BURNED-OVER DISTRICT, NY—Caleb has proposed this beautiful rendition of “Our Town” by Iris DeMent as the Front Porch theme song.

(Anyone not moved by it is either dead or, worse, deracinated.) Herewith a few more tunes I would happily play on my porch, annoying family and neighbors with my wretchedly off-key croaking chorus. Though these carry YouTube links, I vouch only for the quality of the songs, not their visual accompaniment. I regret that I was unable to find an internet version of the Maine singer David Mallett’s “Livin’ on the Edge,” which is the perfect companion to DeMent’s “Our Town.” Nor could I find Tom Russell’s “The Ballad of Edward Abbey,” which is like “God Bless America” or “God Bless the U.S.A.” but written by and about a patriot.

Ya can’t please everyone, as Ricky Nelson learned.  Peters will complain that I neglected Air Supply; Beer will ask where is Indiana? (Here it is, courtesy of R. Dean Taylor).

Please suggest your own tunes for the FPR Top 40. Songs by local and regional bands especially encouraged.

The Kinks: Village Green Preservation Society

The Kinks: Muswell Hillbilly

Steve Earle: The Mountain

Joe South: Don’t it Make You Want to Go Home?

Bruce Springsteen: Long Walk Home

Cowboy Junkies: Anniversary Song

John Mellencamp: Rain on the Scarecrow

Exene Cervenka: Will Jesus Wash the Bloodstains from Your Hands?

Graham Parker: You Can’t Be Too Strong

Gram Parsons: Return of the Grievous Angel

Show of Hands: Roots

Lynyrd Skynrd: All I Can Do is Write About It

Glen Campbell: Galveston

The Long Ryders: State of My Union

The Pretenders: My City was Gone

Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul: I am a Patriot

Dwight Yoakam: I Sang Dixie

Gerry and the Pacemakers: Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey

The Clash: Complete Control

 

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Bill Kauffman
Bill Kauffman was born on November 15 (also the birthday of Bobby Dandridge) in the otherwise forgettable year of 1959. He was an all-star Little League shortstop for the Lions Club Cubs but soon thereafter his talents eroded. After an idyllic childhood in his ancestral home of Batavia, New York, birthplace of Anti-Masonry, he was graduated from Batavia High School in 1977. He earned, more or less, a B.A. from the University of Rochester in 1981 and went therefrom to the staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the only dairy farmer in the U.S. Senate. Two and a half years later he left Moynihan’s staff a bohemian Main Street anarchist who loved the Beats, the New England transcendentalists, early 20th century local colorists (Sarah Orne Jewett his Maine gal), cowpunk music, and the crazy old America. Neil Diamond and Karen Carpenter, too, but don’t tell anyone. He bummed around out west for a while, sleeping in bus stations and writing derivative poetry in Salt Lake City flophouses (nah, he’s not a Mormon, just a BYU fan) before an ill-starred year in graduate school at the UR. He took a seminar with Christopher Lasch and thought on it. In the spring of 1985 he flew west to become an assistant editor with Reason magazine. He had great fun in Santa Barbara with that crew of congenial editors drinking far into the night at Eddie Van Cleeve’s Sportsman’s Lounge, but in ’86 he flew east to become the magazine’s Washington editor. Always homesick, Kauffman persuaded his lovely and talented wife Lucine, a Los Angelena, to move back to Batavia in 1988 in what he called a “one-year experiment”—the year to be measured, apparently, in Old Testament terms. They’re still there—or, more accurately, five miles north in Elba (apt name for an exile!), where Lucine is Town Supervisor. She may well be the highest-ranking Armenian-American elected official in the country, at least until the voters of California send Cher to the U.S. Senate. Take that, Turks! Lucine and Bill have a daughter, Gretel, 17, who writes and acts and plays piano and French horn. Their lab mutt, Victoria, whose tail graces the accompanying photo, is now departed, to their sorrow, but a cat, Duffy, darts in and out of the house when the mood strikes. Bill is the author of nine books: Every Man a King (Soho Press/1989), a novel, which was recently rescued from the remainder bin by a New York Sun article proclaiming it the best political satire of the last century (the Sun thereupon set); Country Towns of New York (McGraw-Hill/1994), a travel book about God’s country; America First! Its History, Culture and Politics (Prometheus/1995), a cultural history of isolationism which Benjamin Schwarz in the Atlantic called the best introduction to the American anti-imperialist tradition; With Good Intentions? Reflections on the Myth of Progress in America (Praeger/1998), his worst-seller, a sympathetic account of critics of highways, school consolidation, a standing army, and the Siren Progress; Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town’s Fight to Survive (Henry Holt/2003; Picador ppb. 2004), a memoirish book about his hometown which won the 2003 national “Sense of Place” award from Writers & Books; Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists (ISI/2006), which the American Library Association named one of the best books of 2006 and which won the Andrew Eiseman Writers Award; Ain’t My America: The Long Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle American Anti-Imperialism (Henry Holt/ Metropolitan/2008), which Barnes & Noble named one of the best books of 2008; Forgotten Founder: Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin (ISI/2008), a biography of a brilliant dipsomaniacal Anti-Federalist who warned us this was gonna happen; and Bye Bye, Miss American Empire (Chelsea Green/2010), a cheerful account of dissolution. Bill is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and a columnist for The American Conservative. He has written for numerous publications, including The American Scholar, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Nation, Chronicles, the Independent and The Spectator of London, Counterpunch, Orion, University Bookman, and Utne Reader. He is vice president of the Genesee County Baseball Club, which owns the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn Baseball League. Come summertime, he can be found in the 3rd base bleachers at Dwyer Stadium. He is also active in the officerless (of course) John Gardner Society. Bill is more handsome than the photo on this site would suggest. See books written by Bill Kauffman.

