Song Of The Day 3/7/2015: Mickey Newbury - "The Future's Not What It Used to Be"

Actual Country Week: Closing out this week of songs that lean a little closer to the country ideal than even the most expensive AutoTune can simulate is not just a throwback, but something that someone would be likely to throw back to. Mickey Newbury (1940–2002) was a prolific country songwriter whose work I haven’t especially studied yet, not in the way I’ve gone on Harlan Howard or Willie Nelson binges in the past. He was from Houston. He came into prominence around the time that country was finding itself the least bit irked by the hippie subculture. But like Kris Kristofferson (and Merle Haggard, but don’t tell anybody that), Newbury found something in the libertarian aspect of that coterie worth investigating from time to time.

This song is from Frisco Mabel Joy, Newbury’s 1971 album that was pretty much his most successful, all things considered. It opened with “An American Trilogy,” the patriotic suite of traditional American songs that Elvis absconded with for his live shows at the time. But while Elvis turned the extended cover into a chorus-and-marching-drum revival piece, Newbury’s version was a quiet, troubled memory dream with enough dusted-out melancholy to flood the Appomattox with rye-flavored teardrops. It’s actually quite powerful. Speaking of whiskey and regret, “The Future’s Not What It Used to Be” continues along that dark path of cracked glass and upturned feather beds, making a stop in Seattle before throwing all those crushed scrapbook flowers to the hounds. Yep. Happy birthday to me!
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