Thursday, 12 January 2017
January #6 - Pledging Allegiance To The Hag
6. Eric Church (featuring Merle Haggard) - Pledge Allegiance To The Hag
There is a great tradition in contemporary country music of songs about how no one understands us, everybody looks down on us, how we have to stick together to protect country from those who look down their noses on it, how we must stay unashamedly, resolutely COUNTRY! Seriously, I can't think of any other genre of music with more songs expressing a communal chip on the shoulder: goth, emo, indie, rap... country beats them all. Being a little bit country myself (hey, I grew up on a farm!) AND from the half of my country which is traditionally looked down on by the other half (in America, it's the South, in Britain it's the North), I can understand this. But I can also understand how it might be a little off-putting to country newbies to keep coming up against songs which won't let you embrace them unless your neck is red.
On first listen, Eric Church's Pledge Allegiance To The Hag sounds like just another celebration of all things provincial. But Church is smarter than that and uses the template to say much bigger things about belonging, mortality and his hero... Merle Haggard.
Haggard was yet another of 2016's legendary music business losses. His death probably went unnoticed by most people in the UK where he's hardly a household name, but in large parts of America he'll have been mourned more than Bowie, Prince and George put together. Church's song was recorded ten years before Merle's death, but the verse Merle sings hits a lot harder now...
One of these days when my time has come
You can take me back to where I'm from
Put me on a westbound train
An' ship me off in the pourin' rain
Don't cry for me when I'm gone
Just put a quarter in the jukebox an' sing me back home
If you were never into country music, this isn't the one to convert you, but it's one of the songs I'm listening to this month, and that's why it's here...