97 COMMENTS

  1. Peters will be avenged for that Air-Supply crack. Be it remembered that revenge is a dish best served cold.

    I don’t credit the “artist,” but there’s a lot of front porch sittin’ in this song.

    The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, without whom life is incomplete, gave us “Down in Leatherwood.” But anyone who can listen to Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands do “Bury Me in Bluegrass” without dissolving into sobs ought to be consigned to a corner of hell where there’s nothing to read but this.

  2. The Beatles, “Penny Lane”

    The Beach Boys, “California Girls”

    Randy Newman, “Birmingham”

    Bob Dylan, “Girl From the North Country”

    The Band, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

    Merle Haggard, “Okie from Muskogee”

    Gladys Knight, “Midnight Train to Georgia”

    Loretta Lynn, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”

    Too many Kinks songs to name

  3. Lucinda Williams – “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK3vf8ZgxZ8
    (This one reminds me of the summer of ’90 which I spent as a displaced Yankee in the deep South.)

    Uncle Tupelo – “Screen Door”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HViPYwTRao4
    (Reminds me of the long summer of the flood of ’93, that I spent in Burlington, Iowa)

    Son Volt – “Tear Stained Eye”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPf002gwyKw
    The first line of this song hits me like a punch in the gut… “Walking down Main Street, getting to know the concrete, looking for a purpose, in a neon sign…”

    All three of these artists remind me that the Mississippi River, and old Highway 61, really are the spine of American music.

    Great topic!

  4. I second “Degeneration” and also think Show of Hands’ “Country Life” deserves mention.

    However, one of the songs that first made me question my naive progressive capitalism (which I acquired despite being the son of a farmer) was “32 Acres”. I know not who originally wrote it, though there are a couple of decent YouTube videos of it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBuVjvoYgrw

    “I saw the timber for the cabin floor
    I build a plank fence out of locust boards
    I work the corn rows in the early morn
    And raise a family on a poor man’s farm

    Thirty two acres of bottom land
    Bought and paid for with my own hands
    Worth a fortune to a working man
    Thirty two acres of bottom land

    I planted a peach tree now the leaves are dying
    I watered a grape vine, it’s no longer mine
    The country’s taking everything I own
    Cause it’s on the right of way for a four lane road”

  5. I’ve also often interpreted Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” in a fairly anti-modern way.

  6. Mr. Kauffman, thank you. “Our Town” was tremendous. My own humble suggestions:

    Josh Ritter — Lawrence, KS and Idaho

    Out at sea for seven years, I got your letter in Tangier.
    Thought that I’d been on a boat, ’til that single word you wrote;
    That single word it landlocked me, turned the masts to cedar trees,
    And the winds to gravel roads: Idaho, Idaho

    Fleet Foxes — Ragged Wood

    Palace — Ohio River Boat Song

  7. The Entire Bob Dylan anthology, including his current devilish croakings.

    Cheeks is right…most anything by John Prine as well

    Speaking of croaking, Tom Waits is a master of the Front Porch Moment….however slightly seedy or dishabille.

    Thomas G. is also right, the Delta Blues is automatically All Porch, all the Time.

    Linda Rondstadt singing Heart Like a Wheel and Carole King’s “You’ve got a friend”

    Lastly, “Moanin” by Charles Mingus just because it would get any porch stompin but good.

    Howcome nobody said anything yet about the Allman Bros or Neal Young?

  8. Well perhaps Mr. Sabin will post a video of himself lipsynching Grandpa Snazzy. I hope so.

    Being Kentuckian I get to claim kissing-counsinship to all the folksongs of the British isles, so since “Paradise” has been mentioned already and “My Old Kentucky Home” is too obvious, I’ll nominate “My Ain Countree,” a Jacobite lament for Galloway that begins:

    The sun rises bright in France
    And fair sets he,
    But he has lost the look he had
    in my ain countree.

