So let me preface this whole thing with a disclaimer. What I’m about to say may not be a popular opinion. No I’m not going to talk about a social or political issue, or even a theological issue.
I like country music.
It’s like a weight lifted off of my chest, saying that. Haters gonna hate, but for real, I really do enjoy listening to it. It’s catchy, laid-back, and has some degree of musical difficulty. That statement isn’t usually one that describes country music, but I’m going to stand my ground here.
When I moved to Georgia in May, I was honestly super anti-country. Growing up, I did listen to some country on 97.3 The Eagle, but mainly because my mother liked it and I couldn’t change the radio station. When I could control the radio, in the suburbs/city where there were more mainstream stations than country, I listened to a lot more rock and pop music. Then I became more of a music snob and only listened to music from my iPod or iPhone through the tape deck or aux cable. So, pulling into the well-off, southern city of Newnan, birthplace of country legend Alan Jackson and one county away from the home of Zac Brown, I realized one thing quite quickly: there were way more country stations than I was used to. I hated it for a good while. Despised it, even. I even bashed the genre for a solid 3 months.
But one day something changed. It could’ve been because of my at-the-time girlfriend who enjoyed it or because I rode with someone who loved it, but regardless of how it happened, I began to listen to country music. On my own. Willingly. Without any coaxing or bribing.
It started off as lingering on the station for a little bit as I flipped through the airwaves, or just a snippet of a song on spotify. Then I began intermingling songs in travel and other playlists (there are some dang good country love songs). Then actively choosing to listen to stations for the duration of a solo car ride. And finally to full on dedicated country playlists, listening to full country albums on spotify, and even buying country albums on iTunes.
Now you’re probably thinking one of two things. Either, “Dude, not cool. Country music is full of mind smut,” or, “Welcome to the party, we’ve been waiting.”
I understand country music doesn’t have the greatest message. As the wise Joseph Hamilton and Drew Smith put it one day, “Country music is about either women, beer, Jesus, or trucks, or a combination of all four.” That essentially is the formula for a winning country music hit, I’ll give you that. But, I can’t help but get chills when I listen to Carrie Underwood’s “Something In The Water.” I don’t care what genre of music you play, if you talk about Jesus washing your sins away with His blood as the focus of your song, I’m going to like it 9 times out of 10.
I also understand that country music can be super repetitive and musically dull. But, that’s not the entire genre. For the record, I would definitely argue that country music could possibly be one of the most intricate genres in music. Here’s why.
Most artists write their music in the pentatonic scale. Instead of going straight up a major scale, like C-D-E-F-G-A-B, the pentatonic scale goes C-D#-F-G-Bb. I’ll admit, if you’ve never seen music theory, it is pretty daunting. So here is the simplified explanation: each chord doesn’t have a logical connection like in the major scale. The pentatonic scale makes musicians actually think and put in work. And don’t even get me started on what Brent Mason, John Jorgenson, Vince Gill, Albert Lee, Redd Volkaert, James Burton, Steve Wariner, Brad Paisley are so talented at in the art of chicken pickin’. Mainly because I can’t really grasp the concept. Look up “Cluster Pluck” by Brad Paisley and you’ll get it.
Country music also does one thing that most music genres don’t do: it tells a story. Maybe not a chronological tale all the time, but regardless it paints a picture of life in whatever aspect it occurs. I see the setting. I feel the emotion. It clicks.
Judge me all you want on my enjoyment of southern accented, twangy, banjo- and fiddle-laden music. I’m still going to jam to some Blake Shelton, Sam Hunt, and Brad Paisley.
I dedicate this shpiel to my bro Forrest Acuff, and the ever-country Kristen Pirie. Woo pig, and hail Southern.