Country Music Confessions

Cowboy Boots

You know that here at The Wonderist we’re all about good storytelling that hits you right in the feels, yeah?  So this is why I need to talk to you about your tight blue jeans…

For almost 22 years, I hated country music. I would listen to anything else – classic rock, pop, a little punk, but – good gracious please – NOT country.

Then I started dating a Texan.

After 2 weeks I downloaded a Garth Brooks song. Then some Brad Paisley. Then Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw and before I knew it I was wearing cowboy boots and linedancing.

As my boyfriend sermonized (my, how southerners can PREACH), good country is less about the music and more about the story. The best country songs have characters and plots that make you feeeeel something. If you want proof, just check out “Austin” by Blake Shelton or “Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band.

But there’s an epidemic on country radio today.  Most popular country songs are definitely not telling a compelling story. Tune in any time of day, and you’re likely to hear something that goes roughly like this:

Hey girl
Hey girl, you lookin’ good in them tight blue jeans
Ooh ooh
Hey girl, you and your tight blue jeans are making me wanna pop open a cold one
And get you and your tight blue jeans and a cold one in my truck
Let’s go for a drive and make out
Us in my truck and you in your tight blue jeans
Ooh, ooh, ooh

Find a dozen or so ways to say that, and – welcome to Nashville – you’ve got a new career as a country songwriter!

It’s even got its own genre – “bro country” – and there’s nothing really wrong with it when you’re just looking for something to tap the boots to on a long country drive.  But when it’s every freaking song on the radio?  Someone get this Yankee a stiff mint julep.

But all you skeptics – please trust me, there’s SO much more out there than bro country. If you’re like me and want music with substance and not just songs about flat tires, give these artists a chance:

The Zac Brown Band really is amazing. I’ve seen them in concert 3 times now (total fangirl). If “Colder Weather” didn’t hit you right in the feels, try “Sweet Annie:”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5ISTO6GiLk

Jason Isbell, “Traveling Alone” and anything from his latest release, Southeastern, is just raw, powerful storytelling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUqHEzgFRoA

The Lone Bellow, “You Never Need Nobody,” because sometimes you need some gospel with your banjo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gsnrzr0Bm80#t=34

Oh, you want a little estrogen? Holly Williams inherited quite a bit from her granddaddy Hank. There’s something about a voice with a rasp like it’s been soaking in whiskey for the past 20 years that gets me (this is why I also love Tom Waits). Check out “Waiting on June:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk79WIgb7ng

I can’t figure out why Brandy Clark isn’t getting the same kind of attention as Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves. “What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven” is a treat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-KTkq-Ahjk

Willie Watson is the former frontman of Old Crow Medicine Show (they sang “Wagon Wheel” before that guy from Hootie and the Blowfish did). Now, he does bluegrass like you wouldn’t believe. “Mexican Cowboy” for your listening pleasure:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N49k4KkshAs

About one of their videos, a commenter said that Shovels & Rope is what would happen if you locked Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton in a room together for 20 years. Intrigued? (How could you not be?)  Listen to “The Thread” and then go listen to their album O Be Joyful:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCTvpHkQLKw

So! That should get you started and renew your faith in contemporary country music. Have I missed anyone? What are your favorite country tunes?  Let us know in the comments!

Allison once thought she’d be an astronaut, until she realized she’d rather make up stories than solve physics problems. She’s on a mission to prove that margaritas are healthy.  You can follow her in twitter at @itsallisonk!

Photo Source: Karli Brooke

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