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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Your Country Music Guide OR Not All Country Sucks OR Johnny Cash vs. the World

We covered a Carrie Underwood song at Westwinds a couple of weeks ago and, I must say, Kelsey McCracken rocked it. It was awesome.

When we got done, quite a few people (after high-fiving Kelsey and telling her she should audition for American Idol) mocked me for being a liar. “I thought you don’t like Country music! See! Country is cool! Neener neener, etc.”

Ummm . . . I picked the song. That should say something.

But, I know what they were getting at. They have heard me at times make fun of “certain kinds” of Country music. And, really, I’m way more of a Rock guy any day.

Here’s the thing: those who aren’t musicians, music addicts and/or audiophiles tend to lump country music into one category. However, there are quite a few different kinds of Country, just like there are different kinds of “Rock.”

You can’t say you are a Rock & Roll fan and automatically mean you like Elvis, Sex Pistols, Elton John, The Beatles, Megadeath, Korn, Thin Lizzy, Prince, Ramstein, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s and Bryan Adams in the same sentence. Unless, you actually mean that. Which is odd.

According to, there are traditionally about 7 types of Country music. These categories are typically labeled Alternative Country, Contemporary Country, Country-Pop, Honky Tonk, Progressive Country, Traditional Country, and Western Swing

In all honesty, there are at least 3 of those I don’t really care for. However, even in those sub-genres, if one of my favorite bands tries a song in a particular style I don’t typically gravitate towards, I might like it. If Foo Fighters want to try Honky Tonk for a spell, I will probably dig it.

These categories are okay, but I have some different categories I would like to suggest. These are typically the categories I think in when it comes to Country. Some I like. Some I don’t.

Typically, I can’t stand this. This is where everyone sings like you know they don’t talk. There is only one person that can get away with this in my mind and it is authentic. Reba. Period. I don’t really like Reba either (she’s great as a person), but at least I believe her. I’ve seen her TV show. She’s really like that.

Most often, this drives me nuts. It’s not that I don’t love my country, it’s just that it usually ties in loving America with loving Jesus and has a tinge of “we’ll kick your ass if you don’t love both.” Not for me.

Not all of this is bad but most of it is. These songs tell stories designed to make you cry. Many of them have dumb lyrics. Some of them are timeless and classic. It’s really a crapshoot here.

Johnny Cash
Cash gets his own category. Because he rules. Because he’s Cash. Because he’s the man in black. Because he owned Folsom prison. And San Quentin. And he covered Nine Inch Nails and Dylan and Neil Young and Sting and Tom Petty and Springsteen and The Beatles and The Stones and U2 and Depeche Mode and Beck and Soundgarden. And the list goes on. And he recorded with U2. He’s Cash. All Country music must bow.

Should be Called 70’s Rock

If you grew up listening to Eagles and loving them, you will like 25% of what is on Country radio. I love Eagles. I love them so much I just typed Eagles instead of “The” Eagles in order to honor their true name. It doesn’t make you less of a fan if you say The Eagles, but I just want to set the record straight. LOTS of new Country fits in this category.

Sappy Crappy
This sub-genre includes any songs about dads and little girls, growing up, losing love, towns or factories shutting down, etc. If I had no self-respect, if I didn’t care about tainting my family name, if I didn’t care about my son getting into fights at school, I could write one of these songs in five minutes and make a million dollars. Ummm, the ones about dads and little girls always make me cry. There. I said it.

Hot Chicks
This could be any sub-genre of Country but the fact that it is played by and/or sung by hot chicks makes it cool for any guy to own. Most guys hope there is a lot of pictures inside the CD and therefore do not buy the digital download. Carrie Underwood, Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Martina MacBride, etc. Most guys justify that it is really good music (and I’m not saying it isn’t) but half the guys wouldn’t own it if the exact same songs were sung by . . . someone less attractive.

Pretty Boys

Most of this makes me ill. However, there are a few in this category who rise to the top no matter how pretty they are because they can flat out play guitar. Keith Urban anyone?

Mean and/or Vengeful and/or Angry Chick Songs
This sub-genre includes any woman who can and will kick any guy’s ass. It also includes sweet girls who just sing a song that sounds like they could metamorphose at any time and kick a guy’s ass. Some guys dig this though it kinda scares them when their wife or girlfriend learns the words. Gretchen Wilson goes here all the time. Do not mess with her. However, a song like sweet little Carrie Underwood’s “Next Time He Cheats” goes here as well. You could take Carrie out ballroom dancing but if you cross her she will beat you to death in your sleep with a Louisville Slugger.

It’s Country but it’s Too Cool and Creative So We Must Call it Rock

Sheryl Crow.

It’s Country but it’s Called Rock Because Country Doesn’t Want it Because it Sucks
Kid Rock.

Cowboy songs
This is cool . . . if you’re a cowboy. And if you make coffee over an open fire. And read cowboy poetry. And have actually branded something. And smell like cigarettes and manure. Otherwise, it sucks.

This sub-genre is full of Country stars with a pop flare or ones who couldn’t make it as a pop star so they called them Country.

American Idol

This will continue to be a huge category over the years. I promise it will keep growing. Now, Carrie rules this world and is legit. She really doesn’t belong in this category anymore. She is her own deal. But there are quite a few who didn’t “make it” that the Idol machine tossed into this category hoping someone would think they were cool. Bucky? Bucky, are you there?

Hmmm. I Guess I’ll Try Country.

This one is strange to me. Some pop and rock stars who have had a successful career in their genre sometimes decide they want to go Country. I don’t know why. To each his own. Hootie? Michelle Branch?

Rock and Blues Stars who can Pull Off Country at ANY Time and Make it Cool
This is a long list. I will name a few. These are guys and gals who are really rock (or blues) but can play something “technically” Country and it sounds indigenous to their genre. Tom Petty. Kings of Leon. Bruce Springsteen. The Beatles. The Black Crowes. Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Alison Krauss

She makes bluegrass cool.

Southern Rock

Skynyrd. 38 Special. Molly Hatchet. Marshall Tucker. ZZ Top. Allman Brothers. Some of it freaking awesome. Some of it sucks. But, you have to pretend to like all of it is you are a Country fan or you will be outcast--just like if you don't like Patriotic Country.

There you have it! Your complete Country music guide. My mind is a bit twitsted and convoluted . . . I get it. Highly subjective . . . I get it. But, I’m right. If you want to know if a Country song or band is cool, just ask me. I will help you out. I’m here to serve.

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