Saturday Single No. 491

While sorting out tracks for our Follow The Directions project, I became intrigued by the number of times the word “southbound” showed up. There are twenty-four tracks in the RealPlayer with the word in their titles. (There are also two tracks by a late 1960s group that called itself Southbound Freeway and thirteen tracks from a 1975 Hoyt Axton album titled Southbound, but we’ll set those aside.)

Now, “southbound” and any other directionally tracks wouldn’t have qualified for the Follow The Directions project the way I originally envisioned it. I was thinking about titles with specific directions in them, like “Girl From The North Country,” which showed up when we did “North” the other week. But it’s my game and I can change the rule, so as we look for titles with the four directions, we’ll also look separately for titles with the suffixes “-bound” and “-ern” attached to the directions. It turned the project from four full installments to at least twelve and maybe more, sometimes maybe with fewer than the full complement of four titles per post, but we’ll work around that.

Having decided that, I went off to see how often musical journeys have taken folks in directions other than south. Given the influence of the South on American history and culture, I expected folks to be bound in other directions far fewer times. But I thought I’d look anyway.

“Northbound” nets us three tracks: the quiet “Northbound Bus” by the Flying Burrito Brothers from their 1976 album Airborne, and two versions of a gentle song titled “Northbound 35,” one by folk performer Richard Shindell (who’s showed up here before) on his 2007 album South of Delia and the other by True North, an Oregon-based bluegrass group that included the song on its 2014 album Elsebound.

“Eastbound” brings us one track, another quiet song: “Eastbound Train” by the early 1970s folk-rock group Wooden Horse. It’s on the groups’s self-titled 1972 debut.

When we search for “westbound,” we have to discard five of the eight tracks that show up, as they’re single releases on the Westbound label: Four by the Detroit Emeralds and one by Teegarden & Van Winkle. That leaves us with three tracks: A slow and sorrowful piece of Americana titled “Westbound Tomorrow” that the group the Robber Barons put on its 2004 album Dragging The River and two sprightly versions of “Westbound #9,” one of them the 1970 hit by the Flaming Ember and the other a track from jazz organist Charles Earland off of his 1970 album Living Black!

So southbound tops all the others direction-bound possibilities by an aggregate score of 24-7. And if we’re going to dabble in things southbound this morning, I think we’ll start with a song by country singer Pat Green that shows up four times: “Southbound 35.”

Green first recorded the song for his 1995 self-released debut album, Dancehall Dreamer, and included it on live albums in 1998 and 2000. (If I’m ever lucky enough to be anywhere in Texas when Green is scheduled to perform, I’d love to see him.) He re-recorded the song in a much tougher, guitar-heavy version for his 2001 album Three Days, but I prefer the earlier recording.

And all of that is why Pat Green’s “Southbound 35” is today’s Saturday Single.

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