The Paris Review

It’s Strange the Way the Lord Does Move

The other night, up late again listening to old records, I came across a song by the country singer Lefty Frizzell that, so far as I know, I had never heard before. It was the title that got my attention: “There’s No Food in This House.” I imagined Lefty, in his most vexed falsetto, leveling the words at a cheating lover who, in a final act of defiance, blows the week’s grocery money on a trip to the salon. He had other songs to this effect: “You’re Humbuggin’ Me,” “Always Late (With Your Kisses),” “Run ’Em Off,” “You Want Everything But Me.” Merle Haggard called Lefty “the most unique thing to ever happen to country music.” He was, among other things, a kind of hillbilly Falstaff, Nashville’s great minstrel of aggrieved accusations.

Lefty was a leading figure in the country movement called honky-tonk, which adapted the genre—previously the province of barn dances, bandstands, and festivals—to the

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