Friday, January 14, 2011

Gone Country

Everything is cyclical.

Pants legs have gone from wide to narrow to wide again and now people are inexplicably wearing skinny jeans that only look good on underweight 15-year-olds (and don't even get me started on denim leggings.) The school day has gone from a 6-period day to block scheduling and back to 6 periods, and reading instruction has gone from phonics to whole language and back to phonics again.

If you live long enough, everything old will be new again.

In the mid- to late-nineties, I went through a country stage. Fed up with the boy bands and watered-down R & B I was hearing on pop radio, I started listening to my mom's favorite radio stations. And I liked what I heard.

Garth Brooks. George Strait. Trisha Yearwood. Tim McGraw. Martina McBride. Deana Carter. The Dixie Chicks. Early Kenny Chesney (the DJ at our wedding played "Me and You" after my matron of honor's teary-eyed and touching toast, and Jason and I have had a soft spot for that song ever since.) Yes, even Shania Twain, much as I hate to admit it. I liked that most of the people I was listening to were talented singers with big voices (Martina!), or good songwriters, or seemed like plain good folks who would be fun to talk to over a plate of fried chicken and an ice-cold Bud. In May of 1998 I bought a box set collection of Garth Brooks CDs after I saw him in concert in Lexington; I feel justified telling you that because, looking at the pop charts for that month, there wasn't too much quality pop music for sale. Backstreet Boys and Savage Garden, anyone?

Then something happened. As quickly as I fell in love with country music, I fell out of it. I think the exact moment might have been the first time I heard Toby Keith threaten to put a boot up someone's ass because it's the American way. I began to find country a little too corn-pone, a little too smugly redneck. When we bought our first new car in the fall of 2001, I didn't program a single country station into the radio's presets.

I still bought CDs from the Dixie Chicks and Alison Krauss with Union Station, but since they didn't get much airplay on my local country stations, I am not even sure they count as "pure" country. Every summer I put a Carrie Underwood barn-burner on my summer mix CD for going-to-the-pool listening, because Carrie's songs are so cute when they're angry. But other than that, I've not given country much love.

Then, out of the blue clear sky, I fell in love with a video and a song that was on CMT while I was working out on the elliptical. It caught my eye on one of the gym screens while I was watching Paula Deen add a stick of butter to something, and I changed my tuner and, just maybe, my musical life. Behold! People with talent! It's like the Anti-Ke$ha!

And I went right home and spent the rest of my night browsing for videos and songs by the Zac Brown Band.

Some of you are more musically knowledgeable and hip than I am and may already know of these guys with the tight bluegrass-y harmonies and stunning virtuosity on their respective instruments. They're new to me, though, and I think I love them. I felt the first twinges when I watched a video of them just sitting around on their tour bus doing one of my favorite traditional bluegrass songs, "Fox On the Run." Then when I found video of them at the CMAs covering "Devil Went Down to Georgia"--mercy. And the following fun fact helped me earn some cred with Jason--they opened for Dave Matthews Band a couple of times this summer.

So I may be back to country now. I have found that I kinda like Dierks Bentley, and The Band Perry, and Jason Aldean. I like them better than Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and the like, anyway.

Sometimes I don't like to speak of my country roots among the more musically hip of my friends. I hide my John Anderson greatest hits CD or pretend like I don't know every word of "Strawberry Wine."

But it just might be time to dust off my sawed-off cowboy boot-shoes and brush up on my line dancing. I've gone country. Again. And it's all Zac Brown's fault.

1 comment:

DRoss said...

I'm willing to admit loving a bona-fide honky tonk sound. A guy out of TX called Dale Watson hits it on the head! I was just listening yesterday to the "country" genre on the Ipod - Roger Miller, Buck Owens, Bobby Bare, Hank Jr., Charley Pride, Johnny Cash and John Anderson! I was suprised to find that ITunes put Neko Case, Todd Snider and The Avett Brothers in that category. Not much that plays on CMA-approved radio holds my interest for long, though. I've not heard of Zac Brown Band - this surely explains BR listening to "Fox on the Run" the other night. I will have to check them out.