Barstool Mountain

I love Country music for all sorts of reasons but mostly for the lyrics. Instead of melody (pop) rhythm (hip hop) or sheer noise level or speed (metal, punk) the lyrics are the driving force of Country music. Placed front and center they carry a bigger burden of making songs memorable. In addition, Country is primarily aimed at adults rather than adolescents and so it’s not enough to simply evoke emotions, which works for younger people who are experiencing them as new. Country songs have to say something more about emotional events to reach listeners but they simultaneously have to keep things on the light side because there is some seriously depressing stuff going on in the lyrics to lots of Country songs. The balance the grim with the lighthearted do this by actively utilizing all sorts of language play (a topic for later posts).

The characters in Country songs don’t see therapists or read self-help books, they try to solve their problems the old-fashioned way – by drinking.

He’s pretending he don’t love you once again…

One of the classic topics of Country is, not to mince words, alcoholism and songs exploring the topic are usually called Drinkin’ Songs. Collectively, Drinkin’ Songs from the mid 1950s to mid 1990s are as comprehensive an artistic study of the line between recreation and addiction, the motivations for continuing to drink, the devastation that comes with alcoholism and the difficulties of recovery as humanity has. The fact that many performers themselves have more than a nodding acquaintance with the illness probably contributes to the raw honestness that many songs display.

To start off (there will be many more of these, so…. be prepared) let’s look at this little ditty about drinking to numb the pain. Likening the barstool to a mountain underlines the isolation between the drinker and…. everything he should be dealing with and isn’t.

The song was originally recorded by Johnny Paycheck in 1977. In some ways I prefer the cover by Moe Bandy (mostly because technically Bandy’s a better singer). But something about the unpolished hurt of Paychecks’ delivery made me choose his version here. Also there’s the outro (not recorded by Bandy I don’t know if it’s adlibbed or not) “drinkin’ away ‘I love you’… that is folk poetry at its sharpest. Whose “I love you” is he drinking away? His declaration or hers? Which is worse?

Barstool Mountain

I’ve finally found a place where I can take it,
all this loneliness you’ve left behind.
On a mountain that’s no hill for a climber.
Just one step up, sit back and pour the wine.

I climb up on barstool mountain.
High above your world where there’s no pain.
And I’m the king of barstool mountain.
Pretending I don’t love you once again.

At closing time I step down off the mountain.
I’m strong enough to make it without you.
I know that I’ll be right back here tomorrow.
Too weak to sober up and face the truth

I climb up on barstool mountain.
High above your world where there’s no pain.
And I’m the king of barstool mountain.
Pretending I don’t love you once again.

I climb up on barstool mountain.
High above the world where there’s no pain.
And I’m the king of barstool mountain.
Pretending I don’t love you,
Drinkin’ away “I love you”,
Pretending I don’t love you once again.

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