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#783589 - 01/02/10 12:55 AM What allusions are okay in country music?  
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Pam Bowen Offline
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I recently wrote a song about women's tendency to try to change their men. I used a reference to alchemy: female alchemy=trying to turn lead (a bad boy) into gold (a good guy). My mentor told me the allusion was too intellectual. I thought it was the perfect metaphor for what we women sometimes (too often) try to do. What do you think?


a portfolio of my other writing is at: pambowen.wordpress.com
#783590 - 01/02/10 12:59 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Pam Bowen]  
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Louis Offline
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well I like it, but I think they are looking more for conversational language.


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#783600 - 01/02/10 01:26 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Louis]  
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Two Singers Offline
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Hi Pam!

My wife's a California girl, too...Bakersfield.

Louis pretty much hit the nail on the head (big surprise there!) with his reply. There have been multiple times I have wanted to use certain analogies but didn't for the reason he mentioned. One of the basic rules in Country lyrics is too try to keep it as conversational as possible. If it's not something you would probably hear in the a typical conversation of most people, it's probably best not to use it. There are a few exceptions to that, such as in humorous songs, parodies, etc. But generally speaking, that's the reception you'll probably get from most people "in the know" of Country music. In Pop, Rock and jazz, it would be no problem what-so-ever...but they are not lyric-driven genres like Country is.

Good luck with your writing. Hope 2010 is a really good year for you.

Alan

#783608 - 01/02/10 01:39 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Two Singers]  
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I'd agree with the keep-it-conversational part. If you can say it conversationally, say it. If not, then don't. I never worry about going over the heads of people--country music listeners are very literate, and well-read. one trick I picked up from TampaStan is tossing out polysyllabic words and foreign words and phrases off-handedly, like "of course, we all know what this means." Thing is, they usually do. And even in a tavern, where you're dealing with a crowd that has deliberately suppressed large percentages of their brain functions, they'll either get it or pretend like they did.

Joe

#783610 - 01/02/10 01:40 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Joe Wrabek (D)]  
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Ignore your mentor on this one. It sounds like a good analogy. If it doesn't work out, write another song.

Kevin


"Good science comes in peer reviewed journals. Conspiracy theories come in YouTube videos. "
Kevin @ bandcamp: Crows Say Vee-Eh (and Kevin @50/90 2019)
#783613 - 01/02/10 01:41 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Two Singers]  
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Alan,
Thanks for your good wishes for 2010! "The Streets of Bakersfield" is my favorite Buck Owens song. I did make my bridge very conversational, but I thought I could slip in alchemy. Now, Tim McGraw's "Southern Voice" is full of historical allusions. Are those okay because they are southern?
Cheers!
Pam


a portfolio of my other writing is at: pambowen.wordpress.com
#783614 - 01/02/10 01:47 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Pam Bowen]  
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I like the analogy too - but defer to the country music experts who have already weighed in.

Maybe don't use the word alchemy - but work in the "lead to gold" idea - I think anyone would be familiar with that concept.

Scott

#783628 - 01/02/10 02:15 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Joe Wrabek (D)]  
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Joe and Kevin,
Thanks for your comments. Joe, I agree that country listeners can't be illiterate. Alchemy is not that far out a concept. I like what Kevin said about "write another song". I can't please everybody on the forum boards, so I have to please myself. Tampa Stan has given me good advice in the past, so I will take his word (and yours) that multi-syllable words can be used if they are conversational!
Cheers!
pam


a portfolio of my other writing is at: pambowen.wordpress.com
#783633 - 01/02/10 02:32 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Pam Bowen]  
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When I think of alchemy, I think of a game that shows up on Yahoo games. I never really knew what the word meant.

I myself like words that are multi-syllabic but that can complicate a song. I have a song that has this phrase: a foreboding feeling of impending demise. It's an uptempo song and I think multi-syllabic words do better in uptempo songs but I've wondered if folks would trip over what the words mean.

