Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Fellas, It's Been Good to Know Ya"

If you know the above lyric or spent many an afternoon after school watching the disaster movie of the week, you totally need this CD. Maybe I'll download the songs to my iPod. I already have Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on it (which is where the title of the post can be heard). Here's the link to Amazon, if you would like to buy a copy. Share the love, send me one :)

While none of these are up for an Academy Award (currently underway in Holly-wood), it's got mandatory archival content. From NPR's All Things Considered:
"You may be familiar with the Wreck of the Old '97, the plane crash that killed Knute Rockne, and the Mississippi Flood of 1927 — just three of the many debacles described on a new box set, titled People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938. This collection of early-1900s country and blues has just been nominated for a Grammy in the category of historical recordings . . .

This three-CD box set of murder ballads and disaster songs is filled with misfortune and horror. But hidden amongst the chronicle of wretched events are some rare early roots-music gems, including what may be the very first truck-driving song. I'm a huge fan of trucking music, and I'd always thought that "Truck Driver's Blues" launched the genre in 1939. But "Wreck on the Mountain Road," by a North Carolina group called The Red Fox Chasers, predates it by 11 years . . .

The notion of turning reportage into song is anachronistic in an era when information is immediate and disposable. Even songs about recent events like Hurricane Katrina were mostly prayers for the aftermath, not documents of the tragedy. But our connection to the past represented on this box set is right there on the evening news: Calamity still sells. Perhaps it gives us a little comfort that our lives aren't so bad after all. Or maybe people just can't resist a good story."
One of the songs on the soundtrack to the Christopher Guest movie, "A Mighty Wind" fits in with the genre as well. Here are the lyrics. Enjoy.
It was April 27 in the year of '91
Bout a mile below the surface and the warm Kentucky sun
The late shift was ending and the early shift was late.
The foreman ate his dinner on a dirty tin plate

Blood on the tracks, blood in the mine,
Brothers and sisters what a terrible time.
Ole 97 went in the wrong hole,
Now my number 60 has blood on the coal,
Blood on the coal, blood on the coal.

The slag pits were steamin' it was 7:25,
Every miner worked the coal face,
Every one of them alive
The train came round the corner,
You could hear the trestle groan,
But the switcher wasn't listnin' so he left the switch alone!


The walls began to tremble and the men began to yell,
You could hear that lonesome whistle like an echo out of . . . well
They dropped their picks and shovels and to safety they did run,
For to stay among the living in the year of '91!


An Irishman named Murphy said "I'll stop that iron horse!"
And he stood to thwart its passage, it crushed him dead of course.
And I hope he hears the irony when e're this tale is told,
The train that took his life was burning good Kentucky coal, Hey!



Mary Witzl said...

I love this kind of song and deplore the fact that we no longer compose songs to commemorate the events that shape our lives. If I were Murphy who stopped the train, I'd damn well want to know that someone was, at the very least, going to write a song about my heroic death.

My mother knew all these songs, by the way. She had an endless supply of them committed to memory and could keep us well entertained for hours. Even though she couldn't sing very well, she had the message down right.

Brave Astronaut said...

We don't write songs about them, they just wind up as trashy TV-movies. Oh how times have changed.