And Hank and Loretta, Merle and Lefty, Kitty and Ernest.

Our long weekend trip to see family in WA of course needed travelin’ tunes for the three long drives, and our rental car had Serius, a luxury I gave up years ago when they canceled the one station I listened to 90 percent of the time. I was just delighting in exploring all the channels when it was suggested that we could listen from the phone to the playlist my daughter did recently for a friend who was leaving town. That young, smart, hip, transgender, LA dude wanted … classic country, and he knew who to go to, for any kind of music. She played me some of it and I loved it.

I grew up in New Mexico and shunned country music until early adulthood, as something too local, hick and unhip. But then, at that time, the English Invasion was giving us plenty to listen to. (How else would we have discovered American blues?) But remember? — who did the Beatles choose for their very few cover songs? Yup, Bakersfield’s own, Buck Owens.

Country music may often be musically very simple, but that’s intentional. The words and the voice are what count, and in that way it is one very rich genre. Still, it is not easy to play it right. I remember getting a country album for review a few years back by a black Norwegian dude. His band knew all the notes to play, they were very good musicians, but… there was something missing, something they just didn’t get.

Long ago, maybe in college, I recall musing over who I thought possessed the very best singing voices in the world, genres be damned. I do remember throwing in Maria Callas and a couple of crooners and R&B legends, but I came up with a lot of country names: Merle, Patsy, Willie, Dolly, Hank, Emmylou, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash.

Who would you name?


TONIGHT! ESA PEKKA, BEETHOVEN AND THE LA PHIL (wouldn’t trade Dudamel for even Steph Curry … well … but glad our former baton waver, EP Salonen, busy as a composer, won’t go away, bringing his cello, piano, and violin concertos, to warm up for Ludwig’s 7th each night; Yo-Yo Ma featured tonight!). Also Fri, Sat, 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Walt Disney Hall, downtown LA, $20-$210.

TONIGHT! NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS (on the Stax label tells you all you need to know, every song excellent live, “S.O.B. – Give Me a Drink!” the killer), 8 p.m., Troubadour, West Hwd, $35.

DAVID LINDLEY (multi-instrumentalist and master of all, best when he pulls out the dobro), Fri, 8 p.m., McCabe’s, Santa Monica, $25.

FISHBONE (tore up the ‘80s LA rock scene, rowdy crazy black kids from the Valley playing rock, punk and ska, who could figure that out? — I saw them just demolish a club, not a table or chair left standing, credit the young promoter (Dave somebody?) who lost his shirt to damages but had a big grin on his face, “THAT was a show, wuddin it?” — rare live gig, ) Fri, 8 p.m., Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach, $25.

BENNIE MAUPIN (jazz’s David Lindley, multi-instrumentalist, Headhunters and “Bitches Brew” veteran), Fri, 9 p.m., World Stage, Leimert Park, $25.

Goldfincher, Dan Clark, Walker & Co., the Brady Harris Band, Billy Kent (I don’t know any of these but I do know the Cinema Bar is a tiny treasure near here, so small you can’t have a bad view but you better not get there late when you can’t squeeze in, friendly crowd, country-Americana-folk, and if they have this many bands playing it must be something special), Sat, 8 p.m., the Cinema Bar, Culver City, no cover.

TY SEGALL, Nick Waterhouse, Best Coast, others (just go for Segall, unpredictable guitar wizard always entertains), Wed, 8 p.m., Teragram Ballroom, downtown LA, $35.


> Never get stuck in an era, a generation. There are always, always, new people coming up who will blow you away. But you have to keep exploring.

> Genres are a shortcut, a device for identification, but they can be a trap too. They’re malleable. Never say, I just don’t like country music, or reggae, or glam, ‘cause I’ll trot out one of those songs that you will fall in love with.

> Best drug ever, powerful, can be long lasting, no bad after affects. “One good thing about music, when it hits ya you feel no pain.” — Bob Marley

> I don’t listen to it enough these days.

> Most people have it on as background, and you miss two-thirds of it that way, really. But who has time anymore — since you left school, right? — to just sit down and do nothing else but relax, close your eyes and listen? It’s a different world when you do that. Highly recommended!

BAND NAMES OF THE WEEK: Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, Tickle Torture.

LYRIC OF THE WEEK: “When I was your age I was just like you, and just look at me now, I’m sure you do, but your grandfather was just as bad and you should have heard him trash his dad. Life’s no picnic, that’s a given, my mom’s mom died when my mom was seven, my mom’s father was a tragic guy but he was so distant and nobody knows why… When I was your age I was a mess, on a bad day I still am, I guess, I think I know what you’re going through, everything changes but nothing is new, and I know that I’m miserable, can’t you see? I just want you to be just like me.” — Loudon Wainwright III (“A Father and a Son”)

When LWIII’s eponymously-titled first album (a gem) came into my university newspaper’s office and onto my desk, new arrival Michael Blake came over to paw through the day’s vinyl booty and lifted it up from the pile. “May I review this one?” he asked. Sure, I said — why? “With that name, he must be the son of the Life magazine columnist and editor,” he explained. I knew from nothin’. But Blake, eventual Oscar winner for writing “Dances with Wolves,” knew all sorts of stuff. We were lucky to have him on the Daily Lobo for a year. I was lucky to have him as a friend. We were unfortunate to have lost him two years ago.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at