As a teenager growing up in the Appalachians, I detested country. At least, I claimed to. The reality was that I had sort of a love hate relationship with the down home, honky-tonk, tonal roller-coaster that we call country western music. I had a deep and abiding love for it as part of my heritage. I let myself say (in public) that I liked bluegrass and Celtic derivative Appalachian music. If you can picture a 14 year old using the phrase “Celtic derivative Appalachian music,” it may give you some idea of what my parents were working with.
I went to Shindig on the Green each summer with my family and admired the pretty dresses, and the lightning fast step-dancing. Eventually I even strapped on a pair of tap shoes, in some kind of vague childhood grasping at River Dance. But as far as the country music that played on local radio stations like KISS Country and My 92.5, well… I thought it was low class and inbred; created by those who had neither the vocabulary nor the talent with an instrument to write real songs, and make real music.
Why was I so convinced of this? Because my mom hated country… with a passion. Whenever the subject came up she’d respond with some vague, questionably age-appropriate joke about white trash and tornadoes in trailer-parks; or sometimes, a similarly questionable impression of Janice Joplin doing Tammy Wynette and sounding like a cat strapped to a ceiling fan in the process. Don’t get me wrong, my mother has a lovely singing voice. She just doesn’t think country deserves it’s use. But, my mother’s adolescent-based revulsion for country music is a-whole-nother story.
Now that we’ve exposed the root of my Freudian distaste for all things high of hair, I have to say that I’ve always liked even popular country music, whenever I managed to catch myself listening. When I mucked out stalls after riding at Biltmore Stables (english saddle mind you) I listened to the radio tacked to the barn wall just like everyone else, without a solitary request for a station change (even though I think the dial may have been broken off at 99.9). I should probably note that “everyone else” rarely got busted dancing with their pitch fork through a foot of muck, belting out “That’s the night that the lights went out in Georgia….” Reba style, in a pair of Ducks work boots. But it went deeper than that. The first song I can genuinely remember being excited by was Faith Hill’s “Wild One.”
So the question you’re probably asking yourselves (well, maybe not, but it’s the question i’m asking myself, GD* it) why did I fight it for so long? In all honesty, that one I have to chalk up to pre-teen angst and not wanting my friends to confuse me with the girls who dropped out of our eighth grade class because they were “knocked up and getting hitched.” As an adult, I’ve come to embrace country whole-heartedly. In fact, the radio dial in my car stays stuck at country a good portion of the time; that is, when I’m not cycling through my stock of random indie CDs, Ani D. and all things Tool and NIN.
If this seems like a bit of a symphonic train wreck, all I can say is, I’m getting old. The punch in the gut lyrics and auditory assault common to so much of the alternative spectrum these days is at times, more than I wish to contend with in getting through my days. I just don’t need the heaviness that it brings on, or the hour spent thinking about some guy I dated (to horrible effect) when I was eighteen, because I made the mistake of blasting “Shinedown” on the way home from driving my son to school. Country seems to provide me with a good steady background of up beat, real life music that keeps me going through the day. It can be a nice change from the frenetic, bi-polar funk that seems to descend when I’m cutting cranked-up alterna-party anthems with despondent emo elegies to loves lost like a personal party drug. Except instead of getting off on love and human kindness, I end up getting off on morbid self-loathing… not exactly my drug of choice.
All of that rather nicely brings us to my original point in writing this article, which has admittedly become something of a tangent in retrospect. Parenthood… and drugs of choice. Before any well-meaning suburban moms reach for their iPhones and google DSS, i’m talking about my recent decision to quit smoking, and my son’s role in it. You see, the other day I was at the pediatrician’s office with my son. He was there to be rechecked for walking pneumonia, and being the little social butterfly he is, he immediately found several similarly aged children and struck up a conversation. I don’t usually leave him alone in waiting rooms, but this one happens to have big windows through which I could maintain a visual at all times and he seemed relatively content (Hi, my name is Anna, and I’m an overprotective parent).
I’d had what passes for a rather harrowing day in my sheltered little life, and I of course thought this was a golden opportunity to go and sneak a smoke. It wasn’t. Ever have one of those moments when you have what seems like a good idea, and then God basically comes down and slaps you with it, whack-a-mole style? If no, watch and learn. Gabriel looks up at me from across the room (still entrenched in a group of his new found friends, and with one of the children’s’ mothers sitting a foot away) as I tell him that I’ll be outside for just a minute. His little brows furrowed, lips pinched with the seriousness of the obviously adult conversation he was about to have, he says “you need a cigarette, don’t you Mommy?” *Face-Palm*
At that point, I swallowed my complete failure as a parent long enough to sputter something like “No one needs cigarettes, but yes, that’s what I’m doing,” and then somehow managed to get out the door before collapsing into utter shame-faced disgrace. I was then of course launched into a full blown Rodney Atkins style “lord please help me help my stupid self” moment. If you’ve got no clue what I’m talking about, and particularly if you’re a parent, watch the video here. Even if you’re a sworn enemy of the country-western genre, give it a try. Thirty seconds of it won’t kill you, and you might even be glad you did.