dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

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RolanK
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dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by RolanK »

When Go-Go Boots was released a little more than a year ago I was so exited about the obvious R&B/Soul influence and songs like the title track, Used to be a cop and Everybody needs love, that at first I really didn't pay much attention to this song. However it has been growing on me a lot and today I think it's one of the finest songs on the album:

She was fresh out of college
The first one in her family to go
and California seemed like heaven,
Pulaski, Tennessee was her home

She worked on losing her southern accent
and turned her back on her Baptist ways
She bought some clothes that barely covered her fair skinned body,
Went to Nashville and caught a plane

The clouds rushed beneath her
as the LA smog filled the air
She smiled when the airlock opened
and the Pacific breeze blew through her hair

She thought about the boys from Alabama
Who came into town every Friday night
and drank beer out of big glass quart bottles
and left their trail of blood and tears behind

She thought the men from California would be different
She'd grown up watching them on her TV
But the men she came to know in California
Left her longing for Pulaski, Tennessee

Good ideas always start with a full glass
and just breathing here can make a girl's nose bleed
Dreams here live and die just like a stray dog
on a dirt road somewhere in Tennessee

The storefronts all filled up with eyeballs
As the policemen clear out the street
For a line of cars with their headlights burning
Driving slow through Pulaski, Tennessee


Once I started taking notice of this little "gem", the first thing that grabbed my attention was the backing vocals going "ooo-ooo-ooh" following the choruses and with Neffs pedal steel carefully blending in at the end. I also dig the accordion - I suppose it's Jay playing that. Far from my favorite instrument, but here I think it fits the song perfect. The production is awesome, just turn up the volume and listen to the woody bass and the muffled kick-drum, and the sound of the room it was recorded in.

The song, in my view, serves as a stellar example of Cooley's songwriting. The melody, chord progression and groove can hardly be said to be original, but this is Cooley's strength as a songwriter; it's all about making clichés work. Also the theme it self, small-town girl leaving home to explore the world is nothing new, however the imagery and the darkness that seeps in towards the end sets it apart from "the average country tune".

What really makes the lyrics work for me is what is not being said. The girl goes to California, but what really happens there? Did she only go there to seek out the men or did she have a go at a career in the entertainment industry?

There was a thread about the interpretation of the last couple of verses back in september last year;

RaidPanther88 wrote:I always interpreted the ending as her dying from a drug overdose, probably cocaine. She goes to California, it doesn't meet her expectations, falls in with the wrong people. The line about the nose bleeding makes me think of cocaine, a line of cars driving through the night with policemen clearing out the street makes me think of a line of cars driving down the road "rubbernecking" at a tragedy along the side, and then the line of cars driving slow through Pulaski at the end of the song makes me think of a line of cars driving slow in a funeral procession. My interpretation, at least.


Smitty wrote:The only concrete detail is that there's a funeral back in Pulaski, - "policemen clear out the street, for a the line of cars with their headlights burning" is the procession after they've brought her body home; I think the overdose assumption works, but I personally always thought she was a victim of domestic violence, hence the "the men she came to know in California left her longing for Pulaski, Tennessee"


Both interpretations seems reasonable to me. But what about the headlights of the cars? Do they have the funeral procession in the middle of the night? And why are cops needed to clear the streets in a town with less than 8000 inhabitants? I'm wondering if perhaps this girl became some kind of a celebrity over there in California?

Cooley talks about the song and why he chose Pulaski in GGB Episode #2. I also noticed the street stradling the west wall of The 40 Watt Club in Athens is called Pulaski Street. You have to cross it on your way back to the Dazed Inn or the Courtyard after the show.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by beantownbubba »

In the US, cars in funeral processions put their headlights on. It made more sense back in the day when car headlights didn't automatically come on during the day as they do now. Even in a smallish town you might have cops clearing the streets for a funeral procession because customarily other traffic is stopped to let the procession, ummmm, proceed.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by RolanK »

beantownbubba wrote:In the US, cars in funeral processions put their headlights on. It made more sense back in the day when car headlights didn't automatically come on during the day as they do now. Even in a smallish town you might have cops clearing the streets for a funeral procession because customarily other traffic is stopped to let the procession, ummmm, proceed.


Thanks BTB. That explains. I was suspecting there might some kind of a cultural difference that I didn't quite get here (The drawback of being a non-US citicen and DBT-fan).
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by brett27295 »

This song has always reminded me of Elvis Presley's Long Black Limousine. Both have similar story lines, girl leaves small town and ends up coming back in a pine box.

Wish I knew what happened out there in California though lol. I guess we can all interpret it the way we choose.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by rlipps »

This has been a favorite song of mine for over a decade, actually asked Cooley one time why they'd never recorded it and he basically said it didn't fit on any of the albums.

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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by GuitarManUpstairs »

I was originally in the camp that said it was drug abuse that lead to her death, but something about the line, "Just breathing here can make a girls nose bleed." stuck with me recently and now I am more inclined to side with Smitty and settle on domestic violence. I think she went out to CA for a fresh start and with an idealized vision of what the men were like there and let her guard down, when in fact the ones she became involved with turned out not to be any better than the ones she knew back home...just packaged differently. Plus out there she was left without any support structure and ended up dead.

