"the correlation between country music and political backwardness"?
July 28, 2013 4:06 PM   Subscribe

One Nation Under Elvis
My own conversion to country music came all of a sudden in 1990, around another campfire, also in Nevada. The great Western Shoshone anti-nuclear and land-rights activist Bill Rosse, a decorated World War II vet and former farm manager, unpacked his guitar and sang Hank Williams and traditional songs for hours. I was enchanted as much by the irreverent rancor of some of the songs as by the pure blue yearning of others. I’d had no idea such coolness, wit, and poetry was lurking in this stuff I was taught to scorn before I’d met it.

"Are You An Environmentalist, Or Do You Work For A Living?" - PDF, Google Books, by Richard White

Nature Without People (People Like Us, That Is)
posted by the man of twists and turns (108 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, at least the authors understand the difference between causation and correlation.

So there's that.

Otherwise, I'm still unpacking boxes from my move OUT of North Carolina for all of the ridiculously backwards things that have been coming out of Raleigh lately.
posted by Blue_Villain at 4:29 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


my deconversion from country music has been a gradual one in the last 20 years, as an important and vital musical tradition has become a ruthlessly calculated and commercial genre with plenty of classic rock moves thrown in, not to mention reactionary politics

i know someone who's actually made trips to nashville trying to get professional advice on how to get in, from a second tier songwriter and performer who's had a few successes, not the least of which is charging hundreds a day for his advice - the strictures of the networking and the way the game is played is unbelievable - much worse than mainstream pop

i guess i'm a little off the topic there, but the point is that he doesn't seem to be discussing today's country music and what it represents, but much older stuff

for one thing, a good part, maybe even most of today's country fans are from the suburbs and aren't even poor

i'm not sure this article is really getting it when it comes to the music - he'd be better off concentrating on the other issues he raised
posted by pyramid termite at 4:49 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


It always struck me as odd that the folk singers ended up closely identified with the left while the country singers ended up closely identified with the right. Which, of course, is a natural segue intto the Johnny Cash tune on that subject.
posted by Longtime Listener at 5:10 PM on July 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think this is probably why I'm down with older country but typically can't stomach whatever is on country radio right now. If it's Dolly singing about pink collar labor and divorces, or Loretta singing about the pill, I can hang. Also, the Dixie Chicks, eff yeah.

Though there are a few Elvis and Johnny Cash songs I still can't really deal with, and I don't think I'll be able to handle the worst of the post-9/11 stuff even in another 20+ years.

I'm also unclear on whether Lady Antebellum is as racist as the name sounds, and am not really inclined to give them a listen in advance. I need intel on this.

a good part, maybe even most of today's country fans are from the suburbs and aren't even poor

It occurs to me that most country music is about nostalgia for a poor rural life rather than the actual experience of it. So it makes sense that upwardly mobile people in Atlanta, Houston, etc. would be really into it. That nostalgia of a certain way of life, without actually having to experience the hardships of said life (or consider whether people who don't live in McMansions or drive SUVs are nostalgic in the same way), is sort of what the modern south is all about. It's similar to what drives things like Jeff Foxworthy and Larry The Cable Guy, Cracker Barrel, and Paula Deen. There wouldn't be a product there if the audience didn't have money.

That said, I've also heard that country is the 21st century answer to "square" pop culture like Pat Boone, the Osmonds, or Lawrence Welk. It's no longer separated by demographic differences like geography or economic class, but instead the major demographic shift is age and race. Middle aged white people find Blake Shelton and Keith Urban palatable and easy to understand. So even if said middle aged white people are affluent New Jerseyites, they form the main audience for 21st century country music.
posted by Sara C. at 5:10 PM on July 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Basically modern pop-country is for conservative suburbanites what pining for a construction/blue collar job is to the nerdy crowd that watched Office Space and romanticises manual labor. (Not that there's anything wrong with manual labor but anyone that thinks there's less politics on a construction jobsite than your average cube farm is delusional).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:18 PM on July 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm also unclear on whether Lady Antebellum is as racist as the name sounds, and am not really inclined to give them a listen in advance. I need intel on this.

Not that I listen to them, but surely if we're judging by name alone Lady Antebellum has the exact same "synonym for women" + "Civil War reference" structure as the Dixie Chicks, who turned out quite alright.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:21 PM on July 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm slowly being converted to country music - what started as a fondness for alt-country has moved, thanks to Eddy Arnold on the Fallout: New Vegas soundtrack and Nathan Rabin's Nashville or Bust column - to a love of real country, including guys like Dwight Yoakam and George Jones.

I don't care about the politics, left or right, and I have as little in common with "anti-nuclear and land-rights activists" as I do with cowboys and rednecks. But I love the yearning, the sadness, and the emotional honesty and openness in country music. And even modern pop country still sounds better to my rockist ears than modern non-country pop.

I like the Nature Without People (People Like Us, That Is), but it doesn't go far enough in pilloring the environmental movement.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:30 PM on July 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's true. I think the Dixie Chicks got grandfathered in, for me, because I knew and liked them before it dawned on me that anything glorifying the antebellum south is glorifying a culture where people owned other people. I'm not sure I'd have jumped right in with the Dixie Chicks if I'd heard of them in 2004 rather than 1998.
posted by Sara C. at 5:31 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


From "One Nation": It would mean giving up vindication for victory—that is, giving up on triumphing over the wickedness of one’s enemies and looking at them as unrecruited allies instead.

So othering is counterproductive. Which is exactly why I try to stay on good terms with my neighbor, who's my opposite number politically: Because when the hurricane rolls in, we do better working together (sharing water, fueling generators, swapping food). Common ground may start with stopping the name-calling and the pigeon-holing of others based on easy targets, such as their musical taste.

But I do love the Steve Earle shout-out. Conservative neighbor heard some of his music, and his radio show, and asked who that guy was, "because he sounds pretty darn good!"
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:36 PM on July 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


A political irony is that for all the stereotypes about misogyny and backwardness, country and hip-hop both historically have much more support for women performers (if not songwriters) than pretty much any style of music associated with lefties, hippies, progressives, punks, etc.
posted by rhizome at 5:39 PM on July 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I grew up loving hard rock (I loved '80s hair metal by the time I was 8) while my mom listened to godawful country singers like Randy Travis and Garth Brooks and the crap that spewed out of the inexplicable Philadelphia country music station. Couldn't stand a lick of it. But she also listened to some older country songs, because her father (who died before I was born) had played them when she was growing up. I remember there was a Johnny Horton tape she had, and one of Marty Robbins doing old cowboy songs, and they were just good, well-constructed music, not the pop country garbage, and I liked them. But that doesn't mean that I accepted the crap as well.

