March 19, 2005

Big Balls in Cow Town

I’ve tried to mask it. I’ve told people that I have a soft spot for rockabilly, that I have a lot of respect for Johnny Cash, that when I’m in a particular mood I’ll dial up Boot Liquor Radio. When karaoke night rolls around I do Garth Brooks covers. I’m familiar with terms like shitkicker and I’ve been known to use phrases like “somethin’, somethin’.” Sometimes I speak with a Texas drawl, whose inspiration and origin is impossible to pinpoint.

Nay, there’s no point in denying it any longer. I have finally bled my last drop of sophistication, and I totally dig country music. Tonight I checked out The James Sasser Band at River City Saloon and had a boot-stompin’ good time.

I’m a fair-weather pseudo-member of the local band Topsoil, and James Sasser opened for us when we played a gig a number of weeks ago at River City. My friend Brian, who often sits in with Topsoil and can play the shit of the harmonica, is the drummer for James Sasser. Brian’s originally from Iowa, and I was happy to see that he was sportin’ a Leinenkugel’s shirt for the evening.

There was also a fellow in the audience wearing an awesome “I <3 Beer” shirt, not to mention the guy in a Vise Grip hat, whose horn-rimmed glasses were two inches thick. I talked (shouted) to him for a bit, and learned that he and his friends had driven all the way from Boise that day to visit their friend in Hood River.

I don’t know what it is about country music, but it really seems to be doin’ it for me lately. I am so totally down with the whole folk thing. Over winter break I caught up with an old friend who talked excitedly about all the members of the English aristocracy that she had schmoozed with during her time in England. Maybe I should have been impressed, but honestly that sort of thing doesn’t do it for me. I have more respect for the guy who runs his own shop repairing snowmobile engines than I do for the entire English aristocracy.

One of the most poignant anecdotes I’ve ever heard involves a man from the city who ventures out West. He runs across a cowboy out tending his fence, and asks to speak to his master. The cowboy looks at him funny and asks what he means. The man clears his throats and clarifies.

“You know, your master,” he says. “The man who owns this land. The man you work for, who provides you with food and shelter. The man who tells you what to do. Your master. Who is your master?”

“My master?” The cowboy spits on the ground. “The sumbitch ain’t been born yet.”

Anyway, I spent the entire evening throwing back tallboys of Rainier, stomping my feet to some killer country music, wishing I owned a pair of cowboy boots. I also wish I could play the slide guitar, but it’s probably just as well I can’t. If I could play the slide guitar, and if I owned a slide guitar, I’d probably never leave the house again and spend all my days playing and listening to it.

What an amazing sound. It’s like the soul of every cowboy who lived and died has been absorbed in that instrument, and they can only be freed one note at a time.

…Funny you should mention the James Sasser Band gig at Rivercity and Johnny Cash all in the same essay. When the band was on a break, I gave Sasser a stunner of a Johnny Cash show from the Frank Irwin Center in Austin Texas, 12/8/94. Here’s the setlist:
1 Folsom Prison Blues
2 Get Rhythm
3 Sunday Morning Coming Down
4 Ghost Riders In The Sky
5 Cowboy’s Prayer
6 O Bury Me Not
7 Big River
8 I Walk The Line
9 I Still Miss Someone
10 The Man In Black
11 Remember The Alamo
12 Orange Blossom Special
13 Death And Hell
14 Deliah
15 Bird On A Wire
16 The Beast In Me
17 Tennessee Stud
18 Down There By The Train
19 Drive On
20 Ring Of Fire
TT 65:10
Disc 2
1 Jackson
2 If I Were A Carpenter
3 It Ain’t Me Babe
4 Live Forever
5 Will The Circle Be Unbroken
6 The Next Time I’m In Town
7 I Guess Things Happen That Way
8 The Ballad Of Ira Hayes
9 Home Of The Blues
10 Long Black Veil
11 A Boy Named Sue
12 Peace In The Valley
13 The Next Time I’m In Town Reprise
TT 38:34

Holy geez, that must have been an amazing show! You wouldn’t happen to have another copy of it floatin’ around, would ya?