Decibrity Playlist: Young Widows (Part 1)

Given how well our last and only playlist from a Louisville native turned out courtesy of Coliseum’s Ryan Patterson, we had high hopes for one from his brother and fellow Derby City dweller Evan. While the former focused solely on Killing Joke and caused me to listen to “Total Invasion” on repeat for months, the latter focused his energies on dark country and folk. Not surprisingly, Young Widows‘ guitarist/vocalist did not let us down. In fact, he gave us such an extensive list of picks that we’ve split his tome into two parts. We’ll let Evan take things from here:

“When asked to make a playlist for Decibel, I thought about all the music I’ve been affected and inspired by. I thought about Crime & the City Solution’s record Shine, Swans’ Soundtracks for the Blind, Angels of Light’s We Are Him, Mark Lanegan’s Bubblegum, Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, Love and Arthur Lee’s entire catalog and their dark crooning voices. I thought about Tangerine Dream’s Sorcerer and Phaedra, Throbbing Gristle’s Greatest Hits, Silver Apples’ first record and Ennio Morricone’s vast collection of film scores. Then I thought about the dark county and folk records that I’ve been collecting the past few years.

Being from Louisville, Kentucky, I’ve always strayed from or, even better, rebelled against giving these genres of music any of my direct attention. Louisville is somewhat of a subcultured island in a sea of suburban families and farms. These surroundings could make a young punk downright despise country and folk music, but I have true love of all music and don’t align myself to just one club.

Most of these records were found and/or discovered through hours of digging through 45s at a hole-in-the-wall record store called Highland Records that carries exclusively used vinyl. The owner of the store chain smokes and complains about ‘the kids these days,’ but when I ask him to play a stack of singles that I’ve never heard before, he perks up and rattles off a good story about damn near every song. Every Saturday and Sunday, the owner shuts down the shop and heads 20 miles east to Simpsonville, Kentucky to run his all-vinyl flea market booth. The Simpsonville booth has an even larger selection.

After researching my selection of songs for this playlist, I discovered a strong connection between many of these singers and songwriters. In particular, Lee Hazlewood seemed to have his finger on the pulse of exceptionally odd country music. From a time when 7″, 45 rpm, two song singles could make or break an artist, here’s my dark country and folk playlist in chronological order. Enjoy.”

You can pick up a copy of Young Widows’ latest record Easy Pain–which includes two songs that Nick Green described as having “the kind of chimerical Frankenstein inventions that used to only reside in Napoleon Dynamite’s sketchbook or soda fountain ‘suicides'” (one of my favorite sentences in ten-plus years of this magazine)–here.

Sanford Clark’s “The Fool” (from 1956’s “The Fool”/”Lonesome For A Letter” 7″ single)
Luckily for Sanford Clark, Lee Hazlewood was around to write songs for him. “The Fool” maybe should have been the b-side to Elvis’s single “Jailhouse Rock”. It was released the same year and Elvis did eventually end up covering the song. This single was reissued and became Sanford Clark’s most well-known song. Though this version still stands high above the Presley version, Sanford Clark didn’t find much success beyond being a support act for Roy Orbison. Hazlewood and Clark went on to make two albums together on Hazlewood’s record label.

Bonnie Guitar’s “Dark Moon” (from 1957’s “Dark Moon”/”Big Mike” 7″ single)
I’m a sucker for a song about the moon. Bonnie Guitar strutted in just after Patsy Cline paved the way for women in the country music world. Bonnie Guitar can do no wrong, she generally rides the same mood throughout most of her songs. “Dark Moon”, written by Ned Miller, was Bonnie Guitar’s second single and was covered by many classic country crooners, such as Jim Reeves’ hit version.

Red Kirk’s “It’s Nothing To Me” (from 1957’s “It’s Nothing To Me”/”How Still The Night” 7″ single)
Originally written by Leon Payne under the pseudonym P. Patterson. Payne also wrote the gruesome murder ballad “Psycho” and the classic country hit “Lost Highway”, made famous by Hank Williams and covered by many, many others. Loy Clingman was the first to record “It’s Nothing to Me” and Red Kirk was the second. A simple story about a bar fight gone fatal, written from a postmortem perspective. Sanford Clark recorded a Lee Hazlewood produced version in 1967 under the pseudonym Harry Johnson. Much later, Hazlewood recorded his own version on his last album, Cake or Death.

Tex Ritter’s “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie” (from 1960’s Blood On The Saddle)
Yes, Tex is John Ritter’s father. Yes, Tex was also an actor. Unlike John, Tex was a country music singer. This song is from his album Blood on the Saddle, and the album has a unique tongue-in-cheek sense of fictional western darkness and horror, unlike any other than I’ve heard. Tex moans his way through this song and about halfway through, I almost get reeled, believing that maybe he did live the life of cowboy.

Tommy Tucker’s “Miller’s Cave” (from 1960’s “The Stranger”/”Miller’s Cave” 7″ single)
Tommy Tucker lived a unlucky life. After recording a few singles, this being one of them, he spent some time in prison for a deadly drunk driving accident. Soon after his release, he died in a house fire due to falling asleep while smoking in bed. He has not received much, if any, recognition as an artist. Though he didn’t write “Miller’s Cave”, he was the first to perform it. The song was later made famous by Hank Snow and has been covered by many others since. One cover in particular is by Gram Parsons’ International Submarine Band, which is thought to be the first country rock album, and put out by Lee Hazlewood’s record company.

Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry” (from 1961’s “Don’t Worry”/”Like All The Other Times” 7″ single)
Marty can sing. Almost a little too well for my taste, but when the fuzz bass makes an appearance in this song, I’m sold. Don’t expect to find similar instrumentation in any other of his vast catalog of songs. Supposedly, he wasn’t fond of the fuzz.

Lee Hazlewood’s “Look At That Woman” (from 1963’s Trouble Is A Lonesome Town)
“Look at that Woman” is from Lee Hazlewood’s first official full-length album as a singer, a storytelling concept album called Trouble is a Lonesome Town. This particular song is about his woman, or rather, his ball and chain. It’s a rough and humorous stereotype, but the rhythmic sample of dragging chains and the vocal drop at the end of the chorus is a one of a kind move that only Hazlewood can pull off.

*Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

**Photo by Amber Estes Thieneman

***Pick up a copy of Young Widows’ Easy Pain here and check them out on the following dates opening for Minus The Bear:

10/21 Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
10/22 Detroit, MI – Magic Stick
10/23 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge
10/24 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock
10/25 Des Moines, IA – Wolly’s

****For past Decibrity entries, click here