I think this story sort of is an extension of the idea Cooley comments on in TSTAHE when he's talking about growing up and always thinking what is over the horizon is so much better while failing to appreciate the good things about home.

Musically speaking...While I definitely like the album version it seems maybe just a half step too fast. The other place I had heard him do this song before was from his solo acoustic shows in 2004-2005 at the Earl in Atlanta. The pacing in that version just seemed a bit more appropriate for the subject matter.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Smitty »

My all-time favorite Cooley song. Noone in country music, alt. or otherwise, comes close to writing "traditional" country songs as great as Cooley - this song is a perfect example, I could definitely hear Porter Wagoner or the Louvin Brothers singing it. At first I was kindof turned off by the studio treatment since I had been accustomed to it being a dirge, but then I realized the arrangement was classic country gold - I can't think of any other artist who has a greater understanding of country music, it would've been obvious to have a spare acoustic performance with a little pedal steel thrown in, but Cooley "gets it".

Songs like this are what influenced me to name my son after the Stroker Ace.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Smitty »

GuitarManUpstairs wrote:Musically speaking...While I definitely like the album version it seems maybe just a half step too fast. The other place I had heard him do this song before was from his solo acoustic shows in 2004-2005 at the Earl in Atlanta. The pacing in that version just seemed a bit more appropriate for the subject matter.


It's a country tradition to pair "sad" stories with upbeat music.

btw, someone needs to get this in Willie's or the Possum's ear.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by GuitarManUpstairs »

Smitty wrote:
GuitarManUpstairs wrote:Musically speaking...While I definitely like the album version it seems maybe just a half step too fast. The other place I had heard him do this song before was from his solo acoustic shows in 2004-2005 at the Earl in Atlanta. The pacing in that version just seemed a bit more appropriate for the subject matter.


It's a country tradition to pair "sad" stories with upbeat music.

btw, someone needs to get this in Willie's or the Possum's ear.


Yeah...I get that...but I still think its just a smidge too fast. I don't mind it being upbeat at all...but the album version just feels rushed IMO. Like I'm trying to reflect on what he just said but can't because the the pace doesn't allow time for it.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Smitty »

GuitarManUpstairs wrote:Yeah...I get that...but I still think its just a smidge too fast. I don't mind it being upbeat at all...but the album version just feels rushed IMO. Like I'm trying to reflect on what he just said but can't because the the pace doesn't allow time for it.


Gotcha.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by GuitarManUpstairs »

If somebody can figure how to embed it ere please do so. I like this version.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/drive-by-truckers-perform-pulaski-at-sxsw-2011-20110318
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by RevMatt »

This song has always reminded me of the young girl leaves home morality tales that Dolly Parton wrote earlier in her career like "My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy." In the video documentary clip for Go Go Boots Cooley had a Dolly Parton album displayed in the background when he talked about this song. I always considered that an acknowledgement of her influence on his songwriting. I consider Dolly to be the best female songwriter ever.

One of the unique things about Cooley's traditional country songs is that the are firmly rooted in the mainstream country of the late sixties through the late seventies. Despite the fact that most people, when discussing that era, start with Austin there were lots of outstanding records produced in Nashville. I don't think Dolly Parton, Bobby Bare, Tom T. Hall, The Statler Brothers, Charlie Rich, etc... get nearly enough recognition. George Jones wasn't the only good artist recording in Nashville during the seventies. It is a shame that so many are unappreciated. The one great thing about The Truckers is that they have really led the way in getting more people to listen to Tom T. Hall.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Kudzu Guillotine »

RevMatt wrote:The one great thing about The Truckers is that they have really led the way in getting more people to listen to Tom T. Hall.


As have Whiskeytown as well as the other artists that contributed to Real: The Tom T. Hall Project.

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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by beantownbubba »

RevMatt wrote:I consider Dolly to be the best female songwriter ever.



:shock:

Joni Mitchell
Carole King
Ellie Greenwich
Lucinda Williams
Laura Nyro

For starters...
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Zip City »

It's unfair, but I'll always compare this song to Will Kimbrough's "Philadelphia, Mississippi", which tells the same story. I love the Kimbrough tune and had known it for years before hearing "Pulaski". I love Cooley, but I find this kind of "flat". There's nothing musically dynamic about it.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Clams »

Zip City wrote: I love Cooley, but I find this kind of "flat". There's nothing musically dynamic about it.

Shocking. :roll:
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Zip City »

Clams wrote:
Zip City wrote: I love Cooley, but I find this kind of "flat". There's nothing musically dynamic about it.

Shocking. :roll:


Well, considering a "not great" Cooley song is still a 7/10, I'm splitting hairs here. All I'm saying is, Cooley has written better songs.

