By Michael Howlett
March 13, 2014
Let’s talk music, how about it?
I recently read a blog in which a writer determined which recording artists are most “distinctive” to each state in our fine union. That is to say, which artists are most closely associated with the state of their origin or most closely associated with a state by people from other states.
Now, some artists and states are easily identifiable as matches – Bruce Springsteen represents New Jersey, George Strait represents Texas and The Dave Matthews Band represents Virginia. Before I venture further, I must comment. Springsteen ranks number three in my all-time greatest list of musical talents, behind only Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, and I doubt if there is a musician anywhere more associated with his home state. The only song of Strait’s I ever remotely liked was All My Exes Live in Texas and Matthews, well, I’ll return to Mr. Mathews later.
Now, most of the artists or groups on the list are of the younger variety and a mystery to me, but there are a few of my ilk who were named. In addition to Springsteen, 64, there is another one of my all-time favorites Neil Young, 68, who, for what reason I know not, is closely associated with Connecticut. Hell, Neil is a Canadian who has lived in California since the 1970s. I don’t get it.
Then there is the Grateful Dead. Are they closely associated with California? Nnooooo, try New Hampshire. I can only figure there was a mass migration east of Hippies at some point, but I missed it. If so, it would also explain the Dead’s jam-band successor, Phish, being named the band most closely associated with Vermont, New Hampshire’s next door neighbor. I can only hope that Ken Burns will do one of his 10-part documentaries on this historical phenomenon.
Okay, so the Grateful Dead does not represent California, so who does? If you said the Jefferson Airplane, you, dear reader, would be wrong. Well then, you might say, it has to be The Eagles. Wrong again. Try saying Bonobo, especially after you’ve knocked back a few; if you can, you have named the winner. Once again, I have no earthly clue what a Bonobo is; it sort of sounds like an impaired individual trying to say Bono is a bozo, which is something I agree with.
Let’s look at some country stars - Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and the group Florida Georgia Line. Now, McGraw is from Louisiana so naturally he is linked to Montana, while Shelton is from Oklahoma so he is associated with Indiana. Despite the fact that the two guys who form Florida Georgia Line are from, you guessed it, Florida and Georgia, the band for some reason is linked with Ohio. I really don’t care for the music of any of these entertainers, but I think Shelton is a funny and entertaining guy on TV’s The Voice.
Now, earlier I promised we’d get back to Virginia and Dave Matthews, and here we are. I find Matthews talented, but I’m not a big fan. About the best I can say is thank God that people don’t think of Bruce Hornsby, Juice Newton, or Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart when they think of Virginia hit makers. In case you’re not up on you musical history, Boyce and Hart was the songwriting duo responsible for the theme for the TV show The Monkees, and one of the Monkees’ greatest hits, “Last Train to Clarksville.”
So, you may say, who would I select to represent the Old Dominion if that choice was in my hands.. Well, I can think of several better choices than Matthews – Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Them Crooked Vultures, Patsy Cline, Ralph Stanley and Charlie Byrd for example. However, I have two performers who stand out as my top choices.
My runnerup for Virginia’s musical representative would be Steve Earle, an excellent lyricist probably most noted for the song “Copperhead Road.” The drawback with Earle is that although he was born in Virginia, his family moved to San Antonio, Tex., prior to his second birthday, so I have to nix him.
That brings us to my choice and it is an easy one - Emmylou Harris, possessor of the most beautiful voice this side of Heaven. Hell, I take that back, I doubt an angel could sing any sweeter than Emmy Lou. Now, to be honest, Emmylou was born in Alabama, which is still much closer to Virginia than Matthews’ home country of South Africa. However, she spent her formative years in Woodbridge, Va., graduating from high school there before attending UNC-Greensboro on a drama scholarship. Since then, she has put together an amazing musical career that encompasses the country, folk and rock genres.
I could go on and on about Emmylou, about her beautiful voice, her unique ability to interpret a song, her own songwriting ability, the way she rocks gray hair like no woman alive, the … okay, the Mistress of the Manor has told me that I best cool my jets, because it will be hard to type with broken fingers.
So, in conclusion, David Matthews still beats the heck out of Juice Newton.
Michael Howlett can be contacted at 276-728-7311, email@example.com or on Twitter@MikeEHowlett