Singing about blue-collar work has always been a rite of passage for country singers, but in the middle of the last century, a notable group of songwriters made their careers producing songs about a single occupation. Marty Robbins was a suburban kid turned racecar driver who made it big performing songs about gunslingers and cattle ranchers. Red Sovine, a former hosiery factory supervisor, found fame singing intensely melodramatic songs about the lives of long-haul truckers. But unlike many of his peers in the often-superficial and showy genre we’ll call “occupational country,” Buzz Martin was a direct product of the world he sang about. He approached his subject with a keen eye for detail. Martin preferred emotional realism to melodrama, and if his songs glorified the logger as a hero, just as often they painted a punishingly bleak portrait of the job. He wrote from the perspective of a keenly self-aware insider, resulting in a discography—most of which has been out of print since the ’70s—that provides a rare glimpse into a famously closed and protective segment of blue-collar America. Buzz Martin didn’t just document logging culture, he narrated the slow death of the Northwest’s biggest industry and the broken people it took down with it. Then, after a brief bout of fame, Martin returned to the wilderness and never came back.
From Casey Jarman’s essay on Buzz Martin, Out of the Woods.