CONTEXT WARNING: I'm not the "solid gold country hits of the 70's" fan many of you are, either, so this type of song may just not be my thing
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Jonicont »

Clams wrote:
Zip City wrote: I love Cooley, but I find this kind of "flat". There's nothing musically dynamic about it.

Shocking. :roll:

:lol:
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by one belt loop »

I think it's too fast, I think the nosebleeds are from LA smog, I think she went to California to be a star (and I also think she may have gotten roped into some Birthday Boy action to pay the bills), and I think she killed herself.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Jonicont »

one belt loop wrote: I think she went to California to be a star, and I think she killed herself.


Yep

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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by pearlysnaps »

and just breathing here can make a girl's nose bleed


I always took this to mean there is so much coke flying around the scene that you could breathe in enough out if the air to get the ole nose bleeding.

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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by beantownbubba »

pearlysnaps wrote:
and just breathing here can make a girl's nose bleed


I always took this to mean there is so much coke flying around the scene that you could breathe in enough out if the air to get the ole nose bleeding.


Yes.

Ummmm, it's not that i know for sure but I never thought there could be another interpretation until I read them here and I still believe this is the correct one.

But I think that speaks more to her disorientation and disillusionment w/ LA and doesn't mean she died from an OD. I guess I've always taken the lack of specificity about cause of death to imply that she died from her "misadventures" caused by being a place she didn't belong in the first place, whether the specific cause was domestic violence, suicide, drugs or something else. The specific cause matters less than the the "big mistake" - thinking that life would be better in LA and that she could fit in and succeed there. Or to put that in slightly different terms, her dreams died, then she died.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Gator McKlusky »

She went to LA, she died--thats pretty much it, innit? :lol:
Looks like a bunch of little whiny fucksticks to me

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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Flea »

I'm pretty pretty sure she died of AIDS contracted during the cocaine-fueled Donkey Show career she left behind in Pulaski.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by RolanK »

one belt loop wrote:I think it's too fast, I think the nosebleeds are from LA smog, I think she went to California to be a star (and I also think she may have gotten roped into some Birthday Boy action to pay the bills), and I think she killed herself.


Yes, something like that.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by RolanK »

Ooops! I just googled "girl +airlock". Shouldn't have done that. I was going to say that the line She smiled when the airlock opened and the Pacific breeze blew through her hair for some reason makes me think this song is set sometime in the 70's, and was looking for a picture to go along with that. Instead I got the Urban Dictionary explanation of Airlock... :oops: :lol: I think this post belongs in the NC thread... or maybe not even on this board.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by jr29 »

This was one of the first DBT tunes that really grabbed my attention. Part of that may have had something to do with the fact that I grew up about 80 miles from Pulaski. It definitely has a Tom T. vibe about it.
I have always interpreted the "nose bleed" line as a cocaine reference. The remainder of her demise I have always attributed to just being mixed up in a bad situation.

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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by RevMatt »

beantownbubba wrote:
RevMatt wrote:I consider Dolly to be the best female songwriter ever.



:shock:

Joni Mitchell
Carole King
Ellie Greenwich
Lucinda Williams
Laura Nyro

For starters...

You wouldn't include Dolly in this group?!?! "Jolene", "I Will Always Love You", "Dover", "My Blueridge Mountain Boy", "Coat of Many Colors", "Just Because I'm a Woman", "Joshua", "The Bargain Store"
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by Zip City »

RevMatt wrote:
beantownbubba wrote:
RevMatt wrote:I consider Dolly to be the best female songwriter ever.



:shock:

Joni Mitchell
Carole King
Ellie Greenwich
Lucinda Williams
Laura Nyro

For starters...

You wouldn't include Dolly in this group?!?! "Jolene", "I Will Always Love You", "Dover", "My Blueridge Mountain Boy", "Coat of Many Colors", "Just Because I'm a Woman", "Joshua", "The Bargain Store"


Plus thousands more.
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Re: dbt tracks week #103 - Pulaski

Post by ariedl »

jr29 wrote:Part of that may have had something to do with the fact that I grew up about 80 miles from Pulaski.

I've also always felt a connection to the song just from a personal experience with the town. I worked for the University of Tennessee's Archaeology Center as an undergrad, and we did a survey for a highway project in Giles County in the Spring of 1994. I drove a university van to Pulaski on Easter Sunday, with plenty of time to think about my destination. The only thing I knew about the town came from a co-worker, who told me it was the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. So I worried about being greeted by men in white sheets as soon as I got off the interstate. Instead, I found a typical small Southern town with plenty of friendly folks (though you should have seen the face of the girl working at Hardee's when I tried to order a vegetarian hamburger: "So you want a bun with ketchup and mustard?"). I think the town kind of revolved around the Walmart and the Sun Drop plant, but for those of us on the survey, it was the lunch buffet at the Chew 'N' Chat, and the laundromat a couple of doors down in the strip mall. We didn't find much, and were really disappointed that the owner of a huge piece of land that was supposed to have been the site of some action during the Civil War wouldn't let us on his property. Oh well...

When I first heard "Pulaski" in early 2002, I immediately loved it, and could easily picture the cars driving slowly through town.

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