Tune In To GAC and Celebrate Opry Month

Brody Vercher | October 9th, 2007

  • Another day, another Ashton Shepherd story. Music Remedy received a unique preview of her debut album:

    Blink and you might miss tiny Leroy, Alabama, but if your ears are open, you just might hear it. The pure, clear, country voice of Ashton Shepherd lilts through the evening air in Leroy from a place called The Pickin’ Shed. It’s a cabin behind her house situated on seven acres of cropland. After the day’s chores are over, she and her husband and her brother-in-law break out their guitars and fill the Shed with songs. And what songs they are. Ashton Shepherd writes in a style that is as refreshing and direct as her personality.

    The article also features a track-by-track description of the album in Ashton’s own words.

  • After completing a 5K race sans iPod, Country Mike wants some suggestions for country songs to add to his playlist for when he takes a run. Finding good running songs has been something I’ve struggled with as well and I can tell you from personal experience that “Cold, Cold Heart” doesn’t exactly get the adrenaline flowing. If you’re racing against your own time then I’d suggest “Try and Try Again” from Billy Joe Shaver. Good Stuff.
  • Speaking of running, Joe Dee Messina completed the Chicago Marathon on Sunday in 5:45:48.
  • Last week one of my friends had his first baby. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about these Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash onesies until today. I guess there’s always time to get him the retro Cash toddler shirt. (via the ever-delightful Still is Still Moving)
  • On October 23rd Tracy Lawrence will release his first Christmas album. Mixing country, jazz, and classic pop elements the album will contain some classics along with three new songs. Fans of Christmas music will certainly have a large selection of albums to choose from this year.
  • October is Opry Month.

    Some of country music’s most popular artists and biggest fans will be part of the excitement as the Grand Ole Opry presented by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store celebrates “Opry Month” with star-studded shows and special events throughout October plus four consecutive October weekends of first-run versions of “Opry Live” on GAC: Great American Country.

  • Trick Pony can’t seem to hold down a lead singer as Heidi Newfield’s replacement, Aubrey Collins, announced she’s leaving to pursue her own solo career as well.
  • LeAnn Rimes “breaks down three pivotal moments in her musical growth.” She starts off with her album Twisted Angel–her pop record, then moving onto her reintroduction into country with This Woman, and ending with the album Family where she says she thinks she has finally found where she fits.
  • CMT’s 20 Questions with Merle Haggard is worthy of a few chuckles and another one of those “refreshingly candid” and mostly original interviews that I like so much.

    In the song “Pancho and Lefty,” what is your interpretation of the lyric “the dirt that Pancho bit down south ended up in Lefty’s mouth”?

    You know, I don’t really know what that meant. A lot of that song I don’t know what it meant. It sounded like the overall message was that Pancho Villa and the federale Lefty were actually friends and the truth about the matter was never known. That’s the basic message I think.

  • Ryan Bingham’s Mescalito gets the coveted five mud-flap ladies treatment from Twang Nation.

    West Texas Native Ryan Bingham is a little slice of Texas, real Texas, for this Lone-Star-expat-in-New-York-City’s ears. The searing asphalt on an empty highway stretching ahead, throat-parching dust, Mexico at the margins, it’s all there if you close your eyes and listen.

    Another interesting note, you can purchase the album on iTunes for $7.99 and it comes with an added alternate version of “Bread & Water”.

  1. Chris N.
    October 9, 2007 at 9:51 am

    Since that line from “Pancho and Lefty” is one of my favorite lyrics ever in the history of music, I’ll take a stab at it: it means Lefty felt guilty about Pancho’s death.

  2. Brady Vercher
    October 9, 2007 at 10:21 am

    That’s what I always figured it meant, Chris. And I gotta agree with you on that being one of my favorite lyrics.

  3. Chris N.
    October 9, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Side note: “Pancho & Lefty” hit No. 1 in 1983. Can you imagine a line like that in a No. 1 song today?

  4. Brady Vercher
    October 9, 2007 at 10:59 am

    On the subject of running songs, Patty Griffin’s “I Don’t Ever Give Up” provides the proper motivation. It starts of slow, picks up steam, and after it wears you out by pumping you up, it mocks you, telling you that you’re weak if you give up. Or the audio from this clip from The Edge on a loop works just as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiKBtJqoeTc

  5. Hollerin Ben
    October 9, 2007 at 11:02 am

    and here’s my stab

    I always thought that it was a contrast was between Pancho who was killed outright, and Lefty who sadly and bitterly grew old, ending up a shadow of his former self (not being able to sing the blues like he used to) and livin in cheap hotels. So although Pancho “bit the dust”, Lefty ended up with the dirty bitter taste of fading away slowly.

  6. Chris N.
    October 9, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Ooh, that’s good.

  7. Linda Banks
    October 9, 2007 at 11:40 am

    I could never figure out the ‘Poncho and Lefty’ song, either. Did he turn him in? Did he kill him for his money and go to Oh-Hi-Oh?

