Johnny Cash—"God's Gonna Cut You Down"
"I think so much of this book deals in retribution. There is always a reckoning even if someone else pays the price. This book is not a religious one, but in it, the people and the speaker do subscribe to the idea that much larger is at play. Something is yanking on the strings of this world. And you will face it one day."
Bonnie Prince Billy—I See a Darkness
"It’s worth mentioning that Johnny Cash made a remarkable, haunting cover of this song. I love the video Billy made for this song. It features him dancing down the street in a white powder mask and it’s a faster, jauntier version of this grim song. It may be grim, but it is not without hope, and I think that’s something I strive for in many of my poems. The different masks he uses in the video are great mirrors of this song about not feeling seen or understood, even by your close friends. I most closely associate this song with 'A Fable.'"
Carolina Chocolate Drops—"Cornbread and Butterbeans"
"I can’t say enough about this song. I was trying to find authentic folk music and not just co-opted middle-aged white guys doing covers and found this and never stopped listening to it. That ringing banjo and huff jug could be the soundtrack to my life. And the life and gratitude bursting from this song fills me with unspeakable joy. Also, cornbread and butterbeans is a great supper."
Tennessee Ernie Ford—"Shotgun Boogie”
When I’m writing and I can’t keep moving forward, I have to stop and do something else. Usually it’s barefoot dancing in the kitchen. This is the boogie. This is the song that budges so many mud-sunk poems. This book wouldn’t exist without old Ernie and his boogie.
Neko Case—"People Got a Lotta Nerve”
This song, sonically, has such an iconic, American sound, but is paired with some disrupted rhythms in the verses. I love the almost snarky, ironic nature of the verses, too. I think the conceit of the song is similar to the nature of my poems in that, when you are handed this violent upbringing, how are you supposed to be surprised that it breeds more violence or how isolation begets more isolation? I also like the idea that sometimes people will tell you exactly who they are if you listen. That’s the trick: you have to listen.