When one drives 12 hours in one day from Florida to Kentucky, as I did this past weekend, one gets pretty darn desperate for ways to occupy the time. Usually, I bring plenty of podcasts and CDs to listen to, but I was out of podcasts and while going 75 on the interstate is not always the best time to search for new CDs. NPR was playing classical music, as it often does in the southern states. I was stuck. Desperate. And there was no way I was going to listen to Top 40 radio.

So I did the unthinkable: I listened to a country music station.

At first, I was listening ironically. It’s easy to find entertainment when listening to such hits as “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” But as I continued to listen to the top 7 songs of the Foxworthy Countdown, I found myself not only really enjoying the music, but also finding an odd affinity for the whole genre of country music. People who know me well know that this represents the beginning of the end of the world.

So, as we await the implicitly imminent return of Christ, I thought I might share with you some things I really appreciate about this mysterious world of country music.

  1. An Appreciation for the “Old Guard” Remember that guy who sand “Chatahootchee” way back in the day, when you went through that country music phase (oh wait, is that just me?)? Well, he’s got the current number one hit song right now in country music! And that’s not just a fluke! The country music charts are filled with older country music stars who weren’t cast out and left to fend for themselves like much of the music industry we’re familiar with. Not only does this demonstrate loyalty, but it also demonstrates an encouraging respect for those who have come before us. While much of pop music is obsessed with throwing off the old ways and embracing younger and younger stars, country music seems to be just as obsessed with the “been there, done that” crowd.
  2. An Acceptance of Family Life Pop music as a rule seems to have an utter disregard for the family, not only in the content of its lyrics, but in its demands and expectations for artists. But as I listened to a few interviews with several country music stars, I started noticing that they spoke a lot about their family, and they seemed to be able to make them a priority in the context of the “Big Country Star” life. And from what I gathered, the fans and radio stations that support them wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just a part of the culture.
  3. An Esteem for “Home” While pop music is often about running away or doing your own thing, country music loves nothing more than “back home,” a place where you can be around those you trust, go to your home church, honor your parents, and feel comfortable raising your kids. While this isn’t the best way for everyone, I do feel like many in our culture tend to leave home simply out of rebellion or escape. Plus, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that our constant longing for “home” points to a more eternal longing we all have for a place that will truly be our home.
  4. Lyrically and musically, a lot of it is actually kind of good. Here’s the thing: I haven’t given country music enough credit. The truth is, like most genres, it has good and bad bands, artists and songs within it. Toby Keith is an example of bad country music. But I heard quite a few truly good songs that seemed to be celebrated for all the right reasons, including the fact that they were just good, artistically.

I’m sure there’s more than this, but this is just the sort of thing I became acutely aware of after listening to country music for about 30 minutes… until I couldn’t take it anymore and had to cleanse my palate with some Sufjan Stevens.


  1. Not that I love Toby Keith or anything, but why do you cite him as an example of bad country music.

    Does he not sing about all the things you said were good at least in some songs. A genuine question.

  2. I really don’t like country music, never been a fan at all…even while my wife happens to enjoy it. But I have been pleasently surprised by the recent work of the hottest country music stars out right now “Sugarland.” I think this duo is doing some really good work! I’d recommend checking them out!

  3. John, it’s a good point. Unfortunately, Keith seems to glory in war, drunkenness and other things that contradict many of the other values country music, and Keith himself, hold dear.

    So my real problem with his music is the hypocrisy inherent within it.

  4. Do you know much about Sugarland? I’ve been told I might like them, because they’re influenced by REM and U2.

  5. Re: #1: Well, I can’t speak for country music performers (the closest to country I’ll willingly go is Wilco), but as for rock musicians, the reason no one pays much attention to most* of the older acts is one of three things: 1) they aren’t playing music anymore; 2) they aren’t producing new music anymore—and how do you continue to respect (for their music)musicians who are creatively dead; or 3) the music they produce currently hasn’t kept up with the creative trajectory of the world around them. I think another part of the problem is that rock music and it’s accompanying genres (like punk) is the music of youth; and there’s nothing as repulsive as a balding David Lee Roth singing about the chicks he’s gonna bang down in Cabo (I mean, twenty-five years ago, it was still creepy but you could give him a little leeway).

    Country may not have that kind of image to support. Another genre that isn’t focused on youth images is jazz. Jazz has always been primarily about virtuosity and talent, so it makes sense that even well into maturity performers like Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nina Simone were all lauded as lords of the realm.

    Not being an appreciator of country music in the least, I can’t tell if the popularity of older country stars is due to their virtuosity or if its because neither talent nor youth-image are necessary components to preferable country music.

    *note: there are bands of old timers who continue to command respect. They’re just few and far between. Without thought, the only one that roles off the tongue is U2, who whether one appreciates or not continues to produce well-regarded albums.

    The Danes last blog post..20080807

  6. Carissa,

    Sugarland has gotten a lot of respect in the media recently for being one of the unique songwriters of their genre! They still have those dumb songs that aren’t worth a penny, but there are some that are actually pretty good. And while I am not a fan of country I did happen to catch a few of their music videos on TV while flipping through the channels and they’ve got a real presence about them.

    That’s about all I can say on them at this time. Maybe I’ll have to do some more research and write a post…

  7. I LOVE Country Music and it’s my favorite genre of music. I am a REAL New Yorker born in Brooklyn NY and Country Music is da bomb!! Lol. Now if only i could convince everyone else in NY to give Country Music a chance maybe we can finally get another Country Music station in NYC.

    Maybe we can even start a http://www.myspacecountrymusic.com site one day.

Comments are now closed for this article.