This Jacobs kid sure is an old soul, huh? I swear, all of the real country fans that I know never listen to this stuff; it’s all Kenny Chesney and Florida Georgia Line and things of that nature, and that’s all fine and good, but this pick is one made from experience. Those more modern, big production, cut and paste country songs with trap drums, often flat lyrics, and border more on being pop records than country records are, by my estimation, mostly enjoyed by people who already like country. I’m not a country kid at heart, so that kind of sound just doesn’t hold my attention for a whole album, sorry not sorry.
“I can listen to pretty much anything, except for Country.” How many times have we heard this? In my travels it seems like a pretty common sentiment, and one that I used to share. While country grew on me as background music on the water in the summertime with artists like the ones I mentioned earlier, the first country artist I really HEARD was Johnny Cash. I already did a Cash album last month and this early into the MTP I don’t really want to reuse any artists, so we’re going with Mr. John Denver for this one.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not just a filler pick; John Denver is the real deal and I actually really genuinely like this album, like a lot. Personally, I think that this album is really good for a number of reasons. First and often foremost is the simple fact that it just sounds good. To be totally honest, Rocky Mountain High doesn’t really have that usual country western twang to it, probably because it rides the line between folk rock and country, maybe even leaning toward folk rock. As a matter fact, as I write this I’m starting to realize that maybe this album isn’t even really a country album, but we’re too far in to turn back now.
Regardless, this album works as an introduction into the country genre. My sense is that most people are more comfortable with rock and roll, and folk music serves as kind of missing link between rock and country. Denver’s lack of any electric instruments, opting for the more stripped down acoustic sound is common of folk and country music of this time, but it really elevates the album when you consider the thematic and lyrical contents. One of the reasons that I quickly find myself getting fatigued with a lot of country music is that a lot of it feels like the same thing with different packaging. I can only hear about trucks, hometowns, and girls in jeans and boots so many times, but John Denver didn’t write music in order to make money and get on the radio. Rocky Mountain High is about the majesty of God’s creation, the beauty of nature, Love in its many forms, self reflection and finding one’s self. He does it all in the near perfect runtime of 37 minutes. While I try to be positive I have been known to be pretty critical of things that go too long, wasting time in the process, and while some projects elicit a 70-80 minute runtime Denver does everything he needs to do without wasting a second. There isn’t any padding or filler, just good music filled with passion.
While I do enjoy the instrumentals and general sound of Rocky Mountain High it would be a crime to not highlight the vocals and lyrics. A good album is fun to listen to, a great album is interesting and makes you think, which is what Denver does to great effect on this record. While the most popular song on this record is definitely the opening title track which is now the 2nd official state song of Colorado, my favorite part of this album is the run of short songs which conclude the album: the Season Suites. Starting with Summertime, Denver takes the listener on a musical journey through the seasons in Colorado, carelessly enjoying the summer, finding bittersweet appreciation for the beauty of autumn, curling up in the corner to weather through the brutal winter, and celebrating the majesty of the cycle of life with the return of the springtime. These songs are filled with lyrical gems, like “And though the changing colors are a lovely thing to see, if it were mine to make the change I think I’d let it be, but I don’t remember anybody asking me” and “There’s a fire in the corner slowly dyin’ away, sometimes I don’t feel like going on anymore, and yet I know it’s more than worth the waiting, for another chance to see the summer sun” but the final track really bangs it home with my personal favorite: “And do you care what’s happening around you? Do your senses know the changes when they come? Do you see yourself reflected in the season? Do you understand the need to carry on?”
I mean come on. There’s beautiful.
So there it is, that’s today’s questionably country album. I know some of you may be bored by it, but I hope that everyone can at least take something away from it. Hopefully some people will hear it for the first time and light up like I did my first time hearing it. If all goes like I hope it will then hopefully I can expand some people’s musical tastes with this blog and the next 5 to come. Thanks for reading, I hope you like John Denver’s 1972 classic Rocky Mountain High.
Taking a hike along the rocky mountains high to tomorrow’s album: the Indie Rock entry.
This is DJ Boogie, boogieing out.