Johny Puke – MethBomb
SONG OF THE DAY
The country and folk music of the southern Appalachians – hillbilly music, some call it – has always been about the lives of the people who live within the valleys and ridges that stretch in a band through western Virginia and East Tennessee. In 1927, Ralph Peer set up a recording studio in Bristol, far up in the northeast tip of Tennessee, and captured the authentic voices of the region. Ernest Stoneman recorded “Dying Girl’s Farewell” and “Tell Mother I Will Meet Her.” The Johnson Brothers provided “The Soldier’s Poor Little Boy.” And the Carter Family sang “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow” and “The Poor Orphan Child.” Death and poverty were common themes in those hard mountains, and their ghosts gave birth to the modern Country Music industry.
Fast-forward ninety-one years, and death and poverty still haunt the Appalachians. But the specters of disease and moonshine that previously brought hardship to the region have been replaced by opioids and methamphetamine. In “MethBomb,” Johny Puke describes the crisis, not with statistics or socioeconomic explanations, but by shining a light onto the dark lives of the participants. The harrowing result is the true country music of today, a direct descendant of the music that Ralph Peer recorded. You will not hear this music in the mainstream studios of Nashville, where every note is given a shiny sheen and the singers wear cowboy hats so that you can know they are “country.”
The lyrics of “MethBomb” aren’t pretty; Life isn’t. Kids really do wander around bars with diapers full of shit. People cook meth in single-wide trailers while their children play on the floor. People with no problems other than addiction devote 99% of their brains to getting the next fix and the remaining 1% to making their EBT balance stretch to the end of the month.
“MethBomb” (the acoustic version) is included in the new five-track EP, Melungeon Killler. A remix version appeared on an earlier EP, Methaophenia. It is worth several listens.
Johny Puke has also recorded as Dogs of Lords. We previously featured the Dogs of Lords song, “NeverFeel,” which we described as “what you get when you run an electric line from a TVA dam up into an East Tennessee hollow, give somebody a guitar, a government check, and a tab of acid, and let it all fester for fifty years.” A common feature of Johny Puke’s music is the massed harmonies, which sound like they were sung by the Devil’s wraiths. When I was growing up in Tennessee, there were wild tales of children who had been banished to the hollows and existed in feral packs. The background vocals on Johny Puke’s songs bring to mind those legends, as if the filthy, half-crazed children had invaded Johny Puke’s home studio and started singing along.
“MethBomb” is important music that needs to be heard and supported. You can do your bit by visiting Johny Puke’s Bandcamp page, listening to his music, and downloading your favorite tracks. You can also visit the Bandcamp page for Dogs of Lords. There’s plenty of music there; I’m sure you can find something you like. I especially enjoyed Let Me Put My Cover’s In You, featuring seven cover songs delivered with a passion not found in the originals. And be sure to follow Johny Puke and Dogs of Lords on Facebook.