I listen to plenty of lefty folk now, and sing it to my daughter who I hope will grow up with some of its values. And I can see saying, well, I like some Johnny Cash and stuff as being moderately useful in bridging cultural divides, but what exactly is there in country music today that, either musically or in terms of its message, doesn't deserve to be dismissed out of hand? (That's a serious question, it's not rhetorical.)
posted by graymouser at 5:46 PM on July 28, 2013


It occurs to me that most country music is about nostalgia for a poor rural life rather than the actual experience of it. So it makes sense that upwardly mobile people in Atlanta, Houston, etc. would be really into it.

yes, but i've also got to add that country is not just a southern phenomenon anymore - it's always been a factor in michigan and currently, is probably the most popular radio format around

i remember ren wall and the green valley boys on WKZO-TV in the 60s - pedal steel rag was their theme song - and back then, when we still had clear channel AM radio stations, you could actually listen to the grand old opry up here on WSM

some of it is southerners, of which we have many, nostalgiac for the south - some of it's northerners, nostalgiac for their rural past - and there's more than a few converts from classic rock who hear enough similarities to like it
posted by pyramid termite at 5:47 PM on July 28, 2013


Are we only defining "contemporary country" as "big-label Nashville?" Because, then, yes, mostly bullshit. But I think that's not the discussion that the article is having.

The article, as I read it, makes two cases. Firstly, country is a much larger genre with a much larger range of content and viewpoints than non-fans give it credit for. And, second, if you're an activist and interested in movement building, you're going to have a hard time if you have contemptuous, dismissive opinions if an entire (and popular) genre of Anerican music and the people who listen to it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:49 PM on July 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


Are we only defining "contemporary country" as "big-label Nashville?"

i'm talking about big label nashville - alt.country seems to me to have carried on the tradition much more faithfully, from what i've heard of it
posted by pyramid termite at 5:53 PM on July 28, 2013


Son Volt, Ryan Adams (Whiskeytown), Nanci Griffith, James McMurtry, Alison Krauss, The Gourds, Uncle Tupelo, The Jayhawks, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle - I can keep going. That's my country music. And then there's old country. But there's some decent new country, too. Even little Kacey Musgraves appears to be trying to get it right in her young way. This isn't a debate about country music though. It's about people. And to say that there's an idea out there by some portion of people that says "rural people like country music and are racist" is as small-minded as saying all Native Americans are alcoholics. It's the same thing as me thinking that only a blithering idiot could appreciate current top-40 music- Justin Timberlake, Rhiana, Selena Gomez, Pink.

I get what this author's buddy is saying initially though - There is a particular subset of country music that tends to appeal to people who subscribe to something of a herd mentality, have shown themselves to have racist tendencies, and think Paula Deen is a martyr. I know this because I have an absurd amount of family all over Texas and Oklahoma and I'm related to at least 50 of these kinds of people. That subset of country music, at least in my mind, tends to consist of bands like Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, (yes I know about his attention-grabbing duet with Mr. West and how everyone who claims to like this song can also claim that they are in no way a racist), Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, the late Mindy McCready, Joe Nichols and other top-40 hit generators. It's not that those bands/musicians make racist music or are in and of themselves backwards, racist people. But they do make music that tends to be catchy and popular in a less than cerebral way, if you dig that sort of thing. To support their endeavors, there's a huge portion of the population in any given community that doesn't do much thinking for themselves, only know major brands, watch a LOT of TV, and wave the stars and stripes for themselves and buy into "God bless the USA and no place else" But, those people aren't necessarily poor or rural. Plenty of people in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City have plenty of money and display not only a climate-wrecking array of materialism and ignorance, but also soul-searing racism and hatred AND they dig bad top-40 country or bad top-40 pop music or a combination thereof.

There's hope for all of us and I think that hope lies in starting on common ground and moving into the territory of ideological differences in a positive way. I really enjoyed this article - she's tackling a tough subject, but I understand where she's heading and I agree with most of her salient points. If you send a kid that smells a little less than clean because they ran out of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap 2 days ago with some gnarly dreadlocks to canvass for the environment in a suburban subdivision, you've blown right past the part about "starting from common ground". You're just asking for it. There's 4 homeowners in my subdivision of 450 homes who would hear out said grubby kid and think nothing of his odor or choice of coiffure. I'm still less offended by the dreadlock kid assuming I'm a suburban dumbass with zero knowledge on environmental issues than I am by spray-tanned, SUV-driving women wearing rhinestone studded high-heel flip flops and name their children exclusively with strange strings of letters that begin with "K" and love what I consider to be the worst that country music has to offer.
posted by PuppyCat at 5:55 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


what exactly is there in country music today that, either musically or in terms of its message, doesn't deserve to be dismissed out of hand?

I think you may mean to aim this criticism at popular music in general. To be broadly appealing, music has to be largely meaningless. Unless your political message is buried under mountains of symbolism, good luck getting it played on the radio. There are exceptions, but this is just the way things are for "pop" music.

Clear Channel, Sony, or any other corporate overlord isn't going to let you cut into their profit margin just because you want to say something meaningful. That's why the only seriously political and popular song I can think of is also from the only group that doesn't have a label: Macklemore - Same Love.

It's unfortunate too. It's an open secret that Kenny Chesney is gay. He is a hell of a performer, which is obvious from his commercial success, and he is probably capable of making some great, challenging music. But he'd rather cash his fat checks instead.
posted by deanklear at 5:56 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


No love for Tom Russell? He even sings about Mother Jones.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:04 PM on July 28, 2013


To be broadly appealing, music has to be largely meaningless.

i miss 60s radio
posted by pyramid termite at 6:05 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's an open secret that Kenny Chesney is gay

I never could figure out why Renee Zellweger married him.
posted by PuppyCat at 6:06 PM on July 28, 2013


I'm not even sure what "country" music is. Johnny Cash isn't country, he's roots, for example. Hank Williams Sr. isn't country per se.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:14 PM on July 28, 2013


Try Hayes Carll or Jason Isbell.

