Dirty River Boys Song Tournament: Day III

DRB_round_3 copyby: Thomas D. Mooney

Below, you’ll find the results and commentary on the second round. We’ll post the results of the next round tomorrow. For more information on how exactly we came to these results, check our Day I post here and as well as our first round results here.

As a reminder, songs are seeded primarily based on popularity and voted on by how great we feel the song is. If we seeded the songs by greatness, then obviously there wouldn’t be a need for a tournament. That fact is essential.


The Sunset Limited

1) Boomtown- 22 Votes
5) Letter to Whoever- 3 Votes

3) Raise Some Hell- 10 Votes
2) Draw- 15 Votes

There’s a reason “Boomtown” is so popular. When Travis Stearns comes in with gunshot booms in the first chorus, it feels as though we’ve entered a time machine and now are walking the streets of Deadwood. There’s so many little interesting things that make up this song too. There’s the fact that the song is really built around the mandolin. There’s Nino Cooper’s long drawn vocals followed by the three-part harmonies. I feel as though you always think of “Boomtown” as this really big, powerful song (primarily due to their live performance usually leads the audience to an eruption), but really, this is probably DRB’s most Appalachian moment. 

I’m almost always convinced that there’s at least one or two, subtle as they may be, outlaw references. “Draw” however, is just soaked with them. Drinking whiskey. Pulling out your guns. Yelling draw. Drinking some more whiskey. The desert of your mind. Almost all DRB songs are armed with intros that are just so identifiable. You almost know instantly what’s coming. “Draw” has one of the best. The first few guitar string picks in the song are really like the calm before the storm. I swear there’s lightning shooting out of the other guitar when it comes. It’s so sharp and piercing. Interesting enough, in the second verse of “Draw,” Marco Gutierrez says that “this brewing storm is going to raise some hell”–which of course it just beat 15-10. 

City of New Orleans

1) Six Riders- 15 Votes
4) Youngblood Blues- 10 Votes

3) So Long Elaine- 17 Votes
2) She- 8 Votes

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid anyone? There’s so many things to love about “Six Riders.” In essence, it’s a simple song, storyline, and premise. It’s an outlaw tune. It’s really the most Marty Robbins DRB gets in their quest of Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. And there’s something romantic  and idyllic about being an outlaw and having “Six riders coming for me and the kid. We got six shots left to kill them dead.” Hell, how realistic is that? It’s very unlikely, but that just makes the story all that much more appealing.

What I find most interesting in the match-up of “Six Riders” and “Youngblood Blues” is how you can really strip them down into two separate schools of thought. You could say that both songs start off with this notion of coming to fork in the road. “Six Riders” starts off with “I quit my old ways, starting robbing trains and I’m never looking back” while “Youngblood Blues” begins with “Once I was a younger man, all foolish ways, no masterplan. Sometimes I wish those days would come again.” So in one school of thought, you’re never looking back at your past. You’re becoming something with obvious risks and danger while the other is trying to live the mature life. Trying to become most stable and fixed while daydreaming about a time in which you didn’t worry about your consequences. 

I’m actually a little surprised by “She” losing by this many votes. “She” is somehow the only 2 seed knocked out this round. As I mentioned yesterday, Train Station I feel as though was built more so on raw energy–it’s their punk EP. Like with “She,” Gutierrez isn’t so much telling a story as he is describing the bitch in your life. It’s a fucked up fairytale. And don’t tell me this isn’t a punk song; listen to Gutierrez’ vocals. And where “She” is the one time burn from a woman, “So Long Elaine’s” pain seems to be more penetrating and jagged. 

California Zephyr

1)Carnival Lights-21 Votes 
4) Riverbed Wildflowers- 4 Votes

6) Off the Trail-11 Votes
2) My Son-14 Votes

I’m willing to bet that “Carnival Lights” very well could have been your very first DRB experience. It has this real old school country gospel feel to it. There’s so many great lines in this song. One in particular that gets overlooked though is “The shadows dance like demons through her room.” The imagery is just great. “Thinking it ain’t such a long way down. Failure’s such a long cold fall” just sets up the entire song. You just fall into that state of mind with that single line. More on this song tomorrow.

“Off the Trail” and “My Son” end up making the second Train Station vs Long Cold Fall match-up of the day. This time the roles are flipped with Train Station winning. There’s a real smooth approach to “My Son” that starts off with the three-part harmonies with Stearns’ laying down probably his most laid-back, chill drumming. What separates “My Son” from any other DRB song is that it’s really “verseless.” You could say that it’s essentially a three-part chorus (Harmony, Cooper, Harmony, etc). Somehow, it feels much longer and bigger than it actually is.   

Tex-Mex Express

1) Union Painter- 17 Votes 
5) In These Times- 8 Votes

6) Heart Like That-11 Votes 
2) Road Song-14 Votes

Just by the nature of a tournament, some songs will fall earlier than they probably should have, had we built a ranking list. “In These Times” is one of these. It just so happened to meet up with one of the strong 1 seeds. Of course though, “Union Painter” very well could be the winner of this entire thing. It’s Cooper’s best storytelling and armed with one of the most identifiable choruses around: Well they said I’d find Jesus, that’s what they raved. But I wound up in prison just before I was saved. In one of our first interviews, Cooper went into detail about “Union Painter.” The harmonica in the song is much more swan song than the howling and rambling variety we often find in DRB songs. 

“Road Song” I feel has always been seen much more of a drinking honky-tonk rambler than anything else-as if there’s not as much substance or something. I guess that’s just the consequence of playing loud and fast. But really, it’s underrated. Cooper’s strength as a songwriter is writing these really melodic guitar parts that everyone else can build around. They’ve got this great melody that you can’t help but begin foot-stomping to. Once again you’re presented with this romantic notion about being “outlaws from a love song.” One of Cooper’s best comical lines in any song comes in the second verse with “Now Tennessee, she treats me like a lover. Out to get me for a one night stand.”  

Tomorrow’s Match-up’s

The Sunset Limited

1) Boomtown
2) Draw

City of New Orleans

1) Six Riders
3) So Long Elaine

California Zephyr

1) Carnival Lights
2) My Son

Tex-Mex Express 

1) Union Painter
2) Road Song


3 responses to “Dirty River Boys Song Tournament: Day III

  1. Pingback: Dirty River Boys Song Tournament: Day IV | New Slang·

  2. Pingback: Dirty River Boys Song Tournament: Day V | New Slang·

  3. Pingback: Dirty River Boys Song Tournament: Day V: Final | New Slang·

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