Today I’ll address an issue of aesthetics.
I remember I first started to like country music in about grade 11, around 2001. I began liking it because country music, moreso than the other types of music I heard and had formerly listened to, really resonated with me, connecting to values, lifestyles and stories that were more authentic and meaningful to myself, how I wanted to relate to those around me, and the life I wanted to build. Before that I never really had much regard for it, mainly because I’d never taken the time or initiative to really listen to it. I’d only heard people dismiss it as hokey or silly. This symptom is more common than we’d think, especially in today’s society and among youth who feel pressured to enjoy all the same music as their peers. My advice to “I like everything but country” folks, is: don’t listen too much to what others say about country, instead take a listen to the music yourself. At the least this should provide some material for you to directly criticize the music and show your reasons for disliking it, rather than show yourself up for being unoriginal or solely a repeater of received opinion.
From first-hand reports through the years I know that the whole ‘cowboy’ thing is a big reason many people are thrown off from getting into country. I know I myself don’t always feel at home among the bar scene “country crowd,” but the fact is country is being increasingly marketed to a gimmick-hungry, hook-heavy younger crowd that wants bar anthems, not quality music. Miley Cyrus recently dissed the genre, stating how it “feels contrived on so many levels.” So does her latest duet with Brett Michaels, “Nothing to Lose.”
Nonetheless, the sad truth is that in today’s country world Miley’s claims are sometimes the case, to varying degrees. Chet Flippo wrote excellently about the recent ‘countrier-than-thou’ obsession/craze in his latest piece.
Miley vs. artists who posture heavily in the cowboy thing and write garbage (which is far from all or even a large amount) would both probably be chagrined to learn the details of how country music started, as the music of poor people in Appalachia, heavily influenced by Celtic and traditional music, that only later adopted the cowboy image in the 1940s to piggyback on the success of Western movie stars and the cowboy myth. A smart marketing move, and in the case of some musicians who really do come from a wrangling or cowboy background it is also genuine, but it can be overdone, particularly in today’s ‘countrier-than-thou’ climate. From Hank Williams Sr. onward, however, country music has always been more about the songs and getting to the heart of real life than it has about pretending to rustle cattle. And that can be lost on outside observers who only see the cowboy hat.
That about sums up my thoughts on that stuff at the moment, it’s a continuing theme though, of course.
The fastest-rising single of Texas country superstar Miranda Lambert’s career is “The House That Built Me,” one of the best country songs in years. A simple acoustic lick underlays a lyric so well-written (despite the, some claim, underdeveloped second verse) that it doesn’t need heavy production or gimmicks to bring it home. The music video debuted recently as well. Watch Miranda talk about how the song came about and play it.
Matt Kennon’s “The Call” is drawing some attention, especially given the way it connects to Matt’s own life story and his distinctive voice.
That’s it for now, I applied to help with scriptwriting, production or marketing at a local radio station, so we’ll see if I get a reply. Other than that, feel free to click the top tab under Reviews to link to some reviews I’ve written, and click on the Songwriters tab to look at some of my favorite songwriters and what they’ve written.