Thing is, its easy to just listen to alt-country, but so much real country is just as good or even better. I love how its not afraid to be emotional or to tell stories. Even the bad pop country has a nice stompy energy to it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:15 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's an open secret that Kenny Chesney is gay

I never could figure out why Renee Zellweger married him.


Wikipedia says that both Zellweger and Chesney have stated that those rumors are false. I suppose this is a derail, but if there's a better source for information about this I'd be interested to see it.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:15 PM on July 28, 2013



I'm not even sure what "country" music is. Johnny Cash isn't country, he's roots, for example. Hank Williams Sr. isn't country per se.


How can you define country in a way that exludes Johnny Cash and Hank Sr?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:15 PM on July 28, 2013 [30 favorites]


The essay articulated some things I have been thinking about very well, with respect to the disdain that some of the left seems to have for the rural poor. You see this very clearly in some issues, such as gun-control, where the urban/rural split in outlook is something that has been vigorously exploited by the NRA.

And this:

The Sierra Club, which Muir cofounded with a group of University of California professors in 1892, saw nature as not where one lived or worked but where one vacationed.

may be a little unfair, but there is something to it.

When I get in the mood to check out some "real" country music, I usually just let David Byrne DJ for me.
posted by thelonius at 6:16 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I honestly think the idea of worshipping/loving nature is a Romantic invention, and its always been perpetuated by people who live in cities. Pastoral Roman poems were written by urban Romans. We shouldn't take that romantisization as a serious movement any more than we should take 'Big Iron' as a historical document.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:18 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


How can you define country in a way that exludes Johnny Cash and Hank Sr?

I tend to think of "country" as the more artificial, commercial pop music that aped the rockabilly, gospel, Western swing etc. roots of the genre.

I don't think Johnny Cash is a country performer, really, although he appeals to an audience that listens to country music, if that makes sense.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:22 PM on July 28, 2013


The Marty Robbins song "Big Iron"?Historical document or no that song is the best.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:22 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]



I tend to think of "country" as the more artificial, commercial pop music that aped the rockabilly, gospel, Western swing etc. roots of the genre.


That's a modern distinction that snobs use to justify only listening to Johnny Cash, Ryan Adams, and early Wilco. I used to be one of those for ages. Johnny and Hank helped DEFINE country.

this article helped me learn about country, but I still have so much to learn
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:26 PM on July 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: the one that's always stuck with me is "Cool, Clear Water." But yeah, some of those gunfighter ballads were pretty amazing.
posted by graymouser at 6:27 PM on July 28, 2013


I once worked at and later managed a Texas dance hall, one of the big ones with a dance floor the size of a hockey rink. The first night I worked there I heard more country music than I had in my life up to that moment. My wife worked there too. We both grew to appreciate artists such as George Jones, Patsy Cline and some others. We still refuse to frequent a beer dive without decent cry in your beer music on the jukebox. Every year for our anniversary I send her a bouquet with a note something like: Wine colored roses for the right left hand from your own personal No-Show...
posted by jim in austin at 6:28 PM on July 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


I honestly think the idea of worshipping/loving nature is a Romantic invention, and its always been perpetuated by people who live in cities. Pastoral Roman poems were written by urban Romans. We shouldn't take that romantisization as a serious movement any more than we should take 'Big Iron' as a historical document.

You're of course working from a very narrow definition of worship (since most cultures in the history of the world have held the natural world in reverence). Prominent environmentalists who didn't live primarily in cities include William Bartram, Henry Thoreau, George Perkins Marsh, John Muir, Wallace Stegner, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson and Edward Abbey. Other human inventions include the internet, automobiles, human trafficking, war, Adam Sandler movies, and bourbon. Each can be treated based on their value to humans. I can't imagine why anybody wouldn't want to take seriously the idea that nature should be loved and appreciated, and treated with respect just as humans should be valued and treated with respect (another human invention).
posted by one_bean at 6:34 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I honestly think the idea of worshipping/loving nature is a Romantic invention, and its always been perpetuated by people who live in cities. Pastoral Roman poems were written by urban Romans

I have been on a Roman thing in reading, and it is always tempting to see parallels with America. I get the idea that some Roman politicians affected this idea that, if they had their way, they would be an honest and virtuous simple tiller of the soil, but, sadly, their duty to the State compelled them to endure the decadence and wealth and moral turpitude of Rome. They would keep lavish country retreats outside the city though, to remain connected to their spiritual roots. One imagines that they cleared brush there.....
posted by thelonius at 6:44 PM on July 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


A while ago my wife had a bit to drink and I decided to play some songs with an eye toward making her cry. I played a few songs that had the expected effect, and then put on "El Paso" expecting her to be unmoved. Quite to the contrary, she was absolutely bawling after "El Paso," because she'd never heard it before. I've known that song since I was a kid, and seeing that emotional reaction was really weird, but cool. That song is really sad, but I'd forgotten.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:45 PM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


>MAKE ARGUMENT AGAINST COUNTRY
Willie Nelson is looming in your path, a giant counterexample.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:50 PM on July 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


CONDITION YELLOW
COUNTEREXAMPLE IS NOT REAL COUNTRY
posted by thelonius at 6:52 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ay country hater needs to try and listen to George Jones without crying.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:53 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't listen to a genre in which close to every third male voice makes me feel like I'm about to get into a fist-fight-- and that's without even listening to the lyrics!
posted by jamjam at 6:56 PM on July 28, 2013


Uh, huge difference between country and western that seems to be missing from this argument.

County and Western music seems to have become just country at some point in the last 50 years.

