Why Colonel Sartoris?

Allow me to explain the puzzling title. Colonel Sartoris is William Faulkner's greatest character. He exemplifies those values that his society cherishes, namely tradition, patriarchy, courtliness, and courage. Though modernity's slow march tries to strip him of these things, Sartoris continues to live as he always has, knowing that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." He seeks order in the honorable folkways and mores of his forbears. Let us not forget his example.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Playing Possum: I Feel Tears Wellin' Up

The original "King George" is dead.

That's incredible.  His voice--with its instinctive phrasing and pure, rich melodic notes--defined country music for decades.  He sang with and for the Establishment, the "Nashville Sound."  If he thought that strings would enrich a song, he let them in.  No Nudie suit?  Fine.  George would wear a white leisure suit.  But it simply did not matter, because whatever his producers suggested, no one could pack more emotion and meaning into a song than George Jones.

"The Nashville Sound" is and was a dirty epithet and point of contention for  fans, and rightly so.  Those people--myself included--hail Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Cory Morrow, and Jason Boland as the antitheses of Nashville's soul-destroying, over-producing hit-factory.  "The Nashville Sound" is oftentimes viewed as the antithesis of "real," soul-felt music.  Much of that sentiment rings in me.  The eschewance of overproduced "Nashville" for more organic "Texas" is a common trope.  I love all of the artists who decided to forge a path in country music through channels outside the established Nashville folkways of country stardom.

And yet I cannot escape George Jones.  And no one can.  He is to country music what Frank Sinatra was to all pop music of his generation.  The weeping steel may have been supplemented by teary strings, but it was certainly not upended by them.  George Jones's voice was simply dynamite.  Anyone who could pack that much emotion into two minutes deserves our respect, no matter his genre.  He interpreted and carried a song like no one I've heard since him.  No one on radio, country or otherwise, can bring the raw emotion (i.e., supply meaning) to song like he can.

And so I say "The King Is Gone." Every time I play guitar and sing, that song carries your influence.  Thank you for teaching us how to sing, and listen, and love, and feel.

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