From The Side of the Road – song titles for a suburban environment

In the radio work I do I get to hear a lot of current bluegrass releases, and I have to say that bluegrass songwriters may be in a bit of a subject rut. Our genre now seems dominated by songs about coal mining and the moonshine trade. Songs like that made the occasional appearance in earlier days of the music, but they were by no means the norm. Ironically it comes at a time when very few bluegrass singers and songwriters have ever been in a coal mine or had much experience with moonshine production (consumption of the finished product is another matter which we’ll go into some other time). The fact is that due to changes in our society and the gradual urbanization of areas of the country where bluegrass music is most popular, many younger professional bluegrass artists have grown up with a much more suburban experience than the older generations did. It’s a world of SUVs, outlet malls, Sriracha sauce, and even dobros. Isn’t it time the music reflected those changes? 

Nostalgia has always been a part of the music, but it was nostalgia often grounded in real life experience. The late Randall Hylton was a songwriter who had a flair for incorporating modern concepts into bluegrass songwriting (he wrote Lee Berry Rye, the only bluegrass song I know about road construction). He advised me once to “write what you know about.” He said, “I don’t know about you, but I’ve never ridden a train. I’d rather write about planes.” I had to tell him that in fact I’d ridden a lot of trains, but his point was still well-taken. He also told me my taxes were a mess, but that’s not relevant to the subject (Randall was also a CPA).

In memory of Randall Hylton, I thought I would give songwriters a few ideas for songs that reflect the 21st century suburban experience. As a few examples, and as a way to bridge the gap, we can still write nostalgic songs about our parents and grandparents but be perhaps more realistic about their lifestyle and the kinds of jobs they do or did:

Papaw Was a Walmart Greeter

Daddy’s Microbrewery

Mama’s at the Call Center

Grandma Ordered Takeout

Here are some more that are more obviously inspired by some of our bluegrass classics:

The Waves in the Pool

Me and Target (Got Our Own Thing Going)

Changing Passwords

Mall on the Hill

Gold Watch and Chain From Zales

Text From My Darling

Megachurch in the Wildwood

Food Court of Love

My Native Subdivision

Panera in my Heart

Cold Cold Air Conditioning

Two Dollar PayPal Purchase

One Loaf of Sourdough

I’m Using My iPhone for a Roadmap

I’m Breaking in a Brand New Operating System

Darling Netflix Across the Sea (that might need work)

Even our instrumentals, like Big Mon or Big Sciota could stand some updating:

Big Salad

Chicken Breast Reel

Golf Cart Wheel Hoss