Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, May 20, 2003
VARIOUS ARTISTS : “…AND THE ANSWER IS”….I picked up an authoritative 1950s country compilation CD a few weeks back, this one featuring the stock-in-trade country music favorite, the “answer song”. I guess this is a big thing in that horrible rap music you kids listen to nowadays, but the early country folk were doing it first (actually, as a semi-aside, there’s an entire book out now that I saw the other day dedicated to the Stagger Lee myth & the 1,001 blues songs that sprang from it – so maybe the white folk stole from the black man on the “answer song” tradition as well). Some well-known examples included here are HANK THOMPSON’s “Wild Side of Life” vs. KITTY WELLS ’ fantastic hall of fame warbler “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”; WEBB PIERCE’s alcoholic lament “There Stands The Glass” vs. BETTY CODY’s rejoinder “Please Throw Away The Glass”, and EDDY ARNOLD’s “I Really Don’t Want To Know” vs. BETTY CODY (who obviously made a career out of this – the “Lil’ Kim” of her day) and her “I Really Want You To Know”. Underlying all these dueling tales of cheating and lament are the wonderful tools of the 1950s country trade: mournful strings, early pedal steel and tearjerking tempos. Arguably the best country music of all time was created during this decade, and this 1994 Bear Family compilation does an excellent job of avoiding the fluff & going straight for the extramarital fireworks. I’d give it a big yeah-hup.