From the Blog

Country Songs and Kitties

We’ve been doing a lot of walking in our new small town. It’s allowed us to leave the car parked, to slow down, and to absorb our new environment. The river, the hills, the old buildings, the friendly people, and the country music. Walking in town means observing the flow of traffic, and I’ve noticed lots more country music blaring out of open car windows. And I thought, well, yes, of course there would be more country music, we’re in the “country.” But then I really started thinking about country music.

I’ve always thought of country music as being from the South or Midwest. I don’t think of country music as originating from Oregon, or Vermont or Minnesota. There’s plenty of country, meaning rural or frontier areas in those and other states. But I never think of country music as coming from those areas. Because they don’t have the country music accent. That twang. That distinctive accent is the real signifier for popular country radio songs. There are rural areas in every state of the nation, probably cowboys, farms and ranches too. And I’m sure there are musicians and original songs coming out of those areas. But I’m guessing that music is more known as “folk.” Because I’ve never heard a country song with a Mainer or Minnesotan accent.

I say this as a person who has no education or knowledge about musical genres whatsoever. I think I stopped listening to the radio in the late 1990s. I’ve never watched American Idol. I know nothing about music. But the music I hear in cars and small town stores has that country music twang. During our first camping trip of the season, we needed to make an emergency supply run because we forgot our cooking pots and our camp stove. We wanted to be able to eat on this trip, so we drove up to Tillamook and popped into an outdoor store. There were guns and fishing poles and some other baffling stuff, so I just concentrated on getting the items we needed and not look too much like an obvious dainty city girl. As we were running up and down the aisles, my concentration broke when I became cognizant of the music that was playing throughout the store.

…You know I like my chicken fried
Cold beer on a Friday night
A pair of jeans that fit just right
And the radio up…

And I stopped. And I thought, wait, what…what…WHAT in the hell are we listening to? What the hell is this? Someone wrote a song about this? About fried chicken and beer and well fitting jeans? The chorus just played over and over. It was the only thing I remember. Someone got on the goddamn radio with this song. And of course it had that country music twang.

Is it soulful? Is it about the good life? The ethereal American mythology set to banjos and harmonicas? I wouldn’t mind any of this if there is a kernel of sincerity or quality, not just the veneer of homespun Americana. I realize I am not the target demographic. I’m betting the exclusivity of the genre is part of the appeal. That someone like me “just doesn’t get it,” is the exact reason why it is so popular. I’d be more inclined to listen, or at least be less cynical about country pop manufacturing and mass marketing, if I started hearing country songs with Minnesotan accents.

To get this process started, I wrote the beginning of a country song about my cat, to be sang in my native Massachusetts accent:

My kitty don’t like boxes
My kitty don’t like bags
My kitty sure does like sunbeams
He’s the best kitty I ever had

Comments

  1. I love country music. For me, it’s the two step rhythm, the simplistic scenarios (sometimes ridiculously Americana, I get that) and the fun of singing along. If I put on country music while I am cleaning, the outside world seems to go away and I’m lost in a farmhouse in my mind. If it’s when I’m driving, I am transported to a pickup or horse on the gravel roads traveled in my youth. If it’s on a jukebox in a bar, I am putting in $5s and singing along. Sometimes I have a Minnesotan accent (although it’s actually Dakotan in my case)

  2. Shan, I can hear that. Especially as you explain, I can see the appeal.

    My skepticism (with all genres) is feeling like I’m being sold something. Country, hip hop, pseudo soulful light rock, all the crap that feels manufactured.

    But I think that might just be me getting old. Just in the way my parents shook their fists at anything made after the Beatles and the Stones, I am shaking my fist at anything made after Flock of Seagulls and Duran Duran.

    That stuff was the real deal.

  3. this is a funny post. i just blogged about music, too. the way it takes you back and is si evocative of the time you were listening to it. country is huge up here. my mom listened to it, so every timei got in the car, the country station was on. some of it is entertaining, i don’t mind it, not like rap or hip hop. if that shit is on, i must turnthe channel. but country is more soothing. there is a song i hear occasionally, can’t remember the lyrics so much but one line of the chorus is “… and people are crazy”…
    that sums it up, dontcha think?

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