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Friday, May 1, 2009

White Freightliner Blues -- Can We All Agree To Stop Covering This Song? [Opinion]

[Note: This is not to be taken personally.  The folks at alt512 love the artists we mention in this post.  We're trying to help.  Honest.]

A while back, we here at the alt512 tried to urge that artists stop covering a few songs that we felt had been overworked and deserved a break for a few years.  The brief list was only these ten songs.

Truck Drivin' Man
Six Days On The Road
White Freightliner Blues
Hey Good Lookin'
Folsom Prison Blues
Rock Island Line
Good Old Boys (Dukes Of Hazzard theme song)
Whiskey River
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
Wagon Wheel

We are writing again to re-request that we put just one of these songs out to pasture.  We have seen no fewer than three covers of Townes' White Freighliner Blues in the last week featuring the following artists in various configurations: Jason Eady, Joe Ely, Ryan Bingham, Hayes Carll and Jonny Burke.

Make no mistake.  White Freightliner Blues is a great song.   Classic certainly.  Country standard for sure.  Unfortunately, it's vernturing into Will The Circle Be Unbroken territory in that it's the defacto end-of-the-show jam to which everybody knows a verse.  In the interest of fairness, we would also like to see Wil The Circle Be Unbroken retired.  But our complaint isn't the song.  It isn't the artists.  Not at all.  We love them all.  It's the frequency with which we hear this particular song.  There is no other song by TVZ or anyone else that has the draw of WFB that so many artists end up covering it.

If it's Townes you want to pay tribute to, buy a copy of Live at the Old Quarter and learn Tecumseh Valley, Loretta, Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold or Fraternity Blues or Waiting Around To Die and starting covering that.  If I Needed You?  Heavenly Houseboat Blues?  No Lonesome Tune?  Pancho And Lefty?  Don't You Take It Too Bad?  Two Girls?  Rex's Blues?  They all work.  They're all brilliant.

When everybody covers a particular song, it starts to lose its luster because every-fucking-body is doing it.  Doing a cover that everybody does fails to show the depth or breath of musical knowledge that you hope to convey by doing a cover in the first place [at least not to us here at alt512].  It shows that you can pick off the top of the musical stack.  When we're at a show, we want the covers that show you love Townes (or whomever) and that you love his deep back catalog or at the very least the songs that aren't waaay overplayed like WFB.  [Thank you, Dedringers, for dusting off Black Jack Mama.]

Dedringers doing Black Jack Mama from June 27, 2006 at the Carousel Lounge in Austin.

Maybe it's us.  Maybe Austin has such a rich musical tapestry that it's spoiled us.  Maybe we're missing the point.  Maybe not.  If you search youtube or for "White Freighliner Blues" you will see videos / hear recordings of Redbird, Woody & Paul, Max Creek, The Tuttles, Stoney Mountain Ramblers, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Steel Creek Bluegrass, Joe Ely, Joel Guzman, Lloyd Maines, Porter Davis, The Siver Family, Stringcheese Incident, Cornmeal, Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Drew Emmit and Brock Zeman all doing this song.  EVERYBODY.

Folk/Country music standard or not, we now stand by what we said over a year ago more than ever before.  It's time.  Give this song a break.

My point is simply that there are hundreds of thousands of songs out there to cover. 
You don't have pick a song off the top of the pile. Especially if you've heard someone 
else cover it already. I am available to give council to anyone needing help selecting a cover.

ps, If this blog appeal doesn't take, we'll be the folks at the next show, not with the "JOHN 3:16" banner but rather an "Anything But White Freightliner" banner.  And maybe a "Serenity Now" banner for when WFB is being covered.

pps, Maybe the underlying message here isn't that we want you to stop playing WFB.  Maybe it's that we're done with WFB.  Maybe we'll just step outside or head to the bar while it's going on hence forth.  Hearing it covered less would also help to that end.

Brock Zeman, Dan Walsh & Blair Hogan doing WFB from November 16, 2008 at the old Gruene Hall in New Braunfels.

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