Confession time: I like country music. And no, I’m not being facetious. And no, not just the alternative kind. Gimme a steel guitar, a banjo, and a slow southern drawl, and I’m jammin’. When I put on the New Boots playlist, however, I do get looks ranging from disbelief to slightly annoyed to amused. Not that the reaction surprises me. As is the nature of stereotypes, there is some truth to them, but they also don’t cover all of the vast cornfield called country music. And honestly, you don’t have to strain your ears (pun intended) to pick up on all there is to hear.
Originating from blues and folk music traditions, the genre of country music is as versatile as it ever was. We’re talking country plus rock, pop, soul, even rap: Genre-bending is not a foreign concept in country music. And even for those who don’t want to get caught up in the mix (your loss) and cling to tradition, Americana is still country, plain and simple.
Aren’t you aware of the problems the country music industry faces with racism, misogyny, homophobia, pretty much backward conservatism, and patriotism in general? Abse-fudging-lutely! Great stuff. Why not do justice to country music’s history of the social struggle and support some of the many country musicians who fall into those marginalized groups! For starters, here’s a Black Country Matters playlist curated by a Black LGBTQ* musician.
Obviously, you can’t keep someone from simply enjoying country in any style, and none of the real issues with exclusion will improve by condemning an entire colorful genre based on some would-be moral superiority. What’s genuinely regressive is not being open and lending an at least mildly interested ear when unfamiliar music comes on. With that in mind, I’ll keep crackin’ open a cold one and jammin’ to country, everything from traditionally generic to out-of-there experimental.
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