As your holiday weekend winds its way down and you sift through your Thanksgiving leftovers, please make room for this final feast from my roots music radio show, The Lost Child: ninety minutes of food-themed songs to accompany your own holiday menu. The Lost Child’s Thanksgiving special is streamable anytime (and not just at Thanksgiving — you can save it as soundtrack for your next big day or night in the kitchen). Not a lot of turkey and dressing in the mix, but a lot of downhome soul food.
There are plenty of highlights here. The Bad Livers provide a funky banjo reworking of an old tune, “Crow Black Chicken,” an ode to chicken pie first recorded in 1928 by Mississippi’s Leake County Revelers and later revived by the New Lost City Ramblers (“Easiest work ever I done,” the lyrics confess, “was eating that chicken pie”). There are two numbers from the great, hilarious, ever-eccentric Andre Williams: first witness his desperate attempt to get his hands on some biscuits, and later revel in his extraordinary celebration of “Pig Snoots.” “‘Cued po’k sho is good po’k,” his Natural Bridge Bunch proclaims in that latter tune, and Williams announces his tireless dedication to that fact: “Aint got no sandals, put on my boots / Come all the way across town to get me some snoots.”
Then there’s the Carolina Sunshine Trio, from a broadcast over radio station WPAQ (Mount Airy, NC), offering this happy picture of romance: “Cornbread and butterbeans, and you across the table / Eatin’ beans and makin’ love as long as I am able.”
Joe Penny, an early alum of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys, likewise offers in “Southern Fried Loving” a mix of appetites both gustatory and romantic, providing his own recipe for love: “I like my lovin’,” he sings, “just like my chicken / Heat it up until it starts to fry / Then add the seas’ning and starting cooking / That’s how you make lovin’, Southern-fried.”
Bessie Smith delves into full-fledged double-entrendre with her “Kitchen Man”: “How that boy can open clams,” she proclaims of her multi-talented personal chef: “No one else can touch my ham…” Other cooks, though, are less monogamous: see, for example, Roy Dunn’s lament, “She Cooks Cornbread for her Husband (And Biscuits for her Back Door Man).”
Some singers and musicians are narrowly focused on their favorite menu items: see Louis Jordan’s “Cole Slaw” or fiddler Joe Thompson’s lively, delightful “Pumpkin Pie.” The Maddox Brothers and Rose are smitten with “Fried Potatoes”; Baby Little and the Heartbreakers eat nothing but “Neck Bones Every Day.” And speaking of neck bones — in “Cracklin’ Bread,” Ed Baron turns hard times and a thin wallet into a triumphant menu: “Gonna serve some beans and neck bones,” he sings, “so we can carry on!” Still other artists celebrate the whole range of southern foods: Rufus Thomas, the Soul Sisters, and “Stick” McGhee all run down their own litanies of downhome fare. And Cab Calloway offers the ultimate tune for the Thanksgiving table, “Everybody Eats When They Come To My House.” “Have a banana, Hannah; try the salami, Tommy” — Cab has got something for everyone, and it all comes too with the cook’s classic admonishment: “Work my hands to the bone in the kitchen alone — you’re gonna eat if it kills you.”
Anyway, tune in here, and enjoy. Happy leftovers to you and yours. Be sure to share your bounty.