Night Music: Tompall & the Glaser Brothers, “Streets of Baltimore”

I’m not sure anyone wants to follow how I landed on this song.

We went to see Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell tonight at a show in the park by Lincoln Center. For free. This city in the summer is chockablock with concerts and movies in the parks.

Emmylou Harris got her fame from singing with Gram Parsons, but she’s done a ton of great stuff since GP died. The show tonight opened with a Parson’s song, moved onto a Townes Van Zandt song, and then moved onto tunes from Emmylou and Rodney’s histories, and (of course) the Grammy-winning album they released last year.

Country music is all about song writing. There are fantastic musicians playing country music, but all of them are playing to service the tunes that the great songwriters provide. Which is why outsiders are (or maybe it is better said were) anathema. They don’t/didn’t understand how the system works.

Gram Parsons was not part of the system, but he loved the songs.

I discovered Gram Parsons and bought his records and his CDs, though he was long dead. But he taught the Rolling Stones a lot about country music, and the songs were fantastic.

Until today I thought Parsons wrote Streets of Baltimore, which is a dark story song a couple who leave the country for the city. Turns out the song was written by some country dudes. With story and chorus and verse, it’s not trad., but part of our American history for sure.

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