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The Fasting Life

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Artemy Doronin
Artemy Doronin

The Last Of The Cowboys - Trucker Tribute

Eddie Rabbit hits were all over the radio in the early 1980s. Driving My Life Away is one of his biggest hits, and it hits the mark as a tribute to truckers. The uptempo pace feels like you are barreling down an interstate and seeing the country.

The last of the Cowboys - Trucker Tribute

Truck driving is an iconic job in America for a good reason. Even before truck drivers became known as essential workers, they were always essential workers. The lasting legacies of truckers are captured in song for generations to appreciate.

You trend-obsessed hipsters out there (you know who you are) may think that this celebration of trucking is end-of-the-millennium retro fever for the 1970's brief infatuation with trucking and the CB Radio (as exhibited in pop-culture moments like BJ and The Bear). But this interest in trucking music taps a much deeper nostalgia, which is the desire to recapture the authentic honky-tonk feeling of country music. Truckers represent a last source of the cowboy spirit that makes America, country music and trucking great. From where I stand (sit, actually), we really owe it to our sleep-deprived truckers to listen to the songs that honor them once in a while and to try to understand the things that matter to these folks who spend their lives on the road. In our super-high tech world, where you and I are probably as likely to cruise the information superhighway as we are to drive I-95, we still rely on our tireless truckers to keep life as we know it moving. Take this bumper sticker spotted last month on that super-slab called the New Jersey Turnpike: "When Truckers Stop, America Stops." Without these guys making their runs we would be in a sorry state, desperate for fresh veggies, new CDs and yesterday's paper. So here's to smooth roads, hot coffee and some great trucking tunes.

Junior Brown is known for his novelty songs like, "Venom Wearing Denim," "Joe the Singing Janitor," and "Surf Medley," which features parts of surf classics like "Pipeline," "Walk Don't Run," and best of all, "Secret Agent Man!" These plus the title track make up some of the best of Semi-Crazy, Junior's 1996 release on Curb Records. Junior's near-virtuoso guitar work on his signature double-necked steel/rhythm guitar, which he calls the guit-steel, graces the album with some truly hot licks. "Semi-Crazy," is a rollicking vocal duet between Junior and Red Simpson. In it they wonder about the sanity of living a trucker's life, but can't deny the powerful hold it has. Red Simpson's gravelly voice really delivers on lines like "I been drivin' so long I got diesel in my blood and 90 weight oil on my brain." Accompanied by Junior on the guit-steel it's a fitting tribute to the trade. The cover art on this disc is especially fun as it features the band standing on the back of an old truck cab. But my favorite trucking moment comes at the end of the title track, a conversation between Junior and Red in genuine CB lingo. Keep on the look-out for Junior because his live act is hard to beat in New York City's overly techno-hyped and too cool for me scene. As much as I love Junior, this disc only rates a 12 of 18 wheels, simply because I wanted to hear more trucking tunes.

Maine's Diesel Doug and the Long Haul truckers' 1997 effort "An Angel Not A Saint" on Sad Bird Records opens with "Never Lookin' Down." This song reminisces about virginity lost in the back of the cab, while hauling paper from the mill in Westbrook, (possibly the stinkiest town in all of the Great State). It's hard to beat memories like those, even when they're not yours. The road theme is carried on in the plaintive sounding "Not Much To Say" where the road serves as a metaphor for the future. The last track on the album, "18 Wheels of Love" is a real country twanger that tells the familiar story of a truck-driving man who wants to get home to his cutie-pie to relieve "the tiger in his jeans." This album reeks like your local beer joint at about 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning in July, which is pleasant only for the dim memories of Saturday night. Singer Scott Link's flat singing voice makes it unlikely that Diesel Doug will get beyond bar band status, though if I happen to be riding through the Pine-Tree State, I might check them out at Gritty McDuff's, home to some of Portland's finest micro-brews. Despite the effort behind the music, plus the hot mama tattoo art on the cover, I give these guys a Flat Tire! Sorry Doug!

Sonny George's 1998 release Truckin' Countryon Spinout Records is destined to become a modern classic in the world of trucking music. Sonny takes on some themes not typically covered in your average macho gear jamming tunes, all the while making some joyful country-punkabilly noise. "The Ballad of Big Joe" which is probably the only song that celebrates that rare breed of cross-dressing drivers is the most unusual on the disc, and damn funny too. "The Ghostman Trucker" tells of a driver returned from the dead and features a great retro-guitar sound. The instrumental tune, "Jackknife," features a great punk-rock sensibility that got me just a little rowdy. "The Truck Stops Here" is a twist on the usual story, with Sonny singing the part of the spouse left at home waiting for his trucker-gal to put the hammer down and come on home to him. The last cut on the record, "Truckin' Country" is a love song dedicated to the genre and it's heroes, Dave Dudley, and C.W. McCall, among others. Sonny's album features some pretty goofy Adobe Photoshop art on the cover, along with vintage road maps and kudos to the American Trucking Association, the Tennessee Department of Highways and our beloved Brotherhood of Teamsters. If you want to hear the future of trucking music, this is it, a righteous album that I give 17 Big Wheels. Definitely check this one out for your next road trip.

How amazing would it be to be a small part of this? Whether you're a trucker or you can share her story with some truckers you know, who wouldn't be a fan of this planned tribute she is putting together her dad.

"I need all my truckers to get on their CB and do one last thing for me. Say something along the lines of "Hey Paper Chaser," that's what my dad called himself. "It's one year in and we're still holding to road down for you. Just continue to rest in peace."

Mr. Martin was a log trucker and over-the-road truck driver most of his life. The last 22 years before his retirement on June 10, 2008, he worked for Melton Truck Lines, driving millions of miles, and receiving several company awards for safety. He enjoyed fishing and hunting, liked dogs and Nascar, and was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Mr. Martin was reliable and a good friend to everyone he met.

Chances are the office or the factory is the last thing you want to think about on your day off, but these 10 best work songs are all tributes to the good ol' American work ethic. They're songs about you and your fight to make sure there's food on the table every night. Could there be a better reason for a holiday?

A portion of sales from the Truck On album will benefit the St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund. The fund aids truckers who have had financial difficulties due to an illness or injury, occurring within the last year.

Allen starred in nearly 50 movies, narrated 150 Walt Disney specials and often starred in commercials. He was considered the last of the silver-screen cowboys and outlived his contemporaries, including Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

"The myth of the American West--lawless lands, resolute heroes--takes on a grave, elegiac quality on this first, and best, collaboration from Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. There's little bravado here, just a sense of ticking time, of frontiers lost, cowboys singing their last songs. In the end, Highwayman works because it fuses mythic, serious material with the artists' own legendary personas and well-aged voices. Lesser lights would be lucky to muddle through Jimmy Webb's epic title track; these four cagey desperados make every fantastic image believable. If Chips Moman surrounds them with less than subtle layers of guitars, keyboards, and drums, he does update vintage progressive country in a suitably cosmic but rugged fashion. Romantic legends and production values notwithstanding, it's the tough, wise singing here that's the real draw." -Roy Kasten - All Music Guide 041b061a72


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