This spring I’ve flirted with listening to country music. This is something that is a bit of a surprise to me since I’ve been a pretty serious non-country music guy for a while. The vocal style got to me and I had a prejudice against the music that made me resist it. But I had a long appreciation for 70’s country rock (early Eagles, Poco, Flying Burrito Brothers) and I’ve reacquainted myself with Poco lately so I was in a mood to appreciate it. I actually owned a couple of actual authentic country recordings – one Dixie Chicks album (Home), one Little Big Town album and a couple of Allison Krauss albums. But I considered them anomalies – ones that, for some reason I could enjoy despite my dislike for the genre as a whole.
But then last spring I stopped in Nashville for a couple of hours on a spring break trip and had a great time. I enjoyed touring the Ryman Auditorium, visited Gruhn Guitars and walked up and down Broadway where I heard six or seven bands each of which impressed me. I’d go there again in a minute.
So that left me thinking about why I don’t listen to this stuff – the players are great and there are some cool songs there. Meredith had sent me the latest Carrie Underwood album (Play On) so I listened to that and I realized that she is a wonderful singer – really good. So I decided to dig in a little bit more. Our local library is part of the “Freegal” system allowing me to download songs legally from the Sony catalog so I did some research and discovered a couple of albums that were highly reviewed. I then started listening to country music.
I started with Revolution by Miranda Lambert, the album of the year for many in the country genre. I also got albums by Sara Evans (Stronger), Allison Krauss (Paper Airplane), Taylor Swift (Speak Now), Brad Paisley (This is Country Music), Court Yard Hounds and Carrie Underwood (Carnival Ride.) Here is what I learned.
1. I still have some issues with some of the vocal styles. The ones I like best are the ones that are least “twangy.” I am a huge fan, though, of Carrie Underwood’s singing. She appeared alongside Steven Tyler at they ACM Awards and and sang “Undo it” and “Walk This Way” and they brought down the house. Watch it here .
2. There are amazing musicians who play on these albums. And Brad Paisley is a great guitar player.
3. The themes in country music still surprise me – lots of good ole’ boy talk with drinkin’ and hard livin’ right next to sappy songs about home and Jesus.
4. Novelty songs appear more often on country albums than they do on rock albums; “Camouflage” by Brad Paisley, “White Trash Wedding” by the Dixie Chicks, “Only Prettier” by Miranda Lambert to name three off the top of my head.
5. There are some really good writers in Nashville.
6. Sometimes country music is basically pop music with fiddles. That’s OK with me.
So my time of country listening might be diminishing as I get back to the stuff I listen to most of the time (I still listen to the Beatles and U2 a lot) but I’m a lot more open minded now and I’ve enjoyed listening to this stuff a lot more than I expected.