    I sang it once at a Robert Burns dinner in Illinois, and I meant it.

  9. Ms. Dalton, I got tears in my eyes! Thanks for that, I’m McLaughlin on my mother’s side.
    One more Dylan song though it’s more about a cultural condition than place…”Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall!”

  10. “Illinois” – Dan Fogelberg

    And I add a second vote for Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country.”

  11. Thomas G. nailed the FPR ethos with “Screen Door.”

    Some other favorites of mine include:

    Ben Nichols’ “The Last Pale Light in the West” (A song dedicated to Blood Meridian – yeah this is FPR material, alright)

    Blitzen Trapper’s “War on Machines” and pretty much the entire “Wild Mountain Nation” album

    Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “You Remind Me of Something (The Glory Goes)”

    Dr. Dog’s “The Old Days”

    Joe Henry’s “Our Song”

    Joe Pug’s “Nation of Heat”

    Josh Ritter’s “Girl in the War” (“Idaho” was already mentioned and I concur, but having personally lost a young female medic in combat this one makes for a significant and symbolic favorite)

    J.J. Grey and MOFRO’s “Florida” and “Lochlossa”

    Lucero’s “On the Way Back Home” (for when you really need to get back to the Front Porch)

    Over the Rhine’s “Ohio”

    Ryan Adam’s “Oh My Sweet Carolina”

    Son Volt’s “Live Free”

    Sufjan Steven’s “Detroit Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Russell Kirk would be so thrilled to hear this song)

    Waterdeep’s “Close the Door”

    Wilco’s “Sky Blue Sky” and “Poor Places”

  12. Uncle Dave Macon – “From Earth to Heaven”

    The Carter Family – “Mid the Green Fields of Virginia”

    Wolfe Tones – “The Town I loved So Well”

  13. Well, while we’re at it let’s pay tribute to all them olde commie-dem, FDR subsidized, troupadours that sang for God, country, a bottle, a night in a flop house: Woody, Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Eliot, Cisco Houston, Leadbelly, the Weavers.
    I used to play those old songs on the guitar, three finger picker, but I haven’t for a long time and more’s the pity!

  14. FYI, when Caleb first recommended to a few of us that we consider Iris Dement’s song as FPR’s theme song, it was suggested by one of our editors that someone write up a post with this song and some others, and invite readers for suggestions. I’m glad that Bill took up the challenge. I suspected we’d have at least a few suggestions, but this is truly an impressive response – and a great testimony to the localist spirit of this nation, and the great good taste of the readership here.

    Expanding the category a bit, I take the liberty of here posting a link to a choral arrangement that was sent to me by its composer, Mr. Andrew Maxfield of Boston. He has been arranging some of Wendell Berry’s poems, and this arrangement draws from Berry’s “Sabbath” poems. The link is here, and the lyrics are:

    “A gracious Sabbath stood here while they stood
    Who gave our rest a haven.
    Now fallen, they are given
    To labor and distress.
    These times we know much evil, little good
    To steady us in faith
    And comfort when our losses press
    Hard on us, and we choose,
    In panic or despair or both,
    To keep what we will lose.

    For we are fallen like the trees, our peace
    Broken, and so we must
    Love where we cannot trust,
    Trust where we cannot know,
    And must await the wayward-coming grace
    That joins living and dead,
    Taking us where we would not go–
    Into the boundless dark.
    When what was made has been unmade
    The Maker comes to His work.”

  15. I’d also like to recommend the Carolina Chocolate Drops “Cornbread and Butterbeans”.

    CHORUS: Cornbread and butter beans and you across the table,
    Eating beans and making love as long as I am able,
    Hoeing corn and cotton, too, and when the day is over,
    Ride a mule, a crazy fool, and love again all over.

    Goodbye. Don’t you cry. I’m going to Lou’siana,
    Buy a dog and a big fat hog and marry Suzy Anna.
    Sing-song, ding-dong, gonna take a trip to China,
    Cornbread and butter beans, and there to Carolina. CHORUS

    Wearing shoes and drinking booze is going against the Bible.
    A necktie will make you die and cause you lots of trouble.
    Streetcars and whiskey bars and kissing pretty women,
    Whoa, man, that’s the end of a terrible beginning. CHORUS

    Can’t read and don’t care and education’s awful.
    Raising heck and writing checks, that ought to be unlawful.
    Silk hose and pretty clothes are just a waste of money.
    I can see how glad you’ll be to marry me, my honey. CHORUS

  16. Several of Tom T Halls songs, like “Old Dogs and Children, and Watermelon Wine”, “Ballad of forty Dollers”
    “The Year Clayton Delany Died”, “The Homecoming”, etc, are very “Front Porchy” in nature.

