Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Hats off (To the Big Queen City) – Phil Cody

Hats off (To the Big Queen City)

Music and Lyrics by Phil Cody from Phil Cody’s album Sons of Intemperance Offering. You can listen to the song here.  You can buy the song at iTunes here and buy the album here.

Singer-songwriter Phil Cody resides in Los Angeles, but he grew up in Cincinnati and it’s an exile’s love for his lost home that fuels this high-energy love letter of a song. You can feel the energy right from the opening big strums of the guitar joined by a raucous B-3 Hammond organ followed by some backgrounds shouts, “Hey, hey what are you doing?” Cody steps front and center to the microphone, “Hats off to the big Queens City/She is the lifeline to my heart.” No irony here, no subtlety, just joy and love. Ringing guitars, propulsive drums and that voice, full of yearning, make the case. Even the nonsense lines (“la de da…do it do it”) convey meaning and heart.

It turns out that we don’t get to choose what we love. Phil Cody may have wanted Los Angeles for all the right reasons – job, family, a woman he chased – but it’s Cincinnati that he knows and loves. There is no line separating the public from the personal so we hear shout outs to an anonymous fur trader whose wanderings led to the establishment of the City (“He thought he found the way to China/but he only found the Louisville Falls”), Stephen Foster (“Oh Susanna what can I do”), Pete Rose and the singer’s sister (“My sister she got married on the show boat Betsy Ann”). He doesn’t sing about an idealized lost city, but a real place whose very being inspires, his voice conveying a mixture of pride, awe and even surprise at his own emotions. As is often the case, we have to leave to appreciate our hometown and may see it clearest when looking from a distance.

Listen to how the song swells to carry these lines:

“The moonlight on the Ohio river
No sooner will the damn thing freeze than rise
right up and flood”

Phil Cody understands: to hell with the perfect. It’s why I’d rather listen to Tom Waits croak his dark songs then anything by Mariah Carey and why there is nothing as lovely as the scar on my wife’s right shoulder, a blemish that evinces character, experience and real beauty.

Don’t know much about Phil Cody. He’s released two albums: this song appears on the Sons of Intemperance Offering, a terrific album with ballads, rockers and plenty that define character, including a searing version of the Clash’s “Go Straight to Hell.” The backing musicians included Rami Jaffee, keyboard player for the Wallflowers.

Phil Cody is still out there performing. You can learn more and find his upcoming shows at his website.  You can also check out his My Space page for more info, photos and some free music, including versions of The Clash’s “Go Straight to Hell” and Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You.”   You can read a review of Phil Cody’s music at Guy’s Music Review Site.


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