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Song of the Month #13 - “Sometimes You’ve Got To Do What You Can”

(Track #7 on the Home Town CD)

album cover
 


                                          Lyrics:  If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read.  Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy Home Town Songs from Napster”.  Then, click on "Sometimes You’ve Got To Do What You Can."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

                                                         *Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.

 

 

Along with playing music on the weekends, I taught high school English for thirty-two years.  So, I have a fairly good understanding of what it is like to work a day job.  With few exceptions, most people who work day jobs respond similarly to certain words or phrases.  For example, Sunday night and Monday morning have a tendency to generate a somewhat undesirable disposition, while Thanksgiving, Christmas, vacation, and Friday quite easily bring out that congenial nature that most of us prefer.

 

Friday is, and has always been, one of my favorite words.  Throughout my years of teaching, I always enjoyed the energy that pervaded the high school halls and classrooms on this day.  With the weekend just around the bend, it was very difficult to keep my students on task.  In fact, it was difficult to keep me on task, too.  Knowing I kept a guitar in the closet, the kids made it very clear that my music would make them much better citizens.  They reinforced their position by telling me that understanding the difference between a participle and a gerund would only lead to a boring successful life.  On many occasions I did give in to their wishes, and I now apologize for the part I played in contributing to the decline of western civilization.

 

When the school day ended and the high school halls finally cleared out on Friday afternoon, the fun usually continued with my colleagues.  Inevitably someone would suggest we meet for a venting session in a place where alcohol could help us air our feelings much more easily.  These gatherings varied in size and location.  The group could number anywhere from two to twenty, and the setting was either at some teacher’s house or one of the local watering holes.  Although many years have slipped away since then, I still have fond memories of these get-togethers and a deep love and admiration for the people who were involved in them.

 

One Friday afternoon sometime in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, Robb Sloan, my good friend and colleague, suggested that he and I go to The Farmers’ Inn, a little tavern located on one of the side streets in downtown Canandaigua.  Robb and I are different in many ways, but the common threads that have sustained our close friendship for nearly thirty-five years are we are far from the main stream when it comes to being a teacher, and we always enjoy new and different experiences.  So, Robb and I went to the Farmers’ by ourselves because it is not a typical “happy hour” place where a majority of teachers would be comfortable.

 

As I sat at the bar in The Farmers’, Robb introduced me to many of his friends, and they reminded me of Mac and the boys, a cast of eccentric characters from Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.  A few of these guys lived at Heartbreak Hotel, a rooming house next to The Farmers’.  It was very similar to The Palace Flophouse and Grill, the place where Mac and the boys lived.  Can you tell I love Steinbeck?  Well, I felt just like Doc, the main character in both books, as I sat and listened to the patrons share their hilarious tales.  For me, the scene couldn’t get any better!  Sipping a cold beer on a Friday afternoon or evening and listening to people tell me their stories are two things I absolutely live for!  At some point in the evening, “Sometimes You’ve Got To Do What You Can” made its move on me.

 

I don’t know why the lyrics came to me in this setting.  I’d been in many places like The Farmers’ before, and I’d spent many evenings with similar patrons.  I guess the song was just ready to come out.  It merely depicts the sights and sounds of a local neighborhood bar on a Friday night.  It generates the energy that emerges from people talking, laughing, shouting, venting, playing games, watching sports on TV, and eating bar food.  The song’s tone induces the feeling people crave after a long hard week of work.  Realizing the feeling can only be temporary, the narrator identifies in the last verse the strategy usually adopted by most people.  They work hard all week long in order to return to their little oasis at the end of the week.

 

“Sometimes You’ve Got To Do What You Can” is pure Americana.  It is an upbeat bluegrass-like country song that gets your toes tapping and hands clapping.  With a guitar, banjo, fiddle, bass, and great harmonies John and Joe Dady back me up with some exhilarating guitar and banjo picking.  The fiddle playing is right up there with the guitar and banjo, and it is equally outstanding.  It’s that kind of song that compels you to crank it up when you are driving in your car.  When you hear it, it makes you want to call your friends and invite them out to your local tavern to shoot the breeze and drink a few cold ones.  While not coming close to something like Jonathan Edward’s classic “Shanty,” it evokes the same feeling.  Hope you have time to check it out!  I like it, and I hope you do, too.

 

I dedicated this song to the members of the "Friday Afternoon Choir."  The group got its name from the phrase “Choir practice.”  This term emerged as the code my friends and I developed to dissemble the nature of our Friday afternoon gatherings.  Here’s how it worked.  When one of my colleagues was interested in getting together at a local pub on a Friday afternoon, he would never overtly state this in the high school halls or classrooms.  Instead, he would ask if anyone was interested in a “choir practice.”  Everyone, including the kids, either smiled or chuckled at this phrase.  Over the years, I have been asked to join several church and community choirs.  I have always declined.  Once you have been with the best, there is no going back!

 

I recorded this song in 1993 at The Garage, a little studio in Rochester, New York.  The Garage, as I have told you before, is owned and operated by John and Joe Dady, two quintessential musicians.  When you record with them, you can always count on great coffee, good stories, and an aching stomach from laughing.  I highly recommend John and Joe if you are interested in recording.  Also, The Dady Brothers, John and Joe’s group, have many recordings of their own, and they tour the United States and Ireland.  Check them out on the web at www.dadybros.com.

 

Well, there you have it.  I’ll have another song of the month for you next month.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me.  This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.

 

 

(E-Mailed 4/18/07)

 

 

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