Category Archives: Songwriting

Pickin’ on Ninnies

Saturday a listener named Liz posted a comment on the Paper and Pen page. I was going to respond there, but then decided that the question was important enough to merit a post. Liz wrote: “When the pickaninnies pick the … Continue reading

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Extra! Fiddlin’ John Carson Played Tex’s ‘Christmas Time’ in 1927!

Well, sort of. After I played Tex Logan fiddling his composition, ‘Christmas Time’s a-Comin’’ with The Lane Brothers, followed by Bill Monroe’s classic first recording of the song, listener Paul Murphy emailed me with this news (reprinted with his permission): … Continue reading

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The Whiskey Gentry’s Dead Ringer—Is Lauren Staley!

Hits and Misses 8 “It was a face I’d seen a thousand times at every Derby I’d been to.  I saw it, in my head, as the mask of the whiskey gentry – a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams, … Continue reading

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‘Maple Sugar’, Sweetheart!

Last Saturday (5May) on a whim I played an instrumental version of the fiddle tune ‘Maple Sugar’ (sans fiddle) from White Mountain Bluegrass, and mentioned that the first version I recalled was from Doc Williams, “with words.” As it turns … Continue reading

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Lee Ann Womack—Beautiful Singing, Strange Production

(Hits and Misses 7) Lee Ann Womack (ATO Records, 2017) Back in 2014, Suzy Bogguss released an album of Merle Haggard songs, called Lucky. It was for the most part delightful, as Suzy’s crystalline voice always is, but to my … Continue reading

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No Particular Place to Go

Chuck Berry reportedly wrote that title in prison (for transporting a 14-year-old girl across state lines, violating the Mann Act).  The song devolves into an amusing anecdote when the the protagonist cannot get the young lady’s ‘safety belt’ unbuckled, but … Continue reading

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HA’ppenings: Del Resurrects Woody!

Woody Guthrie reportedly left some 3,000 manuscript songs behind, most if not all lyrics without a hint of melody.  Back in the ’30s and ’40s there were no smart phones, tape recorders, and precious few wire recorders.  Radio stations had … Continue reading

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Another Songwriter Gone: Guy Clark (1941–2016)

Guy Clark was a crusty fellow with a laconic Texas reticence, which belied a whimsy that comes out in some of his songs, like “Too Much,” Too much workin’ll make your back ache Too much trouble’ll bring you a heartbreak … Continue reading

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Merle, Hank, and The Art of the Song

“I look for songs in the world around me”—Merle Haggard I’ve been taking Merle Haggard for granted, for too long.  And suddenly, he’s gone. Merle has been a part of my life since the ’60s, so much a fixture that … Continue reading

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“Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”: The Composer’s Grandson Writes

Almost two years ago I posted an article about the history of a hymn we have played on the Hillbilly at Harvard Christmas Extravangaza for years and years: The Stanley Brothers‘ recording on King Records of “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”; … Continue reading

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