Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I am now officially un-cool

I have a confession to make, and since I’m not Catholic, I might as well make it in the confession-booth-like confines of this blog posting.

Lately, I’ve been listening to Country and Western music in my car.

This is quite a confession, coming from someone who grew up listening to rock, went to punk and new wave concerts in college [yes, that's me in the pic at the right, at my most decadent], and who used to consider herself cool. But I don’t like most music that’s available on the radio in the D.C. metro area (Hip Hop, overproduced R&B, tired classic rock or meaningless pop hits). The one alternative station I can receive goes out of range three miles away from my house (and it plays the Grateful Dead too much, for my taste). I like the Classical station but not for short drives since I can never get in an entire symphonic movement. So, on short drives, when NPR is playing “Car Talk” or some other show I’m not wild about, my finger reaches for the C&W button.

As I drive from errand to errand in my minivan, I wonder why I’ve gravitated to C&W, not sure if it’s a familiar trajectory, from disenfranchised youth to middle-aged suburbanite, raging hormones to stable sentimentality (if rock music is all about sexual love, then much of current C&W music is about the responsible aftermath, or what I call “love with a mortgage”). But I tell myself it’s my writer’s curiosity, that C&W songs tell stories. And sometimes I like even the most treacle-y songs because I like trying to predict the outcome.

When I first heard the song, You Can Let Go by Crystal Shawanda, I was able to predict the third verse while still listening to the first. “The dad’s going to die in the end!” I announced to my disinterested teenage son. “She’s going to tell him to let go on his deathbed.” Even though I called it correctly, I choked up at the end. In fact, I still have to turn the station if that song comes on now.

But I’m not entirely devoid of cynicism. My son and I sometimes play a game in the car where we take a predictable C&W song and turn it into something ridiculous or jaded. Thus, the Brad Paisley song, When I Get Where I'm Going ("When I get where I'm going/on the far side of the sky./The first thing that I'm gonna do/Is spread my wings and fly") inspired us to spontaneously sing: “You know that when I die/I’m going to go into the ground/My body will putrify/But my bones will stick around...”).

Maybe C&W needs a droll/playful sub-set or a fusion with some other, less optimistic genre, but I'm not sure it's going to happen anytime soon—and I'm not even sure I'd tune into it in the car if it does. Maybe the thing I most appreciate about C&W is its earnestness, how (like me, these days) it doesn't really try to be hip.

1 comment:

Rick said...

Beth, I gravitated slightly toward C&W because my ex liked it. (Plus, she got to attend one of the awards shows in LA -- CMA, maybe -- before we met and got swept up in seeing live performances, preferably in smaller venues.)

So I started listening a bit and found myself enjoying the traditional stuff (George Jones, Waylon, Merle, Cash, Loretta Lynn). We also saw Terri Clark play a small room in Vegas -- where she sang Warren Zevon and Staples Singers along with her hits, for what that's worth -- and I became even more tolerant.

Once I was single again, I really got into Americana. I recommend it, since it should satisfy your longing for a somewhat more jaded genre. 'Cuz believe you me, James McMurtry is anything but optimistic ...