Monday, January 08, 2007

“I Love It When She Lies” / Greg Trooper

Now, where did I first discover Greg Trooper? Maybe it was some iMix I stumbled across; I do remember unearthing a Greg Trooper CD in a bargain bin a year ago and feeling as if I had struck paydirt, so his name must already have meant something to me. By the time I spotted his name on Lowe Profile, last year’s 2-CD Nick Lowe tribute album, it shot at me out of the track list like a bolt of lightning. (He covered “What’s Shakin’ On the Hill,” and a damn fine version it is, too.) But here’s a puzzlement: Nobody else I know has ever heard of Greg Trooper. And that’s a damn shame.

Like a lot of musicians I admire – John Hiatt, Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett, Dave Alvin – Greg Trooper’s records show up on iTunes variously labeled as folk or country or rock; the reality is, his sound snuggles right in the nexus of those genres, a pretty sweet spot to my ears. His 2005 CD Make It Through This World has a lot of R&B flavor as well, although this track is full-blown country – dig that twangy intro, the plodding drumbeat. Greg indulges in a bit of C&W hootin’ and hollerin’ here, but with his warm, relaxed vocal touch, he doesn’t come off all hectic and overheated like so many other country singers do.

One thing I do love about Nashville songwriters is their disciplined song construction; in this song every line feeds straight into the central conceit. Verse one is the set-up: he explains what a decent guy he is, always brought up to value truth (he sounds so pious, it's gotta be tongue-in-cheek), leading to the about-face in the last line – “All that changed just recently / Since I fell for her.” A few guitar strums for punctuation – ta-da! -- then the chorus elucidates, with a slide guitar tying a bow around the end of every line: “I love it when she lies to me / Tells me that we’ll always be together for eternity / She don’t even have to try / It comes to her so naturally, she bends the truth so easily / But she looks into my eyes and tells me I’m the prize / I love it when she lies.” Lies? Hey, aren’t those the sort of things we’re all hungering to be told?

In verse two, he reveals more of her fibs – “Tonight she’ll tell me once again / I’m her lover and her closest friend / Kiss me deep like it’ll never end.” And the way his voice thrills on that “never end” line, it’s clear how these so-called lies keep him happy. There's a certain giddiness to his voice that tells you it's a new and strange feeling for him -- and shoot, what’s so bad about feeling good?

The sound here may be old-school, but once you get inside the lyrics you realize it couldn’t have been written in the platitude-happy 1950s; it’s only us, in our 21st-century paranoia, who are so leery of speaking our feelings – we’re too emotionally constipated to tell someone “I love you,” and completely spooked by having anybody say it to us. Maybe this is an old-fashioned joy we should get back to . . . because, of course, saying something brings it closer to happening.

Sure, Greg says at the end of the second verse, maybe someday he’ll find someone who’ll say the same wonderful things and really mean them. “But honestly, honesty’s not all that it’s cracked up to be,” he points out with a rueful wink. He’s not in any hurry to find that honest woman. He’s doing just fine.

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