I love one and hate the other.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:01 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems like most mainstream country bands would have been marketed as hair metal had they formed/been signed in 1985. (The only notable non-No Depression/alt country example I can think of off the top of my head is Kacey Musgraves.)
posted by pxe2000 at 7:03 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


An English friend of mine has been working in Silicon Valley for the past 15 years ago. He got married to an American woman about a decade ago and they had a baby last year. He's been thinking about becoming a citizen, but wanted to feel more culturally American. So last year he started following football (NFL) and this year he started listening to country music. I don't really do either of these things and feel sufficiently culturally American, but he somehow sees these as quintessential. He says that in about another year of football and country music he will feel comfortable enough to apply for citizenship.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:07 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Willie Nelson is looming in your path, a giant counterexample

Willie actually came up with the term for the country/roots music that I love so much - Outlaw Country. It came from his disillusionment with the Nashville scene. The original members were people like Willie, Waylon, Tompall Glaser, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. It grew to include what I would call the more "literary" side of country; musicians that really treasured the craft of lyric writing and song making: Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, James McMurtry , Lyle Lovett. (So many of them are from Texas, I just call it Austin music)

Make no mistake, all those people are steeped in real, traditional country music. But it ain't the stuff you're gonna hear on country radio.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:16 PM on July 28, 2013 [18 favorites]


I bought a best of Townes Van Zandt CD a few years ago. I had only heard songs from it on his raw and intimate live recordings, and here some of them were, all slicked up by Nashville arrangers, with very formulaic production. They sounded so cold and foreign! One can see how those musicians would have become frustrated.
posted by thelonius at 7:32 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I felt like the article was less about the music that was the jumping-off point and more about the tendency of "the left" to tar those who live in rural America, particularly the South, and particularly the poor, with a broad brush. The author was trying to tackle the assumption that everyone who "listens to country" must be some idiot racist redneck and therefore unworthy of the time and effort it takes to reach out to them.



Also, there are people who hate Dolly Parton? Seriously?
posted by louche mustachio at 7:39 PM on July 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


I guess they never saw Straight Talk.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:44 PM on July 28, 2013


Eh, she's definitely had some stinkers. I didn't have a proper appreciation until I heard "Jolene", "Joshua", "Coat Of Many Colors", etc. long after moving away from the south.

Whereas I remember her having an album out when I was a preteen, around the time she acted in movies like Straight Talk and Steel Magnolias, and I thought that album stunk.

I have a Dolly record from the mid 70's or maybe early 80's that is decidedly mediocre. It has like two good songs on it, and I think at least one of those is "secretly good despite dated production effects", not, like, classic Dolly.
posted by Sara C. at 7:44 PM on July 28, 2013


"Dixie Chicks" was so obviously a reference/tribute to Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken." Yikes. What's the matter with y'all?
posted by raysmj at 7:50 PM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is country out there worth listening to--for example, the Malpass Brothers. I don't know their politics and I don't want to know.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:17 PM on July 28, 2013


How can you define country in a way that exludes Johnny Cash and Hank Sr?

Yeah, that’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard. MeFi has a lot of trouble with this though. Apparently anything you like isn’t really Country music, only things you don’t like.
posted by bongo_x at 8:34 PM on July 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


Aside all the alt-country, bluegrass, and what not that I like, there's stuff by Luke Bryan I like ("Country Boy", "All My Friends Say"), "International Harvester" by Craig Morgan is both hilarious and awesome. If I sang karaoke, I'd bust out "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy."

It's so easy to be dismissive of things (and often culture and music are so tightly wrapped, that dismissing one is dismissing the other). Sure 90% of everything is crap, but every genre, even the commercialist-of-commercial country, pop, whatever, has 10% that's worth shifting through for.
posted by drezdn at 8:39 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you want your pop country blue (as in state, not dirty), Brad Paisley is your man.

Southern Comfort Zone

When your wheelhouse is the land of cotton,
The first time you leave it can be strange, it can be shocking

Not everybody drives a truck, not everybody drinks sweet tea
Not everybody owns a gun, wears a ball cap boots and jeans
Not everybody goes to church or watches every nascar race
Not everybody knows the words to "Ring Of Fire" or "Amazing Grace"

Oh, Dixie Land,
I hope you understand
When I miss my Tennessee Home
And I been away way too long
I can't see this world unless I go
Outside my Southern Comfort Zone

Welcome to the Future and American Saturday Night are also as liberal as a rainbow Prius. Highly recommended.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:50 PM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


("Liking Nashville country radio" has been one of the symptoms of aging for me. Up there with "getting real weepy real fast watching movies where children are hurt or endangered" and "actually caring about life insurance."

I mean, some of the stuff on the radio is crap. The songs about Beer and the songs about Chicks and the songs about Fish I can still do without. But sentimental ballads about how precarious (and therefore precious) our ties to our loved ones are? Oh shit I appear to be in the target audience for that now.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:57 PM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


If I sang karaoke, I'd bust out "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy."

When I sing karaoke, I always sing country songs. This reminds me to make a mental note to do Waylon Jennings' "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" next time.
posted by Sara C. at 8:58 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


But sentimental ballads about how precarious (and therefore precious) our ties to our loved ones are?

I take it you're a big fan of "Butterfly Kisses"?
posted by Sara C. at 8:59 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


How can you define country in a way that excludes Johnny Cash and Hank Sr?

It's hardly MeFi that's drawing this distinction. Among the millions upon millions of Americans who call the music they like "country" and take part in its fandom, the stuff they are talking about is basically what pyramid termite, a former country fan, describes as:

a ruthlessly calculated and commercial genre with plenty of classic rock moves thrown in, not to mention reactionary politics

People who use the phrase "country music" now are no more interested in hearing ballads that sound like Hank Sr. than anybody else is. It seems kind of pointless, if you really want to talk to a broad swath of Americans, to insist on a genre definition that they don't use.

It's like the word "Pop", which means one thing to an influential mass of retro-fetishizing classic rock fan writers and something else to 50 million teenagers. (I don't know how you get from the Raspberries to P!nk, and I don't think the latter's fans care.)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:03 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I take it you're a big fan of "Butterfly Kisses"?

Okay, that one's still a bit much for me. Too Purity Ball.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:06 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


But at the rate I'm going, mention it again in ten years and I'll just dissolve in a puddle of tears right then and there.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:09 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess what I'm saying is, for all I'm a big ol' lefty and a big ol' queer, there's aspects of my experience being an adult with a job and a family that only really seem to show up in country lyrics. It's a little weird to me that that stuff gets trashed as fake and inauthentic, when it's got a better track record than anything else on the radio for capturing what's actually on my mind these days.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:13 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


New Country is definitely the music of the Sunbelt 'burbs and its fan base definitely leans more conservative, on the whole. Still, I barely keep up with it, and I know that Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are hardly raging conservatives (more like moderate Dems), nor is Brad Paisley, and Garth Brooks is on record as being an Obama voter. Etc., etc.
posted by raysmj at 9:18 PM on July 28, 2013


When I sing karaoke, I always sing country songs.

I'll second that. No one breaks out in spontaneous line dancing to Radiohead.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:24 PM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Honestly, the Turnpike Troubadors doing Before The Devil Knows We're Dead is the best Flogging Molly song to come out since FM started their "let's write lots of depressing songs about Palestine" period. Wish I could get a What Made Milwaukee Famous-style cover of it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:01 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


People who use the phrase "country music" now are no more interested in hearing ballads that sound like Hank Sr. than anybody else is.

I'm a lifelong country fan and have performed country music for three years now. Neotraditional country has a real place in modern country music and still finds its way onto the charts. I mean, one of the big hits last year was Darius Rucker's fiddle-heavy cover of Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel," while Pistol Annies have enjoyed a fair amount of chart success, and they're heavily inspired by 1970s outlaw country. One of the top songs this year is Blowin' Smoke by Kacey Musgraves, which could be a classic piece of 1970s country; it sort of feels like a contemporary successor to songs like "Take This Job and Shove It" and "9 to 5."

As for Hank Williams, well, he charted last in 1989, but that's pretty good for a fella who had been dead for 36 years. And there was a collection of new songs in the style of Hank Williams and based on some of Williams old notebooks called "The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams" that came out two years ago. It reached 11 on U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums.

I think the reason why it feels like the only country nowadays is pop country is because its the only country that crosses over to pop charts. If you listen to country radio -- and there is a lot of variety from station to station -- you might be surprised at the diversity that shows up.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:07 PM on July 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


an important and vital musical tradition has become a ruthlessly calculated and commercial genre with plenty of classic rock moves thrown in, not to mention reactionary politics

Allow me to present The History of the Country Music Genre:
  1. Country music as a genre grows in popularity, as measured by radio play/sales/etc.
  2. People begin to claim that country music has become too commercial, too manufactured, etc.
  3. Someone, or several someones, start a reactionary movement within the genre, against the perceived tropes identified in (2).
  4. The reactionary movement's style of country music integrates into the mainstream of the genre.
  5. Go to step 1.
Really, this is what happens on a cyclical basis. Aside from everything else, Johnny Cash would be notable just for the fact that he was part of (3) at least twice and arguably three times in his career.
posted by ubernostrum at 10:15 PM on July 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cowboy mythology notwithstanding, old country music was made mostly by people who looked like farmers, diner waitresses, and factory workers.

What passes for country music now is made mostly by people who look like soap opera actors and catalog models.

Correlation or causation? You make the call. But as you might be able to deduce from the last part of my MeFi handle, I like the old country music much better.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 10:25 PM on July 28, 2013


So I'm confused. Is Fred Eaglesmilth "real country" or not?*


I mean, Toby Keith covered White Rose Filling Station. And he's a Real Country Dude.







* Not that I care. Fred is quite certain of how country he is, I am sure.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:26 PM on July 28, 2013


I've just always loved the name Porter Wagoner. So euphonious. Is it in Iambic Pentameter?
posted by Sara C. at 10:29 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


A trochee and a dactyl.
posted by LucretiusJones at 10:35 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks. I know fuck all about meter.
posted by Sara C. at 10:36 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's too bad it wasn't two dactyls, because Porter Wagoner was so fly, he shoulda been a pairadactyl.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:40 PM on July 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


I *hate* "corporate" & mainstream country music (right-wing stuff) but I love alt-country, especially Steve Earle.
posted by mike3k at 10:46 PM on July 28, 2013



an important and vital musical tradition has become a ruthlessly calculated and commercial genre with plenty of classic rock moves thrown in, not to mention reactionary politics


At least those 'classic rock moves' are still getting play.

I mean, one of the big hits last year was Darius Rucker's fiddle-heavy cover of Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel,"

This makes me so, so, so happy.

Hell if you count bland 3rd hand country like Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters and Men and whoever's singing on that Avicci song then country pop is on the pop charts too.

When I saw Hayes Carll play for only 8 people, though, that made me sad.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:53 PM on July 28, 2013


I'm so lonesome I could cry. Anyhow, he was a blues singer for crying out loud.

Labels are so much fun. I get tears in my ears from laying on my back, crying on my pillow over Charlie Pride. There was the Maddox bros and Rose, too. Little Jimmy Dickens and Red Foley. Gay used to mean happy: it's the way the language works. Country? Mostly they mean Nashville, which hasn't been in the country since before WWII. They let nostalgic couplets tell the lies, how it used to be, for that old Gray Haired Daddy of mine--no you don't hear that song itself, only the song about the song, and all the others; I gave his love to Rose, and I still could hear the boxcars rattle on down that Eastern Seaboard. They were into the blues in those days, the white guys, but them others played jazz, except the folks in the delta and they played, well, music. Bessie Smith was maybe the most famous woman singer in her day. She transcended. The rest just invented and invented. It took a while, but musicians are a sorry bunch, and don't observe boundaries very well.

Labels. They had to call it rock and rock because nobody had thought of saying n-word blues on the radio. Hell, they didn't even want Elvis to sing that stuff. Now they call it country, on account of the way the language drifts. Steve Goodman wrote the perfect country song on a bet: they all got the joke back then, but it seems to be a bit above the line of sight nowadays--this is where you are asked to smile while others watch you make fun of yourself, see, if you are a true outlaw country boy. Or gal. We have both kinds here, as they used to say, Country AND Western. Okay, country-blues if you have to sing Hank Sr.'s songs. Or Delta Blues if you don't want to pay the Broomsey estate what's due. Or folk songs, when you don't want to do the homework.

Outlaws. Ah crap. Yeah, no doubt. Sour grapes and malcontents, unhappy at the way the younger generation has no respect. All that family-oriented patriotism has to keep its ink black somehow, no more living out of the trunk of Hank's car, you see. You have to more or less ride the purple pendulum, as it swings to the right. You do know: what a friend you have in Jesus--this isn't just a throwaway line for you to harmonize with at the end of the set. They laughed at Pat Boone, so he just oiled his pipes and cashed his checks. They didn't laugh at Ted Nugent, and they stoned the Dixie Chicks. Get real. Country my ass.

