Friday Five: Songs About Walls

Juli Thanki | November 6th, 2009

My original intent was to write a Friday Five in honor of Guy Fawkes Night; however, there are few songs about plotting to blow up Parliament. So instead, we’ll be looking at another important historical event. This November marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Here are five of country music’s best songs about walls, whether they’re made of stone, sheetrock, or metaphor (Note: Songs about the Vietnam Wall aren’t included here; they’ll be featured in an upcoming playlist).

  • bill-monroe-four-walls5. “Four Walls” – Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys
    With his girl drawn to bright lights and good times, this guy sits at home with the walls closing in on him. Poor fella. Maybe he should get a dog or a hobby or something, because talking to walls is the first sign of crazy hermitdom.
  • alan-jackson-tonight-i-climbed-the-wall4. “Tonight I Climbed the Wall” – Alan Jackson
    The wall in this song is metaphorical, representing the emotional distance between two lovers. The second single from A Lot About Livin’ (And A Little ‘Bout Love) went all the way to #4 in 1992. Try not to be freaked out by the mustache-less Jackson in the music video.

  • paul-burch3. “Walls of Time” – Paul Burch
    That Bill Monroe sure liked to sing about walls. Here Burch, supported by The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, delivers a mopey alt-country cover of the Monroe/Peter Rowan-penned song. Other excellent cover versions come from the Johnson Mountain Boys (featured below), Emmylou Harris and quite a few others.

  • johnny-cash-the-wall2. “The Wall” – Johnny Cash
    Escape attempt or suicide? Cash suggests it’s the latter in this prison song. Interestingly enough, the clip below is from a late ’80s performance in Berlin.
  • faron-young-hello-walls1. “Hello Walls” – Faron Young
    If the guy in Monroe’s “Four Walls” spends a few more nights in the same situation, he’ll end up like the dude in this song, talking not just to the walls, but windows and ceilings as well. Perhaps the most important wall song in country music, “Hello Walls” was a massive hit for Young in the 1961, and helped its songwriter, Willie Nelson, make a name for himself.

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  1. Jon
    November 6, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Um, ah, Monroe’s “Four Walls?” Not that Bill’s version isn’t nice, but…

    Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver also recorded an outstanding version of “Four Walls” not too long ago.

    “Walls Of Time”…Monroe cut it twice in the studio, neither time very well, in my opinion. The Peter Rowan & Tony Rice Quartet delivered a pretty fair rendering, with the recently-mentioned Bryn Davies singing tenor, but in my opinion, the definitive cut on the song to date is from Ricky Skaggs’ Ancient Tones album, with John Cowan singing tenor.

  2. Paul W Dennis
    November 6, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I Assume that you are referring to the song that has the chorus of “Four Walls To Hear Me, Four Walls to See, Four Walls Too Near Me, Closing In On Me” (there are several song s with theis title) the version cited should be that of Jim Reeves , a million seller from 1958

    “Talking To The Walls” a Warner Mack hit from the 1960s

    “The Wall” was written by Freddie Hart – he had the hit single on it and the better recording of the song. I love Cash but this wasn’t one of his better efforts

  3. PaulaW
    November 6, 2009 at 9:06 am

    I like Tracy Lawrence’s “Somebody Paints The Wall”

    Seems everytime I make my mark
    Somebody paints the wall

    Goodness knows, I have my share of days like that.

  4. Juli
    November 6, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Thanks for the suggestions, guys and gal. I will admit that Reeves’ version isn’t my favorite take on “Four Walls,” but it’s damn good.

    Here’s the Hart version of “The Wall” for anyone who wants to check it out:

  5. idlewildsouth
    November 6, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Alan Jackson’s “Hole In The Wall” is one of my favorite Alan Jackson songs.

  6. Jon
    November 6, 2009 at 9:36 am

    There are a couple of fine bluegrass versions of “The Wall,” including one by James King (on Lonesome And Then Some) where he’s backed by members of the JMB.

