In defense of country music

I drove west on I-70, St. Louis in my rearview and endless rolling Missouri country passing at 75 miles per hour, George Strait Pandora blasting on my stereo. My voice rang out high over familiar choruses of Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, Vince Gill, Tim McGraw, Lyle Lovett, Mark Chestnutt… you get the picture.

There’s something comforting to me about conquering drives with the whine of the steel guitar and the long drawl of a deep voice. Perhaps it’s a feeling of oneness with my surroundings that draws me to listen to Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old) for the 5000000th time (and that’s hardly an exaggeration). but more often than not, country music helps me to slip into this strange state of detached nostalgia.

By now you’re probably asking yourself why someone like me, a 20 year old from an upper middle class family in the suburbs of Chicago, would ever have any connection to country music at all, let alone the good, old stuff. That’s a good question. Before today I don’t think that I could have given you a definite answer other than to say that I spent most of my childhood in horse barns and at county or state fairs with my 4H club.

My first CD was Shania Twain’s “Come On Over,” and I think that the fact that my mom and babysitter always had country music on the radio when I was growing up had something to do with my appreciation of it. When I was little, I used to pretend that I was Shania Twain. I would wear my cowgirl hat as I shook my hips and sang, “Man! I Feel Like A Woman.”

When I would go to fairs, even though I rode english style, I would secretly develop crushes on the cowboys that would strut proudly around the horse and livestock barns in their boots and hats.

Needless to say, country music was always in the background of my upbringing, but these days, I can’t stand any of the recent music. Some genius of a man did a mash up of six of the last number one country songs and made a mashup to show that they are essentially the same song.

It’s frustrating to me that a lot of the songs are the same musically, but that’s not the only thing that has changed in country music.

Just past Auxvasse, Alan Jackson’s “Drive” came on the station. I hadn’t heard the song in ages, and as I sang and the words came back to me, I started to really, really listen. That was when I realized why I love country music so much.

I am a storyteller by trade, by occupation and in spirit. My brain operates like a book— it’s constantly narrating the world around me, noticing little nuances and trying to make substantial memories. When I listened to Alan Jackson’s “Drive”, I could perfectly see every car and every memory that he painted in song.

I like to call it secondhand nostalgia. Sure, I never dumped trash on the side of an old, dirt road in a hand-me-down Ford flatbed truck, but I feel like I did.

Most types of music tell stories to some extent. We call the people who can paint an accurate picture in their songs brilliant lyricists, great rappers, “geniuses”… you get the point.

There are so many different ways of documenting history, but I love country music so much because it paints the story of the hardworking farmer, the cowboy, the sweet, southern woman and really, it’s about just about everyone that wants to go out and drink beer and forget their 9-5 job on Friday night.

Country music is people’s stories told by the people that grew up there and lived them. You get a chance to peek into someone’s memory bank. I think it’s simply fascinating from a storyteller’s perspective, but also from the perspective of a music lover. Country music (and I’m talking about that good, old stuff) creates an opportunity for us to dream that we are the cowboy, the farmer, the young girl who just wants to leave her small town or the newly married couple trying to make ends meet.

It’s people’s music. It’s people’s stories told by a select few, but shared by thousands (maybe even millions).

When I was in seventh grade, my family drove down to Kentucky from our home near Chicago for a volleyball tournament. I remember listening to Garth Brooks Double Live CD the entire way (that’s a seven hour drive). No one captures the essence of country music like Garth, in my opinion.

So to emphasize my point, here’s a video of him performing “Rodeo”. Take a listen and check out the imagery that he creates through the song. He uses such detail in his lyrics, and you really get the feeling that you’re there.

http://www.veoh.com/swf/webplayer/WebPlayer.swf?version=AFrontend.5.7.0.1489&permalinkId=v20712884cH36q8mG&player=videodetailsembedded&videoAutoPlay=0&id=anonymous
Watch GARTH BROOKS – Rodeo in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

“It’s bulls and blood, it’s dust and mud, it’s the roar of a Sunday crowd. It’s the white in the knuckles, the gold in the buckle he’ll win the next go ’round. It’s boots and chaps, it’s cowboy hats, spurs and latigo It’s the ropes and the reigns and the joy and the pain and they call the thing Rodeo.”

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