This is my country

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.“The moon just went behind the clouds to hide its face and cry..” now
that is a lyric. It is simple and briefly tells one man’s life in a
story of few words as delivered by Hank Williams Senior. Such is
country music or how once was country music.

Real country, good country is not so much the instruments, a big hat
or blue jeans. It is a story, well told. It is a story not of the
singer’s wealth, success or inflated view of self. Country is the
story of the listener-stories about work, family, loss and happiness.
I read a few rules of advice for writers last week and one rule was
to write about what you have lived and fully understand. Some people
try to write about popular topics of which they have no knowledge and
fall flat. I would rather listen to Johnny Cash tell me the sad story
of “Sunday Morning comin’ Down” than some of the country
pop/girl-power anthems of self-fulfillment told through the eyes of a
teenager.

John Denver was awarded “Entertainer of the Year” at the 1975 Country
Music Association awards. Charley Rich was to present the award but
instead held the award envelope aloft and lit it on fire. I think
this is the explosion that resulted at the first formulation using
country and pop. I always felt a little embarrassed for Charley Rich
as it seemed to me that Denver’s music had worthwhile sentiment and
was well-written. I don’t wish to be a dinosaur and rail against
change however I don’t like much of the current country music. It all
sounds like pop music with the exception that the lead singer now
plays a banjo instead of a guitar to add legitimacy. This change has
attracted more younger fans as the lyrics to these songs appeal more
to their view of the world. I can’t listen to lyrics about
first-love, bar fights and mud-running for more than a few minutes
before I yawn. It wouldn’t be so bad if young fans desired more meaty
lyrics as they gained life experience as this would create a need for
contemporary singers to fulfill. Tragically, some people gain
experience through the years and some folks just seem to live the
same year over and over again.

There’s still good country to be had and I like that the rock and
roll folks have taken an interest in country lyrics in the last
decade or so. Country singers have looked to some darker rock themes
for incredible music such as the Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt”
originally sung by “Nine Inch Nails.” It’s too bad that much of
country radio plays pop instead of the more traditional stuff. I do
take comfort though, that on any given week-day morning, I can listen
to Dave Halvorson from KKDQ radio in Thief River Falls, Minnesota pick and choose from the last many
decades and offer a 401 class in country music, for free. If you want
a core sample of the country music tree, I suggest you tune in
sometime.

I would say I like all music, even some contemporary offerings.
However, if stranded and left to myself with only one option for
entertainment I would always ask for country music. Country tells me
a story and more often than not tells a story of substance and
simplicity which may even be my very own.

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