New Music Friday: Bakersfield Sound Box Set

I’ve always dug the Bakersfield sound.  But that has mostly been through the prism of Dwight Yoakam’s work (great as it is), as well as through Merle Haggard.  I haven’t even begun to really dig into it.  You know what would allow me to really dig into it?

Out Today: A 10-CD Bakersfield Sound box set.

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Music Monday: Okie From Muskogee by Merle Haggard

Sunday will be the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest and most debated songs in country music history: Okie From Muskogee by working-class poet Merle Haggard.  Ken Burns’ country music documentary on PBS, coincidentally, introduced the Hag last night and will cover Okie From Muskogee tonight.  I cheated and went ahead and streamed tonight’s episode last night.  If you are looking for a definitive answer as to whether Merle was being serious or tongue-in-cheek, you aren’t going to get it.  Why do I think there is a fairly straightforward answer, when even Tyler Coe poring over the song for over an hour doesn’t get there?  Let me tell you.

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Music Monday: Streets of Bakersfield by Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens

One of my favorite lines from the great movie The Blues Brothers is when Elwood Blues asks the proprietor of a honky tonk “What kind of music do you usually have here?”  She responds, “Oh, we got both kinds—we got country and Western.”  It provided the grist for my favorite Baptist joke: I grew up going to a church with both kinds of preaching—hellfire and damnation.  But have you ever wondered what the heck is “Western”?

Dwight Yoakam is Western.  Western is cowboy music, but it is more than that.  It was shaped by the cattle towns and the open range, but its roots are deeper.  Like old-time, its roots are in Appalachia and England and Scotland before that.  The same hillbillies who took their music with them when they settled in Oklahoma would take it with them when they moved again to the interior of California.  The Bakersfield Sound developed as an alternative to the overproduced pablum coming out of Nashville (then, as now).  Its most successful products were Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.  Dwight Yoakam would pick up that mantle twenty years later.

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