Monday, July 19, 2010

Article: Who Says I Don't Like Country Music?

Well, actually, it is usually I who say that. For some reason, when I think of country music I tend to think of novelty songs like Achy Breaky Heart or Thank God I'm a Country Boy. Long on twang, short on complexity. Silly, formulaic and riddled with fiddles. It's a disdain that has been festering for decades. I was from the rock era, I'm from Los Angeles -- I could not possibly like country music.

As I would take long drives with my more musically open-minded husband, he would stop the radio on some Merle Haggard or George Jones song and I would have some sort of physical and psychological breakdown after two bars -- the steel guitars, banjos, fiddles, the way they stretch out "you" into two long syllables (yee-ooh), It was torture. I could not get past the fact that this was a genre of music I was not genetically or culturally predisposed to listen to.

So then I fell down the Casey James rabbit hole two months ago and started following this singer-guitarist from Texas. That was weird enough, but then I noticed that some of my favorite performances of his had a definite country sound to them. Obviously, there was Don't and You'll Think of Me, but even his take on the Lennon classic Jealous Guy and his reworking of Mrs. Robinson would fit quite nicely on one of those country stations I had so consistently avoided.

Was he converting me, or was he unearthing something long buried? Well, as I surfed YouTube recently, I discovered that I hadn't always felt this way about country music. I found the first two videos below, covers by my favorite band (REM) of two old Jimmy Webb tunes.  This in turn reminded me that, growing up, one of my favorite singers was Glen Campbell.  A country singer.  Galveston, Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix -- all layered, textured songs with heart and depth.  Click on the preceding links to hear the original.

Suddenly, it all came back to me. I owned two albums by Tony Joe White (of Polk Salad Annie fame -- now who doesn't like novelty songs?). I might have had a Johnny Cash album. I was afraid to dig any deeper. Did I have a Charley Pride album gathering dust in the garage? Possibly. I'm afraid to check.

I think I parted company with country music around the time Glen Campbell went from those seminal songs to the tacky Rhinestone Cowboy.  Seventies rock music was so experimental and vivid and eclectic, I turned my back on country.  Maybe it's time to turn back?

So here are three videos of a not-country band doing country, or quasi-country, music. The first two are from rough rehearsal videos. The third is a countrified version of one of their own songs. They reminded me that I used to like country music -- and may again. A good melody is a good melody, if a lyric resonates it does't matter if it does so with a little twang.  No more skipping the country stations, you never know what you might miss.


Wichita Lineman

Driver 8


  1. Hey Shari, Your first two paragraphs describe the way I feel about "old country twang". Something about it makes me feel dis-ease and depressed. Loved Glen Campbell though! To me that was a different kind of country. Also liked Polk Salad Annie! Casey has a way of taking the yucky twang out. Puts his own bluesy slant on it! Love everything he does!! These videos are good! Thanks! MAE777

  2. Anon 7:07, uneasy is how I feel too. Casey voice has such an authentic blues vocal style that he dresses up any genre. He made "Bubbly" sound bluesy. And I'll listen to his slide guitar any day. The origins of country and blues music are so intertwined -- throw in some rock, mix it up and we've got Casey James.

  3. I'm a fan of most music, & love country. I'm also not fond of too much twang and steel guitars. Someone you should learn to like is Reba. Strip away all the Oklahoma southern draw when she speaks & you will love everything about her. In the early 90's most of her records consisted of strings & less twang than her previous releases. Check out her catalog, you may be surprised.

  4. I loathe all the ghastly formulaic "crossover" country pop, and yes, I too hate the twang... That distinct sound one can identify as generic country within 2 secs of listening to a song (which, unless I turn it off immediately, makes me want to kill myself). I do like some old school country though. And Dolly! Dolly is awesome. SUCH a beautiful voice, and what a magnificent songwriter.

  5. I have a special place in my heart for old school cry-your-heart-out country. I loved the old stuff. Thanks for the Wichita Lineman song, it brings back some good memories. I liked all the vids. I expect Casey will do something he and everyone will enjoy. It will be amazing with his bluesy country voice. We've seen what he can do with songs on AI. He knows what he's doing and I expect it will be as unique as he is.

  6. Until my daughter left home, we could not let 2 seconds of country music enter our house or car. So when she got married, I had a friend who liked country so I turned it on. I like some of it. I can deal with twang, but don't like the huge reliance on beer and wet teeshirted females for lyrics. Dolly Parton was a fantastic mentor and guest singer on Idol, what season? 8? Also, I looked into some of the artists Casey does covers of. Never EVen knew about Bryan Adams. Love his rock stuff that reminds me of the 70's, like he was one of them!