Monday, June 1, 2015
A Good Day to Try Something Old
Yesterday morning I hopped in my swaggery mini van with a hot Earl Grey and a bowlful of cherries, headed for who-knows-where, Indiana.
It was one of those days where you feel like maybe the world chose you, all slanted streaming sunshine and the kind of back roads that have you screaming down a hill just to stop at the bottom at one of those train crossings with no gates or lights, just a sign, and you breathe quick, look both ways, and power across, hoping those rails are defunct and the sign's just too pretty to go anywhere.
If I had more confidence in my skills and more wind-proof hair, I'da spit those pits right out the open windows while I drove.
It wasn't long before I was too far from home for my programmed radio stations to queue up, so I did what I do, I pushed that SEEK button, landing smack dab on a country song.
I used to hate country music.
I had a friend in high school who was a maybe-crush but more of a probably-never, one of the best guys I knew who mailed a birthday card just two miles up the road from where he lived when I turned 18. He was always playing us country music and it made me feel like such a hick, though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't flooded with heartache the first time I heard "Don't Take the Girl" in a van full of my favorite people, weeks before high school graduation.
Country music just wasn't my jam. I was more of a Metallica girl, and you think I'm joking. I was Alice in Chains and Scorpions with Duran Duran on a better day, and a little left-over Out of the Grey and Whiteheart.
I was like a Dilly Bar, only opposite; sweet exterior masking a crispy, cold core.
At least that's what I told myself.
It was my only rebellion. I had to make it count.
Sometime during the second half of college (read: 1996, when I fell for Cute Maintenance Boy) the melody flipped and the next ten years were a loop of Diamond Rio, Blackhawk, Joe Diffie, and SheDaisy, with one of the best lyrics in all of country music history, "When I look to the left, see his sun-tanned hands, his muddy river hair and his thousand acre plans, I'm all shook up like a quarter in a can. Ain't life sweet...in the passenger seat."
Yes. Yes it was.
Cory didn't have muddy hair, but he did have longish hair, mannish forearms, a couple of hogs, and at one time, a pick-up truck named Floyd with a rusted out floor-board.
I was way shook up.
And so it was. I was in love, and only Garth, Sammy, and JoDee understood.
We should've known it was a bad sign when Dixie Chicks finally put out an album that rivaled their debut, then vanished without a trace.
Country music was all jacked up.
It was a big ol' mess.
And it only got worse.
But where was I?
In my minivan.
When that frequency zipped to a stop, I knew it was country, but I didn't immediately hate it. I didn't picture gelled wannabe-cowboys wearing jeans from The Buckle with flap pockets and aggressive stitching.
After three decent songs in a row, I wondered if my musical worldview was about to shift again. I mean, I am on the cusp of 39. Then a song came on with the most hilarious, spot-on, fist-bump lyrics EVER and I wondered even harder.
I don't know any of the singers. I didn't recognize voices. I DON'T KNOW NADA.
But Maddie and Taye (?? I have never heard of them, thank you, Google) were right on, as proven by the next handful of (catchy, not-heinous) songs ALL referencing interchangeable "girls" wearing "little white tank tops", being generally "hot", and even, indeed, dancing "barefoot".
What happened to a love song, man? Don't guys sing about their wives anymore? George Strait must be turning over in his King-size bed.
Forget the Kardashians and Breaking Bad.
The downfall of society will surely be country music.
Having time for reflection, I remembered that the last time I fell into the country music rabbit hole I ended up tricking Ann Voskamp into playing a song about a "girl" poppin' out of her bikini top IN THE KITCHEN WHERE SHE BAKES BREAD FROM SCRATCH AND SPINS THE WORDS THAT MAKE US WANT TO BE HOLIER.
I'll bet she took December 30th clean off.
All of this to say, the good news is, country music appears to be trucking back to its country-boy roots.
The bad news is, country music country boys only seem to care about drinking and objectifying women.
And other things.
But they do sound like they're back in Wranglers.
And that ain't nothin'.