The Law and the Lonesome

I first met up with and heard Canadian troubadour and national treasure Corin Raymond when one of our sons (Kieran West and His Buffalo Band; watch for them and other KW music projects on these pages) opened for Raymond in February 2015 at Winnipeg, Canada’s best honky-tonk, the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club on Main Street.

The show was an absolute barn-burner, and Kieran and the boys would go on to open for Raymond and his band again in July of the same year. Since then, Raymond has become something of a fixture in our family; his trademark “coffee table CDs” adorn several horizontal surfaces in our home. 

And in July 2018, my sweety, Kieran and I hosted our first-ever house concert: Corin Raymond performing his one-person dramaturgy piece, Bookworm (his ode to books and his father’s reading influence) followed by a set of music. After a delectable family feed of ribs made by sweety, Raymond also played an unofficial set that early-arrivers delighted to on our porch and front lawn, and he stayed on after the show to play more tunes in the porch under the cover of nightfall. It was a truly memorable day.

We’ve seen his shows numerous times, at the Times and Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre. We also saw Bookworm as a Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival play several years ago and have seen his Great Canadian Tire Money Caper, where he chronicles the true story of funding the production of his record, Paper Nickels entirely with Canadian Tire Money.

My favourite Raymond album is Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams. I haven’t heard his latest, , enough times to really form an opinion, not that relative rankings of these will change the world. Though the fact Kieran sings back-up on Dirty Mansions (“Sometimes You Lower the Bar”) gives it some extra daddy points, and having visited Scott Nolan’s Song Shop while the work was being woven together is a pleasurable memory for me as well, hearing the songs as the beauty in them was being sculpted and polished. I even got to do a Le’s run for the crew.

Anyway, Hobo contains a great variety of Raymond tunes and sounds, and the production is stellar as it has been on all his works. He makes a damn fine record. If you buy any of his, you won’t be disappointed. So please do, if you haven’t already.

A song I really like for its dark, mysterious sound and space is “The Law and the Lonesome,” co-written by Raymond and frequent collaborator Jonathan Byrd, a very fine fellow from North Carolina, USA who released an album with the song featured on it and as the album title. (We were also fortunate to see the two share the stage at the West End a few years back.) Raymond likes to tell the story of a friend who was hospitalized and on heavy medication, and who imagined the song was happening in his hospital room around him, and that, “…there’s a car on fire in ‘The Law and the Lonesome’…”

The lyrics are rich and brooding, and the musicianship is amazing. I remember hearing this track on the studio album and being mesmerized by the backup vocals which sound like they’re singing to (or maybe from) the heavens.

On a road trip to Alberta in January 2017, Kieran and I were listening to this album on the car stereo and as we drove through a cold, desolate and blustery Saskatchewan, near Morse he called out how the light snow blowing across the highway was mimicking the song:

“How can she take you and make you so lonely?
Said she was only your friend
Any fool and his pride who has tried to refuse her
Can see you’re using again
The snow’s like a ghost of cocaine on the highway; it shifts and plays tricks with your mind.
The wind is like razors; in only two days
You’ve done two hundred thousand white lines

You took the wrong way home”

(from “The Law and the Lonesome,” by Jonathan Byrd and Corin Raymond)

All of the lyrics are brilliant: “They blasted the bedrock and laid all the blacktop like a snake ‘round the shoulders of God…”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And if you like the music, please buy it, and support the artists.

Here’s an official video of Raymond playing in Copenhagen with The Sentimentals (2014). I include this as it’s always terrific to watch “Raymo” perform — he plays and sings with his whole being — and he even does an abridged bit of his famous storytelling at the start… watch it; you’ll be glad you did (from The Sentimentals’ Youtube channel):

And here’s the official, studio version with The Sundowners, from their YouTube channel:

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