    • One that I have though of, very much lamenting the loss of simplicity through big government and war, is Renaissance’s “Kiev” from their Prologue album in 1972 (Annie Haslam’s vocalese omitted; the actual lyrics are unusual in begin sung by bassist Camp):

      He was a man just a simple man
      His thoughts and pleasures were few
      His bread he shared with his father
      That was the life that he knew
      And how the snow fell in Kiev today
      And how the wind drove the mourners away
      Now there is only one man
      At the grave of Davorian
      And this man’s heart is too heavy to pray

      He was a man just a simple man
      Died at the place of his birth
      His tombstone shared by the family
      A silent place on the earth
      An old man stands by the side of the grave
      And this man’s heart is too heavy to pray
      For he is numb with the pain
      Of the love that he couldn’t share
      Until he died there in Kiev today

      He was a man just a simple man
      Died at the place of his birth
      His tombstone shared by the family
      A silent place on the earth
      An old man stands by the side of the grave
      And this man’s heart is too heavy to pray
      For he is numb with the pain
      Of the love that he couldn’t share
      And two men died there in Kiev today

  17. I really do think the correct answer is the tale of Virgil Cain–The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (written by a pretty “deracinated” Canadian [Robbie Robertson] who became obsessed with our South).

  18. Pardon me for this most importunate crack on our neo-con friends but I wish to add:

    Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys singin their classic hit “They aint making Jews like Jesus No Mo”

    Utah Phillips should be in here somewhere too. He mighta been in the Wobblies but Hobos should always be an element of , at the very least, the back porch.

    Also, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” by the Byrds….a classic and made much more better by the fact that it was a commercial flop.

    The First Studio Album by Crosby Stills and Nash, porch music for a rainy day.

    Anything by Prez Prado and Luis Prima. What, you don’t think they got porches in Cuba?

    Elton John’s “Tumbleweed Connection”…another classic and the last decent music that Loopy Fop produced.

    Zappa and The Mothers of Invention and their classic “We’re only in it for the money”. Rest in peace, Jimmy Carl Black, Indian of the Group. Specifically “Flower Punk”, a play on the song “Hey Joe” and a vicious send-up of the supreme dopeyness of the hippy era.

    Anything Zydeco

    Anything by Hank Williams and Willie Nelson

    Everything by Johnny Cash and not a little by his talented daughter.

    Seems like we might need a Juke Box

  19. I am nearly appalled that we have forgotten to mention Johnny Cash’s recording of the Great American Songbook. Not to mention he sings “Girl from the North Country” with Dylan.

  20. The Newport folk festival is this weekend and I might not have to go now! I’m on vacation next week and will be spending hours listening to and singing this great music.

    My contributions:

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – All the wrong reasons

    As for my coastal New England perspective:

    Billy Joel – Downeaster Alexa
    Thomas Swan – Gaspee Song

    On a lighter note:

    Dropkick Murphys – I’m Shipping up to Boston, For Boston, and Tessie
    Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline
    (while not specifically localized, around here this song is ALWAYS a sing-along with requisite chanting – thus achieving a communitarian impact)

  21. Another Kinks song for the list:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjD7N26lsHU

    Here’s one of my favorite entries in the enormous guy-gets-home-from-prison genre:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBcJKwoGQac

    And speaking of homesick prison songs — this one includes one of the greatest couplets in the history of country music:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaT6URKynZw

    You’ll know the one I mean.

    -Jesse

    P.S. What the hell is Gomer Pyle doing in the Joe South clip?

  22. Peter, D.W.
    Virgil Cain…YES, I’d forgotten, YES!
    Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, now there’s an American group, Oh yes!
    You guys are great!
    Did Michael Jackson do anything we can add?

  23. At the risk of exposing myself to ridicule, I confess I’m a little surprised that John Denver didn’t make the list yet. Few songs have the power to move me like his version of [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eaaR1Ay5P0 “Country Roads”] still does, every time.

    My 19-month-old, though he hasn’t graduated from Tom T. Hall’s children’s songs yet, is sure glad the old hippie cowboy made it onto the list.

  24. What great tunes. We may be absent from the corridors of power–no man born with a living soul would want to walk them anyway–but the many streams that make up our American cultures are fresh and alive.
    By the way, Jesse, that’s Goober in the clip with Joe South and the Cashes. Gomer was the deracinated Pyle, a cog in the US war machine. Goober, a localist, was planted at the filling station.

  25. Goober, yes. The one with the beanie. (And, if memory of long-ago Bill Kauffman articles serves, one of the trio of celebrities who endorsed George Wallace in 1968, along with Chill Wills and…who was the other one?)

