Let’s counterbalance pain with pleasure.
Americana UK’s Chain Gang seems to have disappeared down a rabbit hole of drug addiction and pain, so I have attempted to pull it right out and place it back on a more joyful footing. Yes, much country music deals with suffering, despair and drink-induced meditations on failure; but there is music that celebrates love, joy and even pleasure.
Lucinda Williams produced one of the seminal Americana albums in ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’; well, it made number 3 on the writers’ vote and number 1 on the readers’ vote in AUK’s poll. Therefore, Williams’ superb album combining country, blues and soul with a real feeling for the best elements of pop music needs no introduction.
The album opens with the astounding ‘Right In Time’, which is one of the bravest, most honest and uncompromising songs ever recorded in this, or any, genre. It is not totally clear whether the singer is parted from the man she loves, or whether he has left her. Probably the second. It is clear, however, the strength of the impression he has left on her: “it’s a permanent tattoo.”
As the singer thinks of him there is only one response that makes sense. I’ll leave the details to the song:
“I take off my watch and my earrings
My bracelets and everything
Lie on my back and moan at the ceiling
Oh my baby”
It’s a visceral piece of songwriting that leaves the listener feeling like a voyeur. But it makes perfect sense in the context of the song.
Yes, there is pain in being left alone, but the singer balances that with an intensely personal pleasure.