May 11, 2007

Take Five--Great Country Song Titles

[Take Five. Every Friday, at least in theory, Fire on the Mountain picks a category and lists five cool things in it. It's up to you, dear reader, to add your own in the Comments section. Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the piece and you're off to the races.]

Writing good song titles is an art. Even though most of the time the title features somewhere in the song’s chorus, I’m not talking about great choruses. For purposes of this post, a good title is one that just reading it makes you want to go out and listen to the cut it adorns, sound unheard.

There are some folks around today who write monster song titles as a matter of course: Amy Rigby (“Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again?”) and the Drive–By Truckers (“When The Pin Hits The Shell”) leap to mind. Interestingly, both of them had formative exposure to Country & Western, the popular music genre which on average has the best titles, hands down.

So without further ado, here’s evidence of my argument. Five country songs whose titles I’m betting will make you wanna check ‘em out--that is, if you don’t already have ‘em.


Girls Lie Too
—(Connie Harrington, Kelley Lovelace, Tim Nichols) Terri Clark

Always Keep An Edge On Your Knife—(Corb Lund) Corb Lund Band

Women’s Prison--Loretta Lynn

Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly (Fond Of Each Other)--(Ned Sublette) Willie Nelson

If The Trailer’s Rockin’, Don’t Come Knockin’—Billy Joe Shaver

If you are indeed tempted, I can also warrant that none of these tunes is a letdown from the title. Meanwhile, why don’t you chip in a couple of your own favorites in the comments section below?

And there’s a prize for any reader who guesses what else these five songs have in common (hint: this unifying factor may lead to future Take Fives on the same topic).


Anonymous said...

I'll add just three, the excellent farming anthem "The Truck Got Stuck" by the same Corb Lund Band who recorded "Always Keep An Edge On Your Knife", Johnny Cash's "The Man Who Couldn't Cry" and The Austin Lounge Lizards' incredibly prescient "Jesus Loves Me (But he can't STAND you)".

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's exactly country, but I do like "I Can't Drink You Pretty" by Ethan Daniel Davidson.

Jimmy Higgins said...

Jesse, I don't know that one, but from the title, it's in the time-tested C&W tradition of "The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time" and Neal McCoy's "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On." Both decent songs--well, the latter anyhow--but docked a half a point because after you read the title, you know exactly what the song's about.

Anonymous said...

Jesse, let me suggest (in addition to JH's bar-based musings & omphaloskepsis) that any musician with three names, particularly if two are alliteritive, is AUTOMATICALLY c&w.

Skwisgaar Skwigelf said...

Don't forget:

"How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away" by Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks

"I Spent My Last $10.00 (On Birth Control And Beer)" by Two Nice Girls

TNTrash said...


How can you NOT add the tune, written by David Allan Coe but made famous by Johnny Paycheck, "Take this Job and Shove It"???

Jimmy Higgins said...

G.F. has cited a couple of not-quite-country cuts that are true gems, the both of them. Tntrash, in self-defense, I answer my own challenge (saving me a prize)--all of the Take Five tunes were released in the current decade.

Now ya wanna go back a bit further, howzabout “Talk Back Trmbling Lips" or "Are They Gonna Make Us Outlaws Again?" or "Somebody Always Paints The Wall." All bona-fide classics, but if you haven't heard 'em, don't these titles pique your curiosity? I mean they aren't cute or funny, just intriguing.

Jimmy Higgins said...

Another question--I put links up to three of the tunes in my original post. Did anybody check 'em out for the first time? Opinions?

Anonymous said...

Yeh, that's a fair request. To be honest, the sound quality at the linked site for Terri Clark's "Girls Lie Too" was so bad it was tough to even listen to (though the lyric looks amusing). I was hoping for more depth from Loretta Lynn, the imagery and message was fairly shallow though the music's great. Ned Sublette's song, on the other hand, definitely makes it to my iPod!

Skwisgaar Skwigelf said...

Jimmy, you raise an interesting question about how one defines "country." In other words, where, and based on what criteria, is the line drawn between "country" and "not country"? This question, of course, can probably similarly be extended to any given musical genre.

While you don't identify your criteria, you seem to be leaning in the direction of purity of form. (I doubt that you uphold the next most obvious criterion that springs to mind -- acceptance by the Nashville establishment.)

While admittedly you have far greater knowledge on the general topic than I, I guess philosophically I'm a lot more in favor of defining such categories broadly and thus creating more space for idiosyncratic and boundary-blurring works within any given category.

This might be an enormous can of worms and/or going off topic, but it might be interesting if you gave a word on your thinking around this question.

Frank Partisan said...

Ned Sublette mixes American country western music, with Cuban percussion.

Cool stuff.