Album #323 – Good Old Boys

Album #323

Good Old Boys was meant to be a concept album about life in the South through the eyes of one man during Civil War-Era America. Instead, it became an album filled with songs about lost love and historical injustice. Listening to the songs on this album felt at times like listening to a musical history lesson. Randy Newman has a rare gift of making these songs so vivid and real that it can make casual listeners of Newman’s music uncomfortable. I was immediately struck by the lyrical content within this album’s opener, Rednecks. I had to keep telling myself as I was listening to Rednecks that, this is how it was in the South during this time. These attitudes are not Newman’s, but were the attitudes of many. Newman covers many social issues including poverty, racism and political injustice. Most of these songs are moments in time and Newman perfectly captures them. But, there is also another side to Good Old Boys that most don’t look at. The “love songs” on this album, including Marie, Guilty and Rollin’, have romantic overtones. They may not have been intended to be love songs but, when I heard them for the first time, the lyrics and the tone struck me as such. But, these songs describe love and romance during difficult times. Recently, Newman was announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 2013. It is well deserved. Now, I can see the side of the people who can’t stand him. They say that his songs all sound the same, that he can’t sing or that he is not deserving of this honor. MAD TV,and Will Sasso in particular, did an hilarious send up of Newman in three sketches. Sasso played Newman perfectly and showed just how silly his singing voice can appear to be. But, Newman’s voice suits these songs and the way he sings them, makes you step up and take notice. There are lots of great singers and lots of great songwriters out there. It takes a special kind of talent to be both and be effective. Newman achieves this with the album Good Old Boys. Other highlights include:  Birmingham, Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man), Louisiana 1927 (one of Newman’s best), Kingfish (written about former Louisiana governor Huey Long) and Back On My Feet Again (a song which features Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Don Henley, then with the Eagles, on backing vocals and Ry Cooder on slide guitar). Overall, I give Good Old Boys 5 out of 5.

Next: Natty Dread by Bob Marley and The Wailers

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