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Becky Reno

It’s word association time. I’m going to say two words, you tell me what comes to mind. Ready?

Country music.

I could be wrong here, but if I were to venture a guess, I’d say your words weren’t anywhere along the lines of “liberating” or “empowering,” but to me, that’s exactly what country music is. And no, I’m not just talking about the high brow country music that most everyone can get behind- the Johnny Cashes or Loretta Lynns. I’m not even talking about the established, respectable musicians such as Garth Brooks or Reba McEntire. I’m talking about the whole lot of them, right on down to Gretchen Wilson.

Country music is for the most part reviled by mainstream America. Tied only with Christian rock & opera, it’s the type of music people love to hate. Maybe it’s just me, spinning elaborate rationales to justify my love of country music to myself, but the thing is, I think the social stigma of country music boils down to more than just personal preference, or lack thereof. Humor me and follow me down the rabbit hole for just a moment won’t you?

I teach a college-level course about social justice and I always spend a class on class. Social class, that is. We talk about how complex class is in America, and how most of us spend a lifetime trying to claw ourselves up and convince ourselves we’re destined for a higher standing in life. We also talk about how many different class markers there are. Last term we came up with more than 30, and income was last on the list (Bear with me, there’s a point in here, I swear). So basically we have this restrictive system defining what it means to be of a certain socioeconomic status, and we’re all desperately trying to convince everyone (ourselves?) we’re better off than we are. That we deserve more, damnit. Now I’m not saying you don’t deserve to move up, I just can’t help but wonder what all this striving, this pretending does on a broader scale. While I can’t speak for everyone I can say what this has done for myself.

I’ve spent a good long while trying to fit in. To pretend like I deserve to be here, wherever “here” is. It feels wrong, it’s too much work, and for what? At this point in my adult life I’ve made it to solid middle class ground, and I’ve gotta say, it’s a little boring. And the view to the upper classes doesn’t look any better. Looking down though, there, my friends, is where it’s at. Enter country music.

Now don’t give me any sort of a lecture on how those artists aren’t genuine country people. I’m sure more of them than not are just cogs in the music industry machine, and I know it’s a lifestyle they’re selling, but that’s alright. I’m buying it. Country music is FULL of life. Getting dirty, having fun, drinking at bonfires into the night, riding around on boats, four wheelers, and snow mobiles. It’s about celebrating where you are, with what you’ve got. You can have your high tea, pinky out. I’ll be getting filthy camping and jumping in the lake to rinse off. Country music feels like freedom. Freedom from worrying about what others think about you, freedom from trying to move up that ladder. It’s accepting you’re on that bottom rung and realizing you’re actually better off for it.

Not only that, but I’ll argue that country songs give women far more room to have an interesting, complex identity. Women take revenge  when they’re wronged, they overcome crushing adversity, and they’re so much more dynamic and complex than in other music genres.

And it’s not just women. Despite the emphasis on masculinity that we often associate with cowboys, men are celebrated as sensitive, and even redemptive. Of course there are the songs dripping with machismo, but you also get songs about men loving their wife and their children.

I might not be able to talk you into a love of twangy guitars and dramatic ballads, but that’s just fine with me, to each their own. As for me though, I’ll be happily toe tapping as a redneck woman  just a little on the trashy side.

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  1. June 26, 2012

    Becky, for me it’s a bit like putting ice in my wine. I have consumed enough wine in my 40 + odd years to have earned the right to now drink it any darn way I please, ice, soda, whatever…..so drop the raised eyebrow you wanna-be classest snob type and top up my glass! Country music rocks. I love it. I love other music too but I am down-to-earth enough to recognise that I am limiting myself when I close my mind to all that is out there on offer. Best of all, you can always sing along with good ol country because you always know what the words are gonna be next and what warm-blooded woman can resist that??

  2. June 26, 2012

    I was raised on country music and I love it. and you’re so right it DOES sound like freedom.

  3. June 26, 2012

    I don’t listen to country music like I used to. Prior to ’98-’99, that was about all I listened to; but the whole Dixie Chicks fiasco really made me lose a lot of respect for it. It wasn’t a result of what Natalie said, but the reaction of other country music artists and local radio stations banning their music. I don’t care what anybody says. Those girls could sing & they could tell a fantastic story through song! Though, Reba’s the best storyteller. 😉

  4. June 26, 2012

    Seeing the title of this post made me smile. It amuses me how many people are SO against country music. I can’t help but love blaring it, especially in the summertime, driving out in the country- there’s just nothing like it, and I don’t care how silly that sounds, lol.

  5. June 26, 2012

    If you ask me what I think of country music I’ll sneer, but put on some of those songs (ESPECIALLY Gretchen Wilson!) and I’ll exclaim “I love this song!” Hypocritic, I know. Don’t judge me. I’m working on it.

  6. anonymous #
    June 26, 2012

    I’m going to guess you don’t live near the south and/or west. I live in a combo of both. Country music here has a completely different association to class. ALL classes embrace it but The Devout to the point of ad nauseam. It’s shocking if one does not like it!

  7. June 27, 2012

    I understand what your sentiment, but that brand of country music just doesn’t evoke that feeling in me.
    Tom Petty, blasting from a car radio on a summer night, though, that’ll do it to me every time.

  8. Erin #
    June 27, 2012

    I love Country Music for the simple fact you can sing along to virtually every song and I love to sing along, loud and off key with my music.

  9. June 29, 2012

    I just want you to know that this post made me go out and buy a bunch of Reba McEntire CDs. And one Sugarland.

    Thanks. 🙂

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