  26. Robert Earl Keen’s “A Bigger Piece of Sky”

    “I gave up the fast lane for a blacktop country road
    Just burned out on all that talk about the motherload,
    I traded for a songbird and a bigger piece of sky
    When I miss the good old days I can’t imagine why.”

    and

    Robert Earl Keen’s “The Front Porch Song”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQGmc4ugAPE&feature=related

    This old porch is a palace walk in on a main street in Texas
    It ain’t never seen or heard the days of G’s and R’s and X’s
    And that ’62 poster that’s almost faded down
    And a screen without a picture since Giant came to town

    This old porch is just a long time of waiting and forgetting
    Remembering the coming back and not crying about the leaving
    And remembering the falling down and the laughter of the curse of luck
    From all those son’s of bitches who said we’d never get back up

  27. No Greg Brown??? Can’t believe this.

    Not trying to be cynical, but ‘Whatever It Was’ is a good one about the loss of place, family and tradition.

    “The little towns are lying on their faces,
    All that’s left are fading parking spaces,
    It’s been quite a week, there was a drive-by shooting in Lake Wobegon.
    I was looking for what I loved…”

    ‘Heart of My Country’ is good as well. ‘Flat Stuff’ is good. I also like ‘Canned Goods,’ which is a bit of a stretch for this theme, but fits perfectly if you hear him sing it live with a big long story in the middle, about Grandma’s house, home cooking…

    Also, What do y’all make of Sufjan Stevens? 50 States Project? Illinois and Michigan were pretty great albums (according to me, a hoosier)…

  28. How about Gillian Welch’s “Red Clay Halo” for a beautiful song about the eternal endurance of our places that make us?

  29. Iris Dement’s “Our Town” is a pretty song, no doubt. I vote yes on it for a theme song. There’s also Kate Brislin and Jody Stecher’s beautiful old-time version if you can find it.

    But I’m sorry to say, but a lot this list is pretty bland. Sure there are a few seemingly traditional musicians who learned a little about the old music from Harry Smith’s anthology and Alan Lomax recordings. But they never lived it (they learned everything from records) and their recordings are mostly over-produced Starbuck’s ready crap. Affluence killed American music by the mid-1960s, and for the most part it never recovered, sorry. Gillian Welch and Sufjan Stevens??!!! Yech!!! Saddest though–not a single black artist on this list. Junior Kimbrough blows anything here out of the water in three notes, unless you don’t want to know about most of small town America. And more surprisingly, nothing much on the list from Sun Records, and little bluegrass and no gospel. Mostly liberal folkies or corporate country and rock. That’s crazy. Try the Soul Stirrers (with Sam Cooke), Charlie Feathers, Tommy Jarrell, and Ralph Stanley on Rebel Records. Don’t fall for the corporate imitations like a bunch of liberals!

    lew

  30. “Don’t fall for the corporate imitations like a bunch of liberals!”
    Lew, well said!
    Yet, a while back I mentioned Woody, Pete, Leadbelly, Cisco, (Blind Doc Watson I’ll add)?
    Do you consider them too commercial, corporate?

  31. Lew: The modern crew didn’t learn that much more or less from radio and records than many of the people they were imitating. There was self-conscious, commercialized revivalism then, just like now; and there’s communal sharing of musical traditions now, like then. The proportions vary from artist to artist, of course.

    But you’re right about the absence of black musicians. Let me remedy that with another entry in the guy-gets-home-from-prison genre:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iHgGpUm30I

    And what the heck, here’s some hip hop:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF4fr3UL0ek

  32. At last someone mentioned John Denver. I propose his “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” as that was the unofficial theme song of the Vietnam “Police Action”. I second Patrick Ford’s nomination of “Country Roads”.

  33. A lot of good suggestions above. I really like Don Edwards’ “Coyotes”, which includes lyrics like “and he cursed all the roads and the oilmen, and he cursed the automobile, and he said this is no place for an hombre like I am, in this new world of asphalt and steel.”

    Here is a link to a live version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kVdOxXB8fg

    Also, some of James McMurtry’s songs would be appropriate – “Out Here in the Middle” and “No More Buffalo” spring to mind.

  34. Could I please nominate “Mulenberg County”, a John Denver song though I don’t know the original artist, (pretty sure it wasn’t John). It’s a song about paradise, and possibly front porches, lost.

    Any Neville Brothers nominations? It’s been awhile since I’ve listened and I’m having a hard time recalling lyrics.

  35. Must be satisfying to be Lew and know in your heart after one listen that any music that isn’t already in your CD player (or maybe he listens to gramophone, I dunno) is undoubtedly “corporate” dreck. That’s a cool trick, but even cooler is knowing which ones have had authentic experiences of their hometowns, its music, or penumbral musical traditions.

    Come on, Lew. Those are some fine suggestions. I don’t know why you had to slam on others’. It’s like you’re an emo kid in someone’s basement for a DIY show, but instead of playing the game of “My favorite band is more avant-garde than yours,” you’re playing the opposite. Rootsier than thou??

