Those of us who live in the South know them well. Those pesky little creatures that fly around in pairs, attached to each other like teenagers to their cell phones.
Love bugs tend to come around in early spring and fall. They make a mess of your car, your outside living space and are a general nuisance. While swatting them away this morning, I thought it might be interesting to come up with a list of love songs to go with their infestation. Maybe it was the humidity seeping in my brain, but in either case, here’s my list.
I suppose I should admit that I’m not a real fan of most love songs. Too sentimental and sappy for me. So my list will not include the usual fare of “you make me feel oh so happy, let’s runaway together and get married, if you leave me I’ll die …”
Yet, there are a few songs I consider love songs, though a bit off the beaten path of Top 40 Radio crap.
1. Southeastern by Jason Isbell was released last year. It is one of the best albums out there. Written after Isbell got sober, it is honest and brutal (my requirements for a good love song.) Listen to Isbell and his wife Amanda Shires performance of Cover Me Up on Austin City Limits. If you haven’t heard Isbell, you are missing out. He just sold out the Ryman for a three night show in October.
2. Marie from Randy Newman’s concepts album, Good Old Boys. Slow and bluesy, this song gets me everytime. The whole album is one of my favs. Though not politically correct in today’s society of “let’s not insult anyone” Newman’s 1974 offering is a funny and scathing satire on Southern racism and Yankee hypocrisy. Now y’all don’t mad, just listen to the album.
3. Tom Waits, Long Way Home. I love Tom Waits and his graveled voice. I think I like this because my father always took the long way home. Also, if you’ve not seen his performance in Seven Psychopaths, it is brilliant. Bonus track: Waltzing Matilda, live from 1977.
4. Ray LaMontagne’s Jolene is one of those that you’ll listen to over and over. I first heard it on Zac Brown Band’s The Foundation. Loved it then, but after hearing LaMontagne sing it, I really got the haunting quality of the song. For fun, here’s the Zac Brown Band cover.
5. Gonna take a detour here, and include George Jones’ Love Bug, in honor of the little buggers that inspired this blog in the first place. Have fun, he’s George Jones — ’nuff said. Added bonus: Check out Jamey Johnson in The Grand Ole Opry tribute to Jones.
6. Now let’s get back to the honest and brutal stuff. The Flying Burrito Brothers with Hot Burrito #1. Check out Gram Parsons’ Nudie suit! FYI: Gram Parsons was the first to imagine fusing country and rock music. He called it Cosmic American Music. Used to get his ass kicked in the Okie bars outside of L.A. One of the true musical geniuses.
7. Since I mentioned Gram Parsons, I have to include Boulder to Birmingham by Emmy Lou Harris. Harris wrote this with Bill Danoff after Gram, her musical soul mate, died from an overdose in a Joshua Tree motel room. Bonus: Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris singing Love Hurts and Return of the Grievous Angel. Oh hell, just go listen to some Gram Parsons!
8. Let’s get back to the Love Bug theme. Charles Bradley, Love Bug Blues, “What are you gonna do when love get ahold of you?” What indeed? Bradley’s life story is fascinating. He made his debut record at the age of 62. Here’s a link to the trailer of the documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America. It is well worth the watch.
10. One of my favorite songs, Wild Horses originally recorded by The Rolling Stones in Alabama’s own, Muscle Shoals, in 1969. Here they are listening to the recording at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. (Great article and pics from AL.com about the studio and its upcoming revival by Dr. Dre.) Gram Parsons cut the song with The Flying Burrito Brothers and that version was released in 1970, a year before Sticky Fingers came out. Listen to their version here.
Well there you have it. Ten of my favorite love songs. Of course, I can think of ten more from the era of the Muscle Shoals sound. But we’ll save that for another day.
So, what about it? Any of you have a favorite love song to share? Would love to hear them!