The way this is going, pretty soon I'll be reading about how the Kingston Trio really were Folk Singers: just because they legitimized it an wore a college boy uniform didn't mean...ah Crap on a stick. Back to labels.

Shel Silverstein wrote the perfect country and western song, several of them, but the best was: Acapulco Goldie. I can defend that. I will quote Ray Charles if you insist.
posted by mule98J at 10:54 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Y'all could do worse than to set a spell and read this book by Nick Tosches. It's a bit of an odd bird of music writing, and one is well warned to not take certain passages too literally, but as far as written music history goes, it is a cut above and one of a kind.
posted by erskelyne at 11:21 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


nth-ing the mentions upthread of Hayes Carll and James McMurtry.
posted by wintermind at 6:14 AM on July 29, 2013


If I sang karaoke, I'd bust out "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy."

You and everyone else.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:04 AM on July 29, 2013


MeFi has a lot of trouble with this though. Apparently anything you like isn’t really Country music, only things you don’t like.

It's not just MeFi. Also, see hip-hop vs rap.
posted by box at 7:08 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I grew up in a world where every third radio station was a country station. My parents, however, despite growing up surrounded by the music, or perhaps because they grew up surrounded by the music (and not that far away from Bristol), rarely played the genre around us kids. I distinctly remember a Willie Nelson cassette tape in the car on road trips, but they were Boomer teens and grew up fascinated by the Beatles and Rock'n'Roll. Country music, I think, was their parents' music, which is not to say they wouldn't admit to loving this song or that artist of their parents' generation.

In high school, I met someone who turned me on to the genre. I unabashedly enjoyed it for the wide range of topics the songs covered, be it tragic love songs to just running out and having fun. The stories or messages were relatively simple, easy to understand and when done right, ones you could listen to over and over. Also, depending on the topic, they were songs I could more easily identify with than the rap and hip hop music my friends were fond of playing loudly over their large car speakers. Up to this point, country had held a degree of stigma amongst them, but when they climbed in my car, which was often as I was one of the first to drive, and I had it playing, it seemed that I had kicked open a door to let others through to admit or enjoy country music. Within weeks, the genre had invaded the lives of those around me and there remained.

The listening of country music did not resonate any more strongly in my life than one rain filled night as I sped down Interstate 81 through the Shenandoah Valley. My destination was Salem, a Wal-Mart sized town that was being gobbled up by Roanoke and where my grandfather lived. By this point in his life, he was now twice a widower, and though he lived only a two hour drive away down one of the two major north-south transportation arteries of the state, it always seemed that I rarely got to see him enough and when I did, the visits were short in nature. He was also in his early 80s by this point and at the time, I didn't know that he would never live beyond this decade in his life.

He had been born in a drastically different world than myself. It was a world without indoor plumbing and one whose daily chores and demands were set by the calendar of a farm. He remembered an age when horses were rode into town, but also, tied up outside of it to keep them away from any fear inducing automobiles. Beyond the bonds of blood and family, we had little to share other than each other's company. It was enjoyable company that spanned his reading to me the Sunday comics or to allowing me my first ever sip of beer (which I found awful as a kid and still find awful to this day). Prior to the that night, I can think of two events in which we discovered we shared enjoyment of and they both revolved around guns. The first was a Christmas day when we kids found a Nintendo console under the tree packaged with Duck Hunt, and both my grandfathers joined us to play the game for several hours. The second was another Christmas day, many years later, in which he and I traded turns firing a brand new paintball gun. Beyond those moments, we really did not have much to talk about or shared experiences that brought us together.

Thus, it was that I was making my way down 81 in what I determined to be perhaps the darkest night that I had ever enjoyed on the interstate. Rain continually soaked my windshield, blurring the white and yellow lines that marked the boundaries of the pavement of the road, and maddeningly fell at a faster rate than my windshield wipers could achieve. Much more confident or foolish truck drivers added the roar of their engines and spray from their tires to the affair as I wound my way down the curves through the valley, and above this outside din of rain and commerce that I had an Alan Jackson cd playing. In the midst of taking yet another turn with an eighteen wheeler blinding me with spray and at the same time edging into my lane, edging me out of it, the car phone rang.

Yes, a car phone. My parents had demanded that one be installed in the days before cellphones became ubiquitous so that their children be able to call for help regardless of where ever their used vehicles wandered off to die. I grabbed the phone, keeping one white knuckled hand on the wheel, two eyes on the semi that continued to test my driving confidence in the worst of weather conditions, and with no regard to the music playing, I answered. It was my father, who had preceded me to his father's house, and it was a check up call, "Where was I?" He then put his father on the phone, and it may have been the first time my grandfather ever called anyone in the car, and most certainly, not beyond the first few times. I said, "Hi Grandad!" And he responded without hesitation, "Is that country western music?!" There was a delight in his voice at this fact which for the moment made every rain and road borne stress in my system vanish and I surely smiled, as I navigated the rain, the truck, the interstate and the phone with an affirmative. I cannot tell you what followed on that phone call, but never before had I sense such an excited connection between myself and him.

In the years that followed, I was able to ask him more about his life and to learn more about who the fellow was who called me his favorite grandson (I was the only grandson). I'm sure we discussed country and western music, but never at great length. Instead, it seemed that the genre had built a new bridge between us that remained until he passed on a number of years later. It really could have been any type of music, but because it was country music, it holds a greater degree of specialness in my heart. I do not even listen to it that often any more, but when Alan Jackson plays on the radio, I do get the opportunity to remember that moment when it was just me, the road, truckers and driving in the rain.
posted by Atreides at 7:18 AM on July 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Elwood: What kind of music do you usually have here?
Claire: Oh, we got both kinds. We got country AND western.

I've loved Johnny Cash as long as I can remember, except for that ill-advised phase from around 1986-1993 when I was "too edgy" for country music. It was alt-country bands like Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo (got into them both around 1995) that got me back into country music, and since then, I've discovered wonderful old acts like Bob Wills (still the king), the Maddox Brothers and Rose, the Louvin Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, Patsy Cline, Lefty Frizzell, the Sons of the Pioneers, et cetera.

