Friday Factory Tune: Hillbilly Highway

Steve Earle performing “Hillbilly Highway” on Austin City Limits, September 1986.

My grandaddy was a miner, but he finally saw the light
He didn’t have much, just a beat-up truck and a dream about a better life
Grandmama cried when she waved goodbye, never heard such a lonesome sound
Pretty soon the dirt road turned into blacktop, Detroit City bound

Daddy got a good job in Houston, but Steve decides to become the last of the hardcore troubadours: “Now I’m standin’ on this highway and if you’re going my way, you know where I’m bound.”

Has there been a 21st Century version of this song, with folks traveling the other way down to the new auto plants in the southern states? Suppose “Sweet Home Alabama” might qualify.

Steve Earle has become a tiresome leftwing scold, but he still counts as one of the best songwriters and performers of the last few decades. Anyway, here’s his Bottom Line version of the same song from earlier in that same year. (You have to register for WolfgangVault, but it’s a great website. Detroit City bound? There are all the MC5 live shows you’d ever want.)

UPDATE (8:50 a.m.): Speaking of Motor City rock legends, James Williamson has retired as Vice President of the Technology Standards Office of Sony Electronics and is rejoining The Stooges, 40 years after recording “Raw Power.” Good interview with Williamson at the Bay Area NBC website.

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