Each month, I highlight an album as part of the ACC’s Employment and Labor Law Network’s outreach and engagement, and just to give you something non-legal related to enjoy every month. I hope you join us on our Forums and at today’s monthly teleconference where we will discuss Labor & Employment Law in the Year of COVID-19: A Review of New and Emerging Challenges. If you’re an in-house counsel and not part of the ACC or the ELLN, you can join ACC and ELLN today and see what we’re all about! I hope to (virtually) see you soon.
ELLN December Music Quick Pick
Former ELLN Chair Doug Hass has long been a music buff (he founded country music site Roughstock.com in 1993) and had plenty of windshield time for work over the years. That’s given him lots of time to indulge and explore his music interests! To help entertain you on your commutes or at the gym, office, home, or on the go, Doug is offering another year-long series of picks that will showcase some of the best albums you may have never heard, or that deserve another listen. We hope that each monthly choice piques your interest in these albums and artists. These may be titles that you have never heard of, but our hope is that your interest will be piqued and your musical world enriched!
If you have been following along with and listening to our monthly Quick Picks, you already know that the big tent that makes up country music lives in many places outside of its “traditional” Nashville home. We’ve gone from the hills of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia (Tyler Childers) to Mississippi (Marty Stuart) to the Ozarks (Joe Purdy) to the red dirt of Oklahoma and Texas (Roger Creager, Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett), but in October, I promised we would move west to another country music scene: southern California, and specifically Bakersfield.
The town whose motto is “The Sound of Something Better” has its own music hall of fame and its own musical history. Hometown hero Merle Haggard famously remarked that the difference between the country music from Nashville and the country music from the West Coast was that Nashville’s country music came from churches, and the West Coast’s country music came from honky-tonks and bars. The “Bakersfield Sound” emerged from a host of musical influences, from migrant workers in the California fields and 60s icon Gram Parsons to the Dust Bowl diaspora of Oklahoma and R&B legend Chuck Berry (“Marvin Berry’s cousin,” for you children of the 80s). It was Berry (Chuck—there was no Marvin) whose sound Haggard said he tried to emulate when he hit the Bakersfield scene in the 50s.
Before we look back at Haggard, Buck Owens, and more, it makes sense to start with the modern-day guardian of the Bakersfield Sound: Dwight Yoakam. Yoakam moved to California in 1977 and immersed himself in the punk rock scene and bars, with a sound he and the punk bands-gone-country later described as “cowpunk.” In the early 1980s, Yoakam was a frequent performer at iconic country venues like the Palomino in North Hollywood and The Corral Bar in Lake View Terrace, the latter of which featured in one of the opening scenes of 1991’s Terminator 2, where a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger shows up, beats up some bikers, and gets some clothes, guns, and a bike. If you listen carefully, you will hear Yoakam’s song “Guitars, Cadillacs” from his 1985 debut album playing on the jukebox as Schwarzenegger walks into the bar.
Yoakum finally cut his own “cowpunk” album in 2012 with 3 Pears, this month’s pick, with help from LA-based Beck on a couple of tracks. You will hear Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers come out in several places, a little bit of Roy Orbison-meets-Motown-bass-track in the opening song “Take Hold Of My Hand,” and a reimagined Buck Owens staple “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke.” Although Yoakam and Beck bring a punk energy to “A Heart Like Mine,” the album is mellower than the “cowpunk” label might make you think. He shines on the ballad “It’s Never Alright” and on the closing “Long Way To Go.” Overall, it is a great introduction to the edgier Bakersfield Sound without going too retro.
I hope you enjoy (or enjoy rediscovering) this month’s pick! Since I can rarely pick just one album, I will try to include a “Further Listening” section each month if you want to dive in deeper.
Can’t get enough? Further Listening: