Back Stories: Chiseled In Stone
Whenever I'm asked what is my favorite country song of all-time, my answer is always the same "Chiseled In Stone". Though the song does not include any references to trains, momma, trucks, dirt roads, prison or rain..lol.. For me it is truly the quintessential country song rooted in a real-life altering experience best understood when you are in the trenches.
Some grief takes longer to confront, process, and heal. In 1975, Max D. Barnes lost his oldest son Patrick in a car accident. Max remembers looking at the tombstone, and feeling a gut-wrenching type of pain that was unbearable, and real. Max D. Barnes from Hard Scratch, Iowa started to write a first draft of the song with his younger son Max T. Barnes. If that is a name you recognize, it's for good reason. Max T has penned Colin Raye ("Love, Me") and Vern Gosdin ("Way Down Deep". The Barnes also have the distinction of being the first father, and son to be nominated for CMA Song of the Year.
Vern Gosdin, and Max D. Barnes knew each other from Ovation Records,where both had recording contracts. Max is said to have written songs every single day, and Vern was always at Max's house writing with him. Their output was tremendous, and generated many accolades. Though you might be thinking that the song is not representative of losing your 18 year old son in a car accident. But that in itself is the rub. It is the well of emotion that you draw from in order to write about pain that can barely be spoken about. In a conversation I had with Tyller Gummersall for the
#StoneColdCountry podcast, we talked about how hard it can be for a singer when they sing autobiographical songs. It's almost as if you are reliving the past all over again. Tyller had an awesome piece of advice which was to change the narrative just slightly, so that it isn't exactly the same situation. By doing so, you retain the emotion, without having to relive the situation again. It sounds like Max D. Barnes knew how to do that. And Vern at the time having weathered two failed marriages, and the death of his dear brother Rex knew how to deliver a highly charged emotional song.
Vern was a walking heartache, there's a reason why he was called "The Voice".
The song is about a man who goes to a bar after arguing with his wife. There he meets an old man who tells him how wrong he really is. The old man shared that his wife has passed on, and how he misses her terribly. He goes on to tell the sad man that he should be thankful that he has someone to go home to.
My favorite lyric: "Another piece of heaven gone to hell"