#783657 - 01/02/10 04:10 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Sausagelink]  
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While I appreciate the poetic use of a word like 'alchemy' I don't think it's a fit for the genre of country music. "Conversational lyrics" means... stuff we would generally say to each other. I wouldn't tell another woman I'm an alchemist when it comes to men. She'd probably scratch her head... until I said, 'make a silk purse out of a sow's ear' lol


Vikki Flawith: Songwriter/Composer, Singer/Voice Teacher

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#783662 - 01/02/10 05:00 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Hummingbird]  
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Vikki
You nailed it.
A silk purse out of a sow's ear would be how it would sing in a country song. It was the first thing I thought of.
Kind of a cliche phrase but it could work.
Instead of saying you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear turn it around and say I did make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Using Female Magic.. Woman's Magic. Something along those lines.

I hate to use the phrase but Dumbing it down might work.


Bill
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#783668 - 01/02/10 06:28 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Bill Robinson]  
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I like the analogy, Pam. I think Vikki is right, but everything can work if you put the right spin on it..

A country artist like George Strait has been called an alchemist due to his ability to take traditional country into a modern present (the meaning of 'neo-traditionalist').

Allthough it's useful to keep on track, the past is not a good beacon for the future IMO. Country music needs original work..

#783676 - 01/02/10 08:21 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Kolstad]  
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"Tampa Stan" Good (D) Offline
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HiDee Pam et Al!

This has been a Fun Thread (& Thanks for my "Backpats"..I promise "no Swelled Head here!")

As I've said a few times in the past, Country Folks get CABLE nowadaze...& they're easily as "Hip"-&-Educated as the rest of us are, compared those of us who revolve around City-Living...these days. (& any CountryFolk with Kids HAS heard of Harry Potter & Alchemy, I'd betcha?)

That "Silk Purse" Analogy's ALMOST as-Dated as Alchemy...JMO..but at least "Alchemy"'s NEW to Country Songs. I'd stick in some Mining Terms on that Lead-to-Gold Conversion Song & I'd bet it'll work: "Flash-in-the-Pan".."Swirlin'"..."Nugget".."Fool's Gold"..."Gleam".."Strike".."Rich Ore"..."Worthless Till"..."Crucible"..."Love's Flame"..."Woman's Chemistry"...(Heck, stir-in a "Pair of Levis"..they got popular in the '49 Gold Rush!)

I agree with Magne...tho I'm not exactly gettin' greeted by NashCityFolk with Open-Arms..heh! No Biggie..."Country" sells all over the Globe..(& they even Record Some in California, too!)

Good Luck with the New One!
Best Wishes & Big Hugs,
Stan

#783772 - 01/02/10 02:13 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: ]  
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Humm,
If you are going to use a word such as Alchemy in a song such as you are using you might want to give a brief description of the word earlier in the song, one line perhaps, so later in the song the listener will know the subject.

Any place in a song where you stop listening to try to figure out what they are saying is where you probably will need to do a re-write.


Ray E. Strode
#783835 - 01/02/10 05:12 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Thank you all for taking my question seriously and giving me your opinions. My chances in Nashville are slim (although I am hoping to visit some day). My goal is to get my local country band that plays at the Mercantile Building to perform one of my songs someday. That will be a milestone for me. Thanks again!
Cheers!
Pam Bowen


a portfolio of my other writing is at: pambowen.wordpress.com
#783837 - 01/02/10 05:17 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Pam Bowen]  
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I think it is safe to assume that most folks have a high skool diploma at least (ha, ha). They should know what alkemy is and if they don't maybe they will look it up when they hear your song. Dang, I think I'll use "alchemy" in one of my next songs.

Kevin


"Good science comes in peer reviewed journals. Conspiracy theories come in YouTube videos. "
Kevin @ bandcamp: Crows Say Vee-Eh (and Kevin @50/90 2019)
#783849 - 01/02/10 05:54 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Kevin Emmrich]  
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Pam Bowen Offline
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Kevin,
If you do write an alchemy song, I'd really like to hear it or read it!

