>Lyrically Speaking: Drunken Angel

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Blaze Foley

   Some songs just grab you the moment you hear them. That’s how I came to “Drunken Angel,” one of Lucinda Williams’ best songs. The tune, off her famously popular 1998 album “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” is a tribute to Texas folk-blues singer Blaze Foley.  I had never heard of Foley before this song. Apparently he was some sort of Texas legend, and friend of another tragic folk hero, Townes Van Zandt. While Van Zandt’s life and death is well-documented, Foley pretty much lived in obscurity and was shot dead in 1989 trying to help a friend defend himself.

  The greatness of this song is in the detail of Lucinda’s lyrics. She captured the devotion of his fans and the self-destructiveness of his personality. Each stanza builds him up and knocks him down:  “Followers would cling to you/ Hang around just to meet you/ Some threw roses at your feet/ And watch you pass out on the street/ Drunken Angel.”
   Her lyric “Some kind of savior singing the blues/ A derelict in your duct tape shoes,” perfectly captures this antihero, who according to Wikipedia “had a love affair with duct tape. Initially he placed duct tape on the tips of his cowboy boots to mock the “Urban Cowboy” crazed folks with their silver tipped cowboy boots. This love of duct tape grew until he’d made a suit out of duct tape that he used to walk around in. At his funeral, his casket was coated with duct tape by his friends.” (Click HERE to read the whole entry on Blaze Foley).
   Of course, Lucinda’s sort-of slurred/sneered Texas accent and the added 12-string guitar sound completes the song.
  I never tire hearing it. I just don’t know how you beat this line: “Blood spilled out from the hole in your heart/ Over the strings of your guitar/ The worn down places in the wood/ That once made you feel so good.”

Drunken Angel
Sun came up it was another day
And the sun went down you were blown away
Why’d you let go of your guitar
Why’d you ever let it go that far
Drunken Angel

Could’ve held on to that long smooth neck
Let your hand remember every fret
Fingers touching each shiny string
But you let go of everything
Drunken Angel

Drunken Angel
You’re on the other side
Drunken Angel
You’re on the other side

Followers would cling to you
Hang around just to meet you
Some threw roses at your feet
And watch you pass out on the street
Drunken Angel

Feed you and pay off all your debts
Kiss your brow taste your sweat
Write about your soul your guts
Criticize you and wish you luck
Drunken Angel

Drunken Angel
You’re on the other side
Drunken Angel
You’re on the other side

Some kind of savior singing the blues
A derelict in your duct tape shoes
Your orphan clothes and your long dark hair
Looking like you didn’t care
Drunken Angel

Blood spilled out from the hole in your heart
Over the strings of your guitar
The worn down places in the wood
That once made you feel so good
Druken Angel

Drunken Angel
You’re on the other side
Drunken Angel
You’re on the other side

Sun came up it was another day
And the sun went down you were blown away
Why’d you let go of your guitar
Why’d you ever let it go that far
Drunken Angel

Lucinda Williams performing “Drunken Angel”
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cckroKLPsqg]

Blaze Foley performing “Oval Room”
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRLc2O1xtYk]

Filed Under: Bloglyrically speaking

Tags: lucinda williamslyrically speaking

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