Okay, we’ve all heard lame jokes about hillbillies and their teeth, or lack thereof. It turns out there are more than a few country tunes that mention pearly whites in their lyrics (Lucinda Williams’ “Over Time” and Hank Williams’ “Howlin’ at the Moon” for starters); here are five of the most recent ones.
Here’s a folky little tune offering some motherly wisdom: “Sometimes it hurts to grow/Sometimes it’s such a relief/When you’ve gotta give up whatcha got to get whatcha need/Sometimes you’ve got to wiggle it loose/Sometimes it gets knocked clean out/Makin’ room for a brand new tooth/In that little bitty hole in your mouth.” It’s very sweet, and catchy enough for wee ones to sing along, but if you were a kid who just lost your first tooth, would you rather have a song or some money under your pillow from the Tooth Fairy?
These rowdy, gun-toting, whiskey-swilling, alt-country ladies take a few jabs at hillbilly stereotypes on this matter-of-fact song about a rural woman who “don’t own no shoes” but does possess a “tin roof tan.” Sure, her mouth may not be too pretty but she and her man are just trying to get along the best they know how.
SCAC’s 2008 album Cipher featured a series of gothic country dirges about the importance of braces. Much like crooked teeth or deformed limbs need straightening, so does one’s faith if it’s bending, so say Slim Cessna and Munly. As such, the final song in the series is titled “An Introduction to the Power of Braces (Faith).”
2. “Pukin’ Blood, Spittin’ Teeth, and Bein’ High” – Pine Box Boys
This one’s a little mellower than most of the songs recorded by these murder-obsessed Californians. Well, in tempo, not subject matter. It’s about a self-destructive, brokenhearted fella who gets in fight after fight with anyone he can find. Now I’m not one to begrudge someone the occasional bar brawl, but how long can this kind of behavior continue before you’re gumming your bacon at Waffle House the next morning?
“Sweet Tooth” is from Rawlings’ 2009 tour de force A Friend of A Friend, but the lyrics—seemingly riffing on “Candyman Blues,” a blues song decidedly not about candy—sound as though they could be lot older. Longtime partners Rawlings and Welch have rarely sounded better together than they do right here.
Juli Thanki is the editor of Engine 145 and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Bluegrass Unlimited, and M Music & Musicians Magazine. In 2011 she received the International Bluegrass Music Association Print Media Person of the Year award.