Good Old Boys

With all the talk about blasting levees lately, I just had to listen to Randy Newman’s classic album Good Old Boys today.

I first heard this song in 1977, when he came and played at Jesse Hall at Mizzou. None of my friends wanted to go, so I went to the concert by myself. It was a pretty spartan concert, just Newman and a grand piano. I became an instant fan, partly because of his deadpan stage schtick, but also because of the power of the songs themselves, many of which were from this record.

In addition to Louisiana 1927, check out Birmingham, Rednecks and Kingfish. Great songs, all, and an excellent sampling of his unique style. Good Old Boys was Newman’s most thematic album; every song offers a glimpse of the South. Some of them cut deeply, but no one is spared, not even Yankees.

Some of the material is absolutely jarring — like the incessant use of the n-word in the song Rednecks — but Newman’s use of the first-person perspective requires him to say some pretty odious things.

Over the years since 1977, I went on to buy most or all of his albums, but recently I haven’t followed him as closely since he became a virtual Disney employee. I of course had no idea about the great flood of 1927 at the time of that first concert, and didn’t really grasp what it was all about until I read Rising Tide a few years ago.

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