"In a Razor Town" as written by and Jason Isbell....
In a razor town you take whoever
You think you can keep around
There's an echoed sound
That permeates the sidewalk
Where she shuffles 'round

It's a big machine
It used to be the avenue of changing dreams
And she's a lonely thing, sweeping up the glitter
While she pulls the strings

Take a long last look
Before she turns to stone
And what the last man took
And what was long, long gone

The way it used to be
I wasn't there to see it working properly
And now it seems to me
That both of you are suffering

You know I've heard her say
That you're the only reason she's alive today
And I just turned away
Thinking maybe she was right

So, say your last goodbye
Make it short and sweet
There ain't no way for you to fly
With her hanging on your feet

Let her go out if she wants to
And if she don't, go out yourself
Don't take sorry for an answer
Unless you really want what's left

'Cause in a razor town
The only thing that matters
Tends to bring you down
And there's no way around
But maybe you can barrel through
'Cause a razor ain't no good for you

Lyrics submitted by Kate2121

"In a Razor Town" as written by Jason Isbell

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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In a Razor Town song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentThe town: The song is set in an uncomfortably common place: the dying small town. Once the backbone of this country, small towns have fallen victim to the economic advantages of cities, which have exploded in growth fueled by small town refugees. Most relevant to this song, those who leave tend to be the skilled, mobile, and economically advantaged, leaving the disadvantaged to fend for themselves. What's left is a community without the economic engine it needs to thrive or even subsist. And so it dies.

    Evidence from this permeates the song. It "used to be the avenue of changing dreams," suggesting the town was once a much greater force than it is now. The "big machine" that was the town is now only "echoes" that permeate the town, reinforcing the lost glory of the town and a revealing a forlorn consciousness of that loss by those who remain.

    The girl: Jason is a 3rd person narrator describing a relationship between a guy and girl and giving advice to the guy. The girl has a sketchy past who was "saved" by the guy Jason is singing to ("you're the only reason she's alive today"). The guy once had a bright future, and could still escape, but for the time being, he's rooted in a bad town with a bad girl. Their relationship is deteriorating ("and now it seems to me/ both of you are suffering").

    The question that juts out is simply this: do you stand with the girl and the dying town out of a sense of duty or obligation, or leave it behind? If you leave, you reawaken your bright future and freedom, but feel guilt for leaving the girl and town behind knowing they both need you to survive. If you stay, you stay knowing the "razor" that is the town will bleed you dry, and further, that the relationship with the girl effectively ends your future ("ain't not way for you to fly/with her hanging on your feet").

    So what's the answer? Jason ends with ambivalence. The bluntness of "cause a razor ain't no good for you" is tempered by Jason's poignant advice: you can stay with the girl, but it'll come at great cost to you ("don't take sorry for an answer [forgive her fatal faults], 'less you really want what's left). And while the possibility of "barreling through" is raised, there really is no way around the consequences of staying. Staying lets the girl and town live a little longer, but kills you.

    I came from a dying small town and chose to leave. I worked in a second and left that one too. The choice wasn't too hard in either case because I knew what the bleak futures those towns hold. But every small-towner knows the guilt that cuts into you when you up and leave everyone behind. This song does a better job capturing that than any other I've ever heard.
    OldSouthon March 29, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"..in a razor town the only thing that matters tends to bring you down..."

    ajslamkaon January 07, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit sounds like an outsider's perspective of a couple in a small, one horse town who are just no good for each other anymore. they are both suffering and they just won't let go. the "razor" is a metaphor. when you get cut by a razor it bleeds, slowly and painfully. this is what this relationship is doing to these two people. as the outsider said, he 'wasn't there to see it working properly'.

    just another great example of jason's amazing song writing ability...
    melancholyjenon May 12, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIm not sure about the small town - sounds like the big city that used to be a place of opportunity, but now it just turns out that its full of pain and temptation
    lzemlickon December 14, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"don't take sorry for an answer unless you really want whats left"

    His girl is cheating on him, not really trying to hide it, and he is being a sucker and letter her get away with it.

    He and his girl moved to the big city with a friend. Thought they would make it big, turns out she fell for the friend and now he is alone
    lzemlickon December 14, 2013   Link
  • -1
    General CommentI think it's another song about cutting. Another stupid song about cutting. Some people seem to like habits...same routine with same results. Hey, is the pain gone forever? How many bands will make a person content. Three? Four? How about a personalized one complete with monogram. Let's make it stylish. Let's create a fad. You need physical pain to alievate some emotional pain, try the snapping the rubber band tactic. I'm sure there are many less dangerous ways to deal with pain. It's sad when we have someone who would be there to hopefully get the person to smile (even if just a little), but that's just not good enough...
    BringOntheMusic2012on January 26, 2013   Link

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