Pam


a portfolio of my other writing is at: pambowen.wordpress.com
#783860 - 01/02/10 06:14 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Pam Bowen]  
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BIG JIM MERRILEES Offline
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Originally Posted by Pam Bowen
I recently wrote a song about women's tendency to try to change their men. I used a reference to alchemy: female alchemy=trying to turn lead (a bad boy) into gold (a good guy). My mentor told me the allusion was too intellectual. I thought it was the perfect metaphor for what we women sometimes (too often) try to do. What do you think?


Yes if the listener is required to use any imagination or brain power...then lyrics are probably too intellectual for and usually wasted on a country audience. LOL

My advice is to either write for a more intelligent genre or keep lyrics really simple and mundane, more suitable for country.
LOL

#783875 - 01/02/10 07:55 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: BIG JIM MERRILEES]  
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Roy Cooper Offline
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I understand the meaning fine Big Jim and I am NOT
intellectual.

Easy
A.L.C.H.E.M.Y

All Lemmons Change Hue Every Mouth of the Year
therefore

alchemy

I could be wrong though

God Bless Roy

Last edited by OskaSeason; 01/02/10 07:56 PM.

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#783881 - 01/02/10 08:42 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Roy Cooper]  
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Colin Ward Offline
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You could explain it:

Feel like an alchemist from the days of old,
Spend all my time changing lead into gold

Or write this song with "sophisticated" lyrics and the next one with simple ones.


Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

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#783884 - 01/02/10 08:52 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Colin Ward]  
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Pam Bowen Offline
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Actually, here is the couplet I used:

I'd try my female alchemy to turn lead into gold,
But I couldn't bend a bad boy to fit the good-man mold.

I thought the second line pretty much explained the first, and my mentor actually praised the second line.

Thanks again, you all, for your input on this subject.
Cheers!
Pam


a portfolio of my other writing is at: pambowen.wordpress.com
#783886 - 01/02/10 09:01 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Pam Bowen]  
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Kevin Emmrich Offline
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Quote
I'd try my female alchemy to turn lead into gold,
But I couldn't bend a bad boy to fit the good-man mold.

I try my female alchemy to turn lead into gold,
It's funny that I can't pour a bad boy into a good-man mold.


This way you have alchemy-funny and gold-mold. Plus you are "pouring" into a mold.

Kevin



Last edited by Kevin Emmrich; 01/02/10 11:49 PM.

"Good science comes in peer reviewed journals. Conspiracy theories come in YouTube videos. "
Kevin @ bandcamp: Crows Say Vee-Eh (and Kevin @50/90 2019)
#783888 - 01/02/10 09:04 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Kevin Emmrich]  
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Hummingbird Offline
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good suggestion


Vikki Flawith: Songwriter/Composer, Singer/Voice Teacher

12Feb10- *NEW BLOG: "BE YOUR OWN GURU ;)"

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Be a FAN: http://www.reverbnation.com/vikkiflawith
#783894 - 01/02/10 09:24 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Hummingbird]  
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BIG JIM MERRILEES Offline
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OK How about a New Year Challege. The song/lyric is to be called Alchemy and anything goes re style, it can be serious, funny, Intellectual or just plain stupid....anything goes for genre as well.

#783899 - 01/02/10 09:46 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Pam Bowen]  
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Mike Caro Substudio Offline
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Hi Pam

I'm a bit familiar with this subject smile I recorded played and co -produced a song that made use of that word.

Although I wouldn't use words that have to make folks EVER look at a dictionary. That does not mean we have to dumb down every song ever.

The TRICK is - If your gonna put certain words or lines into a song that are a bit unusual or intellectual etc... Ya have to SUPPORT them well. That has always been something I remember.

Here is an example of the word ALCHEMIST used in a song.
And pulls off wonderfully. I would still not use it if i were pitching to the CHARTS. BUT ..... who says they always have the greatest lyrics ever all the time...

Also it helps to be a wordsmith smile like my friend Mike.
Hit, charts, or not, the writers of the current number one hit country song, Lady A, couldn't dream of writing like this,ever!