  36. Let me second Josh’s mention of James McMurtry. “Out Here in the Middle” is swell. And his “Levelland” (also recorded by Robert Earl Keene, and possibly others) is spot-on honest about the mixed emotions one often has if one’s hometown is degraded–and ugly.

  37. I can’t find a video, but “A Train Not Running” by Chris Knight just breaks the heart.

    Son Volt has gotten some play here, but “Windfall” has not. It gives chills. “Catching an all-night station, somewhere in Louisiana / sounds like 1963, but for now … it sounds like heaven.”

  38. I just remembered a perfect one: “In Memory of Fred”, by the Starline Rhythm Boys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gmysHzed24 .

    It commemorates the 1998 Vermont Republican candidate for Senate, Fred Tuttle; he was a septuagenarian retired dairy famer with a 10th grade education who challenged a millionaire carpetbagger for the Republican Senate nomination and beat him in the primary. During the debate, Tuttle asked his opponent to pronounce the names of several Vermont towns and demanded to know how many teats were on a Holstein cow. He subsequently endorsed his Democratic opponent, because he feared that if he won, he might have to move to Washington, D.C., a fate presumably worse than death.

    If that’s not FPR material, nothing is.

  39. Josh is right about James McMurtry, but I am surprised that no one has nominated “Can’t Make it Here,” his wonderful anti- war, anti-globalism anthem. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbWRfBZY-ng

    Perhaps even betther though, from a localist communitarian perspective is JP Cormier’s “Great Harbour Deep” which tells the story of a fishing village in Newfoundland abandoned and finally destroyed by Canadian federal and provincial authorities. The townsfolk, who had been there for some six hundred years were forcibly removed because the only access to the village was by water. Immediately after their power was shut off and they were removed, a logging company, having scooped up the timber rights, built a road in to harvest the timber. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8t4w73ljx0&NR=1

  40. For what it’s worth — re: no black musicians — I listed Gladys Knight way up thread. In addition to Knight (and the Pips) doing “Midnight Train to Georgia,” I could also have listed Blind Willie McTell doing “Statesboro Blues” and Otis Redding doing “Dock of the Bay,” just in terms of the Peach State alone.

  41. But all affectionate joking aside, gnomies, a very fun thread…learnin’ lots of great stuff about griffith, son volt, and unknown kinks(!)songs.

    Here’s what pops to the top of my denatured postmodernist musical mind:

    1) In the spirit of things: Hazel Dickens, “West Virginia, My Home” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5L_HIgskEU&feature=related

    2) With a postmodern twist: Modern Lovers, “Road Runner” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHv8Rok9UfA Somebody put a great lil road trip vid together!!!

    Oh, and here’s the key Modern Lovers lyrics from another song:

    Well the modern world is not so bad
    Not like the students say
    In fact I’d be in heaven
    If you’d share the modern world with me

  42. Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow” gets a lot of playtime, but a truly tremendous song is “Minutes to Memories” from the same album:

    On a greyhound thirty miles beyond Jamestown
    He saw the sun set on the Tennessee line
    He looked at the young man who was riding beside him
    He said I’m old kind of worn out inside
    I worked my whole life in the steel mills of Gary
    And my father before me I helped build this land
    Now I’m seventy-seven and with God as my witness
    I earned every dollar that passed through my hand
    My family and friends are the best things I’ve known
    Through the eye of the needle I’ll carry them home.

    Also, Marshall Tucker’s “Never Trust a Stranger”:

    Today’s man is an outlaw
    On that long road to freedom
    You work him hard, take his pride,
    And then you try to cheat him.
    Then one day you figure out, it’s a long, long story
    An outlaw is a man that takes care of his own.

  43. Boy do you have a good mind for posts Mr. Kauffman:

    How can anyone not include “Sweet Home Alabama” on your lists?

    Mellencamp’s “Lonely Ol’ Night” is good Midwest song

    Bruce Springsteen has much to contribute from “Your Hometown” to “Darkness at the Edge of Town” to “The River”

    Billy Joel’s “Allentown.” John Denver’s “Country Roads, Take Me Home.” Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans”

    Try these links to Walter Hill’s movie “Southern Comfort” One is Cajun dance by the great Cajun musician Dewey Balfa: )http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2NIZexqb4U) and the other these the movie’s theme by Ry Cooder: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_121XW4uo0)

    May I introduce you all to some Newfoundland music (a whole new territory) “Squid Jiggin’ Ground” by the great Canadian country music star Hank Snow. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyHJ7XU5eLE&feature=related)

    Here’s another good Newfie song: (http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=94837094132&h=yThxW&u=ZjblU&ref=m)

  44. One more is the Style Council’s “All Gone Away” featuring the lyric:

    Take a walk upon these hills
    and see how monetarism kills
    whole communities, even families.
    There’s nothing left, they’ve all gone away.

