Singing a barroom weeper is like writing a haiku about cherry blossoms or a Western about a laconic hero who cleans up a violent town. You’re under significant pressure to nail the obligatory elements of the form but you also have an opportunity to make fresh meanings by rearranging its familiar Lego pieces and taking advantage of a novel context. Whether you’re adding a song to the tradition or covering one that’s already in the tradition, you’re walking the line between getting it right and making it new. It’s a question of how creative you can get while working with, as the guys in Midland put...

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