There is a small handful of situations where I don’t find phrase “lyric poetry” pretentious. Even in the heat of an enraptured lecture about the work of our Lord and Savior, Madame President Joni Mitchell (and woe betide the poor bastard who gets me started on one of those, for there are few times when I’m apt to be more pretentious), I just say “lyrics” or “words.”
When I’m listening to a Brooks and Dunn song, though, I can’t keep that particular phrase from bubbling up into my conciousness. It just feels appropriate.
Take, for example:
I saw the light! I’ve been baptized by the fire in your touch, and the flame in your eyes. I’m born to love again. I’m a brand new man.
That’s brilliant, the way they draw out the falling in love is finding religion metaphor. They keep extending it further and further than you’re expecting them to. And it’s not just a Baptism; it’s a Baptism by fire, connoting the excitement and the potential for heartbreak inherent in any relationship in which you find yourself becoming a new person. They keep it simple enough to stay within mainstream country territory, but intricate enough to give would-be-dismissive critics a pause. It doesn’t even feel weird to italicize it here, like I’m quoting it for some literary analysis in school.
So it is with Number Nine. Here they conjure that timeless theme central to works as diverse as Heartbreak Hotel and A Clean, Well Lighted Place: a purgatory for the lonely. These are poets of the Honky-Tonk tradition, so naturally the ideal is embodied here in a bar. It’s not as though it hasn’t been done before; but they do it with that classic B&D finesse, and that makes it feel original. Or maybe it’s just that the image of a forlorn protagonist alone at a table for two isn’t all that affecting until you hear Ronnie Dunn describe it with his emotionally restrained gentleman’s twang.
Or maybe it’s just that perfect line that closes the chorus:
Watch your broken dreams dance in and out of the beams of a neon moon.
The tragic vision of your shattered hopes wafting in the artificial light surrounded by this artificial night within which you’ve exiled yourself is utterly sobering. Time to order another Coors, Ronnie.
Ashley, you called this one. Your prize is a free ticket to the Pam “Maybe it was Memphis” Tillis show at Spirit Mountain next month. Wear something appropriate for a casino. We’re taking your car. No excuses.