There’s no reason on earth why I should listen to country music. I’m British, grew up in London and live in New York. I dislike music that panders to god or shallow patriotism and country music often does that in the same sentence. It frustrates me when people make a virtue of ignorance (‘a little bit backwards here in the back woods, who cares as long as it feels good’), and a constant harking back to the ‘good ole days’ suggests a strong antipathy towards progress that sits uncomfortably with the tech entrepreneur side of me.
But I love country. And not just the old-timey blue-grass country that might win me some level of acceptance among my New York hipster friends but full-on Sugarland, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert country. And I find myself echoing the cries of my co-workers when they’ve come in early in the morning to finger-picking guitar and words pronounced with more vowels than they contain and ask myself ‘why, Tony why?’
I think there are two reasons. In country music, when they aren’t talking about a ‘hottie with a smoking little body’ they often deal with themes not so much of young love but of long-term partnerships, a subject that has been much on my mind over the last year or two. There’s far greater reference to love being about building a life together with all the difficulty and decisions that requires than the emotion-dependence of some other genres. Here’s a verse from Terri Clark’s ‘I Just Wanna be Mad’:
Last night we went to bed not talking
Cause we already said to much
I face the wall you faced the window
Bound and determined not to touch
We’ve been married 7 years now
Some days it feels like 21
I’m still mad at you this morning
Coffee’s ready if you want some
I love that last line for everything that it says about long-term relationships, the acknowledgement that no matter how angry or hurt she might be, she’s in it for the long haul and she acknowledges what that entails.
The second reason is far more personal. Country Music is probably the only major musical genre that I had almost no exposure to until recently. I’d never listened to a country song until I met a Pennsylvania girl who, despite my complaints, would play it constantly. I subsequently moved in with that girl and recently, in a triumph of persuasion over her better judgement, married her.
She introduced me to country, and without her I have no frame of reference for the music. Whenever I hear country, I don’t have a thousand different memories of people or places from my past competing in my mind, I only have her. Every country song is our song, because they are all indelibly associated with her. Every time some guy in an over-sized hat sings about love, or family, or a life together, to me he is singing about her, about us. When we’re apart, I can conjure her through my iPod and feel joy, when a country song comes on in a shop I am immediately reminded of her and how truly inexplicably lucky I am to have found the woman who is now my wife and my life. That, more than anything, is why I listen to country.