Many people are baffled by my love for Country music, and have a hard time figuring out what draws me to it. Well, first of all Country is essential to the development of modern popular music, from Rock’n’roll to Broadway. Also, it manages to incorporate elements from very distant musical traditions: the Irish ballad, the European folk song, the African American traditional instruments (like the Banjo) and melodies (the Blue notes).
But sincerely, what touches my heart in Country music is the way it talks about the big things of life (death, friendship, love, family, freedom, etc.) in a direct, simple yet very profound way – sometimes coming up with stunning metaphors. The examples are endless, and even a superficial look at the repertoire (of, say, Johnny Cash, or Willie Nelson) can be a rewarding, and sometimes deeply moving, experience (not unlike listening to traditional Neapolitan songs – another root of Modern music).
Love is perhaps the most common theme in songs, all over the world, since the birth of mankind. There are tunes for just about any kind of love, and it’s hard to think of something that hasn’t been said about it. One of the many poetic artifices to describe boundless love is the merging of two into one. It can be found in poetry and songs (and painting, sculpture, etc.) thousands of years old. No surprise: it’s a very effective image to describe a feeling that many of us have experienced – or longed to experience.
Take Fade Into You, for example. Written by Trevor Rosen, Shane McAnally and Matt Jenkins for the Tv series Nashville, it was perfomed by singer/actors Sam Palladio (pretty boy, not ultra-talented) and Clare Bowen (who sings like an angel, but acts a bit too much). Interestingly this tune, written by professional Country authors (usually considered hitmakers, rather than poets), is a “method song”: all verses are based on the same poetic logic. Here’s the first:
If you were the ocean and I was the sun
If the day made me heavy and gravity won
If I was the red and you were the blue
I could just fade into you.
The melody is simple, sad and desperate, with plenty of blue notes, and that third line kills me every time, especially when Bowen sings it:
If you were a window and I was the rain
I’d pour myself out and wash off your pain
I’d fall like a tear so your light could shine through
Then I’d just fade into you.
The method works wonders, and metaphors can get very poetic:
If I was a shadow and you were a street
The cobblestone midnight is where we’d first meet
Til the lights flickered out, we dance with the moon
Then I’d just fade into you.
How deeper can it get? Well, this is Country music, no image is off limits:
If I was just ashes and you were the ground
And under your willow they laid me down
there’ll be no trace that one was once two
After I fade into you.