Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

“Well, I guess you ain’t never seen anything as big as this country.”
“Yes. A couple of oceans.”

William Wyler’s The Big Country (1958) is one of those westerns about men proving themselves in the unforgiving and sublime conditions of the American southwest. Gregory Peck, a dandy sea captain from back east, rides into town to claim his bride and immediately finds himself embroiled in a raging family feud over “the Big Muddy,” a tract of land that offers the only source of water available to both families’ thousands of head of cattle. It’s a beautifully photographed film that goes out of its way — most notoriously in the big fist fight between Peck and Charlton Heston — to dwarf man by the surrounding landscape. Consider the latest batch of Songs of the Moment music to listen to while riding through the big country.

I first heard Richard Shindell more than a year ago when a friend posted “Che Guevara T-Shirt” on his blog, and I immediately fell in love with Shindell’s voice. “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” seemed an obvious choice for this batch of tunes. His song is set in Louisiana, but, as far as I’m concerned, that’s entirely beside the point.