28 August 2010

Barkeep's Jukebox: "In Pieces" by Garth Brooks

I'm trying out a new sub-series here, in which I go through an album and suggest a drink to accompany each song.  For those keeping score, I was never much of a drinker and I gave up all alcohol a few years ago when it became quite clear that my Crohn's infested guts simply had no tolerance for the stuff.  My recommendations, then, are based solely upon my fading recollections; you are invited to share any alternate suggestions!

The inaugural album for this series is In Pieces by Garth Brooks.  I chose this for two reasons.  Firstly, I just posted about the G-man in my speculation about Apple's forthcoming media event.  Secondly, it occurred to me that the kinds of albums that will lend themselves best to this kind of analysis are those whose aesthetics aren't consistent from one song to the next.  Introduction out of the way, as Garth would say...let's get down to it!

"Standing Outside the Fire" - The album opens by imploring the listener to stop being passive.  I would recommend a magarita here.  There's something alluring (to me, at least) about the drink; it calls to mind stories and songs full of adventure, from dancing with exotic women to being chased by card-playing thieves across the desert.

Drink this before you
call the old man out.
"The Night I Called the Old Man Out" - A guy recalls coming of age, being taken to task by his father.  The sound of the song is urgent; there's no time to sip leisurely on something like a mojito or mint julep.  No, this is the kind of song that calls for a shot of courage in the form of something with some bite to it.  You can either take a shot of tequila (following the margarita from the last song) or a cheap bourbon like Old Grand-Dad.  (Remember, the kid in the story is young; he's not buying from the top shelf.)

"American Honky-Tonk Bar Association" - Garth calls the working class to assemble at their local watering hole and blow off some steam about where the nation is headed.  This crowd drinks beer, and while the preference is regional, it's always domestic.  I'd go with a Budweiser or a Coors Light, myself.

"One Night a Day" - Garth lets us know how he's slowly recovering from a break-up, but it's the forlorn saxophone that tells us what we need to know.  This calls for a dry, red wine.  Something to dull the brain gradually, like a chianti or shiraz.  You want that warmth in your cheeks to make you believe your friends who tell you you're gonna be okay.

"Kickin' and Screamin'" - A bluesy number, this one is just a fun song observing how often in life, we're reluctant to leave places we resisted going to in the first place.  I see a rum & Coke with this one.  Something without too much bite or burn, but enough to help your head sway with that mesmerizing lead guitar.  I'd suggest Mount Gay Rum - Eclipse.

"Anonymous" - Not found on the original album release, but present on all subsequent issues, this time we're privy to the interior thoughts of a young boy pining for a girl he's too bashful to approach.  The tone of the song is careful not to feel too sweet or sad; we don't fear him as a stalker, but rather empathize with his sense of isolation.  This one's tricky, because the character is hard to associate with drinking at all.  I would place the song in the context of a young man recalling, rather than admitting, the way he used to pine for a girl.  I'd partner this one with a chilled tumbler of Tito's vodka.

"Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)" - First of all, this song has high energy with driving guitar work and Terry McMillan's harmonica is insane.  Lyrically, though, it's about a young girl running off with her boyfriend of whom her parents do not approve.  The characters would probably be sneaking around with something cheap like Boone's Farm or perhaps Schlitz.

"The Red Strokes" - The piano drives the song, which explores how various parts of life can be associated with specific colors (not entirely unlike partnering specific songs from an album with specific drinks).  Red wine seems the obvious selection here, though I'm loathe to repeat a suggestion within the same album.  Instead, I suggest a tequila sunrise.  It's vibrant in appearance, and feels more exuberant than does wine, befitting the spirit of the song.

Hello, Samantha dear...
"Callin' Baton Rouge" - You really shouldn't pair an alcoholic drink with a song about a truck driver tearing down the interstate.  But this torrid affair began the night before with "sweet red wine," so it stands to reason that if you can't be with Samantha in Baton Rouge, you might open a bottle of strawberry wine in the back of the cab when you pull over for the night.

"The Night Will Only Know" - Two lovers bear silent witness to an attack to preserve their own secret; the ominous sound of the electric guitar here may as well be the scorn of God Himself.  A sneaky coward would drink heavily to quell the guilt; you shouldn't go that far, but pair this one with a Bloody Mary.  Aside from the morbidly ironic name, the heaviness of the tomato juice in the drink will mirror the guilt of the song's narrator.

"The Cowboy Song" - An organic sounding song built around an acoustic guitar, this is a tribute to the cowboys whose way of life bears little resemblance to the way it's been depicted on screen.  In my mind, I see cowboys sitting around a campfire passing around a flask during these reminisces.  That flask holds bourbon.  I would suggest Knob Creek.