nigh!

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