AUK’s Chain Gang: James McMurtry “Forgotten Coast”

Teal ducks aren’t just familiar to ornithologists and AUK Chain Gang readers since last week’s inclusion of Joan Shelley’s ‘Teal’ in the series by Darren Lumbroso. “For a big chunk of the year, the blue-winged teal, Anas Discors, is the most common duck in South Florida”, or so runs the info on anyway. And although there’s no direct mention of our webbed and beaky friends on James McMurtry’s ‘Forgotten Coast’, the singer’s ‘tourist guide’ to the Florida panhandle coast contains plenty of descriptions of potentially chance duck-encountering fishing’n’boating trips while using the area to fall off the map and out of his former life. As McMurtry puts it

“I’m gonna trade my car and change my name
Put wesson oil in my bar and chain
I’m gonna fix the roadkill, black bear roast
And get fat on that forgotten coast.”

As the song title suggests, Florida’s ‘Forgotten Coast’ is one of the state’s most underdeveloped, sparsely populated areas. The glamourous skyscrapers and jetsetter life we tend to associate with Florida after watching too many episodes of ‘Miami Vice’ are very much not present in McMurtry’s accompanying video. (And unlike in the series – spoiler alert – nobody in the video has a pet alligator called Elvis either). Rather, McMurtry wanders through dried up swampland full of abandoned fishing boats (and a real semi-ruined graveyard as well), strums his steel guitar in front of a dilapidated, graffiti-daubed shack and when he reaches the point that “the percoden won’t touch the pain” winds up in a grubby motel room looking distinctly the worse for wear, drink’n’pills-wise, – the things folk do for their art. But between all that, there’s some nice footage of him going fishing in a battered boat with some locals, moseying around on a stunning looking beach and at one point – now here comes the connection – some birds, possibly teal ducks to judge by their silhouettes (full confession, I just made that last bit up), fly across the horizon.

For those disappointed there isn’t a more direct link to ducks on this week’s Chain Gang, if they ever go to Houston, McGonigel’s Mucky Duck bar is one of the city’s best known live music venues for americana and has a concert list that would drive any self-respecting americana fan, not lucky enough to be passing through that part of Texas, green with envy. But should you really want the ‘real teal’ and have some kind of transport, Florida’s Forgotten Coast isn’t too far away from Houston, either. Win-win.

About Alasdair Fotheringham 63 Articles
Alasdair Fotheringham is a freelance journalist based in Spain, where he has lived since 1992, writing mainly on current affairs and sport.
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