One of country music’s strengths has always been its songwriting. Its ability to connect to its audience with the truth. That’s what initially drew me to country music. The music was more than just instruments and cool beats, it had life and character and everything that goes along with those qualities – humor, humility, love, anger, compassion and history.
Therefore, I’ve found it unfortunate in recent years that mainstream country has focused more on combining a catchy hook with an awesome guitar solo and some cool beats, than in relaying the truth. I realize that may be where the trend (and therefore the money) is heading these days, but, in my opinion, it’s not where the heart of country music lies.
However, I can’t say that great songs – particularly story songs – are not out there … they’re just harder to find. One of my recent finds was a song by Canadian roots duo Twilight Hotel, called “The Ballad of Salvador & Isabelle,” from their album Highway Prayer. In true country fashion, it makes my heart ache every time I listen to it. The song relates in narrative fashion the tale of two siblings from Mexico trying to find a better life in America.
For me, the song was enhanced by how Dave Quanbury (one half of Twilight Hotel and the song’s writer) explained it to the 9513 last January:
“I think a lot of people probably wouldn’t agree with that song … [but] I think it’s a story that needs to be told. And I think that’s what songwriters do, really–even if you don’t have any direct connection to it…what we do is observe situations and express those observations and issues, and then the listener can interpret them how they want.”
I challenge you to listen to “The Ballad of Salvador & Isabelle” and not make it to the end. It is one of those rare songs where you simply have to finish listening because you want (and have) to know what happens.
Discussion: What is your favorite classic story song? Any recent discoveries? Please share.