Suggested Set List for Pat Green’s NYC Texas Independence Day Concert

I’ve been fortunate enough to make it to Texas Independence Day at Terminal 5 in New York City each of the past 6 or 7 years. Minus one lost year when I was in Mississippi and one of those years attending only one of the two shows – that year TID being broken up into two shows. Pat Green’s missed at least one of those years too, so I figure Pat and I are even. In anticipation of this year’s show the date of which I don’t think has been announced, I’d like to suggest a set list just in case PFG happens to stumble across this post. (And if JAB, Randy Rogers Band, Casey Donahew Band or whoever else may also be playing so requests I’d be happy to put together set lists for them as well.) To be clear, this list doesn’t represent the 15 or so songs that I’d most like to hear. Choosing only among my favorites, which are hard to narrow down to 15 anyway, probably wouldn’t make for the best concert. Rather, I’ve tried to consider the following factors: (1) the songs Green seems to like to play in concert generally and at NYC TID shows in the past specifically, (2) the venue, (3) the typical NYC audience likely to turn out, (4) balance among the types and tempos of songs, (5) sampling across Green’s albums, (6) danceability, (7) singability and (8) the nature of the event.

1. Here We Go
2. Cannonball
3. Baby Doll
4. Girls From Texas

I think Here We Go is a strong choice to lead off the concert. It’s not only a nice chronological bookend being the first song off Green’s first album, it’s also a great rev up song to get the crowd going and a signal that, yeah, this is going to be a strong concert where we hear at least some unexpected old greats. This song will flow well into the similarly up-tempo Cannonball and Baby Doll, the latter of which is a good segue into Girls From Texas (which I don’t particularly care for, but does take us to Green’s latest album Home and seems to be a crowd pleaser particularly at a Texas-centric events like this).

5. Texas On My Mind
6. Whiskey
7. Don’t Break My Heart Again
8. Life Good as it Can Be

I really like Texas On My Mind and I think it’s appropriate given the nature of the event and a solid Texas back-to-back after GFT. This is only a semi-regular Green concert offering at least up north, so if Green wanted to substitute a Texas song he wrote I’d be OK with I Like Texas instead. Having been reminded that PFG can rock out and that he’s true Texas Country (and anyway we’re all throwing up horns tonight), I think it’s then time to slow things down with Whiskey (underrated) and then into an older and newer slow song. If time allowed and we can get in an extra song I’d add Threadbare Gypsy Soul in after Whiskey (Whiskey in my opinion is a better choice than Galleywinter which Green seems to like to play), perhaps with Casey Donahew coming out to sing Willie’s part of the duet. Although I like the juxtaposition of Life and Wave (see next grouping), I think Day One could be substituted here for Life although to go along with that sub I’d also replace Don’t Break with Temporary Angel.

9. Wave on Wave
10. Carry On
11. All The Good Things Fade Away
12. Just Fine
13. Southbound 35
14. Three Days

There’s nothing to pick up the tempo again better than Wave on Wave, particularly since this is the one song we can count on most of even the New Yorkers to be able to sing along to seamlessly. And I think playing this song earlier in the show clarifies (if there was any doubt) that PFG is more than a one-trick pony and avoids the predictability of waiting for this on the encore. The rest of the grouping represents core Green offerings both in terms of concert playing frequency and caliber of content, and I’d be particularly pleased with Southbound and Three Days ending the concert set proper. This is a nice chunk of vintage PFG songs that loyalists will be happy to sing along to but that newcomers would also enjoy. Reversing the order of the last two songs does have some merit since Southbound is a bit more up tempo to close out the show (pre-encore) but I give Three Days the nod because it feels more nostalgic and I think the repetition of the chorus lines allow more people less versed in Green to sing along going into the end of the show.

15. Lucky
16. Take Me Out to a Dancehall

Lucky was also a contender to open up the show (ultimately a Texas song got the call given context) but would make a fine choice to start the encore particularly given the excitable and familiar riffs the song starts with and the awesome lyrics blending patriotism, nostalgia and general optimism. Take Me Out to a Dancehall is probably Green’s most recognizable song besides Wave on Wave, fitting for the venue and an overall very upbeat song but one that ends on a calmer, romantic note appropriate for the end of the show.

