I used to think I didn’t like country music. When I was a surly teen, country music was for hicks and old people. I was too dang cool to listen to music those people liked, obviously. Dopey me.
When I was younger, I know I loved songs by Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed, Hank Williams, Glen Campbell and everything I ever heard by Roger Miller, dang me. That was back before the music I listened to became a factor in defining my tribal membership or gang affiliation, so I could like The Beatles and The Stones and George Jones. Why not?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I could (and should) enjoy any music I like, regardless of who else liked it, just like when I was a youngster. And the older I get, the more open I get to appreciating styles of music that I’ve previously avoided, whether it’s country, real country, bro country, alt country, super country or whatever. Any day now, I bet, I’m going to start loving opera, acid jazz, screamo and New Kids on the Block.
This week I’ve been really enjoying a new batch of old-school country songs by The Pat Watters Band, which recently came out with its first new release since 2013. “Loaded on a Saturday Night” is a five-song EP recorded over a weekend at Evan Middlesworth’s Pine Hollow studio near Eau Claire, Wis.
The songs have a great live feel, like the PWB is kicking out the jams down at the Legion Hall on a Saturday night and having a fantastic time doing it, and a lot of that has to do with the process, Watters recently told me. The band didn’t work to a click track in the studio, getting the tracks down by playing as a group, like they would on stage.
“Rather than recording in isolation, we were always playing together,” Watters explained. “I feel like that organic approach had a positive effect on the overall feel of the project.”
Dang straight it did.
The highlight for me on the EP was the propulsive title track, which — SPOILER ALERT — involves a bit of clever misdirection, lyrically. You might think the song is about getting drunk, always a hot topic in country songs, but it’s really about the thrill of driving a big rig loaded with cargo — oil, logs, big-bellied hogs, you name it.
I’m a sucker for trucker songs, and “Loaded on a Saturday Night” belongs up there with “Willin’” and “Six Days on the Road,” thanks to Watters’ well-crafted lyrics. He name checks “Six Days” singer Dave Dudley and offers this line in the chorus: “Draggin’ that freight down the interstate is the best kind of high I know.” He sings it with such conviction, you really believe he’s a gear-jammin’ son-of-a-gun instead of a marketing expert who ought to be touring the country making music full-time.
There’s also the crazy great pedal steel work of Rick Kreuziger on this song, which gave me chills. If there was ever any doubt that Kreuziger is Nashville-caliber pedal-steel master, “Loaded” ought to put that to rest.
The band has a fun video for “Loaded” that is mostly a montage of photographs of real area truck drivers, all looking like they’d like nothing better than to be driving their rig on a Saturday night.
The PWB — which also includes drummer Curt Wells, bassist Pat Clark and mandolin player Paul Scholze — plays Saturday night at Oakdale Fun Days and the following Saturday night is at Sparta’s Fox Hole Pub for ZorFest.
For a limited time — let’s say a week — you can listen to the new Pat Watters Band EP on the La Crosse Tribune website, thanks to our “Listen Here” feature.
A book that rocks
This week we’ve also got an exclusive premiere of a video trailer for a new book by Seattle-based music giant Barrett Martin, a drummer, composer, producer and award-winning writer known for his work with bands including Screaming Trees, Mad Season (with Layne Staley of Alice in Chains and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam), Tuatara (with Peter Buck of R.E.M.), The Barrett Martin Group and a bunch of others.
Martin has played on more than 100 albums and film soundtracks, writes a music and culture blog for the Huffington Post and is a professor of music at Antioch University in Seattle. This is a formidable guy, and he has written a book called “The Singing Earth” that recounts some of the musical adventures he’s had all over the world.
I’ve got such a huge pile of music-related books next to my bed I’ve been meaning to read, I almost wish I would contract some dread disease that would give me time to plow through them. But after watching the trailer for Martin’s new book, I could definitely see adding “The Singing Earth” to the pile.
The book also comes with a soundtrack CD that includes field recordings from around the world as well as rare, previously unreleased songs from Martin’s many bands (including an instrumental from Mad Season you can listen to with the online version of this column.
Rock on …