  7. Razor X
    November 6, 2009 at 10:06 am

    A few more:

    Tonight We’re Going To Tear Down The Walls – Randy Travis
    Higher Than The Wall — Patty Loveless or The SteelDrivers
    Walls Can Fall — George Jones
    Talking To The Wall — Loretta Lynn

  8. Ollie
    November 6, 2009 at 10:12 am

    I’m also a fan of The Western Wall, written and recorded by Rosanne Cash on Ten Song Demo, and covered by Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt on The Tuscon Sessions.

    Also, here’s Sam Bush and Emmylou covering Bill Monroe’s Walls of Time this year at Merlefest (please excuse the shaky camera at the beginning):

  9. Drew
    November 6, 2009 at 10:26 am

    “Hello Walls” is just plain awesome, glad to see it atop the list.

  10. J.R. Journey
    November 6, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I did a quick search of the word ‘wall’ in my media library and, besides having 3 of the 5 you mentioned, I have the following wall songs:

    Alan Jackson – ‘Hole In The Wall’
    George Jones – ‘Walls Can Fall’
    Lee Ann Womack – ‘If These Walls Could Talk’
    Dolly Parton – ‘Walls Of The Mind’
    Patty Loveless – ‘Higher Than The Wall’
    Randy Travis – ‘Tonight We’re Gonna Tear Down The Walls’
    Sara Evans – ‘These Four Walls’
    Shelby Lynne – ‘Wall In Your Heart’
    Tracy Lawrence – ‘Somebody Paints The Wall’

  11. David S
    November 6, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Miranda Lambert- “There’s A Wall”…. Awesome song from her debut album.

  12. Rick
    November 6, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Speaking of the fall of the Berlin Wall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited the Obamasnob to attend the 20th Anniversary Celebration and he blew her off. Its not surprising what with Obama being the leftist turdball he is not wanting to support a celebration of victory over his beloved comrades! He probably had more pressing matters, like playing another round of golf or watching that HBO documentary about his campaign again. Conservatives around the country would love to tear down the impending debacle of “Obamacare” before that wall of bureaucracy can even be erected…

    PS – “Hello Walls” is a fine song but I’m surprised by the way it seems to completely overshadow Faron Young’s catalog of other great songs. Its sad that for many country music fans if they recognize Faron Young’s name at all its only because of this one song! Crikey!

  13. Mike K
    November 6, 2009 at 11:00 am

    It doesn’t have wall in the title, but how ’bout Merle Haggard’s “Somewhere Between” written with Bonnie Owens.

  14. Brady Vercher
    November 6, 2009 at 11:03 am

    You gotta think beyond the wall, like “There’s More Behind the Picture than the Wall” by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. I’ve got more than 100 songs in my library with wall in the title, so I’ll spare y’all, but there are still some big ones that haven’t been mentioned.

  15. Juli
    November 6, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Just searched my iTunes–can’t believe I forgot the Carter Family’s “Over the Garden Wall!” Eilen Jewell’s version of “Dusty Boxcar Wall” from Letters from Sinners and Strangers is a good one too.

    We might have to expand this one into one of our monthly playlists…

  16. Brody Vercher
    November 6, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Although not as poignant as some of these others, “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” would be a good addition in an expanded list.

  17. stormy
    November 6, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I can’t think of the Berlin Wall without thinking of The Scorpions. Also, a list about the Berlin Wall and no mention of David Hasselhoff??

  18. Steve M.
    November 6, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Ha Ha-Stormy, I ended my Western Civ survey every year with the clip of the Hoff singing on top of the wall with the light-up jacket and piano keyboard scarf. Still damn funny after all these years.