In trying to put together this objectively optimal set list I think I’ve been pretty impartial. Personally I’d love to hear Rusty Old American Dream – which I’ve never been able to hear in concert and think is a sorely underrated song. I’d also love to hear Poetry and John Wayne and Jesus and George’s Bar is another stellar song omitted here. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t note that there are some absolutely rabid Down to the River fans who will be saddened if this song isn’t played. Plenty of other great PFG songs too, but unfortunately never enough time, and I think the set list I’ve put together would make for a very solid show.

Song Analysis: May We All – Florida Georgia Line

May We All is the second single off Florida Georgia Line’s new album Dig Your Roots, and a solid song.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with this album’s first single, H.O.L.Y. The gents at FGL are great vocalists, which if you didn’t know it before this song, is evident right from the first verse – despite and not because of all the auto tuning. But even in the context of professing love with religious metaphor – some of which lines are not bad, though also not original – the vocal effort and range seem out of place and at times ham-handed especially because of the auto-tuning and especially in the chorus (i.e. the “H.O.L.Y” aka “high on loving you”). There is something to be said for FGL’s change of pace in the song itself and in the act of releasing this as the first song off their new album. It is a new direction for FGL, one that feels more like adult contemporary than country, but on the other hand it doesn’t mention Fireball and avoids bro-country cliché. At the end of the day I think the OK lyrics of the verses and FGL’s vocal displays are undermined by the self-importance of the song, particularly of the choruses, and the vocal processing.

Turning back to the song at hand, for important starters this song rings true as sung by FGL, which means something for any song not written by the artists themselves but particularly so for a song like this which is so nostalgic. By contrast Luke Bryan, one of the singers the primary writer Rodney Clawson initially considered for the song (i.e. as a potential purchaser), would not have been as good a fit at this point in his career. Maybe after Bryan co-wrote the small-town great Rain Is a Good Thing, but as Bryan’s career has staked claimed firmly in bro-country, I think this song would have come off as pandering rather than genuinely wistful.

The nostalgia hits home right from the start of the song with the prayerful “May we all” introducing the thesis of the song: getting to grow up in “our red, white and blue little town”. Most of the lyrics in this song are good, to just take a look at the annotated chorus:

May we all know that nothing ain’t cool ‘til you wear the new [off] [A few of the lyrics sites I’ve found online hear the last word of this line as “one”, an oversight that sorely misses any message at all that this song has. But the line itself hits the old is good motif and converse repudiation of all things new being automatically better pairing nicely with the overall nostalgia of the song.]

The sound of a quarter rollin’ down a jukebox [This is probably the best line in the song – we can all remember those diner/ bar jukeboxes (even as we listen to this song on our phones) and what a great auditory image. It’s not the jukebox itself or even the song playing out of it, but the sound of coin clink chunking its way down the coin slot.]

Play the Travis Tritt right above the Tupac [Here I visualized the flipbook pages of that diner jukebox where 8 or so tracks were listed vertically with the corresponding entry numbers next to each selection and making the selection for Tritt, which happened to be located alphabetically above Tupac (with Tupac mentioned for timing/ generational context). In an interview with Tyler Hubbard he suggested this was a throwback to the sort of diverse combination of music CDs he had at that age. Notwithstanding hardcore country fans’ sure objections to this reference, I say I don’t love it but fine. The reference to Tritt is a solid musical inspirational throwback on its own.]

[Before] you get lost down some road [Note: most of the lyrics I see online hear the first word here as hope, but I hear this as “before” which I think is better. In either event ain’t no hurry to get anywhere, it’s just driving for the sake of driving, this guy imagines perhaps with some friends from the jukebox diner in the back seat and then of course the girl riding shotgun mentioned a couple lines later.]

