Stop hollerin at me

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April 2007


by Jeff Cox, Wine and Beer Merchandiser

I love the way John Prine can take a big, wide expanse of observations and distill them into a simple phrase, couched in everyman dialect. Not a syllable wasted and told as cleanly as common sense. The kind of things you can wrap your mind around and chew on for a while, sort of like taking a whole field of ideas and turning ‘em into a shot of fine sippin’ whiskey.

There’s that sweet, unmistakable earthiness of barley with a wisp of smoke around the edges — like a mountain town on a windless, cold winter’s night. Wrapped inside the velvety smoothness of malted grain is the truth, a hard edge, the real story told like an old man’s tale, like a rasp in a once-pure tenor, or the well-earned lines in an octogenarian’s face. But I digress.

Prine’s music isn’t the sort of thing that’s for everyone — like most things that make no concession or compromise, you either like it or you don’t. It’s not the kind of sound you can ignore, nor one that leaves you ambivalent.

Like the mountains, the desert or a wild, storm-tossed coast, there’s no “take it or leave it” about it. Those places are what they are, they’re not changing, don’t have focus groups and don’t care what you think. But the awe or fear (it’s a fine line there) they inspire don’t let you not take a position. Still, I digress.

Now, since we’re out there road trippin’ through desert, mountain and prairie, take a look at the places where people live, the cities and towns that run the gamut from hamlet to Gotham. Funny thing is, in the giant melting pot that is the U.S. of A., they’re all pretty much the same, from sea to shining sea.

Start at the edge of town with the Texaco and the Wal-Mart, all brightly lit and filled with colorful labels that yell at you and demand the nanosecond it takes to deliver the sales pitch. Then drive right on through town, the signs and the labels bellow and holler — with absolutely nothing to say. (It’s a funny thing, when you try to be everything to everyone, you end up pretty close to nothing at all — and lose your soul in the bargain.)

It’s no melting pot, it’s an autoclave. The rich cultural gumbo is a thin gruel. What could have been fine whiskey is just rotgut in a fancy package.

But I digress. Heck, there’s not a word about wine here — although really the whole ramble is as much about wine as it is about whiskey or John Prine. So it goes. I’m takin’ a walk, I’m goin’ outside ...

Jeff Cox

About the author

Jeff Cox is the wine and beer merchandiser at PCC. Over the years, he's built close relationships with vineyards worldwide and in our neck of the woods. He's even worked with select local vineyards to create some of the spectacular wines we carry.

In addition to this monthly column, check out his featured wines list.