Song Of The Day 8/27/2013: Tom T. Hall - "Pay No Attention To Alice"

Mental Health Week: Today you get two unbalanced minds for the price of one. Tom T. Hall, one of country music's most stunningly good, detail-oriented songwriters, wrote and sang "Pay No Attention To Alice," a subtle character study of a guy who doesn't realize he's crawling down the same path as the person he's gossiping about. He's at a bar with a friend having (more than) a few drinks. Alice is presumably there as well, and Hall says she's an insane lush (not to mention a bad cook) that isn't worth their condescension. Don't order the apple pie. But as the night and the bar tab unwind, it becomes apparent that our narrator isn't exactly a prince of great virtue himself. Things end inconveniently.

I love one line in this song above all others: "Don't talk about the war. I was a coward." It's an orphan line that shifts the tone of the song abruptly, and then just gets dropped. "Talk about fishin' and the all the good times raisin' hell" is what he says next. Wait a minute, you're bringing up this apparently very personal event and then just shutting it down? What are you, drunk? That one line wraps up the wandering thought process of a man who's guzzling down some serious alcohol. As it turns out he's losing his mind just as much as he says Alice is. Pot, meet kettle.

This song's about lots of things: the glass-house potential of small-town gossip, denial, the double standard of men getting away with something women couldn't without scandal. The ending is both indefinite and poetically justified. An honest-to-God WTF moment.

Maybe this song is too sane for Mental Health Week. Ah well, too late now. We've already printed the T-shirts.

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