You can listen here-

The Real Thing - Mike Appel
www.substudiomusic.com/TheRealThing.wav

Purest gold is to beauty as copper is to strength
Now somewhere there’s an alchemist,who must have gone to great lengths
Cause he turned these fair two elements,into a woman fit for a king
I know that I’m a richer man for everything you bring
and baby, oh baby, you’re The Real Thing

I’ve been known to stargaze some, take mind shuttles to the moon
I’m brought back down to earth time, that you walk in the room
I’d go the extra mile for you, sail ‘round Saturn’s rings
And though I’ve chased some fleeting dreams, I’m grounded by one thing
and baby, oh baby, you’re The Real Thing

This common faith we share, weaves the fabric of our souls
the promise echoes still, in the words ‘to have and hold’
our tapestry from the cold

‘Til I learned to trust myself, I wore this grand façade
You always saw right through it, for you I dropped my guard
There are sacred signs of the zodiac, there’s an equinox of spring
There’s a muse that writes through poet’s hearts, for a time and then takes wing
There’s a canopy of stars above, yet there’s one greater thing
and baby, oh baby, you’re The Real Thing
yeah baby, oh baby, you’re The Real Thing



Thanks!
Peace Mike
Sub

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#783923 - 01/02/10 11:54 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Mike Caro Substudio]  
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Pam Bowen Offline
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Pam Bowen  Offline
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Posts: 117
Inland Empire, California
Wow, Mike, that is a beautiful song, on paper and in my ear. Thanks for giving me an example of the word used in a beautiful and successful context.
Cheers!
Pam


a portfolio of my other writing is at: pambowen.wordpress.com
#783934 - 01/03/10 12:34 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Two Singers]  
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Drifter Offline
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Drifter  Offline
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Originally Posted by Al David
Hi Pam!

My wife's a California girl, too...Bakersfield.

Louis pretty much hit the nail on the head (big surprise there!) with his reply. There have been multiple times I have wanted to use certain analogies but didn't for the reason he mentioned. One of the basic rules in Country lyrics is too try to keep it as conversational as possible. If it's not something you would probably hear in the a typical conversation of most people, it's probably best not to use it. There are a few exceptions to that, such as in humorous songs, parodies, etc. But generally speaking, that's the reception you'll probably get from most people "in the know" of Country music. In Pop, Rock and jazz, it would be no problem what-so-ever...but they are not lyric-driven genres like Country is.

Good luck with your writing. Hope 2010 is a really good year for you.

Alan
Succinctly and well said, Al. There's not much I could add to it.


"No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky." - Bob Dylan

"A song is anything that can walk by itself." - Bob Dylan

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#783997 - 01/03/10 11:00 AM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Pam Bowen]  
Joined: Apr 2001
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Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
Originally Posted by Pam Bowen
Actually,
I'd try my female alchemy to turn lead into gold,
But I couldn't bend a bad boy to fit the good-man mold.


Pam,

I'd try my Alabama alchemy to turn lead into gold,
but I couldn't bend a bad boy to fit the good old boy mold.


If you decide to use either or both changes, you can have them free and clear, I make no claim for cowrite.

All the Best,
Mike


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#784110 - 01/03/10 06:35 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Jack Swain Offline
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Jack Swain  Offline
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Berwyn, IL, US
I think that the suggestion from the mentor and country music writers was not that most country fans would not understand the meaning of the word or the allusion. What they said was that it did not sound like a typical conversational tone with that allusion. Even if some country fans don't know the specific meaning of the word they would probably associate it with magic, so the general meaning would not be lost.

The suggestion has more to do with creating a character in your writing that speaks the language that you would expect. In Shakespeare's time the language was quite different than what we use today, and using his words in a modern setting sounds odd. I have seen Shakespearean plays done in modern settings while using the original dialog as written and it is odd. It is an exercise of a creative mind who hopes to use the oddness of the language in the modern setting in a way that is thought-provoking and sometimes, if done well, it can be interesting. It can also be very bad. I have seen both.

I personally hate the dumbing-down attitude of many country singers about their songs. I have heard some of them speak and express themselves in very intelligent conversation, and I have heard others, particularly many of the new young so called "hat acts" who perpetuate the overly exaggerated drawl and try to sound unsophisticated in demeanor because that is what they think is expected of them.

