Which is more important: music or lyrics? Or more to the point: Can a great record have lyrics or music that are...well, not so great? It's an argument that neither beer nor pistols nor battles of the bands have managed to settle. And it comes 'round again as a stellar group of Nashville musicians plays Elton John's 1973 LP Goodbye Yellow Brick Road from start to finish Thursday night at 12th & Porter, as a benefit for NARAS' MusiCares Foundation.
In my even-uncooler-than-now high-school years, I literally wore this album out on cassette three or four times. (It was a bitch to rewind, as it was a double album and it kept unfurling in ribbons of confetti in my player. This annoyance now seems almost lovable in its quaint obsolescence.) But even then I kinda shrugged off the lyrics. Whatever the hell the title song is saying, with its menagerie of owls and horny-back toads and such, meant little to me: The sweep of the chorus and the vocals, however, never failed to choke me up.
That's why I'm looking forward to this benefit show less for the singers (including Edwin McCain, Don Henry, Jeff Black, Emerson Hart, Natalie Hemby and many more) than for the band, which throughout the night will feature players such as keyboardist Michael Webb, guitar monster Reeves Gabrels and drummer Dave Harrison, who calls this the easiest gig he's ever done. He says he's chomping at the bit to do the drum fill on "All the Girls Love Alice"--which gives you an idea what kind of devotion the record inspires, whether you care what it says or not.