Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Secret Appreciation For Country Music...or...How The Dixie Chicks Brought Out My Inner Cowboy 02/08/14

I am not a fan of country music.  But I do have an appreciation for it.  That was not always the case though.  As a young kid into Punk, Metal, and Hip-Hop, Country music was everything I hated about music.

It wasn't as though I didn't have exposure to it growing up.  My mother would play her Eddie Arnold albums throughout the day when I was growing up.  I don't think we ever missed an episode of Hee Haw.  Still, I was young and aggressive and I wanted music that symbolized that.  It was not going to be Country.

When I was married in '95 we only allowed the DJ to play 2 country songs.  This upset many of my relatives that grew up on horse farms (yes, there are plenty of horse farms in NJ).  The 2 songs they played were Achy Breaky Heart and Friends in Low Places.  After my relatives almost lynched the DJ we had to agree to play a few more.

So after getting married and moving away that was it for Country Music.  It was out of my life.  I didn't listen to it and either did my friends.  At one point a friend of mine admitted he was rooting for The Dixie Chicks at the Grammy's and I ridiculed him.  Instead, we talked about Danzig and Pavement.  I was happy.

In 2000 I was sent on a business trip to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  When I landed I grabbed my rental car and headed on my way.  In these days you weren't always lucky enough to get a rental car with a CD player...which I wasn't.  I started to flip through the stations and it was exactly as I had suspected.  Nothing but Country.  Blah.  I rested on a station that was at commercial and focused on my drive.

I hadn't noticed as I was playing with the radio but the countryside was breathtaking.  I was driving through the rolling hills of North Carolina and I was in awe.  The sun was out and the air was crisp.  I put the window down and it was at that moment that 'Cowboy Take Me Away' came on.

It was the perfect soundtrack.  Fitting.  I was almost lost in the moment.  Shortly after that I entered the city, arrived at my destination, and went on with the day.

Surprisingly,. the song stuck with me.  I kept hearing it in my head.  When I got home I went right out and bought 'Fly'.

It was my summer soundtrack.  Not only did I delve into the rest of their catalog but over the next couple years I started listening to Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, and my favorite Pat Green.  Then I have to give credit where credit is due.  It brought me to my true love, Alt-Country.  Without this initial appreciation I may not have been ready to enjoy many of my favorites like Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams, Uncle Tupelo, and Drag the River.

It was around this time that The Dixie Chicks released 'Home' and got into some trouble.

They were rightly battling with Sony over accounting practices and then they criticized the President of the United States on foreign ground...again...rightly so.

This ostracized a good portion of their fan base.  I liked it.  For two reasons.  First, you want your front man/woman to be rebellious.  That defiance leads to something special.    Secondly, it was honest.  Sometimes, actually most of the time, honest music is the best music.

That lead to the release of the Rick Rubin produced 'Taking the Long Way'.

Although Country radio may not have given it the airplay it deserved top 40 radio had no probelm playing 'Not Ready to Make Nice'.  It was the comeback that was deserved.  It spoke Natalie's mind.  It was honest.  It was perfect.

The Dixie Chicks have been on a recording hiatus since 2008 and I miss them.  I have fully enjoyed Emily and Martie's Couryard Hounds...

and also Natalie's solo rock album.

I am forever a fan.  Even if I don't wear it as a flag.  I have no problem sitting at my tiki bar and blasting The Dixie Chicks, or Country music in general.  Hell, I even own a few cowboy hats and a couple pairs of cowboy boots.  One day I might even go to a country concert.  You never know.


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