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MIDLIFE ROCKER/Choosing the Right Song to Sing: The Debate Rages on

Steve Houk
By Steve Houk
Posted on Jul 27,2009
Filed Under Entertainment , Local Style,

In the course of picking songs for our rock and roll cover band of 40-somethings Second Wind to play in venues across Fairfax County, debates always surface and it can even get kinda heated. Should we learn another classic rock song?
A newer alt-rock tune to please the younger members of the crowd? Some real roots rock and roll? Take a chance on something crazy? It's quite a process even for our small time band.

When we the band started, everyone would come up with tunes and we'd see what the majority wanted to try. Sometimes songs that one or more of the group really didn't like slipped through, and sometimes there was a surprise how good it ended up, other times it faded away quickly.

But we got our core of songs down...Sympathy For The Devil, American Girl, The Weight, Night Moves, Gimme Three Steps, Rain King....those have been staples that have surfaced in nearly every show. But the picking of other songs that have largely rotated in and out has been a joy...and sometimes a battle.

Right now, one of our guys wants to throw a little of what I call 'new country' into the mix. Now, I am one of the more open-minded lads in the band, and will try anything that seems like it could work. But to actually stand up and sing one of the songs of a certain Kenny Chesney, or a Brad Paisley, or please no, a Toby Keith. I mean, rock and roll heaven forbid, I can see Jim, Jimi and Janis looking down at me right now and saying, "Steve, don't you dare!"

Honestly though, it simply would just feel odd to me, not right, not me, not the band, it would seem like I would need a crisp cowboy hat and shiny boots to pull it off. I can't see myself singing music from one of these manufactured country stars whose songs sound like, well, homogenized music, music that is a cookie cutter formula of country music marketing that has created it's own music machine. It's not country music, it's fast food you can pump yr' fist to.

Now don't be mad at me, I don't begrudge anyone any taste in music, I myself like everyone from Springsteen to Coltrane, from Talking Heads to the North Mississippi All Stars, and alot in between. I am fine with people's choices and respect them for what they choose.
But come on, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem" for our rock and roll band? Am I being totally unreasonable here?

Sure, we play Southern Rock which has many sounds of the country-esque genre. We roll Folsom Prison Blues by Mr. Cash which would be comfortable in a country honky tonk. And we play many other songs which reflect the wonderful history of the melting pot of music rock came from; in addition to blues and soul that includes country, and it's cousins rockabilly, bluegrass and skiffle.
But am I really going to go from singing Brown Sugar or I Wanna Be Sedated, or even Can’t You See, into...gulp...Kenny Chesney’s Big Star? I think I would be truly tainting the spirits of rock cover bands everywhere if we were allowed to dwell into that world. Call me stubborn. Or call me dedicated to what I think we're best at, and making sure we follow the right path and don’t look, well, sillier than we might already.

The debate goes on as we speak. The band's even thrown all our songs into an Excel spread sheet so we can really look at what the suggestions are. Songs like Summertime Blues, Nationwide, Jumper, Call Me The Breeze, The House Is Rockin’...they are all on the next docket to try.
And THAT feels good, Because they're rock and roll songs. I may be selfish, but hey, let's keep it that way, huh?  

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