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Song premiere: Mike Stinson’s ’Close Enough for Government Work’

Peter Blackstock
Austin roots-rocker Mike Stinson's new single is titled "Close Enough for Government Work."

Before the coronavirus pandemic, you could catch singer-songwriter Mike Stinson regularly at the Continental Club, where he frequently played on Tuesday nights. A country-rocker with ties to both Houston and Los Angeles, Stinson is probably best-known for writing the song “The Late Great Golden State,” which kicked off a 2003 Dwight Yoakam album.

While woodshedding in Massachusetts this month during the coronavirus pandemic with his friend and former bandmate Johnny Irion, Stinson recorded a new topical song titled “Close Enough for Government Work” that we’re premiering on Austin360.

It’s a starkly sociopolitical number that addresses Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic head-on. (Sample lyrics, sung from the president’s perspective: “Don’t listen to science, only I know the truth / Did you see my ratings went straight through the roof?”)

Hundreds of years ago town criers brought the news by yelling the headlines in the village square. This new song, Close Enough For Government Work, consists almost entirely of direct quotes from the leader of the free world delivered in much the same fashion. Very little has been embellished or fabricated.

“The title phrase has been around for ages and once referred to meeting the highest standards, but has since become disparaging,” Stinson said about the song. “Figures of speech that survive this long usually do so because at their essence is at least a grain of truth. Government work actually requires diplomacy, nuance, finesse, leadership, the spirit of cooperation and a genuine desire to improve the lives of one’s fellow constituents. I wrote the song because the quotes included are so far removed from these principles.”

Joining Stinson and Irion on the session were Crosby, Stills & Nash keyboardist Todd Caldwell, drummer Don McAulay and bassist Jacob Roach. Adding vocal support are Annie Guthrie — daughter of folk singer Arlo Guthrie and sister of Cathy Guthrie from Austin duo Folk Uke — and Jennifer Schultheis.