    Best use of monetarism in a song.

  45. Anything by Greg Brown. The more I listen, the more it fits. Perfectly.

    Stan Rogers is a good one for the coastal Canadian front-porchers out there…

  46. I’m going to have to go with “Dixie Cannonball” sung by Hank Williams and written by Vaughn Horton.

    “I’m headin’ back to Dixie, that’s the place I long to be, Where the

    cotton grows and the Suwanee flows, that’s home sweet home to me.

    Where they meet you and they greet you with the sweetest hi you all,

    well shut my mouth, I’m a headin’ South on the Dixie Cannonball!

  47. Let me just add something about that last post. I can think of no other musical genre that better represents the themes of ‘place” and “liberty” than American Hardcore Punk of the ’80s. It was local, with various scenes (DC Style, NY Style, LA Style, etc.) and had a strictly DIY ethos of doing without major corporations and, God forbid, the government.

  48. DIY Punk is what made me a localist.

    Speaking to that Hot Water Music’s “Southeast First” is one of my favorites:

    i’ve seen heroic falls busted lips from microphone
    brawls angelic songs sung by all within the
    hardback walls it never mattered who you were or
    where you worked it never mattered who you were or
    what you earned what mattered was what you gave
    and what you loved what mattered was what you gave
    and what was learned like one for all for one
    whatever turn of events may come we all live
    underground where it stays warm community with
    commin sounds we work together to break ground it
    doesnt matter who you are or where you work it
    doesnt matter who you are or what you earn what
    matters is what you give and what you love what
    matters is how you live and if you love

  49. “Never Gonna Change” by Jason Isbell, formerly of the Drive By Truckers:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plCnjjHNb90

    “…There ain’t much traffic on the highway. There ain’t much traffic on the lake.
    The ATF and the ABI got everything they could take.
    Take it from me… They didn’t take it from me.

    We ain’t never gonna change.
    We ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong.
    We ain’t never gonna change
    so shut your mouth and play along.”

    Puttin’ People on the Moon by the Drive By Truckers
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obENG09NWq8&feature=related

    “Another Joker in the White House, said a change was comin’ round
    But I’m still workin’ at The Wal Mart and Mary Alice, in the ground
    And all them politicians, they all lyin’ sacks of s—
    They say better days upon us but I’m sucking left hind tit
    And the preacher on the TV says it ain’t too late for me
    But I bet he drives a Cadillac and I’m broke with some hungry mouths to feed”

    “The Sands of Iwo Jima” by the Drive By Truckers
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJqX0zC00gU

    “George A. was at the movies in December ’41
    They announced it in the lobby what had just gone on
    He drove up from Birmingham back to the family’s farm
    Thought he’d get him a deferment there’s was much work to be done
    He was a family man, even in those days
    But Uncle Sam decided he was needed anyway
    In the South Pacific over half a world away
    He believed in God and Country, things was just that way”

    “Marry Me” by DBT
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MapvZBeoNCE&feature=related

    “All my friends are restless, all they do is talk it down,
    two or eight lanes, it don’t matter, it’s just another town.
    There’s a fool on every corner, on every street, in every one
    and I’d rather be your fool nowhere than go somewhere and be no one’s

    So Marry Me, Sweet Thing won’t you Marry Me
    Your Mama thinks I beat anything she’s ever seen.
    This old town’s alright with me, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
    Long as they stay mad at one another, they can’t get mad at me ”

    James River Blues by Old Crow Medicine Show
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXXATMnn6j0&feature=related

    “James River blues
    That train came on through
    And the work’s gotten slow
    Now wheres a boat man to go

    I think I’ll float on down
    To Richmond town
    They don’t need us anymore
    Haulin’ freight from shore to shore
    That big iron hauls much more
    Than we ever could before”

  50. The Who, Rael:

    The Red Chins in their millions
    Will overspill their borders
    And chaos then will reign in our Rael

    The country of my fathers
    A proud land of old order
    Like a goldfish being swallowed by a whale

    Rael, the home of my religion
    To me the center of the Earth

    The Red Chins in their millions
    Will overspill their borders
    And chaos then will reign in our Rael

    My heritage is threatened
    My roots are torn and cornered
    And so to do my best I’ll homeward sail
    And so to do my best I’ll homeward sail

    Now Captain, listen to my instructions
    Return to this spot on Christmas Day
    Look toward the shore for my signal
    And then you’ll know if in Rael I’ll stay

    If a yellow flag is fluttering
    Sickly herald against the morn
    Then you’ll know my courage has ended
    And you’ll send your boat ashore

    But if a red flag is flying
    Brazen bold against the blue
    Then you’ll know that I am staying
    And my yacht belongs to you

    Now Captain, listen to my instructions
    Return to this spot on Christmas Day
    Look toward the shore for my signal
    And then you’ll know if in Rael I’ll stay

    He’s crazy if he thinks we’re coming back again
    He’s crazy if he thinks we’re coming back again
    He’s crazy if he thinks we’re coming back again
    He’s crazy, anyway

    If a yellow flag is fluttering
    Sickly herald against the morn
    Then you’ll know my courage has ended
    And you’ll send your boat ashore

  51. I’ve been trying to think of a couple of Australian songs to suit the localist theme.

    Two that have occured to me are:

    Cold Chisel — Bow River

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdVRNDnTKTU

    About a bloke chucking his factory job to return home.

