26 June 2009

Occasionally a song speaks to me

I am not a music lover. As I have said before, I am tone-deaf, and I just don't get music. When ThePinkThing is an adolescent and cranking up her music, I will surely be the mother who is shrieking "Turn that crap down! You're going to make yourself (and me) DEAF!" And, having grown up in the NY metro area, I certainly hadn't a clue about country music. All of the country music I ever heard as a kid was a sort of musical wailing complaint -- constantly sad and depressing. I always thought, "who the heck likes this stuff?" If there was a local country music radio station, it was well-hidden.

Then in my 30's I met TheHusband. He likes music. And he's from the Midwest, where lots of people like country music. I resisted as hard as I could. He even took me to the Grand Ole Opry a few years back. I literally was in culture shock -- all those old guys wearing tight sequinned suits up on the stage singing songs I'd never even heard before. I did enjoy it though, and I realized that though I might not like the country music of my childhood (TH calls it "old" country), I do like traditional bluegrass music, mostly because of the banjo picking. Yes, yes, yes, I know, a suburban mid-Atlantic gal likes bluegrass because of the banjo?

Over time, I have grown to like some "new" country -- the type of country music that has happier tunes and less depressing lyrics. I like a whole bunch of songs from a variety of artists, but one really stands out, because of the subject matter. It is "the 19 Something" song by Mark Wills. The singer (and songwriter?) is a few years younger than I am, but he hit my childhood and adolescent decades right on the nose, even though it is from a boy's perspective. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video to embed, so I am providing a link instead. As it happens, I didn't see Star Wars in the theater 8 times, but I did see it twice...


Anne C. said...

Count me in the "likes Bluegrass, but not much Country" club too. :)

Eric said...

See, I don't consider "New Country" to be Country at all. It's soft rock, basically. If we're talking Country, give me Hank Williams, Sr. or Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash, or even some Merle Haggard or David Allan Coe.

It's a sad-funny thing that some of the older Country artists out there (Willie, Emmylou Harris, and the late Johnny Cash all come to mind) have all ended up on Indie or Alternative labels, having more cred with a crowd that doesn't consider itself Country. For that matter, younger acts who would have once been considered Country (Rilo Kiley comes to mind) are considered Indie or College.

But to each, his or her own.

And Bluegrass is awesome.

Random Michelle K said...

OK. So.

Bluegrass is not country.

Bluegrass is classified as "Old Time Music" and has no relationship to the blonde bimbos singing pop with twang and a full orchestra that classifies as country today.

Real country music, as Eric pointed out, is Hank Williams and Johnny Cash and the Carter family. Real country has the High Lonesome in common with Bluegrass, but they are different, because new country electrified the guitar and basically dropped the banjo and mandolin.

If it's got a banjo/mandolin/upright bass it's bluegrass. If it's got someone screeching like Mariah Carey with a twang while wearing boots and a hat, then it's new country. If you play it backwards and get out of jail or get your wife, dog, and truck back, it's old country.

John the Scientist said...

Some New Country is often Old Country with Blues infused back into it, a lot like some of the fusion music of the 20s. Some is pop with steel guitars. I can definitely hear some Hair Band guitar riffs hidden in some of the more poppy songs. All of it beats modern rock if you are over 35 years old.

One day about 6 or 7 years ago I was riding to work listening to a modern rock station, which I had done since my TAing years just to see what my students were listening to (crap, mostly). And there was some guy whining to his dad about "sorry I couldn't be perfect" (Simple Plan, now that I look it up) - and the whole tone of the song was this whining teenager, and I thought to myself: "Why am I listing to this immature crap? I'm 35 years old".

For a few days I cycled the dial and hit on 19Something and Tim McGraw's* "I Miss Back When", and I thought "this is speaking to me, not some pimply faced hormone with feet". For someone who's gotten tired of the same 23 "classic rock" songs being played over and over again by the Clear Channel Empire trying to reach my age demographic, New Country is a Godsend.

And Brad Paisley is freaking hilarious. "I'm gonna miss her..."

* I've grown to despise much of his music since.

Eric said...

To amplify Michelle's points, here are the crucial lyrics from the ultimate Country song, "You Never Even Called Me By My Name," performed by David Allan Coe and written by the late, great Steve Goodman:

Well, a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote this song
And he told me it was the perfect Country & Western song
I wrote him back a letter and I told him it was not the perfect Country & Western song because he hadn’t Said anything at all about Mama,
Or trains,
Or trucks,
Or prison,
Or getting’ drunk
Well he sat down and wrote another verse to the song
And he sent it to me,
And after reading it,
I realized that my friend had written the perfect
Country & Western song
And I felt obliged to include it on this album
The last verse goes like this here:

Well, I was drunk the day my Mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got runned over by a damned old train

Res ipsa loquitur.

TheHusband said...