There have been plenty of sophisticated country performers in the past that never resorted to this role-playing, but there have always been some who did. Willie Nelson comes across as a good-old-boy, but he does not pander to the image. He is the genuine article in his drawl and demeanor. Nevertheless, he is highly intelligent and can converse with sophistication without dumbing-down anything. Eddie Arnold, in his day, and Gentleman Jim Reeves were both more sophisticated in their music and demeanor than many of their peers.

Now the dumbing-down attitude seems to be the standard for the genre for male artists.

My personal opinion is that I like your allusion, but my opinion will not help you sell a country artist on using your song.

#784113 - 01/03/10 06:40 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Jack Swain]  
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Joe Wrabek (D) Offline
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Joe Wrabek (D)  Offline
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Posts: 6,403
Garibaldi, OR USA
And I think "Alabama alchemy" would not only be easily understood, but would be widely appreciated.

Joe

#784135 - 01/03/10 07:31 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Joe Wrabek (D)]  
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 117
Pam Bowen Offline
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Pam Bowen  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 117
Inland Empire, California
Jack,
Thanks for the lovely essay written on this topic. I appreciate the thought you put into it, and I get your last sentence.

Joe,
I like the assonance, consonance, and rhythm of "Alabama alchemy" but introducing a specific state would change the whole theme of the song, which is the universal tendency of women to try, unsuccessfully, to change men. Thanks for the suggestion, though.


a portfolio of my other writing is at: pambowen.wordpress.com
#784144 - 01/03/10 07:49 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Pam Bowen]  
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Mark Kaufman Offline
Mark Kaufman  Offline

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Minneapolis
I once wrote a song called "The Antidisestablishmentarianism Blues". It hasn't seen any airplay on country radio. Up until now, I thought that was because it's a blues song...well, that, and I've never pitched it...but now I'm beginning to wonder...

#784154 - 01/03/10 08:31 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Mark Kaufman]  
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Joe Wrabek (D) Offline
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Joe Wrabek (D)  Offline
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Garibaldi, OR USA
Jes' a thought (diodn't want to belabor this). I don't think the modifier in "Alabama alchemy" necessarily specificates the universality of the appeal. I think it aids understanding. People at first blush (and remember, they're just hearing words as they pass by--first blush is all they get) might be a little nonplussed by "alchemy," but "Alabama alchemy" they will either understand immediately or think they do. And I don't think the listeners would necessarily relate it to a Southern girl; they'd all know somebody personally (or think they did) who could do precisely what they think the song is singing about. And that, I think, is what you want.

joe

#784422 - 01/04/10 07:37 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Mark Kaufman]  
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Colin Ward Offline
Colin Ward  Offline

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Saint Petersburg. FL
Originally Posted by Mark Kaufman
I once wrote a song called "The Antidisestablishmentarianism Blues". It hasn't seen any airplay on country radio. Up until now, I thought that was because it's a blues song...well, that, and I've never pitched it...but now I'm beginning to wonder...


That would not be the reason because country music fans are not part of the establishment.


Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

http://colinwardmusic.com/

http://rosewoodcreekband.com/


#784598 - 01/05/10 12:28 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Colin Ward]  
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Kurt Fortmeyer Offline
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Kurt Fortmeyer  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2002
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Tennessee
I have a thing for polysyllabic words as well....


I love words. They say so much.

http://kurtfortmeyer.com
#784655 - 01/05/10 04:22 PM Re: What allusions are okay in country music? [Re: Kurt Fortmeyer]  
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Posts: 4,026
Joanne Lurgio Offline
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Joanne Lurgio  Offline
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Posts: 4,026
RI, USA
As the risk of being redundant ... as Vikki and others stated, i agree it is a matter of regular conversational talk.
When the listener hears this word that he/she is not sure of (like me) the brain will pause in an attempt to figure what he/she just heard... then have to catch up...

A Nashville publisher said the same about my use of the word, "threshold" ... "We've been standing on this threshold, too afraid to move" ... I got what he said.. but i didn't change it wink

All the best
Joanne


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