Confessions of a Country Music Convert

There was a time when you couldn’t get me to listen to country music if you threatened to torture me with a cattle prod—not counting certain country “crossovers” like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers in the ‘80s and Carrie Underwood today.

I have, traditionally, been a listener of ’80s retro, Top 40, and a little bit of classic rock sprinkled in for variety. This does not count my affection for classical music, German oompah bands, traditional Irish music, and English tunes that were popular during the time of Charles Dickens. (Long story.)

Anyway, not owning an iPod or an extensive CD collection, I usually listen to the car radio while driving. And of late, I have tired of the offerings on the Top 40 stations. How many times can one listen to the angst of misunderstood youth, music intended to “shock,” and overly-synthesized offerings from glamorous people who, without modern technology, probably couldn’t sing their way out of the proverbial paper bag? (See this article on The American Spectator for more on that topic.) And classic rock stations rarely offer anything new.

I needed something new. So, armed with the newfound knowledge that one of my co-workers is a closet country music fan (if Bob listens, how bad can it be?), I turned to the two country music stations in my area to give them a try. Not just my usual “listen to a couple of songs and then switch the station” kind of country listening, but really … listening.

I continued to listen.

And listen some more.

How refreshing to hear music that celebrates love of family and country instead of profanely bashing it. I hereby confess to really enjoying the super-twangy, good ol’ boy type of songs rather than the glitzier offerings like Luke Bryan’s “Rain is a Good Thing” and “Trailerhood” by Toby Keith. Speaking of Toby Keith, have you heard his song “American Soldier”? If not, you should take a listen. And while I tend to prefer the men, I really enjoy “Cowboy Casanova” by Carrie Underwood and “Only Prettier” by Miranda Lambert. Listening to country is like listening to a soundtrack for one of my favorite cookbooks—White Trash Cooking. I bought it on a lark, but have actually tried some of the recipes (although I draw the line at roast possum and gator tail), and I love the little vignettes throughout.

Can you imagine your local Top 40 station having “The Star Spangled Banner” by Martina McBride in its rotation? Love of country is for squares and bitter clingers, don’cha know.

The exceedingly schmaltzy love songs I can do without, but I chalk that up to becoming more and more cynical as I get older.

Country music and those who perform it are more in touch with my values than other types of entertainment and entertainers. Even those singers and musicians who become major celebrities embrace their roots in Middle America, rather than giving Middle America the middle finger.

And listening to it is somewhat comforting. In a way, it brings me back to watching “Dukes of Hazzard” as a kid and, when I was even younger, watching “Hee Haw” at my grandparents’ house.

Daisy Duke may have given us an eyeful with the tight shirts and short shorts that would come to bear her name, but she and her cousins Bo and Luke, along with Uncle Jesse, Cooter and the rest of the Hazzard gang also gave us lessons on friendship, family, and doing the right thing even when it might get in the way of something else you had planned. That sort of moral message is often lacking in entertainment today.

Oh, I haven’t completely turned my back on pop music, and I still cherish my ’80s retro collection—old habits die hard. But you can count on my continuing to explore the world of Billy Currington, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney. There’s plenty more for me to discover.