Harrison Country – Ain’t the Beer Cold
Harrison Country (Don, Karen & Amy Harrison, Jennie Harrison Young and Lexi White) is an Americana music group from Annapolis, MD.
Founder Don Harrison has dubbed their music “21st Century Folk Music: it doesn’t sound like the folk revival music of the ‘60’s – it’s folk music in a deeper sense. The people who created John Henry and Froggy Went a Courtin’ and Scarborough Fair weren’t trying to create ‘folk music.’ There were telling stories about their lives and the world in which they lived, using language that ordinary people could understand, with the instruments and music traditions available to them at the time.” Harrison Country does the same through an eclectic mix of Americana that draws on the richest traditions of American popular music: Nashville, Chicago, Motown, Laurel Canyon, Memphis, Bourbon St., Marshall, Big Pink and Broadway.
So tell us, how did the guy who wrote contemplative tunes like “When the Geese Fly” and “Shadow Games” come to create a beer ad?
I sure hope it becomes a beer ad! My guess is that Bob Seger made more money from those Chevy truck ads than he ever did from sales of Like a Rock. Ain’t the Beer Cold mentions a “blond sipping on a Natty Boh (National Bohemian, an old time Maryland beer), but the song can be easily tweaked. I’ve written lyrics that have her enjoying 19 other popular beers. Brewers, are you listening?
What makes Ain’t the Beer Cold more than just a commercial homage to the good times?
I think what makes it more than just suds, sun and hot chicks playing ball is the main character in the song – the “fretting boy.” He has issues. He spends his days absorbed in video games, has no girlfriend, and worries too much about other’s opinions and environmental hazards like skin cancer. His “life’s slow cooking in a misery pot.” If you’re an analytical sort, you might even see him as a symbol of our times.
Is there any autobiography in that character?
Lord no! Thankfully, I’ve never suffered from true depression, but I’ve always found that one of the best ways to beat a funk is to put yourself in motion. Surround yourself with friends. Become part of something bigger than yourself, even something as simple as a coed softball team. Take pleasure in the things that truly matter – “good tunes, good times, good food, good friends.” And when it all comes together, praise the Lord and sing “Ain’t the Beer Cold!”
And salivate over “baby backs smoking over glowing coals?”
That’s the spirit!
In spite of the “fretting boy’s” troubles, the song crackles with a lighthearted joie de vivre. Is there anything about it that carries emotional weight for you?
The clip of Chuck Thompson “making the call” at the beginning of the song. Chuck was the TV and radio voice of the Baltimore Orioles from their major league debut in 1954 until his retirement in 1987. One of his signature expressions was “ain’t the beer cold!” and he would exclaim it with relish when Brooks Robinson made another spectacular stop at 3rd, or Jim Palmer struck out the side, or Lee May hit a walk off grand slam. It was his way of expressing his and all of his listeners’ elation when the stars aligned perfectly for the O’s.
“Ain’t the beer cold!” always had extra meaning for me. I grew up in the shadow of The Great Depression and WWII, and instinctively understood that life could be harsh and difficult, but if you had clean sheets, three squares, a roof overhead, real friends and a family that loved you . . . then rejoice! The world was your oyster. Chuck’s pithy celebration of a game’s simple magic helped me to understand that my instincts must be right, because the authoritative voice that I heard on the radio, that man who knew all things baseball, was a kindred spirit.
I would listen to those games with my grandfather in the living room on weekend afternoons, and Chuck was like a neighbor who had a better seat for the game and was kind enough to tell us about it and make it come alive. It saddens me that today’s sports’ fans, especially children, no longer have that experience available to them.
So Chuck was the inspiration for the song?
Sort of. A few years ago I wanted to write an upbeat song about that moment when everything clicks in place. The first phrase I came up with was “snap, crackle and pop” but the next thing that popped into my head was “when you’re hot you’re hot.” I couldn’t get that Jerry Reed thing out of my mind so I just let it sit. Thankfully, time and the mellifluous voice of Chuck saved me from that corny concoction.
Tell us a bit about writing the music for it?
Well, I wrote the lyrics, chords and melody, and Lexi and I (Lexi White, who sings the dual lead), came up with a simple Garage Band version. Originally it was a slower tempo, bluesy thing, but a friend listened to it and suggested I up the tempo and take the grease out of the melody. I agreed, and gave it to Bryan (producer Bryan Ewald), with the thought that it would be Skynyrd-like, guitar-based country rock. He came back and said “Don, the way you’re swinging this when you sing, it would sound great as a Texas boogie, Stevie Ray Vaughn kind of thing.” I said “have at it.” Listen to the bass line. It’s easy to imagine Jerry Lee Lewis or Dr. John grooving that on a piano.
Can you think of any other Texas boogies that have 6 chords?
I sure can’t! The song is in A, and the chords are A, C, D, E, F, G. For the music geeks, that’s a bIII, bVI and bVII mixed in with the typical I, IV, V major chords. And the song kind of flirts with a key change to F a number of times. I’m always curious as to where musical ideas and chord progressions originate in the jumbled catalog of tunes in my head, but I’ve googled and googled, and can’t find another popular song in a major key that uses those chords. Readers are more than welcome to do their own research and educate me!
What’s up next for Harrison Country?
Ain’t the Beer Cold is the first song we’ve released from our upcoming album, Keeper of the Past. A number of the songs are set well in the past, from the 17th century Puritan expulsion from England, to the steamboat era of the 1890’s and onto The Great Depression. Many of these are based on family history, like Shadow Games from our first album Climate Change, which was the last song I wrote for that album, and serves as a gateway to the new compilation. Ain’t the Beer Cold takes a solution learned from previous generations – appreciating life’s simple pleasures – and uses it to help a young man with his present-day maladies. All the other songs that take place today do something similar, applying virtues that were once celebrated – Christian forgiveness, filial loyalty, toughness and the capacity to laugh at yourself – to contemporary troubles.
Where can fans access your music?
You can catch the lyric video of Ain’t the Beer Cold with the Chuck Thompson intro on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLBYY7F_-kw
All of our music is available at our website, https://harrisoncountry.com, and on Spotify, Apple Music and Sound Cloud. You can also enjoy Ain’t the Beer Cold on our Spotify playlist, Meat on the Bone Americana, which features tunes from many other outstanding country and Americana artists.