Song of the Day #1,217: ‘Dixie Flyer’ – Randy Newman

Usually when I browse CDs in a used music shop, I marvel at all the great deals I could have had if I didn’t have so damn many CDs already.

I’ll see a great Elvis Costello album for $2 or a little-known indie gem for a buck-fifty and envy the people who might stumble upon it after me and enjoy the thrill of discovery bundled with the satisfaction of a real bargain.

On rare occasions I’ll have that experience myself. That was the case when I happened upon a $2 copy of Randy Newman’s Land of Dreams at Spec’s.

Land of Dreams is one of Newman’s most critically-acclaimed albums but for some reason I didn’t own it. So when I saw the bargain bin copy, with a sizable crack in the case that contributed to its low price, it felt like a little jackpot.

The album is unique in Newman’s early discography for being largely autobiographical (at least on its first few songs). Elsewhere on the album he slips back into his satirical mode but on ‘Dixie Flyer’ and a couple of other tracks he offers a rare glimpse at his New Orleans childhood.

I wouldn’t rank this album among Newman’s five best — not after a single listen, anyway — but it’s very good (with one exception, an embarrassing attempt at rap titled ‘Masterman and Baby J’). Hard to think of a better use of two dollars.

I was born right here, November ’43
My dad was a captain in the army
Fighting the Germans in Sicily
My poor little momma
Didn’t know a soul in L.A.
So we went down to the Union Station and made our getaway

Got on the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans
Across the state of Texas to the land of dreams
On the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans
Back to her friends and her family in the land of dreams

Her own mother came to meet us at the station
Her dress as black as a crow in a coal mine
She cried when her little girl got off the train
Her brothers and her sisters come down from Jackson, Mississippi

In a great green Hudson driven by a Gentile they knew
Drinkin’ rye whiskey from a flask in the back seat
Tryin’ to do like the Gentiles do
Christ, they wanted to be Gentiles, too
Who wouldn’t down there, wouldn’t you?
An American Christian, God damn!

On the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans
Back to her friends and her family in the land of dreams
On the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans
Across the state of Texas to the land of dreams

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,217: ‘Dixie Flyer’ – Randy Newman

  1. Dana says:

    I’ve heard this song before, though I’m not sure when I heard it. Maybe he did it concert?

    Anyway, Newman has so few albums, every one should really be owned. I may need to go searching for this one, or maybe you will sell it to me for $4? You could double your money!

  2. Clay says:

    I gave it to you as a gift earlier this year!

    • Amy says:

      Was it an iTunes gift? Because I don’t see this disc sitting on our shelves. Love today’s song, but I can’t imagine not loving anything Randy Newman performs. So… I guess I’ll have to go off in search of that awful rap song! 🙂

  3. Dana says:

    Ha–I stand corrected. I do have it on iTunes. I guess that explains why the song sounds familiar:)

  4. Dana says:

    So, now that I realized I own the album, I listened to the rap song. Don’t you think he was going for a satirical take on the whole rap phenomenon, with the notion that he could somehow share a stadium stage with some big rap star?

    I agree that, ultimately, the song is annoying, but I think that is what Newman was going for. It reminds me of “Mikey’s” from Trouble in Paradise, which is also satirical, but ultimately annoying.

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