First a bit of background for those of you who may not know: I was born in Staunton, VA, a place best known for two things: The birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, and The Home of The Statler Brothers. As I grew up in the 70s and 80s, the latter meant that, whether I liked it or not, country music would be something that would always be around me. I’ve always loved the Statlers and their music is now pure nostalgia for me, taking me back to my early childhood, before my parents split, when I was very happy.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve always had an appreciation for country music. Most times however, I couldn’t listen to it for any length of time and would quickly return to KISS, Zep, Cure or whatever metal band I was into. Lately though, my listening habits have changed. After commenting on it on FB this morning [and surprising my former sister in-law], rather than write a book under the comments section of that status, I figured I would expand on the matter here.
Last year, I listened to Bob Dylan’s radio show on XM [Theme Time Radio Hour] every week. His show always featured country. That’s where I heard a good deal of Buck Owens and realized the guy did so much great stuff, much more than just ‘Hee Haw’ which is probably what most people my age remember him for. For Christmas, I asked mom for a Buck Owens box set. I think she thought I was joking, but I told her I was serious, and I got the set for Christmas.
Since then, whenever the iPod was on shuffle, a Buck Owens song would come up and make me smile. He was a master at writing heartbreak songs with a wicked sense of humor.
Around Christmas as well, I heard George Jones’ ‘The Grand Tour’ [again on Dylan’s radio show]. As soon as the song was over, I not only downloaded the single from iTunes, but the Greatest Hits collection it was part of. Now, normally, George Jones would send me running to change the radio dial but, at this point in time, the songs [most of ’em anyway] resonated and I listened.
Fast forward to mid-May. I’m sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for the doctor to come in and tell me if I am a candidate for eye surgery. I was nervous and didn’t want to even consider what the road would be if I was told no. The office had a radio station piped in to the room, and I heard the DJ say that up next was ‘the new hit single from teen sensation Taylor Swift’. Now, what I mainly knew about Swift at this point was she was young, she was cute, and to her credit she wrote all of her songs, something unheard of in Nashville. The song was ‘You Belong With Me’. I heard it and thought it was good and catchy but that was about it.
Little did I know that for the next week, the song would be stuck on repeat in my cerebral jukebox. I bought the single on iTunes thinking if I played it a few times, it would leave my head. It didn’t. Instead I ended up downloading most of her material. Most of it is quite good.
Now we come to July 1. On this night I saw Hank III with Eddie [a friend of 20+ years who has always loved country]. I went because I knew Hank III also fronted a metal band so I was intrigued at how he could move from country to ‘death metal’ in the same show. The kicker turned out to be that I enjoyed the country set far more than the metal. The metal was fine, but nothing I hadn’t heard before. The country set though was something very unique. Imagine a Hank Williams Sr. song played about eight times faster than intended and you have Hank III in a nutshell. What was that, thrash country?? I don’t know but it really was unlike anything I had seen or heard before.
Now apart from an evening spent watching the fetching Jenny Lewis rock out at the National [July 3], I’ve pretty much been listening to country music exclusively. I’m adding stuff I have had on CD for years to my iPod and buying new stuff from iTunes that interests me. A KISSong still gets played every day [like I posted in response to some comments on the status that started the idea for this note] but otherwise, it’s been country.
So, I’m spending a lot of time listening to Reba, Cash, Buck, Patsy, George Jones, The Statlers, Taylor, and Miranda Lambert among others. I know this will eventually change and I will go back to a more well-rounded audio diet [I am seeing Cake Sunday night after all] but for now it’s been a fun trip with country on repeat on my iPod.
I usually describe myself as a ‘musical schitzophrenic’ because my tastes are all over the map. I think that description has never been more apt.