  8. Brody Vercher
    October 9, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    This is sort of along the same lines as what Ben mentioned, but I think the “dust that Pancho bit” is a metaphor for aloneness which is alluded to with the line “nobody heard his dyin words.” It’s also reinforced by the idea that the dust “ended up in Lefty’s mouth” and he’s “livin in cheap hotels.” In fact, he’s so alone that even the blues deserted him–“Lefty he can’t sing the blues all night long like he used to.”

  9. Mr. Sandy
    October 10, 2007 at 5:06 am

    Back in the days of rec.music.country, there was a good explanation posted by one of the guys in the band 5 Chinese Brothers: Lefty was a former compadre of Pancho who ratted him out for money. “The federales say they could have had him any day”…meaning they didn’t really need Lefty’s help. But, they did. After Poncho is killed by the law, “Lefty splits for Ohio” with the “bread” he was paid off with. “He only did what he had to do” the song tells us, closing with a nice contrast between the martyred Poncho and the turncoat Lefty, who is now an old man in cold Cleveland…

  10. Mr. Sandy
    October 10, 2007 at 5:16 am

    Among the uptempo tunes on my iPod playlist for jogging:
    Allison Moorer, Going Down; Tracy Nelson, Gotta New Truck; Billy Joe Shaver, Georgia on a Fast Train; Bottle Rockets, Take Me to the Bank; Buck Owens, Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass; Carlene Carter, Every Little Thing and Cry; Charlie Daniels Band, Texas; Charlie Robison, Poor Man’s Son and John O’Reilly; Dixie Chicks, Sin Wagon; Drive-By Truckers, Marry me; Dwight Yoakam & Kelly Willis, Golden Rings; Emmylou Harris, Wheels; Foster & Lloyd, Texas 1880; Gretchen Wilson, All Jacked Up; Jerry Jeff Walker, Getting By; Jerry Reed, Amos Moses; Johnny Cash, Down the Line; Kelly Willis, Nobody Wants to Go to the Moon; Dwight Yoakam, Late Great Golden State; Merle Haggard, Just Stay Here and Drink; Neko Case, honky Tonk Hiccups; Old 97s, King of All of the World; Robert Earl Keen, Levelland; Rosanne Cash, 707; Steve Earle, Home to Houston; Todd Snider, Devil You Know; Waylon Jennings, Tulsa; Willie Nelson, still is still moving to me.

  11. Mr. Sandy
    October 10, 2007 at 5:34 am

    The P&L thread got me to wondering…and, it turns out you can find old threads from newsgroups on Google. Here’s the nice explanation that was posted way back in Jan. 1997…

    I think it’s a pretty simple, pretty beautiful song. Somewhere in the distant past, Pancho and Lefty were buddies. Lefty’s was a bandit and Pancho was maybe an accomplice, but at any rate was guilty by association.
    Lefty sells Pancho out to some lawmen, in return for which he’s allowed to escape scott-free and is given enough money to go far away, where he can supposedly start a new life.

    The song sets the two characters in opposition: Pancho, who’s a badass but is always his own man and dies young, and Lefty, who’s a survivor but has to pay the prices: remorse, and a long life reflecting on what he did and wondering whether he was right.

    Townes points out that it’s easy to mythologize the bandit, but let’s not forget the survivor: “He only did what he had to do/And how he’s growing old.”

    There’s a lot of meat on the bone in this song. First, there’s the masterful descriptions: for xample, “Pancho was a bandit. boys/His horse as fast as polished steel/He wore his gun outside his pants/For all the
    honest world to feel,” and “Lefty, he can’t sing the blues/All night long like he used to/The dust that Pancho bit down South/Ended up in Lefty’s mouth.” Then, there’s the poetic contrast between the lawless, hot Southern wilderness and the cold, “civilized” city where Lefty ends up (Cleveland).

    Finally, there’s the first verse, which seems to come out of nowhere at first but which ultimately seems directed at Lefty, who’s now “growing old”: “Living on the road, my friend/Was gonna keep you free and clean/Now you wear your skin like iron/Your breath’s as hard as kerosene/You weren’t your mama’s only boy/But her favorite one it seems/She began to cry when you said good-bye/And sank into your dreams.”

    To me, the song is all about compromising your principles, which the song simultaneously calls into question AND shows compassion for. That’s why the chorus makes the point that the Federales let Lefty go free, even though (the song implies) he was guilty of something. This is something really difficult to do successfully in any work of art, and even moreso in a short pop song: to tell a morally complex story in a way that is both deep and immediately understandable, without offering simple conclusions yet without being hopelessly vague (as are so many of today’s “poetic” rock stars, e.g. REM).

    I think it’s really beautiful and a genuine work of art, which is rare in the world of songwriting. I’ll conclude by saying that it’s one of the few songs I sing almost every time I pick up my guitar and play.

    Tom Meltzer


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