I really do love country music. Most of it, anyway.
I live among the arguably least dense country-music-listener-population, however, and am often verbally condemned for listening to country music in my house. The urban music scene is great, and fosters a huge variety of new voices and talents, especially in a city like Seattle – I’m truly blessed to live here. But there’s something about “a gypsy soul” in a place where “the ocean is my only medication” that “makes me wanna take the backroads”… Since I’ve been in England I think I’ve come to realize even moreso how much I really do cherish the gritty, honest twang of Garth Brooks and the catchy, laid-back (albeit lazy) whistling of the Zac Brown Band and Jimmy Buffett.
Yes, it’s easy to lump all country songs into a few pervading messages. Just as contemporary rap music has “Let’s have sex,” “I’m really rich,” and “Really, let’s have sex,” so does contemporary pop music have their “We just broke up and now my life is over,” “I’m so much better without you,” and “OMG I love you so much you are my everything.” Even independent, alternative genres have their characteristic banjo choruses that beat along with the cycles of love and sorrow.
So country music isn’t exempt. If you listen to any contemporary country radio station for a good period of time you’ll find yourself hearing a lot of the same messages: “I love America,” “I love whiskey,” “I love trucks,” and “I love women/men but they make me really sad sometimes.” If you choose right, they can be the perfect songs for road trips, quick pick-me-ups, or to blast during summer barbecues.
Also, just like with most any musical genre, there are the good ones.
There are the timeless ones:
Oh, mirror in the sky,
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
There are the songs that are good because they hurt:
Last night we talked of old times –
Families and home towns.
She wondered if we’d both agree
On where we’d settle down,
And I told her that we’d cross that bridge
Whenever it arrived.
Now through the flames I see her
Standin’ on the other side.
She said you’re ramblin’ man –
You ain’t ever gonna change.
You gotta gypsy soul to blame,
And you were born for leavin’.
I can smell your perfume through these whispering pines –
I’m with your ghost again.
It’s a shame about the weather.
There are the songs that everyone secretly has on their iPods:
And then there are the ones that popular culture reluctantly accepts onto their radio stations and that listeners will consider the exceptions to their “I like, totally hate country music” rule. This is mostly just Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, and “If I Die Young”.
I will always remember the moments as a girl when I’d curl my bright blonde hair, sing along to Toby Keith in my dad’s truck, and hear him tell me I could be the next Shania Twain (and then hearing him tell me that I lost my chance, when the peppy blonde T-Swift came on the scene). I laughed when my younger brother mumbled over Willy Nelson’s “whiskey for my men, beer for my horses,” and listened to Ropin’ the Wind on repeat when I stayed home sick from school.
Yeah, I listened to Britney Spears, and I was definitely an N’ Sync girl. I remember the thrill of burning the unedited version of Usher’s 8701 from my cousin’s computer in 6th grade. I pay tribute to my older brother’s musical influences that had me listening to RHCP, Run DMC, Ben Harper, and Eddie Vedder from an early age, and I had my Jimmy Eat World and The Offspring years. Transistioning from public high school to a Christian University and life in Seattle, my iPod filled quickly with Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons, Future of Forestry, and Gungor.
But when the thousands of miles between me and home weigh heavy on my heart, it’s the Eagles that rest my travel-weary bones. It’s memories of Dire Straights and Elvis scratching out of our jukebox that make me laugh again. It’s Darius Rucker that makes cleaning my lonely apartment room a little bit more fun and Rodney Atkins who reminds me that those wide open roads on the peninsula, those mountains, and that Pacific Northwest soil will be waiting for me, just as I left them.
And now I’m crying. Haha! Home so soon, I can taste it.