Thanks Spotify! Their robot geniuses offered this up to me, the best Bill Morrissey song I’ve heard since Bill drank himself to death at 59 in 2011, which I missed when it came out in 2013.
A little research shows that others didn’t miss it: Rolling Stone said it was “hilarious and tragic” and named it one of the best country songs of the year, Robert Christgau offered one of his cryptic appreciations of the album it came from. NPR covered Sam Baker’s sad and fascinating backstory, which has to do with a bomb on a bus in South America, and is worth seeking out.
It’s a simple song, a folky strum, all of one minute and fifty-three seconds long. A guy describes his construction job laying pipe in ditches in the “pouring-ass” rain. The boss is a shit, the crew are a bunch of stoners, and he doesn’t have a high opinion of job site safety standards. Yet his attitude is positive:
I am crawling back down in the ditch today
I got a crazy-ass wife
got a baby on the way
glad I got work
glad I got pay
I’m crawling back down in the ditch today
Later he’ll mention one of the reasons his wife is crazy-ass, which is she thinks she and Taylor Swift were separated at birth. He regards this as well with an affectionate shrug.
Unlike Rolling Stone I don’t hear tragic, unless you consider it tragic that people have to work construction jobs, in which case you should probably get out a little more often from whatever office where you spend your days. I do hear: tenderness, resignation, acceptance of diminished expectations and how mostly that’s a blessing, a “how the hell did I ever end up here” sense of wonder. The song sounds like someone in the middle of an all that’s only going to get more complicated, coming up for a quick gulp of air before going under again. As I listen I find myself thinking of a young relative of mine I don’t know very well but follow on Facebook who has a 13-month old baby, how even her happiest posts have a feel of exhaustion and struggle. I find myself thinking of that old cliche, life is hard, but you don’t have to be.
Still pissed at Bill Morrissey for drinking himself to death at 59, though. Alcoholism is a disease, not a choice; addicts hurt themselves worst of all. Still pissed. For the record I am privvy to no actual medical information that lists that as the cause of death, but one just knows such things.