I've been wanting to write a piece like this for a while, but couldn't figure out the three songs I wanted to feature. First allow me to expound a bit on the progression of country music -- namely the period during the mid-eighties to mid-nineties. During this interesting time in country music's history, we saw the rise of a number of legendary artists like George Strait, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks. The music they were producing was at times profound, at times overly simple, and, quite frankly, at times just downright funny and light-hearted. The commercial success a number of these songs received was extraordinarily time specific -- nearly ten years after their production, there was virtually no chance country radio would even go near such a song. And today the situation remains the same -- it seems the time of this tongue-in-cheek brand of country, infused with a classic honkytonk swing rhythm, has officially ended. So today we pay tribute to three songs which best exemplify this brand of country song (in no particular order).
"Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox (If I Die)" by Joe Diffie -- a classic early-nineties country tune if there ever was one, "Prop Me Up" is a tribute to the bar room lifestyle our protagonist loves so much. Diffie begins the song with a slow-tempo contemplation of life and death which rapidly turns into a good-timing, satirical shot at our own mortality. As you can imagine from the title, in the song Diffie claims that if he dies, he wants to be propped up beside the jukebox with his boots filled "up with sand and a stiff drink in his hand." A true cowboy at heart, what better place to spend eternity than a bar.
"Honey (Open That Door)" by Ricky Skaggs -- Sung by the mandolin-expert Ricky Skaggs, a longtime collaborator with the great Keith Whitley (one of country music's most revered legends), "Honey" is a foray into largely unfamiliar territory for Skaggs. A bluegrass musician first and foremost, vocal performances are not Skaggs' specialty, but "Honey" was just ridiculous enough to garner some serious airplay. The story of Skaggs losing all his money in a backroom, Dallas poker game, and the ensuing dispute between him and his "Honey," is high comedy, especially when you watch the video featuring Skaggs (with a classic late 80's/early 90's mullet) arguing with his midget landlord. Nonetheless, as ridiculous as the video sounds, the song is really quite enjoyable and definitely worth a listen.
"Older Women" by Ronnie Mcdowell - Perhaps the best known of the three artists featured in this section, Mcdowell recorded a run of hits in the eighties that made him a household name in country music. Among those tunes was Mcdowell's tribute to the cougar. The song opens with Mcdowell belting "Older women are beautiful lovers, older women they understand," and he certainly sounds like he means it. With it's simple drum beat and light-hearted lyrics, it's almost impossible not to like this song, despite the absurdity of the topic or the lyrics. The chances such a song would ever be heard today in Nashville are essentially nil -- a highly unfortunate circumstance of the evolution of country towards a more pop-based standard. However, I'd advise everyone to check out the three songs above, if not for their musicality, at least for some comic relief.