In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
Whenever I’m in Nashville, I go out looking for country records. Not country CDs—country records. Here in Chicago, digging through bins marked “country and western” means checking out the same five ’80s-era Dolly Parton records over and over. But in Nashville—or Texas, where my husband’s from—I go country crazy.
I went down to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago for a forthcoming A.V. Club video project, and while I was there I did a whirlwind trip of some of my favorite LP haunts. This time, rather than just going “shouldn’t I have more Tex Ritter records?” I went in with a goal: Fill out my collection with records from About.com’s no doubt very scientific list of the top 200 country records of all time. I already had about 50 LPs from the list, and I picked up about 35 more in Nashville, including Wanted: The Outlaws, the 1976 Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser record that the list says is the best country recording of all time.
Now, having listened to it, I don’t know if I agree with that assertion, but there are a few real barnburners on the LP, including Nelson’s previously recorded version of “Me And Paul.” Written by Nelson as an ode to his years on the road with Willie Nelson Family Band drummer Paul English, “Me And Paul” tells the story of a life spent playing shows—and how simultaneously dangerous and boring that can be. Nelson says he’s “surprised to find [his] mind’s fairly sound” after being “almost busted in Laredo” and drinking too much whiskey and not being able to remember if he even played “on a package show in Buffalo.” While Nelson—a Texas boy, through and through—still thinks “Nashville was the roughest,” “We received our education in the cities of the nation, me and Paul.” It’s an honest but inspirational look at Nelson and English’s now almost 50 year career together, and a remarkably touching memorial to a friendship made on the road.