Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Songs of the Fifty States: Hawaii to Maryland

Everybody Does it in Hawaii - Jimmie Rodgers

The first artist that comes to mind here is probably Elvis Presley, right? Or the Hawaii Five-O theme tune (did you know that Dweezil Zappa has recorded the latter?)? Or maybe even Brian Wilson? Well how about something a little off the beaten track for the youngest of the 50 states (which became the 50th state on August 21st, 1959)? Also worth a mention is John Prine's Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian. And The Strokes' Hawaii Aloha is also pretty good.

Some more Hawaii facts (from Wikipedia)...it is the only US state that:

  • is not geographically located in North America
  • is completely surrounded by water
  • has a royal palace
  • does not have a straight line in its state boundary
  • continuously grows in area (due to currently active lava flows, most notably from Kilauea)

Did you know that Captain James Cook (who was from Middlesbrough, where I grew up!) was the first European 'visitor' in 1778? He named the islands 'The Sandwich Islands' after the Earl of Sandwich, who was one of his sponsors on his travels, and he was killed for abducting an Hawaiian chief as ransom for a stolen boat. The inactive volcano Mauna Kea is actually the tallest mountain in the world, and is 4436 feet taller than Mount Everest. However this relies on measuring below sea level, as only 13,796 feet stand above water. Oh, and Bette Midler was born there.

Idaho - The BoDeans

Idaho - Yonder Mountain String Band

When it came to Idaho, after my planned track of My Own Private Idaho by the B-52s was so rudely taken by SMM, I found that I really could not decide between the two tracks above; I think I prefer the BoDeans song, but the Yonder Mountain String Band track is indubitably more 'country', and there is some awesome banjo picking. Another 'sod it, have both' state! Josh Ritter's a capella Idaho is, incidentally, also lovely.

The Illinois Enema Bandit - Frank Zappa

This is the longest song in this list by far, coming in at 9 minutes and 25 seconds (think yourselves lucky...I have five versions of this song, and could have made you sit through 12 minutes and 42 seconds...you got off lightly! This particular version comes from Kreega Bondola). The story that the song is based on is true, and is not a very nice one!

Read about the Enema Bandit (Michael H. Kenyon).

Sufjan Stevens (Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois - he has a full album dedicated to the state in Come On Feel the Illinoise) and Skip James (Illinois Blues) were cut from the list late in the day, as I figured that a song this length was plenty for one state, and any bonus tracks would be over-egging it a little!

Up in Indiana (Acoustic) - Lyle Lovett

Unceremoniously robbed of North Dakota, Mr Lovett finally gets to make an appearance here. And it's certainly a catchy one. Indiana was one of the states that I also posted a track for at Star Maker Machine, where my entry was a bit of a cheeky one - Tom Petty's Mary Jane's Last Dance, which was originally called Indiana Girl!

Just listen to little Michael Jackson's vocals here...they are amazing! This was back in the day, when he was a young, black kid out of Gary, Indiana whose best friend (i.e. favourite song he performed) was a rat named Ben. How times change!

Iowa (Traveling III) - Dar Williams

Perhaps my favourite song of the entire set, and one that has previously featured here on this very blog. It is THE Iowa song! "I have never had a way with women" - I hear you sister! Eleni Mandell's Iowa City is also a great song, but very little tops this Dar Williams track - it is simply gorgeous.

Manhattan, Kansas - Donna Fargo

Kansas was a tough cookie to crack, courtesy of all the (great) songs out there about Kansas City, Missouri. Aside from those, there just seem to be a lot of dreadful rock songs! Anything following Dar Williams has a lot to live up to, and this was the best that I could find - Fargo's vocals sound, to me, a lot like Loretty, which is never a bad thing. This state immediately makes me think of Dorothy Gale, who will feature (kind of!) later on...

Blue Moon of Kentucky - Patsy Cline

Kentucky is another one of those states (it is even called The Bluegrass State!) that offers a great deal of choice, with lots of fantastic songs available (see Paul's post over at STWOF for a further 16!!), so why did I choose to post this (relatively obvious) one? And why this version, when so many have sung this track? Because I absolutely love Patsy Cline and can never listen to the "mo-on" part enough (I have no idea if there is a name for the way she sings that bit, so I hope that you know what I mean!).

Louisiana Women - Waylon Jennings

Again lots of choice for this state. My first port of call would have been Randy Newman and Louisiana 1927 if it were not for those pesky peeps over the way (the list there was a great one). It is immediately clear, in listening to this Waylon Jennings track, that it was written by the marvellous J.J. Cale...it has his sound stamped all over it. A cracking, subtly-played entry with some corking harmonica.

This track is another one that I discovered in the course of my research, and it was a good'un, so it appears here as an 'added extra'. Honourable mentions go to The Charlie Daniels Band with Louisiana Saturday Night and Hank Williams' Jambalaya (On the Bayou), which does not qualify, as it does not contain the state name, but is possibly more about Louisiana than any other song I know!

Going to Maine - The Mountain Goats

I shall not lie - this was the only Maine track that I had/could find that was worth posting (except for Maine Island Lovers by Okkervil River, but I couldn't find out if that was really about the state, due to being a UK resident who is not all that clued up on US geography!)...thanks heavens for The Mountain Goats! (P.s. Fortunately, it is a decent song!). It is also the shortest song to feature in this collection, coming in at just one minute and 41 seconds.

Maryland County Road - Erica Wheeler

There are not so many Maryland songs out there, as far as I can tell (although The Mountain Goats again have it covered). Maryland is apparently, however, the richest state in the US in a pecuniary sense. I also seriously considered Sarah Brightman and Murder in Maryland Park but summised that, although a smashing song, it was not enough about the state itself.



Niiiice, I see you're at it again with yet another creative theme post, D! I'm continually impressed by your wealth of musical knowledge--seriously!! Keep up the killer pieces on your site...

Divinyl said...

Thanks BB :o) I will try! Lol. There are a few more planned...as well as some actual reviews and stuff too!