Slow rolling with the top off the back of a Bronco [Still no hurry to get anywhere, in contrast to the fast-paced big city or modern world. And despite use of the term “slow rolling” I don’t think we have a bro-country hook here.]

Buy a cold sixer with a cashed-in lotto [Again I think this steers clear of introducing any bro-country, just the solid enjoyment of a good six pack on a couple fortuitous extra dollars.]

She’s smilin’ with her hair blowing out the window [Some pleasant summertime happiness and carefreeness here, always good.]

Where you ‘bout to go? Yeah, you learn to fly and if you can’t then you just free fall [Here, I get a little lost. I don’t understand what this line adds to the song. It’s hard to think of freefalling without Tom Petty coming to mind but this doesn’t seem to be a reference, and in general I don’t appreciate the link to the rest of the song. But I don’t think this lack of apparent synchronicity does lasting damage to the song, and of course it’s a nice slow rhyme back to May we all.]

To focus in on a few more lyrics:

Coming in after the opening line of RW&B little town, “Kinda place you can’t wait to leave but nobody does/ ‘cause you miss it too much” is a nice lyric encapsulating the tension explored in so many country songs between hometown love, growing up and nostalgia versus the desire to leave and explore for bigger better things.

May we all do a little bit better than the first time / Learn a little something from the worst times / Get a little stronger from the hurt times
May we all get to have a chance to ride the fast one / Walk away wiser when we crashed one / Keep hoping that the best one is the last one

These lyrics are OK. The tone with which they are delivered suggests there is something meaningful behind the lyrics. Interpreted in the context of the music video as about a car race and attendant literal crash they certainly don’t mean anything and I think trivialize what in the generality of the lyrics could be interpreted as significant. The generality of the lyrics by themselves at least admit of the opportunity for the listener, having just been made nostalgic for their hometown or other small town America, to graft their own experiences onto doing better than the first time, learning from the worst times, etc. The lyrics themselves (i.e. out of context) are nice. The trajectory of the song could have culminated in the nostalgic narrator returning to the small town he was once ambivalent about with wife and 2.1 &c. Or we could have just had another catchy verse about small town America and left it at that, without trying to overreach and make the song about more than face value. But as is, I don’t see a link here to the rest of the song and so am a bit frustrated at the apparent intention to impart a message without giving it substance.

This song is most successful where, and because generally, it doesn’t try to do too much. When the song embraces nostalgic references, it does so in just the right way. Most of the song is content being about nostalgia for nice small town America, and it does so simply and without pretension, by listing nice small town Americana. Listing things can make for a good song (see, e.g. I Love this Life). The pace of the song is really nice. The verses are a bit slower then the chorus picks up the tempo so that the rhymes rhyme perfectly and segue one into another. The bass line of the choruses avoids being oppressive and combined with the catchy rhyme scheme reaches just the right head bob along level. May We All doesn’t have the sustained catchiness of Cruise or achieve the significance of message of Dirt, but it finds a satisfactory home somewhere between the two.

The 9 Categories of Country Music: The South

At least at first glance “The South” seems like the easiest of the 9 Categories to identify in songs and draw boundaries around for purposes of categorization and this identification. It probably is, but this is more a feature of the complexity of the other categories rather than this category just being a simple one. At the core of this category are songs about the south generally, or about specific southern states and cities. Songs like Alabama’s Song of the South and Dixieland Delight, Brad Paisley’s Southern Comfort Zone, Hootie’s Southern State of Mind and Southern Style, Hank Jr.’s If Heaven Ain’t a Lot Like Dixie, Tim’s Southern Voice and The Band’s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down don’t focus on southern locations or a specific southern custom, they’re just about the American South.

Songs about particular southern states (and cities) are too numerous to name exhaustively so I’ll just mention a few nice examples. Alabama’s weight is probably more than carried by Sweet Home Alabama alone (Georgia too with Devil Went Down to Georgia), but also boasts song’s like Paisley’s Old Alabama and Tracey Lawrence’s Paint Me a Birmingham. Mississippi, my adopted southern home state, gets some love in Faith Hill’s Mississippi Girl, Johnny and June’s Jackson and to segue west Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man sung by the lovable Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn. To its name Louisiana and its cities have songs like Louisiana Saturday Night, PFG’s Louisiana Song, REK’s Hello New Orleans and Garth’s Calling Baton Rouge.

