Daily Song Study

2 songs, 1 subject

In songs on July 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Today is a two-fer, a study of how similar and different two songs about the same subject can be. While I’m not a big Skynyrd fan, I’d have to be deaf not to know that The Ballad of Curtis Loew is a damned fine song, sharply contrasting ideologically with some of their other output (Sweet Home Alabama, et al).

Compare it to a song written nearly two decades later…

In 1996, I was booking events at Borders in Fort Worth. One day I got a disc in the mail from a singer/songwriter in Atlanta named Shawn Mullins, who had a small catalogue of self-released discs and was on constant tour with a VW microbus and a dachshund. I booked him, and he did a hell of a set in our coffee bar. Not two years later, he was signed & topping the charts with Lullabye, a talky-singy thing not dissimilar to the style he had used on Eggshells, the album I got from him.

One of the best songs on that ’96 disc is this tribute to another guitar-picking senior citizen, similar to Curtis Loew but different in certain respects. It’s instructive to listen to both tunes and see what contrasts pop up.

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  1. It’s the same damn story. Although i find the Skynard version a bit better.

  2. The prime difference I find is that Curtis Loew incorporates the community’s attitudes, whereas Joshua is very personal, just between him, his parents and the old man. Curtis Loew obviously makes a sociological statement about race, while in Joshua we never really know whether the old man is black or white.

    But yeah, it’s the same story, and being that Mullins is from the south, I’m sure he’d heard the earlier song. Still, I find it to be more homage than ripoff.

  3. There’s no question that it’s homage as it takes it somewhere personal.

  4. […] featured a Shawn Mullins song in this space before, and he’s been up to some interesting things since that came out. In 2003 he teamed up with […]

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