In many parts of the country, a fondness for country music brings a plague upon one’s career and friendships. Country music, outside its native habitat, is as popular as pungent body odor in small vehicles. It is to be masked and not spoken of, its producer’s cheeks reddening in shame and the rest embarrassed to be in the presence of such a foul substance.
Despite the widespread prejudice, country music actually isn’t all that bad. While growing up in OK, I listened to and resented country music all the time, since most of my family members enjoyed it and would play it relentlessly on the radio and at home. Years later at Boston University, this caused the bizarre sensation of both revulsion and pride whenever I heard a country song.
The revulsion resulted from years of carefully practiced loathing, and the pride came from me belonging to something different than the rest of my mostly coastal colleagues. Eventually I came to appreciate the twang-infested music as something unique to the specific subculture in which my adolescence was submerged and an art form that can be quite beautiful in those rare instances where it is done properly. And when it is not beautiful, it is generally hilarious.
Mostly for the ha-has, I’ve been drinking in the country music as much as possible during these short weeks in Oklahoma, but I have realized that a lifetime would not be enough to fully understand the breadth and depth of the genre. Where else do you find such tender descriptions of trucks, tractors, and other vehicles of labor? In this modern music wasteland, what other than country music will dare to describe innocent love in barns, hayfields, and blue jeans? What about all the myriad ways whisky, Jesus, and America are intimately connected with the problems one has while courting the farmer’s daughter?
What I most admire about country music, however, is its ability to admire itself. Since the dawn of the genre, it has been lauding the country lifestyle and the country way, in small towns full of simple, country men and women that like to do country things.
Songs like “I Got My Country On,” by Chris Cagle, “These Are My People,” by Rodney Atkins, “Where I Come From” by Montgomery Gentry, and “Where I Come From” by Alan Jackson, among many others, celebrate a rustic problem free, healthcare free lifestyle. In this highly fictionalized country world, there’s a lot of front porch sitting (AJ) with preacher men in cowboy shirts (MG). It’s where people do things with their own two hands (CG) and give this life everything they have and then some (RA). It’s a wonderful, wonderful, place, and anyone listening to this music would probably imagine a haven of small town goodness, unspoiled by the modern world.
While modernity may not have touched it, the world in which country music lives and from which it sprouts has unfortunately been spoiled by high divorce, obesity, diabetes two, and poverty rates.
However, I am confident that a genre with such hits as “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” “Jesus Take the Wheel,” and “Somethin’ Bout a Truck” will have the creative energy necessary to face this rampant decay with some great ho-down tunes that will get knees a poppin’, heads a bobbin,’ and boots a stompin’.
If you have any other winning country music titles, please feel free to pass them along and I’ll see you down at the barn for the next line dance.
Picture Credit: Trip Advisor