Carmelita, Hold Me Tighter

Warren Zevon SmallWarren Zevon at first glance would not strike you as one to have a lot of “influence” in the realm of country music. I always knew him through his bit songs like “Werewolves of London,” which became an immediate punch out after years of being tirelessly run into the ground through Clear Channel’s shallow song rotation. The exception is his 1972 composition about a heroin addict called “Carmelita.”

With unexpected country soul and tackling subject matter that was almost unheard of at the time, “Carmelita” has spoken now to generations of of country artists who’ve added their own takes to the song. Just like The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” which has its own heroin references and seems to be making the rounds in a country resurgence, the song seems to speak to some universal truth that even the needle-less listener can get behind. Here’s a couple of my favorite takes on the classic:

GG Allin took time away from defecating on stage and throwing all manner of bodily fluids at crowds to record “Carmelita” on probably his most professional and well done album Carnival of Excess. Known more as a punk performer, GG idolized Hank Williams and saw him as a kindred spirit, and was inspired to put out a strictly-country album. “Carmalita” might be the best song on the record, and the most-played GG Allin song ever. Here’s the official video from Ponk Media:

The textbook definition of a regional celebrity, Danny Balis and his band The King Bucks have been performing soulful, true country around Dallas for a while now, and making enough noise that its starting to permeate outside of the north Texas scene. Fast forward through the first minute of banter, and you will witness one of the most soulful singing performances of this song I have ever seen:

How about from someone who needs no introduction, Mr. Dwight Yoakam:

You can also check out performances from Cross Canadian Ragweed, Linda Ronstadt, and an up and comer who says he’s making country ugly again, Gabe Zander.