Lately I’ve been thinking about the ways we identify with artists, genres, songs, movements — all kinds of things related to the way we consume music. It’s been mostly lyrics in the last few weeks for me — yesterday a Mountain Goats song left me feeling literally suckerpunched — but when I think about songs whose quality leans on how thoroughly the listener can identify with the content, warts and all, there’s a clear winner in my collection.
I remember Memphis
Like it was yesterday
And a Ford station wagon
So full of us it was dragging
With your books in our grasping hands
We heard you speak
We made our plans
To hoist the flag and rule the world
All the hopes we had unfurled
Tell me a little joke
Let’s play the dozens
Say something about my mama
In a veiled quadrille round
I’m just a white girl from a segregated town
And I’m looking for some answers
That I haven’t found
If we’re working on the premise that Americana should reflect something about the United States, Caroline Herring is brave enough to say that there’s a lot about this country that’s hard to stomach, while still keeping the political personal. Issues don’t always get real until we see them affect people we know, and at that point, it’s hard to know what to do, assuming there’s anything we can do.
Still: the story in the song is so detailed, so clearly personal, that I don’t know how the song might come off to someone who doesn’t know what living like that is like. I’m a little too close to it myself to say. So I’ll just be over here wishing she’d either come out to Denver or move her show at Eddie’s Attic on 4/15 back a week.