An Appreciation of “Wild and Blue” (March 27th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

“…someone is trying to satisfy you / He don’t know you’re wild and you’re blue.”

“Wild and Blue,” written by John Scott Sherrill and performed most indelibly by John Anderson in 1982, is one of my very favorite songs. It’s a wicked Cajun-styled waltz, easily memorized and yelled along with, and Anderson, a singer of immense warmth, makes it extremely real. It’s a sad tale of honky-tonk heartbreak, but it’s also a masterpiece of compressed meaning.

“Wild and blue”: simple, it seems, but as one listens beneath the phrase, it signifies several possibilities about the song’s subject. Her wildness, explicitly tied to sexual adventurousness, seems the by-product of rejection-triggered desperation and self-loathing so profound “satisfying” her is out of the question. It’s a sad–and scary–situation. Her blueness? So deep-hued the song’s persona imagines it won’t lift until she dies.

And that persona: is he the lover she needed all along, suffering in silence as he watches her campaign of romantic wreckage, knowing there’s no stopping her, in exquisite unrequited pain visualizing her with her mind made up and someone’s shades pulled down–and extending her compassion and understanding? Despite being a witness, heart ripped to shreds by her downward spiral, offering her shelter? Wow. Just wow.

The persona just as easily could be the woman’s mother, or her best friend; imagine it sung by Loretta, or Dolly, or Rosie Ledet. “If you know he ain’t home / Why do you keep callin’?” A sisterly life-rope, thrown out, even if likely in vain.

Thinking about The Mekons’ very nice cover version, sure, Sally Timms and Jon Langford have long loved honky tonk, and maybe that’s all their run at it amounts to: it’s too great not to sing yourself (do I understand that!). But considering the band’s political outlook, the wildness and the deep blue mood of the protagonist might just as well be existential. Hard to argue, right? How much of the deep desire in living is futile to hope to satisfy?

Also, when you hear this song, do you remember anyone you’ve known who was this wild and this blue? I do. Several.

One closing thought: as I was preparing this in my head on a neighborhood walk, I was thinking it had been written by Sanger Shafer, the man behind many a Lefty Frizzell classic. As much as Anderson’s masterful singing and stylistic similarity to Frizzell would make such a dream unnecessary, I’d love to have heard Lefty sing it. It’s his meat ‘n’ taters.

Short-shrift Division:

It’s a remakes album is all it is, but on Side 1, The Possum, plumbing uncharted depths of pain and finding new vocal nooks and crannies after almost 25 years, renders all previous versions mere trifles.

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