  19. Lee
    November 6, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Check this Wall song out. I know this isn’t a place for lyrics but i figured i’d add it.
    Gray Matter Blood Splattered
    (And A Hole In The Wall)
    Would you like to take a tour
    Of my happy little home
    Its this weekly motel room
    Where I rest my weary bones
    The walls are bare
    But there’s a picture of us
    I might just get drunk
    And give it one final touch

    Gray matter blood splattered
    And a hole in the wall
    Thats how I’ll decorate this little home I’ve made
    Since your attorney took it all
    You can have that house
    You can take my pride
    But I’ll be the one who’s gonna
    Take My life
    I’ll leave you nothing but this letter
    And my body layin sprawled
    And a hole in the wall

    You can wipe down all the walls
    With all your lemon pledge
    But there ain’t enough babe
    To wash off my revenge
    You can can scrub and scrub
    But you’ll never wash it clean
    You’ll be forever haunted
    By what you’ve seen

    Gray matter blood splattered
    And a hole in the wall
    Thats how I’ll decorate this little home I’ve made
    Since your attorney took it all
    You can have that house
    You can take my pride
    But I’ll be the one who’s gonna
    Take My life
    I’ll leave you nothing but this letter
    And my body layin sprawled
    And a hole in the wall

  20. Barry Mazor
    November 6, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    There’s a different “4 Walls” song, called “Four Walls Around Me,” written by Billy Stallard, and recorded by Mac Wiseman, fin the early 50s, or instance..

  21. Mayor Jobob
    November 6, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Don’t forget David Kersh’s rendition of Four Walls, it’s great.

  22. Jon
    November 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Yeah, Barry. In fact, Mac recorded it at least two more times after that – it’s on the recent Rebel reissue of stuff recorded for Vetco in 1975, and he also did a bang-up version with the Osborne Brothers around the same time.

  23. Nicolas
    November 6, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Miranda Lambert’s “There’s a Wall”, Sara Evans’ “These Four Walls”, and LAW’s “If This Walls Could Talk” are my favorites =)

  24. Erik
    November 6, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    “Tonight She’s Climbing The Walls” by Linda Davis deserves a mention.

  25. Coffeymuse
    November 6, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    How could y’all forget Flowers on the Wall by the Statler Brothers? Honestly, now, how could you skip that one?

  26. Rick
    November 6, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I’ll actually stay on topic here and toss in “Wall To Wall Heartaches” by So-Cal’s own Wynn Stewart! The Bakersfield Sound Rules! (lol)

  27. Jon
    November 6, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Honestly, now, the wall on which the wallpaper resides in “Flowers On The Wall” isn’t exactly central to the song.

  28. Ron
    November 6, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    No mention yet of Dale Watson’s “Holes in the Wall”.

  29. Bobby P. (TenPoundHammer)
    November 8, 2009 at 11:16 am

    A door ain’t nothin’ but a way to get through a wall, that’s all…

  30. Truersound
    November 9, 2009 at 9:28 am

    since everyone else is throwing out other wall songs, on of my favorites is “Stone Wall All Around Your Heart” by Gary Stewart. Also one of my favorite Stewart songs.

    other favorites:
    Kasey Chambers – Barricades & Brick Walls
    Lucinda Williams & Steve Earle – Concrete & Barbed Wire

    some good but not specifically about metaphorical walls
    Tom Petty – Walls
    Old 97’s – Dressing Room Wall
    Tom Russell – Who’s gonna build your wall
    Steve Earle – Back To The Wall

  31. Jon
    November 9, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Gary Stewart? “Stone Wall All Around Your Heart” was written by Pat Twitty, and first recorded by the fabulous Hylo Brown, whose song it will always be. See, for instance, .

  32. Truersound
    November 9, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Jon, did not realize that. I really love that song and will seek out that Hylo Brown version. I’m guessing it’s a little more high lonesome than the Stewart version no?

  33. Jon
    November 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Not as much as you might think. Good luck in finding the original, though; the Bear Family CD on which it appears has been out of print for years. You can find a slightly later live version on a Copper Creek CD, though, and there are great versions by Red Allen and Larry Sparks in print, too – and all of those can be bought as mp3s/on iTunes as well.

  34. Miss Leslie
    November 10, 2009 at 9:32 am

    That Lee Ann Womack song – “If These Walls Could Talk” has some great lyrics and a good melody. “If these walls could talk, they’d pray” – that’s country, my friends.

    Jon – Hylo Brown. My Dad has a couple of Hylo Brown LPs we used to listen to. Tater Tate on fiddle. That brings back some memories.

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