From The Side of the Road… refreshing vintage song themes

While trying to put songs together for the annual Mother’s Day edition of my classic bluegrass show on SiriusXM known as Truegrass, I lamented once again the shortage of songs in our music about mothers who are still living. Sure, there are some songs in which mother gives some advice (usually unheeded):

Mama talked to me last night
She gave to me some good advice
She said son you ought to quit this old rambling all around
And marry you a sweet loving wife

(More Pretty Girls Than One)

More often, though, the songs are about singing the praises of a mother who has “gone on before.” It seems mother is under-appreciated while she’s with us, and that’s a shame.

For bluegrass songwriters of 2021, however, many of whom are stuck in a moonshine/coal/bluegrass-songs-about-bluegrass rut, this should be viewed as an opportunity. Writing songs about living mothers would not only fulfill a deep need in our genre, it would help songwriters branch out, and think how much living moms everywhere would appreciate it.

Let me throw out a few title ideas just to get the wheels turning:

I Haven’t Called Mama in Years

Mother’s Not Dead (That’s All I Have to Say)

Mother’s Bible (And She’d Like it Back)

Before this leads to an entire Bluegrass Today chart’s worth of living mother songs a year from now, there are plenty of other potential new songs that are also merely variations of categories of songs we already have:

Songs about horses that are still alive:

Molly’s Colt

Hello Old Pal

Pinto the Wonder Horse is Old

Songs in which a guy (who isn’t an insecure sociopath) takes a girl down to the river and doesn’t kill her. I’ve actually written one of these, but there are numerous possibilities, including:

Uneventful Picnic by the Ohio

Related to this, we could explore murder ballads in which the girl fights back:

The Knoxville Girl Turned Out to be a Black Belt

Pretty Polly Kicked Little Willie’s A**

Okay, Not Marrying Me is Fine, Too

Sometimes it works to take existing songs and retell the story from a different perspective:

I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home from the point of view of the cattle “lowing in the lane”:

We’re Lowing Because We’re Hungry (How About Some Hay?)

Or what about Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms from the parents perspective?

This Guy is Lazy And Our Daughter Could Do a Lot Better

Or the parents’ side of Bringing Mary Home:

Here Comes Another One — How Times Do We Have to Explain This?

Then there’s always Pig in a Pen from the point of view of the pretty little girl:

I Guess I Could Feed Your Pig—What Does it Pay?

Finally, returning to the classic murder ballads, Banks of the Ohio from the river’s viewpoint:

Will You Please Stop Throwing People Into Me?