Lay Your Asphalt Down on a Warm July Morning

A great song is about as good as anything is going to get, in my book, and the Punkin Holler Boys, a three-man band with the noble goal of "writing some songs and singing 'em at people," have one: "Lay Your Asphalt Down," track one on their 2001 recording "3 Headed Cow."

Well, lay your asphalt down on a warm July morning,
'said lay your asphalt down on a warm July day.

'Cause asphalt, it sticks best on a warm July morning,
'said asphalt it sticks best on a warm July day.

It's a dumb song, on the face of it. A lot of their songs sound dumb the first time you hear them, and many still sound that way no matter how many times you listen. That's intentional. You think with a name like "Punkin Holler Boys" that these guys are interested in jaded irony and incisive social critique? They have a song about duct tape. Sometimes they play with beer boxes on their heads. Pretense is not this band's strong suit.

But there is a subtext to "Lay Your Asphalt Down," and when it finally struck me I instantly fell for the song in a big way.

"Don't give your heart away on a cold December morning,
don't give your heart away on a cold December day.

'Cause your love might not stay on a cold December morning,
'said your love might not stay on a cold December day.

There's an insistent mandolin melody that sings through the whole song, flitting in these clear, descending tones that always pop right back up again and start over, like a kid rolling down a hillside. And the words are sung - loosely speaking - by all three guys at the same time in a lot of the song, and they don't make much effort to synchronize overly well, preferring to kind of just chime in. An accordion provides the rhythm. It's a fairly brilliant, spontaneous performance.

And the advice - about the asphalt - is so... helpful... so plain and practical and perfect, even if you will never lay down a patch of asphalt in your life. They don't say "what you want to do is..." or "the best way to go about this is..." or "the proper technique involves..." -They tell you: lay your asphalt down on a warm July morning. And their explanation of the reasoning behind this is just as straightforward, almost hilariously so: because asphalt sticks best on a warm July morning. That's why.

So when you finally see that they're giving you advice on love - as well as paving - it hits you that much harder. And it sticks.

Place your love with someone who deserves it. Don't waste it where it won't be appreciated. It's advice, but it's phrased as a command for a very good reason - because it's so damned important:

...round, round, spread it around,
lay that asphalt right on down,

Love, love, don't give it up,
don't throw your heart a-waaay...

It is a kind song. A simple song. A wise song that sounds dumb in its wisdom. And it has one spectacularly inelegant metaphor - love as asphalt.

That's about the best thing you could ask for. Two minutes long. And it makes me feel even better to know that I caught it, that I recognized the beauty when it was played for me. That I was, for that moment at least, a warm July morning.


The Punkin Holler Boys' homepage

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