When they hear that I’m a country fan, people tend to shoot me looks ranging from incredulous to confused. I can picture the person across from me hearing in broken Southern drawl, “I bet you can squeal like a pig” in his or her head. What they don’t realize is how varied the songs are in country music. Sure, there are tons of songs about trucks, and there are quite a few love songs, but country music offers much more variety. So, from time to time, I’m going to share some of my favorite kinds of country music.
Today I'll start with Pride.
Pride in Country: Right after 9/11, Toby Keith released “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”, a rallying song to help us cope while we were all trying to make sense of a world that would never be the same. Nowhere else can you find lyrics like, “…we’ll put a boot in your ass/It’s the American way”. Some said it went too far; as someone who’d lived in New York city for seven years and still had many friends there, I needed something that gave me more to focus on than just our loss of life and innocence.
Pride in your city: One of the great things abut Montgomery Gentry’s “My Town” is that it could be any city. “Where I was born, where I was raised/Where I keep all my yesterdays…/Where I came back to settle down/It's where they'll put me in the ground”. I love to travel, visit other parts of the country and other cultures in farther lands. But there’s something about the feeling of home, of the familiarity of where I came from that Montgomery Gentry brings forward with such clarity.
Pride in your ‘hood: For those who identify more with their region, country music has songs like Little Big Town’s “Boondocks”, which features a fun round at the end that’s fun to sing even for people who never lived close to a fishing hole.
Pride in Southern food and the things that matter: Zac Brown Band gives us “Chicken Fried”, whose title kind of says it all. To be fair, they also raise their glass to “cold beer on a Friday night” and “a pair of jeans that fit just right”. But they also remind us that “…it’s funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most/Not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes”. Preach, Zac, preach!
Pride in where you live: Miranda Lambert literally takes us home with “The House That Built Me”. Her voice drips with longing for a taste of the girl she’d once been in the house where she grew up. In her voice, the words, “I thought if I could touch this place or feel it/This brokenness inside me might start healing/Out here it's like I'm someone else/I thought that maybe I could find myself” are heartbreaking.
Pride for Self: In “She Couldn’t Change Me”, the singing duo Montgomery Gentry tell of a woman who wanted to change a man once she’d gotten him, but he stood firm with who he was. It pays to pay attention until the very end.
Pride in your roads: Yeah, I know. It sounds random – until you listen to Brooks & Dunn talk about that “Red Dirt Road”: It's where I drank my first beer/It's where I found Jesus/Where I wrecked my first car/I tore it all to pieces/I learned the path to Heaven/Is full of sinners an' believers/Learned that happiness on earth/Ain't just for high achievers/I've learned; I come to know/There's life at both ends/Of that red dirt road.” The verses are just as impactful as that chorus.
Pride in the escape: Jimmy Buffett has managed to turn Margaritaville into a brand of its own, with hotels and resorts, apparel, and casinos (although as the site says, “Where is Margaritaville? It's in your mind.” And any Parrot Head knows that to be the truth.). I make a point of stopping at the Margaritaville gift shop every time I’m in New Orleans and try to eat at the Margaritaville restaurant at least once while I’m there. But it all began with the song that college students all over the country (and possibly the world, especially in those higher education establishments located in tropical locales) know by heart: “Margaritaville”. I don’t drink margaritas or lay out at the beach, but I can still relate to the heart of “Wastin' away again in Margaritaville/Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt”, the idea of being idle, relaxing with a chilled beverage of my choice, and letting the world wash over me for a while.
Even if you aren’t from the south, you don’t own a vehicle – much less a truck – and you aren’t interested in fried foods, you still have quite a few chances to find country songs that can still speak to you. So the next time the words, “I hate country music” start to force their way out of your mouth, push them back in and try a country station. You might just be surprised that you have more in common with some of those songs than you might think.
Credits: allmusic.com, cowboylyrics.com, “squeal like a pig” from the movie “Deliverance”, margaritaville.com, metrolyrics.com, wikipedia.com