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“Why do you love Country music?”


I get that a lot.  Family has asked me, friends have asked me.  Fans of the show I meet, when they find out I’m a Yankee from New York in my 30’s will ask me.  It’s a fair question.  Usually, I just answer that I love the juxtaposition of simple chords and deep, earnest lyrics.  Or, that the universal subject matter of love, loss, tragedy and joy is expressed so beautifully in classic Country songs, that it makes my hair stand on end.  Or, that I’m just a sucker for a steel guitar.  But, it has got me thinking about when these musical seeds were planted.  From when I started identifying music that I liked, or even further back when I just listened to what my parents played, what songs began to tilt my ear toward this obsession?  I touched on this a bit with this post on Johnny Cash’s birthday, but it’s an area that I’d like to explore further.


The summer before Middle School (I think I was 12), my friend from the neighborhood brought Violent Femmes self titled album up to Boy Scout camp.  I think we listened to it enough that week that the magnetic strip wore through on the cassette.  It’s still a great record, check it out.  This led me to seek out their other records, which led me to “Hallowed Ground”, their second record.  Track one is “Country Death Song”.  I was immediately struck but the simple, almost goofy jugband bassline paired with the dark, dark lyrics.  The music builds with rolling banjos, guitars and drums swirling louder and softer, as the story progresses.  Gordon Gano weaves the disturbing (and apparently true) story of a man’s insanity driving him to do the unspeakable.  It’s very affecting and I instantly loved the voyeuristic lyrical thrill of being witness to evil.

“Country Death Song” stayed with me through the years, finding it’s way onto mixtapes and DJ playlists, so that when I heard songs like “Folsom Prison Blues” or “Knoxville Girl” I felt an immediate attraction.  The subject matter of crime or death or evil, when not presented in a genre that is built around those topics alone (gangster rap or death metal), really titillates almost like watching like a slasher movie or reading a true-crime novel.  A great tune, and one of the many that laid the tracks for the slow train’s journey to the bountiful lands of Country Music.


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