I could go on another rant about I can't hear a fiddle or a pedal steel guitar in 99% of the stuff they call country today, but you've heard it all before. But man, if you don't like the old stuff, I think you might not like music.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:48 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I saw Hayes Carll play for only 8 people, though, that made me sad.

DUDE WHAT


That makes me sad too. Hayes Carll is awesome.




If you would like to be un-sad, he played to a large and appreciative crowd at Winnipeg and totally killed with She Left Me for Jesus*. He also played a Texas-themed workshop with Robert Ellis that was absolutely wonderful.



* With a caveat that he was not ACTUALLY going to kick Jesus' ass.


Eh, (Dolly) definitely had some stinkers.


Um, well, yes, but ya can't HATE her. She's DOLLY PARTON, and generally wonderful.

I'm pretty sure she's like half unicorn or something.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:11 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


1. My in-laws are pop-country people, so I hear a lot of it whenever I'm in the car with them. And the thing that always strikes me, aside from the fact that the slickness of production isn't to my taste, is that modern pop country has this really consistent literalism in its lyrics. It's always "here's my statement, usually about how working-class people in the small towns are pretty awesome*. Here are some declarative supporting statements, or, alternately, a supporting mini-story. HERE'S THE BIG CHORUS." Once I started noticing this, it bugged me a lot; I can't help but think that the Nashville machine believes that people can't handle any sort of subtlety, and dictates that all songs must be laid out to be understandable by any lowest common denominator.

2. This thread jolted me out of an ongoing Bowie bender and prompted me to put together a country megaplaylist and, well, I'll talk to you in 600 songs or so.

* and to be clear: I have nothing at all against working-class people in small towns; that's the stock I come from. But pop country sure as shit panders to them a lot.
posted by COBRA! at 8:34 AM on July 29, 2013


Um, well, yes, but ya can't HATE her. She's DOLLY PARTON, and generally wonderful. I'm pretty sure she's like half unicorn or something.

Are you saying Dolly's wig is made out unicorn hair? Or are you saying that unicorns are primarily made of silicone?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:35 AM on July 29, 2013


I'm pretty sure she's like half unicorn or something.

I love my mom and all, but if I could trade...
posted by Sara C. at 8:42 AM on July 29, 2013


modern pop country has this really consistent literalism in its lyrics.

Well sure. But so does pretty much all pop music. It's just that most pop music is also meant to be consumed in party situations where it's not really about the lyrics, but about the rhythm, the hook, whether it's danceable. Country doesn't have that extra angle, so when it's one-note, you really notice how one-note it is.
posted by Sara C. at 8:52 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or are you saying that unicorns are primarily made of silicone?


PROVE ME WRONG
posted by louche mustachio at 8:59 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Economist takes a look at country music:

“Some messages are clearly not allowable [in country music], like ‘Fuck tha police' or ‘I got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one',” writes Chris Willman in his excellent book “Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music”. “But then there are messages that aren't allowable in any other popular-music genre that flourish here, such as: I wish I'd been there when my mama died. I miss my husband in Iraq. Babies and old people rule. If I die, take care of my kids for me.”
posted by ostro at 9:13 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not just MeFi. Also, see hip-hop vs rap.

Yes. And getting back to the original article, the political divide that goes along with the "roots music" vs. "Nashville country" thing also shows up in the hip-hop vs. rap thing. "The stuff I listen to is good and authentic and the positions I hold are real thought-out intellectual positions. The stuff you listen to is bad and artificial and the positions you hold are just second-hand lies that the media sold you."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:18 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just going to throw out a link to the Swingin' Doors weekly radio show and streaming archive on Seattle's KEXP. It sounds like it might appeal to some of this crowd:

Swingin' Doors is dedicated to a wide range of country sounds and styles, from honky tonk and western swing to alternative country and bluegrass, in sharp contrast to the tight playlists and narrow focus of today's commercial country radio.

posted by sapere aude at 9:24 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


“Some messages are clearly not allowable [in country music], like ‘Fuck tha police' or ‘I got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one',” writes Chris Willman in his excellent book “Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music”. “

HAHAHAH WHAT.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:26 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fuck the police.

The entire country sub-genre of trucker CB songs has the highway patrol and local police as the enemy.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:37 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


And don't even get me started on moonshiner songs.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:39 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, there is this little type of song that is really popular in country music. Some of you may have heard of it, it's called a murder ballad.

Cocaine Blues. Delia's Gone. Banks of the Ohio. Knoxville Girl. Goodbye Earl, even. I could go on for days.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:40 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and my favorite killin' song (but a relatively new addition to the canon): Caleb Meyer.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:43 AM on July 29, 2013


And don't even get me started on moonshiner songs.

But then you've got song's like Dolly's "Daddy's Moonshine Still", which is anti-moonshining and one of the saddest country songs ever. And catchy as fuck. THAT is how you do maudlin.
posted by Sara C. at 9:57 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, Dolly also did "Evening Shade", which is about abused kids burning down an orphanage, with their abuser still inside. Which is basically "I got 99 problems but the fact that I was brutally abused as a ward of the state ain't one"
posted by Sara C. at 9:58 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like the gangsta-rap/trucker-song comparison a lot, actually. Because it's not just that they're both "outlaw music" in a nonspecific way. There's a whole shared perspective or worldview or whatever. "I didn't make the rules. I'm just trying to get by. If you knew what it was like for us here you'd sympathize. But seeing as I'm stuck here playing this game, I'm not ashamed to tell you that I'm pretty damn good at it..."

If you really want an example of a message that would be unacceptable in country music nowadays, you probably want Public Enemy or Rage Against The Machine and not NWA. For all the cheerful second-amendment patriotism, I can't think of anyone in mainstream country who's genuinely taking a militantly radical political stance like that.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:21 AM on July 29, 2013


Most mainstream [insert genre here] artists don't take a militantly radical political stance. How long has it been since any of those artists have been relevant to the mainstream? It's been a long time since I've heard rap referred to as "the black CNN." I'd argue artists like Public Enemy and RatM were anomalous even when they were getting airplay.

