Our friend Julia Oller is the music reporter at the Columbus Dispatch newspaper in Columbus, Ohio. She's written a great intro to help you emerge yourself into the ostensibly cold country music pool. With Julia's help, what seemed like a genre comparable to a sunscreen-tinged kiddie pool now seems more like an inviting public pool in a nice neighborhood where they sell SweeTarts and where some of your cooler friends visit sometimes.
The first time I heard "I Wanna Be Adored" by The Stone Roses, I had no handle on what the song meant. The lyrics didn't seem to tell a story, and instead felt like little individual wisdoms intended to be repeated until they became a mantra circling a truth that I couldn't quite grasp. "I wanna be adored." "I don't need to sell my soul." "He's already in me." It felt like magic; a coded message my ears couldn't crack. When I later picked up on the song's soul-selling Faustian theme, the song lost some of its mystery. Still good, but de-shrouded.
A similar experience is when someone told me to read the gospels as if I were reading them for the first time. Instead of my normal practice of reading the first few plot points of each parable and then letting my mind auto-fill the rest from LOOSE memory, this time I challenged myself to see each gospel story in its uniqueness—testing each metaphor's implication, weighing it's meaning without the programming that I was filled with as a child. This willful ignorance reading made Jesus' teachings strike my ear in strange ways that reminded me of other mystic teachings, like the first time I read Ram Daas. Eat my flesh and drink my blood are powerful, strange vehicles.
Maybe the reason I don't like country is because I've already categorized it. But under slightly different light, Julia has supplied a way to take this sound out of its normal context so that it strikes our ears in a new way.
Shout out Columbus!
I'll get this out of the way now: country music is not my thing.
I have yet to hear a song about the terror of crashing into a deer on those blessed back roads.
Underneath the immovable rock that is mainstream country there's a teeming colony of alternative acts who have me reconsider my genre blacklist.
Some, like Miranda Lambert, already have a Top 40 presence. Others, like my hometown hero Lydia Loveless, would rather see the apocalypse than be lumped in with the likes of Florida Georgia Line.
Either way, they're redeeming the watered-down anthems of the past decade with complex songwriting and passion for their work. That's something I'll happily toast with my cold can of Bud.
- Longer - Lydia Loveless
- Vice - Miranda Lambert
- I'm the man who loves you - Wilco
- Look At Miss Ohio - Gillian Welch
- Dime Store Cowgirl - Kacey Musgraves
- Tennessee Whiskey - Chris Stapleton
- Moses - Patty Griffin
- Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen
- Lily White - The Whiles
- Caught Up In You - 38 Special
- If We Were Vampires - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
- A Window's Toast - Neko Case