    The next may be a bit “Middle of the Road” for some tastes but it reminds me of my youth.

    GANGgajang – Sounds Of Then (This Is Australia)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML9h3I5Uktw

    The chorus is:

    “Out on the patio we sit,/And the humidity we breathe,/We watch the lightning crack over canefields/And laugh and think that this is Australia.”

  52. An american who’s heard of Show of Hands! There’s hope for you folks yet ;o)

    Although, Kate Rusby does a better version of Village Green than then Kinks do…. :oD

  53. […] Louisville, Kentucky.  Some time back Caleb Stegall nominated Iris DeMent’s “Our Town” for the Front Porch Theme Song, and an ensuing piece of Bill Kauffman’s elicited a nice long list of good music of place.  Readers who missed that discussion of localism in song might want to visit it here. […]

  54. Hi, Noodling around the website after getting a surprise newsletter on my e mail. Nice site. I love Iris DeMent. I was shocked, however, that such a sad, discouraging song was nominated for the theme song. I have no suggestions at the moment but something inspiring courageous optimism is more to my liking. The now is extraordinary. My brother was just saying he will have to live to be 400 to attend to all the important matters like revamping the medical system and exploring and promoting alternative building systems or my favorites – biodynamic agriculture, radiant field energy, etc, etc, ETC !! … I agree. 400.

  55. […] Devon, PA.  Newsweek listed Grand Rapids as one of America’s top-ten dying cities sometime ago.  This prompted the city to come together in a rather inspired way to film a ten-minute, one-camera-shot lip-synch music video that bobs and weaves through the downtown area while thousands of Grand Rapidians sing along.  The technical achievement alone makes it worth a look (my daughter found the timing of fireworks set off on a distant bridge to correspond with the lyrics especially pleasing).  But there is something gorgeous about the whole project.  ABC’s report on the film and its background can be read here.  But what really commands attention is the video itself, which, in its appropriation of Don McLean, makes a worthy intervention in Bill Kauffman’s discussion of the official FPR anthem. […]

  56. Just enjoyed making a looooooooong playlist of these songs on Grooveshark. Added “Hesitating Beauty” (Is this optimistic enough, Costis?)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHoSeTr_RVU

    “I’ll build a house and home where the flowers come to roam…”
    “We’ll walk hand in hand cross the grasses of our land/ I’ll kiss you for each leaf on every tree. We’ll bring our kids to play where the dry leaves blow today, / you quit your hesitating Nora Lee”

  57. I’m afraid that this is the significance of front porches for Gen X.

    “Swing Life Away”

    Am I loud and clear, or am I breaking up?
    Am I still your charm, or am I just bad luck?
    Are we getting closer, or are we just getting more lost?

    I’ll show you mine if you show me yours first
    Let’s compare scars, I’ll tell you whose is worse
    Let’s unwrite these pages and replace them with our own words

    We live on front porches and swing life away,
    We get by just fine here on minimum wage
    If love is a labor I’ll slave till the end,
    I won’t cross these streets until you hold my hand

    I’ve been here so long, I think that it’s time to move
    The winter’s so cold, summer’s over too soon
    Let’s pack our bags and settle down where palm trees grow

    I’ve got some friends, some that I hardly know
    But we’ve had some times, I wouldn’t trade for the world
    We chase these days down with talks of the places that we will go

    We live on front porches and swing life away,
    We get by just fine here on minimum wage
    If love is a labor I’ll slave till the end,
    I won’t cross these streets until you hold my hand….until you hold my hand

    I’ll show you mine if you show me yours first
    Let’s compare scars, I’ll tell you whose is worse
    Let’s unwrite these pages and replace them with our own words

    We live on front porches and swing life away,
    We get by just fine here on minimum wage
    If love is a labor I’ll slave till the end,
    I won’t cross these streets until you hold my hand

    Swing life away [x4]

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3JF1b5UOT0

  58. “17” By Cross Canadian Ragweed, a band from Stillwater, OK.

    “Sirens wail and a flashing light…nothin’ better to do on a Tuesday night, but give me hell. Where ya headed? What are you out for? Don’t see much of you ’round here anymore, I guess it’s just as well. Once upon a time you had it all, you let everybody down. Your’e always 17 in your hometown”.

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