You know, I have a lot of "re-" posts on this blog. Rethinking, reconsidering... I find this blog a useful place to work through second thoughts, reevaluations, new perspectives, or returns to subjects from fresh angles.
Being in Tennessee, perhaps it's predictable that sooner or later I'd rethink country music. But it's probably not in a predictable manner. I still don't listen to the vast majority of country, though I've always liked Patsy Cline, and who could dislike "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" on the jukebox? I think my friend Kate has always liked "Rocky Top," and though I didn't like it when younger, I've since come to enjoy the knee-slappin' twang of it. (Wasn't it you who'd enjoy it on the Rainbows Bar jukebox? Or do I misremember?)
But I still dislike the majority of country and worse for me is the political conservatism that seems to accompany it and, especially, its fans. I don't groove on white trash anthems or sappy break-up songs or high hair or "boot scoot boogies" or cowboy-hatted bubbas. This is, in part, cultural bias. Or at least cultural difference I can't get past.
Nonetheless, there are some artificial distinctions here that require me to say that, in certain circumstances, I do like country. I like rockabilly. I like bluegrass. I like "Ring of Fire" and "Jolene" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" sung with all the fervor singers can muster for a religion I will never understand.
More importantly, dismissing country wholesale means dismissing a folk tradition and a long and compelling history. One I'm proud to say I'm reading in Charles Wolfe's 1977 book about the relationship between country music and Tennessee, called Tennessee Strings.
I saw Walk the Line last night on HBO when flipping channels and found it badly written but engaging enough to watch most of. And it made me thinkg of Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly and Elvis all playing alongside Johnny Cash and the artificiality of country/rock distinctions with their performances and songs. And I really wanted to talk to Charles. But he's gone so I can't. Which is really unfortunate. I'm rethinking and he's unavailable for comment. A colleague replied that perhaps he was up in heaven having a beer with Johnny Cash even now. Great image. And if I believed in an afterlife, it would have been even better.
Another person I know is a book editor and just finished an editing job that should really be called writing a book (but won't because his name won't be on it as author or ghostwriter or assistant - just in the acknowledgements page, I imagine) about Johnny Cash, a guy's memoirs related to touring with Cash. Maybe I'll pick that one up too after I finish some of Charles' work.
Anyhow, I don't imagine becoming a country music fan anytime soon (or probably ever), but the history and study of it is definitely worth my time.