Monday, September 5, 2011

"...Waylon and Willie and The Boys....Say Hello to Jeff..."

Truth, the old adage offers, is often stranger than fiction.

How about when the truth is fiction?

Or, more to the point, when fiction offers up more truth than truth offers?

Got that ice cream headache in the middle of your forehead yet?

Twisted fortune cookie wisdom notwithstanding, it occurs to me that there is, among other things, a delightful irony in the fact that the product being offered by a fictional country singer seems more real than the lion's share of the merchandise rolling off the 16th Avenue assembly line these days.

After all, when someone says "essential, seminal, no frills, roots edged country music artist", I'll bet my Rorschach against your Rorschach that the first name that pops to mind is not Jeff Bridges.

And what fun to find that it pert near oughta be one of the first names that pops.

My good old days in Nashville taught me a lot of things, among them that Hollywood, historically, doesn't have a clue about Nashville.

From the early 60's when George Hamilton lip synced to Hank Jr's vocals as he "portrayed" Hank Senior (yes, kids, that George Hamilton) to such modern day Tinseltown missteps as "The Thing Called Love" and even George Strait's close, but no cigar turn as "Dusty Rhodes" in "Pure Country" (Strait was young and impressionable in those days, but I bet he doesn't have the same agent now as then...if only for allowing his client to portray a country singer named "Dusty Rhodes"...why not just name him "Music Rowe"?...), Hollywood has a near perfect record of cranking out crap, labeling it country and conspiring to cash in on the popularity of the format at any time the masses are paying attention.

In fairness, they are consistent about one thing.

They almost unfailingly portray Nashville, and country music, in terms of the way they think Nashville and country music should look and sound, as opposed to the way it actually looks and sounds.

Even the most recent high gloss "Country Strong" could just as easily have been made as "very special movie of the week" on Lifetime.


Or both.

For my movie spending money, the Hollywood hoedown wanna be's have only gotten it close to right twice.

"Tender Mercies".

"Crazy Heart".

Robert Duvall got an Oscar for the former.

Jeff Bridges for the latter.

And, in both cases, the lead actor was the lead singer, performing material that met the criteria too often missing from the garden variety sour mash melodramas.


Meanwhile, back to the irony, go in search of both the soundtrack to "Crazy Heart" and Jeff Bridges most recent, eponymous CD.

I think you'll be, as I was, surprised and delighted to find that the most throwaway stuff in either case are the inevitable "slickies" on the movie soundtrack.

The coolest, meanwhile, is the remainder of the soundtrack and the whole of the solo album.

In other words, production by T Bone Burnett and vocals by Jeff Bridges.

Amazing work.

And an oasis in a desert of paint by the numbers "country music".

Five stars from this seat in the peanut gallery.

And my fail safe litmus test as to the pristine quality of the product?

Bet your life savings that American Idol will never do a "Jeff Bridges Night".

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