What any authentic music artist wishes to accomplish when they sit down to write a song is to convey the true emotion, story, and inspiration behind that song without any loss of detail or dilution of feeling. But of course this is easier said than done. Interpreting complex human emotions into words is a difficult enough task in itself. Then taking those words and setting them to music that does justice to those emotions makes the work that much harder. And however good an artist might be at formulating a song on paper or in their mind, the artist, and a group of other musicians, must then deliver performances that truly meet the lofty expectations of that story, those emotions, and the song’s inspiration.
Most every song starts off as a masterpiece in the artist’s mind, but most every song fails to reach that edifice because of the inherent human frailty present in all of us. And really, that frailty is what “Deadman’s Blues” by Matt Woods is about just as much as anything. He was just perfect at conveying that imperfection in song.
There’s so much that could be pinpointed in “Deadman’s Blues” that makes it special: the mournful steel guitar, the way the song slowly builds in a steady enrapturing motion that pulls you towards it, the stop near the end of the song when everything else drops out except for the voice of Matt Woods. But for me, the emotion captured in Matt’s voice is really what sets this song apart, and creates a peerless work worthy of the highest praise, and the widest ear.
Country music won’t be saved by websites, blogs, articles, organizations, or stupid awards with spurious legitimacy bestowed by Internet nerds. These things may help, but country music will be saved by songs, and songs only; songs that speak deeply, and universally to the human condition, that are bold and possess inescapable appeal and outreach, channeled through artists who are courageous enough to deliver them, and willing to sacrifice so that those songs can live. And Matt Woods, and his song “Deadman’s Blues,” are worthy of carrying that high distinction of being a song helping to save country music.
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“We ask a lot of our independent country and roots artists. We want them to release new music early and often, even though it stings them in the pocketbook to record. We want them to play our stupid town, even though it is way out of their way and the turnout will be light. We want them to perform in small, intimate venues, even though it’s not financially feasible for trying to take care of themselves, or God forbid, raise a family. We don’t want them to be too successful, lest their music loses its pain and soul. We don’t want them to age. We want them to see all the places, and do all the things we can’t, and maintain a party-filled lifestyle so we can then live vicariously though them as our own legs grow roots and our lives prosper from stability.
“We want them to sleep on floors and eat like shit and sweat on stage and drive 700 miles to entertain us for three hours before passing out in their own filth for very little money. Our favorite artists roll into town and we reach deep in our pockets and hand them over all manner of items to fuel this madness and bring misfortune to them because they trend toward addictive, self-destructive personality to a greater degree. Then we sit back and watch them fall apart right in front of our faces, because for some reason, we find a certain beauty in their struggle and undoing. We shed the desire to slowly kill ourselves in our youth, so we ask our favorite musicians to do it for us in our stead. And the musicians, driven by their dreams, are more than happy to oblige.
“And for what? If they sober up and try to find the straight and narrow, or solicit the suits for help with their music, we label them a sell out. If they don’t, it’s not very likely their music will ever afford them a sustainable living. And about the only way they will find suitable recognition for their artistic contributions is if they die young.”