Hillbilly Highway – Top 5 tunes about truckstop waitresses, topless turnpike dancers, and backroads beauties


by Sheldon Birnie

Last week here on the Hillbilly Highway, we spoke with Dustin Bentall leading up to his performance at the Park Theatre on Valentine’s Day.

Now that a few days have passed, I’m still stuck with his unbelievable tune “Emmylou” playing repeat on the jukebox in my brain. I can’t shut it off. I wake up in the morning, it’s there. I’m walking the streets of Winnipeg, it’s keeping me company. I try to drown it out by hitting the Windsor or the Times, but when I deke outside for some air, it’s right there.

The tune has got me thinking. About strip clubs, waitresses and other beauties you might come across on the Highway, and how they’re depicted or presented in song. It’s also got me thinking of a pal of mine who drives a truck all over the damn continent, and I wonder what his top five tunes are?

And so here we go, with a little list of  the Hillbilly Highway’s top five tunes about waitresses, dancers, and good time gals. Drop us a comment to let us know what your Top Five Tunes are!

#5 – Brand New Kind of Actress – Jason Isbell

A classic cut off Jason Isbell’s first solo record, Sirens of the Ditch, this tune comes at the subject from the point of view of the “same old stubborn waitress, baby.” A hard scrabble life is etched out in the sparse details that characterize the best of Isbell’s songwriting, and a noble but sad beauty is revealed. Isbell is one of my favourite songwriters, and this tune and this record delivered big on the promise he showed as budding songwriter and member of the Drive-By Truckers.

#4 – Frozen Puck to the Head – Captain Tractor

Man, I haven’t listened to Captain Tractor since high school, but this track some pure Canadian country. Hockey? Check. Rita MacNeil? Check. Truck stop waitress from Saskatoon? Check. Sure, the production is pretty dated back to that trade mark CanRock 90s sound. But so are both of the Lowest of the Low’s first two albums, are those are fucking genius. “His heart made a noise like a truck he forgot to plug in” = Gold.

#3 – Brand New Boy – Fred Eaglesmith

Now this puppy is a Debbie Downer, big time. But it’s a beaut, and sadly telling of the situation of our beloved waitress stuck in a town that’s dying, like many on the Canadian prairie. “Six dollars an hour ain’t enough to live on, even in just a shack,” Fred sings from the broken hearted perspective of the ex-husband / boyfriend / lover, “And the tips in a small town are so small, you might as well give ’em back.” There are a couple Fred tunes that could have fit in here nicely. “18 Wheels,” “Water in the Fuel,” “Drive In Movies” all come to mind. But they’re all downers, too.

# 2 – Birthday Boy – Drive-By Truckers

Now, this melancholy rocker from my boy Cooley and the Drive-By Truckers starts off in a decidedly darker place, as this tune is about a prostitute and not just a lovely lady serving up coffee and feeding fantasies. This songs reminds me a lot of Leaving Las Vegas — and no, not the Sheryl Crow mega-hit, but rather the novel by the late and troubled John O’Brien, or even the superb film rendition starring my main man Nic Cage and Elisabeth Shue. In fact, Cooley’s protagonist reminds me a lot of Sera. Hard, uncompromising, gritty. This tune is the real deal.

#1 – Emmylou – Dustin Bentall & The Smokes

A song as much about the relationship between a pair of brothers as it is about a strip joint, this track is goddamn catchy and touching at the same time. “I like to drink whisky and I like girls who do too.” What a classic line. While I never took my younger brother to a strip joint (that I can recall), the line about going out Friday night, drinking a bottle of bourbon and beating the shit out of each other resonates quite deeply.

That reminds me. Did I ever tell you about the time I met that dancer in Kelowna?

[cite type=image]Christian Michaude/Flickr[/cite]

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