There have been plenty of alt-country artists that tackle politics (Iris Dement's "Wasteland of the Free," Uncle Tupelo's first and third albums, the Bottle Rockets' "Lucky Break") and, historically, even mainstream ones (Johnny Cash's "Man in Black," Merle Haggard's "Workingman Blues," Loretta Lynn's "The Pill," etc.)

I wonder how much of this depoliticalization of music is due to the consolidation of media? Probably a lot.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:34 AM on July 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you like 'Swinging Doors,' you might also enjoy KUAR (Little Rock's NPR station)'s 'Not Necessarily Nashville.'
posted by box at 10:34 AM on July 29, 2013



The entire country sub-genre of trucker CB songs has the highway patrol and local police as the enemy.


One of my friends used to host a DJ night called "Country Gone Wrong."


Trucker/CB country tends to go wrong with alarming frequency.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:44 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Um, well, yes, but ya can't HATE her. She's DOLLY PARTON, and generally wonderful.


"I had a one-on-one interview with Parton in a hotel suite. As we spoke, I found myself enveloped by her presence. This had nothing to do with sex appeal. Far from it. It was as if I were being mesmerized by a benevolent power. I left the room in a cloud of good feeling. Next day, Siskel and I were sitting next to each other on an airplane. 'This will sound crazy,' he said, 'but when I was interviewing Dolly Parton, I almost felt like she had healing powers.' "

Roger Ebert, 2008

posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:50 AM on July 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


I just came here to post:

a) That I'm really glad someone has mentioned Robert Ellis, who spent a year or more playing a free weekly show in a bar 7 blocks from my house in Houston before the release of "Photographs." He's the real goddamn deal. Bonus: he's super young -- younger than his songwriting chops suggest -- so presumably will be with us a long time.

b) How is it possible no post yet about outlaw country has mentioned Billy Joe Shaver? Goddamn, people, pick up on it. The mid-90s record TRAMP ON YOUR STREET is as good a place to start as any.
posted by uberchet at 2:08 PM on July 29, 2013


I am pleased that so many can derive pleasure and passion from the genre. I grew up in a rural area in the late 60s/early 70s and country was right up there with Lawrence Welk as the type of music we were force fed with. Anyone remember "Happiest Girl in the Whole USA" by the ridiculous Donna Fargo? That typifies the over-produced treacle Nashville was most fond of back then. Was it any wonder I was walking into the house with Zep, Stones, Who, and Sabbath vinyl under my arm?

Yeah, later came the outlaws and there's always some good stuff on the edges but something about this genre still puts my teeth on edge. Very few write their own material, able playing is shunned to bluegrass. The product you hear on the radio is the ultimate example of Sturgeon's Law. Give me hard rock, metal, classical, jazz, blues, world, stoner rock, prog rock, punk, alternative, new wave, ambient, fusion or just someone talking on NPR. Hell, I would even listen to opera before I would choose the shitkicker music corporate radio plays.

So I while applaud those who have made the effort to find the needles in the corporate haystack, I always return to the wise words of Bob Newhart: I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down'.
posted by Ber at 2:45 PM on July 29, 2013


I'm not sure if Haggard, Cash, Owens, and Jones could really be considered in the edges in the late 60s. Still, all taste is subjective. If it's not your bag, it's not your bag.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:13 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


something about this genre still puts my teeth on edge

In my experience, people who grew up hearing a lot of country, but who don't immediately and unthinkingly gravitate to it, tend to have a harder time getting into it than people who were never exposed.

I know tons of yankees who are all, "OMG I LOVE ZAC BROWN BAND SOOOO MUCH", because they didn't drown in a sea of Randy Travis, Hank Junior, George Straight, Garth Brooks, etc. as children. I mean, I have nostalgia for some of that shitty 90s country, but more for camp value/because it was on every jukebox when I was a kid. And the current iteration just doesn't interest me at all, because it doesn't even have that "wait since when do I know all the words to Friends In Low Places???" earworminess.

It took an extremely long time for me to even be receptive to bluegrass and alt-country. In a lot of ways, growing up, I built an entire identity around rebelling against any roots-esque sound. I wonder if the same isn't true for you?

(By the way, opera is AMAZING. You are really missing out.)
posted by Sara C. at 6:19 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Friends in Low Places" is such a perfect party/karaoke song that it almost justifies the rest of Garth Brooks' s existence.

I have a huge soft spot for some of the names you mentioned, but other than that Garth is a vice of my childhood.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:37 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]



But then you've got song's like Dolly's "Daddy's Moonshine Still", which is anti-moonshining and one of the saddest country songs ever. And catchy as fuck. THAT is how you do maudlin.


There's a few anti-meth songs by Drive-By Truckers and Old Crow Medicine Show too.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:48 PM on July 29, 2013


Here are some declarative supporting statements, or, alternately, a supporting mini-story. HERE'S THE BIG CHORUS." Once I started noticing this, it bugged me a lot; I can't help but think that the Nashville machine believes that people can't handle any sort of subtlety, and dictates that all songs must be laid out to be understandable by any lowest common denominator.

And how is this different from Pop/Rock/Hip-Hop/anything else on mainstream radio?
posted by bongo_x at 9:45 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Friends in Low Places" is such a perfect party/karaoke song that it almost justifies the rest of Garth Brooks' s existence.

I can only assume that you did not work in a small town pizza parlor in 1991. I did and I was guaranteed to hear Friends in Low Places on the jukebox at least a dozen times a night. Just as popular were Rodeo (also by Brooks) and Hotel California. To this day, I cringe on hearing any of them.

At the annual Metafilter Karaoke Party, I would much rather hear Sara C. sing Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys. I will even join in on the chorus.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:12 PM on July 29, 2013


I unashamedly had Garth Brooks' "Double Live" album in high school and still totally love "Baton Rouge" despite the lyrics being really squicky.
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 PM on July 29, 2013


My sixteenth birthday present was to be taken to a Johnny Cash concert in Abilene, Texas. I was raised country but have branched out over time. I suppose my taste are very wide spread as anyone who has received any of my mixes from the Mefi trades can attest. I listen to music, some good some bad, but all music. I have in my collection everything from Woody to Ozzy and everything in between and around. I like music. I have no taste.
posted by bjgeiger at 7:37 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


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