Monday, March 03, 2014

`O My Onely Light'

That the band performed “I Saw the Light” was no surprise, even in a church sanctuary during Mass: 

“I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the lord I saw the light.”

Even “Your Cheatin’ Heart” has what we might stretch and call a subtext of sin and suffering: 

“When tears come down,
Like falling rain,
You'll toss around,
And call my name,
You'll walk the floor,
The way I do,
Your cheatin' heart, will tell on you.”

But the rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Houston felt moved to offer a throat-clearing apology in advance for “Hey, Good Lookin’”: 

“Hey, hey, good lookin’,
Whatcha got cookin’?
How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me?
Hey, sweet baby,
Don't you think maybe
We could find us a brand new recipe?”

Trinity billed the show as a “Big Country Mass,” complete with a six-piece band (including fiddle and steel guitar) performing much of the Hank Williams songbook (though not my favorite among his lyrics: “Well, I don't care who thinks we’re silly / You be daffy, I’ll be dilly / Well order up two bowls of chili, / Settin' the woods on fire”). We left the church in the company of a retired physician who celebrated his ninetieth birthday last week. As I helped him with his raincoat he said, “We could have had that service in that vacant lot over there,” and I’m not certain if he approved of Hank Williams in church or not.  After all, we know George Herbert could testify, if not exactly honky-tonk, and we know he saw the light: 

“And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
             I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my onely light,
                                      It cannot be
                                      That I am he
             On whom thy tempests fell all night.”

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