At least among my favorite artists, Texas is far and away the leader in inspiring country songs, like Strait’s All My Exes Live in Texas and Amarillo By Morning, Terry Allen’s Amarillo Highway, Waylon’s Luckenbach, Texas – sorry, there are just too many songs about Texas that I really like and want to mention – Aldean’s Amarillo Sky and Texas Was You, Jason Boland’s Somewhere Down in Texas, Kevin Fowler’s 100% Texan, Josh Abbott Band’s My Texas and She’s Like Texas, Alabama’s If You’re Gonna Play In Texas, Little Texas’ God Blessed Texas and so many Pat Green songs like I Like Texas, Texas On My Mind, Somewhere Between Texas and Mexico, West Texas Holiday and Way Back Texas. Oklahoma has some nice songs as well including MH’s iconic Okie from Muskogee, EYB’s Oklahoma Girl and Carrie’s Blown Away. And to cover at least some of the remaining field let’s also mention Take Me Home Country Roads (one of my all time favorites), Aldean’s Country Boy’s World, Wagon Wheel (always), PFG’s Virginia Belle, Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road, Shooter’s Gone to Carolina and Carolina (Eric Church or Parmalee, take your pick).

Moving outward from the core of this category, it makes sense to at least consider what else could be included in the category of “The South”. Not within the name of category, but consistent with its spirit are songs like Reckless Kelly’s Arizona Skies and Idaho Cowboy, Strait’s I Can Still Make Cheyenne and Ocean Front Property and even Kid Rock’s All Summer Long that find their inspiration a little further west (or north). So too for songs like Flyover States, REK’s Out Here In the Middle and Strait’s Heartland that are non-specfically more about the great middle west states of this great country, rather than specifically southern states. It might be stretch to go so far as to include songs like PFG’s and CDB’s respective Californias, but in this correspondent listener’s opinion I’d include at least references to western and heartland states here.

I feel still more comfortable including in this category songs about topics identifiable with the South, without specifically naming southern locations. When we hear Hank’s Jambalaya (on the Bayou), Billy Currington’s Good Directions (sweet tea, turnips greens, etc) or even Kacey Musgraves’ Biscuits, this transports the listen to the south just as much as hearing a specific location, even more so with songs mentioning non-city southern landmarks like Alan Jackson’s Chattahoochee, REK’s Corpus Christi Bay, A Country Boy Can Survive or PFG’s Southbound 35, ZBB’s Toes (GA clay) or CDB’s Stockyards. (So too for songs like Chris Ledoux’s Western Skies, Brooks & Dunn’s Red Dirt Road and Toby Keith’s Should’ve Been a Cowboy, taking us west). Because I plan to write a separate post about this, I won’t analyze here the small town, rural and farm motifs as satisfying this category other than to say that under the right circumstances I think there’s a solid argument that they can (e.g. Where the Green Grass Grows, JAB’s I’ll Sing About Mine, ZBB’s Homegrown and Hal Ketchum’s Small Town Saturday Night), given proper context.

At the end of the day, for this listener, it doesn’t take a ton of The South to get credit for hitting the category. Simple references like Blake Shelton’s “If you’ll be my Louisiana / I’ll be your Mississippi and Canaan Smith’s metaphorical kissing “slow as the Mississippi” get us there. I don’t think it can just be songs like Take Me Home Country Roads that are explicit celebrations of particular locations that get credit for hitting this category, though arguments about the breath and inclusion of this category should not distract from the recognition that depth and meaningful engagement with this, or any other category, can make a song great on its own and it’s not just about checking the category boxes. Songwriters have the opportunity to write about anywhere under the sun and set their stories wherever they please, and I really enjoy hearing songs set all across America.