Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll explains: WHY I LOVE COUNTRY MUSIC. She writes:

There is a biopic about the eccentric jazz genius Thelonius Monk called “Straight, No Chaser.” I saw it years ago. In one scene that made a vivid impression on me, some snotty, self-absorbed “journalist” whose name I didn’t catch – who cares? — is interviewing Mr. Monk and asks him what kind of music he likes. Monk says, “I like ALL music.” And with sarcasm dripping from his voice into a puddle on the floor, the man then asks what he thinks is a clever “gotcha” question: “Do you like COUNTRY music?” And Monk says to the camera, “The man must have a hearin’ problem.”

This can’t be! The hippest-ever black jazz pianist can’t possibly enjoy a genre of music favored by white rednecks who cling to God and guns and marry their cousins!

The world works so much better for the intolerant when they can put people into neat bins. That’s why a conservative black man or the happy heterosexual woman who doesn’t hate men drives the culture warriors out of what passes for their minds.

There are several reasons why I love country music. Originally, I thought I would buttress my arguments quoting hundreds of great lyrics, but I didn’t know what copyright rules I might be infringing upon and also the column would end up the size of a major piece of legislation, only without lies, pork or bridges to nowhere. So, this will not be a comprehensive analysis, just my humble opinion. You are (still, so far) free to hold your own opinion, even though if you don’t like country music, you are wrong. And possibly evil. Haha, I kid.

First of all, almost all of the country artists can actually sing and play their own instruments. When you have a band like Willie Nelson’s or Mel Tillis’s — musicians who have been together for much longer than any of them have been with any number of successive wives — you can be assured that the band will be tighter than a wet wool sweater accidentally thrown in a clothes dryer on the “Cotton Hot” setting. From the angelic purity of Patsy Cline’s voice to the beautiful four-part harmonies of Little Big Town, with few exceptions, you’re in for just plain good music.

Secondly, most country music is ABOUT something. Something important. Long-term marriage, infidelity, love won, love lost, children, messing up bad enough to warrant jail, redemption, love for mama, overcoming obstacles. Sure, there have also been a boatload of drinking songs, cheatin’ songs, and plain ol’ feel-good tunes about raising Cain. I’m going to stipulate that “Red Solo Cup” may not be fraught with nuance. I still like it and it’s an excellent tool to ensure solitude as Mr. Ammo Grrrll can’t stand it.

Country music is also a paean to “ordinary” people, whether it’s George Strait’s “Brothers of the Highway” about truckers, or the popular theme that a man makes a mistake who marries for money when he can get better lovin’ from a down-home country girl. (Toby Keith’s “I Like Girls Who Drink Beer,” to name but one.)

As a writer and comedian, I have a particular fondness for songs with clever lyrics. Brad Paisley is exceptionally adept at these, but clever lyricists abound in the genre. In a cultural and artistic desert of anti-American sentiment, here is an oasis of unembarrassed love of God and country.

There is also an appreciation of unabashed masculinity that is refreshing. Daddies are a positive force in the lives of their children, imagine that! The yin and yang of the male and the female are noted and celebrated. For both wit and truth, check out Brad Paisley’s “You Need A Man Around Here.” Or his “Ode de Toilet” about the great battle over the position of the toilet seat in the war of the sexes. And, of course, the age-old conundrum of how to convince a woman to go to bed: Toby Keith’s “A Little Less Talk…Little More Action” or his hilarious (with surprise ending) “Get Out of Your Clothes, or Get Out of My Car.”

Now, having tried to persuade the unconvinced that country music is grand, let me also say that there is no reason to confine oneself to a single genre, any more than a steady diet of just steak and taters will satisfy forever. Try the halibut, at least once, for Pete’s sake! Maybe tofu, even. I’m on a current campaign to get our neighbor, the Paranoid Texan, to join us at a symphony. It’s going about as well as Hillary’s campaign. Maybe if I put on a robotic smile?

What has long bewildered and depressed me is why everything has to be “either-or.” How quick we humans are to form mutually-exclusive tribal loyalties. If you love cats, you must hate dogs. If you watch NASCAR, you are duty-bound to hate soccer. Why?

I love Mozart, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and Gershwin. I love French accordion music, Mexican mariachi bands, the Eagles, the Beatles, Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I enjoy live jazz, and nearly faint at Pavarotti’s rendition of the aria Nessun Dorma. Does this wide-ranging taste make me some sort of superior elevated soul? Probably. Haha, again with the kidding. No, seriously, I just ask, “In a harsh and difficult world, why deliberately cheat yourself out of any form of beauty?”

Several operatic arias will wring emotion from me. But they’ve got nothing on country music. The first few lines of Cal Smith’s “Hello, Country Bumpkin” will bring a lump to my throat and by the end, I will be bawling like a baby. Every single time.


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