The Freelance Mentalists.
Monday, May 03, 2004
 
Some Songs Don't Suck Like a Leatherneck on a Longneck

"Back in the Saddle," Matraca Berg (included on both Sunday Morning and Saturday Night and the 1999 re-issue of Lying to the Moon and Other Stories), 1997.

OVERVIEW: This is the best country song to never be a chart hit. (Highest position: #51, 1998. This is a damned shame and I feel ill.)

SCENARIO: Horny suburban woman breaks out of holistic "dude ranch," falls for cowboy stud, wants to do him.

THE FIVE GREATEST THINGS ABOUT IT, IN REVERSE ORDER:

5. Syncopated acoustic strum be-bopping between left and right speakers to start song, very reminiscent of reggae for about a half a second. It's kind of like Beenie Man's country song "Ain't Gonna Figure It Yet," which is probably really the best country song to never be a big hit, but we're not talking about that right now, so shut up.

4. It's a song by Matraca Berg, dammit! She has written a whole lot of huge hits for other people ("Strawberry Wine" for Deana Carter, "Faking Love" for Sheppard and Brooks, "Xxxs and Ooos, an American Girl" for Trisha Yearwood, etc.), but her solo career has been marked by a whole trailerload of failure, which just sucks. Berg has all the subtlety of the great Broadway lyricists, and anything by her is worth hearing, unless it's one of the million-ish songs about how great old country women are, in which case it's probably okay to skip "Good Old Girl" or "Back When We Were Beautiful" or that other one I can't remember the name of.

3. And this is a song about sex! The lust is palpable: "We'll dance all night till your belt buckle shines" might just be about actually dancing, but I doubt it; "You walked up like a bowlegged dream" is like Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise; the image of "a leatherneck suckin' on a longneck" is actually a little too gross-sounding to make the list, but whatever. And that chorus: "I can put you back in the saddle baby / Stand you up tall / I can put you back in the saddle baby / And that ain't all." O my stars.

2. The whole beatnik hootenanny vibe here is adorable, with the Bob Dylan drawl on the verses, the drunken-sounding pause ritardando before the chorus kicks in, the awesome rowdy backing vocals by the million-dollar quartet of Faith Hill, Suzy Bogguss, Patty Loveless, and Martina McBride...it's like Matraca Berg's 57th Dream, half talking blues half closing time at the Spinning Wheel, perfection with a whiskey chaser.

1. The three lines that serve both as a second bridge before the last chorus and a summary paragraph so you can get the whole message/subtext if you haven't been paying attention; also, a way of acknowledging the fact that country's main audience these days is suburban women; also, a neat triplet for those of us who love triplets; also, a nod to the notion that the relationship is transitory, fun not serious, a passing fancy LIKE THE SONG ITSELF; also, the way Matraca sings it is just hottt:

Well I might be in a yuppie funk
You might think I'm a little bit drunk
But all I know is a hunk is a hunk


 
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