No other musical genre is more socially acceptable to hate than country. How many times have you asked someone what type of music they prefer, only to be met with the response “everything but country”. A lot of people treat country like their dorky little brother that has to tag along, and it’s sadly become acceptable to ridicule this entire genre. I’m guilty of ‘music shame’; in the past I’ve concealed music that I like because I knew it wouldn’t be enjoyed by others. In those instances, I’ve chosen to privately enjoy music instead of doing what I love the most: sharing music with others.
What is it about country music that makes it the least-favourable genre among the general population? Personally, I grew up a fan of a lot of country greats like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard; I thought Patsy Cline was a bit dreary but loved Dolly Parton. When I began to select my own music, I never got into modern country. I thought it all was sad twang, sung by hillbilly men about their wives leaving them for their lawyers and stealing their truck and best fishing poles. But then 5 years ago I visited Nashville and I started to really appreciate the new generation of country artists out there. While a lot of modern country is better suited to the pop charts, there are some amazing musicians out there telling beautiful stories with their guitars and an eclectic array of instruments. But banjos, harmonicas and fiddles aside, I think my very favorite thing about modern country is that it has managed to stick to a simplistic set of values. Country songs tackle a wide variety of issues and feelings, but they all manage to invoke imagery of small utopian towns, chasing dreams, strong & proud families drinking together on back porches and little kids running through a muddy creek. Places where things are easy and any problem can be fixed by flying down a dirt road in a old pickup truck with the person you love the most.
A year ago, on a balmy night in southern california, a dear friend of mine that I greatly admire named Pouyan, turned and said to me ‘You know, country music used to be such a guilty pleasure of mine, and now that I’m older, it’s just a pleasure’. I loved that, and try to remember that every time I feel like hiding away a song that I like. Whether or not you like country music, I hope that you too find a way to make the term ‘guilty pleasure’ an oxymoron in your life. Be unapologetic in your musical choices, and remember that you don’t ever need to feel guilty about something that brings you pleasure. Play those songs loudly and proudly, and if anyone gives you grief about it, I got your back.
And here are a few of my very favorite country songs:
Amazing four-part harmonies and finger-picking, the end of this song is especially good.
I’m a sucker for any song with a small town theme, and this Canadian artist nails it.
A great song with rock elements, the solo and lyrics during the last 2 minutes give me chills.
Jennifer Nettles, one of the best female voice in country stars in this simple and powerful video that really showcases her pipes.