we will be paid and we will watch the grass come back.

Sorry this has been so long coming; job applications, taxes, and making sure all the prisoners I work with don’t get transferred 8 hours away to the UP (Michigan’s governor took the big step recently of initiation a whole series of programs to drastically reduce the state’s prison population. So thanks a lot, Granholm, I know you mean well, but I certainly hope you don’t jump this haphazardly into most of the legislation you sign) have all, quite sadly, put music on the back burner. No longer!

So I was/am/have an English major, and so I get to be picky about the language I spent nearly four years studying. I bet if you were to ask most english majors, they could, without hesitation, list at least 5 or 6 phrases that they just wish could just vanish from spoken/written English. One which is near the top of my list (though not so much for the language itself, and instead because of the implications) is “everything except rap and country.”

I mean, sure, listing 50 bands on a myspace/facebook page is nothing but a way of presenting an image of yourself, but the exclusion implied in “except rap and country” makes me sick. Because whether you mean to or not, when you use those words, you’re showing your hand, and its a hand probably filled with a lot of discomfort. The audience (at least, the perceived audience) for rap is mostly black, and the audience for country is mostly southern. So by saying you will listen to any music (really? You’d rather listen to Bloody Panda over UGK?) except those genres whose audience are black and southern, you’re defining yourself, loosely, as a white northerner. In the grand scheme of things, this is pinprick level, but it gets to me.

Of course, I’m not the first person to notice this.

To take it one level further before I give y’all some songs. At least with country, there seems to be a further distinction between “real” country music and modern country music. Modern country music is according to this distinction, vapid, number’s obsessed, and dumb. “Real” country music, in comparison, is about the depression, and either was recorded in a barn/Memphis recording studio some 60 years ago, or sounds like it was recorded in a barn/Memphis recording studio some 60 years ago. For a recent example of what i’m talking about, see NPR’s review of the new Bonnie Prince Billy Album. Now I’ll admit that I like a lot of critically acclaimed country (Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Old 97’s, etc.), and I’ll also admit that for years the phrase pop country wasn’t exactly the most palatable thing to me. But, c’mon, look at the name of the genre! If country music is supposed to be the music of our country, then look at the overwhelming popularity of Sugarland, Kenny Chesney, and Taylor Swift, even in spite of our music industry’s ongoing toilet flush. This is music that people like, and probably can paint a much true picture of our country than all the neo-clasical albums that the Avett Brothers will ever release. But I don’t want to be an asshole about it: of course, a lot of it is really good music, and that, THAT is the reason the whole situation is so sad.

Home For Sale” is from Dwight Yoakam’s album This Time.

If There Was A Way” is an acoustic version of the title track from Dwight Yoakam’s 1990 album, this version was release on his live album DwightYoakamAcoustic.net.

It Happens” is from Sugarland’s 2008 album Love on the Inside.

White Horse” is from Taylor Swift’s 2008 album Fearless.

(and now watch me totally sideswipe my own argument by posting some indie song.)

The thing about David Bazan is he’s pitch perfect at the downfall. His love songs (“Rapture” for one) always seem to be wishing they were falling apart. And his best songs are just decimated (“The Poison.”) He’s got a new album, hopefully, coming out this year, and Please Baby Please feels sweaty and undernourished, it’s got alcoholics and cheaters and kids who cheat and drink and drive and kill, and, somewhere in those two chords, there are people trying to feel for redemption among the bright-blistering lights. It’s not country music, but at this moment in our country, it is country music.

Please Baby Please” is a David Bazan song which will appear on a new album he will hopefully release this year on Barsuk Records. I’m fairly certain I stole this live version of the song from either It’s Hard to Have a Friend or Bradley’s Almanac.

PS: Anyone heard the new Bishop Allen album who wants to tell me whether it’s as bad as pitchfork probably overreacted and claimed it was? And also, PJ Harvey and John Parish are reuniting for an album. that’ll be epic, no doubt.


  1. iwentwest

    i couldnt agree more. i did a post on country recently (http://rightmindleftcoast.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/guilty-pleasures-part-i/), and my [five, six] readers gave me such hell. i cant understand it – especially if you like indie, how can you not appreciate country? what differentiates a singer songwriter like Conor Oberst (who, admittedly, i love) from one like Tim McGraw? Sure, Conor writes his own stuff, but does that make it any more accessible than McGraw’s work? Heck no, as any listener would tell you. I think pop tends to imply something more about songwriting than the music and vocal talents of the artist themselves. Pop is capitalism at it’s best; it’s finding a formula that people want and working with it. There may be some question as to an artist’s value when they dont write their own material, but if the performance is on, then what’s the difference?

    but i digress – my point is, there’s a lot of fantastic country, both new and old. and i wish more people would be okay admitting that.

    • songssavelives

      thanks for the comment; I think the stigma about “country” music pretty closely mirror the red state/blue state schism that we’ve got in our country today. I think there’s this idea that because something is crafted meticulously to appeal to an audience (and it happens just as much with indie bands as it does with pop acts.), that it can’t mean something to anyone, and that if it does mean something to someone, that that person is really dumb.

      I remember last summer, I was at a friend of a friend’s birthday celebration at the only bar in all of New York City that has beer pong in it, and that awful techno remix of Sweet Caroline came on. I had never heard it before, but my friend, one of the smartest, most level headed and most artistic people I know, started flipping out because she loved that song so much. Music, in almost any form, is going to find an audience who connects to it. I think that’s important to keep in mind. That, and that I fucking love the Taylor Swift album.

      Anyway, I like your blog; it’s nice to see a site that covers acts other than Grizzly Bear.

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