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Monday, July 4, 2011

American Poets

Almost ten years ago, Hubby and I were out-of-this-world LUCKY to attend our first ever “Pickin’ Party” in Austin, Texas. We were among only about 50 others who were invited to enjoy three Nashville songwriters (Matthew McConaughey was there)—totally unplugged. They sat on stools on a small stage in a small conference room at a great hotel and sang HIT songs they had written or co-written for big Country Singin’ Superstars. George Strait, Willie Nelson, Keith Urban, Randy Travis, Collin Raye, Alison Kraus, Kenny Chesney and Neal McCoy—just to name a few.

Since then, Hubby and I have had the privilege of seeing the following songwriters (once in Nashville—TLC was with us and was completely blown away by the experience):

Aaron Barker, (Love Without End for George Strait and Good Old Days—for Blue Bell Ice Cream! It’s him singing that song in their commercials!);

Richie McDonald, formerly of the group Lonestar (I’m Already There, Mr. Mom, Amazed);

Paul Overstreet, (yep, Chord’s Dad!) (She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy);

Mike Reid (a retired professional football player turned composer) who wrote I Can’t Make You Love Me (with Allan Shamblin—Bonnie Raitt made it HUGE);

Don Schlitz, who wrote The Gambler;

Dan Seals (whose brother was in Seals & Croft—he was in England Dan with John Ford Coley), who wrote Meet Me In Montana, which he sang with Marie Osmond (Dan died in 2009 from complications of cancer—how appreciative I am to have seen him a couple of years before that);

Whitey Shafer, who wrote All My Exes Live In Texas for George Strait; and

Allen Shamblin, who won a CMA award for Song of the Year for co-writing The House That Built Me, sung by Miranda Lambert. Miranda also won a Grammy this year for this song and it won the ACM Song of the Year.

At all eight Pickin’ Parties we’ve attended, we’ve seen Allen Shamblin. He is the most talented, creative, kindest, funniest, delightful man you could ever hope to meet. We’ve seen Aaron Barker at least five times and he, too, is extremely talented, creative, funny, interesting and charming.

All of the songwriters I listed have written many, many, many hit songs that you know—and love. If you Google them for their individual websites, you will be Simply Amazed. (Reckon Richie McDonald would co-write that song with me?)

Two weeks ago Saturday, Hubby and I were fortunate to be at a “Pickin Party Picnic” in Gainesville, Texas, where we were entertained by Allen, Mike Reid and Don Schlitz. There was quite a huge thunderstorm that hit minutes before they were to begin and it looked like it wouldn’t happen. For all two hundred of us there, it did work out and they were, as always, incredible. As they took turns singing their songs, cutting up, making us LOL, they told a little about themselves, their families, the history of the songs. They had all written with each other, too—many times over the years.

I believe these men (and many women songwriters!) are American Poets. Whether their songs are serious, funny, deep, light, sad, happy, full of wisdom or full of silly, they are poets and their songs are poetry.

I didn’t grow up even tolerating Country Music. I grew up loving The Beatles (British Poets—Lennon and McCartney); Frank Sinatra; Doris Day; Big Bands; Jazz; Elvis; and the Rock and Hard Rock Bands of the 60s and 70s. I was exposed to Country Music periodically—mostly on Hee Haw—and wasn’t impressed. I became a dedicated and lifetime fan when I attended college at a small state university in Texas. (I had quickly learned I needed to love it—or find a new school!) It truly became oh-so-easy for me to treasure.

I admire Diane Warren, James Taylor, Carole King and countless other songwriters—past and present—in many different genres. My Pickin’ Country Poets (including Taylor Swift), however, have 98% of my devotion. I was walking yesterday morning to our gate, listening to my iPod, when I heard Pam Tillis singing The River and the Highway. I knew immediately it was the song I wanted to use as an example of American Poetry. Little did I know, when I went to research it, that Don Schlitz—who I just saw in Gainesville—was one of the two writers of this haunting song. Awesome.

Please enjoy this "poetry" (and please consider buying the song for your iPod—you won't regret it):

The River and the Highway
By Gerry House and Don Schlitz

She follows the path of least resistance
She doesn’t care to see the mountain top
She twists and turns with no regard to distance
She never comes to a stop.

And she rolls, she’s a river,
Where she goes, time will tell
Heaven knows, he can’t go with her
And she rolls, all by herself
All by herself

He’s headed for a single destination
He doesn’t care what’s standing in his path
He’s a line between two points of separation
He ends just where it says to on the map

And he rolls, he’s a highway
Where he goes, time will tell
Heaven knows, she can’t go with him
And he rolls, all by himself
All by himself

And every now and then, he offers her a shoulder
And every now and then, she overflows
And every now and then, a bridge crosses over
It’s a moment every lover knows

And she rolls (and he rolls)
She’s a river (he’s a highway)
Where she goes (where he goes)
Time will tell (time will tell)
Heaven knows she can’t go with him (he can’t go with her)
And she rolls all by herself
And he rolls all by himself
Fare thee well

Compelling. Sad. Touching. True. Real. Honest.


Happy 4th of July, America—and American Poets…

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