I created this mix just a couple weeks ago, meaning it came less than two months after the last one, by far the shortest span between mixes so far. Even though I live in L.A., which has a better selection of radio stations than most markets, I find myself listening to CDs almost constantly when I’m in the car. It’s not that I don’t like modern rock; I enjoy KROQ as much as the next guy, especially the fact that they still feel weirdly obligated to play Sublime every hour. It’s just that I get tired of thumbing back and forth between stations, catching snatches of songs I tolerate and trying to avoid commercials. It’s easier to listen to albums I love, of which there are many, and to pop in these mixes whenever I make them. As usual, the mix reflects songs I’ve been listening to for years (“Horses,” “The Fox”) with songs that are newer to me (“Without Goodbye”) or that I’m pleasantly rediscovering after one of those weird dormant periods where you forget you own certain CDs or songs (“Winner’s Casino,” “In Lieu of Flowers”). Happily, almost all the tracks are available via iTunes, though as always, I recommend picking up the full albums at your local used CD store. Happiness is worth $7 a pop.
1. “Horses” (live), Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers — A faster, amped-up version of a track that originally appeared on The Refreshments’ The Bottle & Fresh Horses, before Clyne formed his new band. Clyne has since slidden into a bit of artistic disrepair, but this song is a reminder of his country-rock glory days.
2. “W-I-F-E,” Old 97′s — A solid, swinging song that’s made for drinking, or singing in the shower. I choose both. The lesson of the song: When choosing between your wife, your girlfriend, or your rampant alcoholism, always go with the booze.
3. “Pinball Song,” Slobberbone — I admit, this song was already on a previous mix. I duped it by accident. But this is my fifth mix, meaning I’ve cobbled together about 100 songs on these playlists, and sometimes in my eagerness to include a song I really love I forget to check if I’ve used it before. Sue me.
4. “Winner’s Casino,” Richmond Fontaine — A great song from a concept album from Richmond Fontaine, meaning it trails off into static and weird ambient noise that doesn’t really add to the song and almost detracts from its overall impact (I call this the “mid-period Wilco effect”).
5. “Without Goodbye,” Two Dollar Pistols — A great, classic-sounding song. Lead singer John Howie, Jr. says “where” like “whar,” which kinda reminds me of how my father says “warsh” for “wash.” So there you go.
6. “Stickshifts and Safety Belts,” Cake — This has been in my head since I was a freshman in college.
7. “Start With Amazing Grace,” Zane Williams — Zane Williams has slept on my couch.
8. “Box Full of Letters,” Wilco — A.M. is still my favorite Wilco album. I own many of them, and love so many moments on Being There, Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and Sky Blue Sky. But I’ll always love this one the most. Simple, powerful country-rock.
9. “More Than I Can Do,” Steve Earle — There’s always an undercurrent of creepiness in songs about pursuing a woman until she’s yours, and this one’s no exception. I mean, it’s a great song, and I Feel Alright is a desert island album, but something about telling a woman you won’t leave her yard even if she calls the cops is a little sketchy. (Also, I think this song would be great if you laid it under the scene in the movie where the killer catches up to the victim and murders them. I know that’s weird, but admit it, that’s a good idea. Somebody at “Dexter” needs to make that happen.)
10. “Back to Me,” Kathleen Edwards — Amazing song, and sensual. The way she howls “come” and drags out that vowel … come on. We all know where you’re going with that, Kathleen. And it’s awesome.
11. “Jolene,” Mindy Smith w/ Dolly Parton — A great cover that gets a boost of credibility (not that Mindy Smith needed it) by having Parton sit in on the harmony.
12. “Bramble Rose,” Tift Merritt — It’s gonna be okay, Tift.
13. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” Johnny Cash — One of the all-time classic songs, from the last album Cash released before he died.
14. “The Fox,” Nickel Creek — This has been in my head since high school.
15. “Casino Queen,” Wilco — Everything I said above.
16. “Long Time Gone,” Dixie Chicks — I remember the summer this song came out, and how I couldn’t get enough of it. I worked for the campus maintenance crew at my college, and it was a generally terrible summer, but while driving the van from the shop to campus, I would listen to the radio and wonder how far I could get if I just stole the van and headed for home.
17. “You Don’t Have Far to Go,” Merle Haggard — Old, old school, from Hag’s first album.
18. “That’s All It Took,” Gram Parsons — You can never go wrong with Gram Parsons.
19. “In Lieu of Flowers,” Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion — The first track on Exploration is the best one. The way Guthrie and Irion blend their harmonies is fantastic.
20. “Fire in the Canyon,” Fountains of Wayne — Fountains of Wayne slip into country every now and then, and it always sounds good.
21. “Save It For a Rainy Day,” The Jayhawks — An old roommate of mine heard me playing this CD one day and was convinced this song was used in a movie or TV show he’d recently seen, though it wasn’t. That’s how bright and elemental and good this song is: You will think you’ve heard it before, but that’s because it already exists in your soul, and Gary Louris is just pulling it out. He’s good at that.
22. “Cheatin’,” Gin Blossoms — New Miserable Experience is a great album, and it’s marked halfway through and at the very end by interesting genre exercises that diverge from the rest of the record’s early-’90s pop-rock. The first is “Cajun Song” — so, so good — and the second is “Cheatin’,” an upbeat, countryish lament that’s better than most people give it credit for being. Granted, the chorus is a bit confusing; when the singer explains away his infidelity by saying of his mistress, “She made me feel just like a woman should / You can’t call it cheatin’ because she reminds me of you,” I always wonder, “So, she made you feel like a woman should? So, you feel like a woman?” I think “She made me feel just like a woman could” or “She made me feel just like a man should” would be clearer, but then again, I’m not a suicidal songwriting genius, so what do I know. Regardless, it’s a great song.