I guess I'll weigh in on this. It seems to me that country music has gone through several phases and is continuing to evolve.

Phase one would start with performers like Hank Williams in the 1930's and '40s - sort of the cowboy crooner with the southern twang. This is where the "sad" country music begins in modern time. Other artists that influence country during this time would be the Carter Family, and Gene Autry. Prior to that all those doom n gloom lyrics are found in bluegrass and folk but the popularity of radio starts spreading country and western throughout the nation.

We see people like Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff form the foundation of "modern" country. There are many other artists during this time-frame but I'm just citing what I think are some of the highlights during this evolution.

Phase two: 1940's and 1950s' brings in Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs (bluegrass I know but very influential), Patsy Cline, Don Reeves, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. You start hearing the same sad stories but now more ballads and instruments beside banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and drum.

Phase three: Late 50's early 60's: Elvis really starts to have an influence but his style seems to remain his own and is only imitated in Las Vegas, TV commercials and at any county fair or lounge world-wide. Eddy Arnold brings some wonderful ballads and duets.

Phase four: mid-60's early '70's: Tammy Wynette creeps in as well as Dolly Parton other artists that become really popular; Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride, Tanya Tucker, Ronnie Milsap, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson... its almost like a golden-age of country but its still OLD Country - new tunes but same sad o'l lyrics for the most part.

Phase five: mid-late '70's: Things start to change; Artists that don't sound or look like country appear. John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Olivia Newton John!?. New types of lyrics, some even UP-BEAT? Is this possible? What happened to my country music? The "oddities" are also popular. Boxcar Willie, Slim Whitman. No doubt, country is a changin.

Phase six: late '70's and '80s: Dolly again this time mega-popular. Waylon Jennings n Willie Nelson resurges and become almost cult-like. Plus, shows like Hee Haw and The Dukes of Hazard are really a hit and they bring in even more fans. Now you see the artists that are with us now. Dwight Youkum, Randy Travis, George Strait, Reba McIntyre, Travis Tritt, Garth Brooks, Clint Black... Groups like the Oak Ridge Boys, (Elvira) and Alabama make charts go through the roof.

Phase seven: 90's and today: Tim McGraw, Lonestar, The Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill. Many, many songs become upbeat and even sometime inspirational.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list or time line. Some info may even be wrong (what do I look like Wikipedia). This is just an observation from a long-time country fan.

neurondoc said...

You see why I was taken to the Grand Ole Opry?

Wendy said...

Having lived in the South for over half my live now, I've grown accustomed to country music being around. And having spent 10 summers working for a local amphitheatre, have seen many country music performers.

I can't stand traditional old style country music, the kind with the screeching steel guitars that make you want to howl (from the ear pain). I'm generally a rocker thru & thru, with a little bit o' folk music thrown in for good measure.

Now, some country artists I've taken to from time to time, either because I've met them at some point and have a personal connection, or have seen them perform live, which to me is the ultimate test of talent. Studios are nice, but you can fix things. Performing live, wysiwyg.

Emmylou Harris for example. She graduated from UNC-G a couple years before I attended back in the '70's. Met her several times when she was on campus for events and the occasional performance. Wonderful lady, very gracious. Gentle side of country.

Dolly Parton & Reba McIntyre, I've never met either but have seen both perform live. Their connection with an audience is electric, alive and amazing.

Alan Jackson, nice Georgia boy, used to drive a fork lift and load trucks at the then new K-Mart distribution center in Newnan, GA. At the time I worked in receiving at a K-mart. When they opened the new state of the art facility they invited the local stores to come tour it, so we did. Learned alot, they had a BBQ for us afterwards & we were entertained by one of the employees who had a local band. Yep, Alan Jackson. Not long after, he packs up his family, heads to Nashville and the rest, as they say, is history.

And then there is Shania Twain. Little bitty thing. Her tour came to our venue the summer after Feels Like a Woman took off like a rocket. A lot of artists don't want people in the house during sound check.

I worked for the food services company and was cutting through the house to get our stands set up. Shania hollers out to me to see if I had a radio. Sure do. Who did I work for, I told her. How many people in our stands, about 150. Well, would I please call may boss and tell them that Shania had invited the whole staff to hear sound check and then she'd do a couple numbers just for us because we wouldn't get to see the show.

What? An artist acknowledging the minions that made their show possible? We weren't invisible!!!

Shania had me call Laura before I stepped away from the stage area, it had to be one of the funniest conversations we'd ever had, Laura didn't believe it either. I think I handed Shania the radio at one point. But Laura put a call out to the rest of the supervisors to clear their stands into the seats. Same for the security crews. I'll bet she had about 300-400 people in the house for that sound check and private show.

It only took Shania maybe 10 extra minutes to do that for us, but it made our night and she earned our eternal respect with that one simple gift. I hope she's kept up that practice.

Sorry for the long post...good thing you didn't get me started on rock!! Have a great weekend!