Prior to 2011, my association with country music consisted primarily of scoffing when the school bus driver blasted QCountry, and equating the twangs of the genre to Republican hunters and farmers. My perspective began to shift and my tastes began to widen after my mom began dating a country music–loving, golf-playing Republican from Texas. The guy turned out to be a jerk, worthy of a Carrie Underwood–esque revenge song, but what I saw then as a blip in my mother’s life sparked a trend towards my ever-broadening appreciation for country music.
Country music has its origins in the 1920s, stemming from the songs of Old England that were carried over in the 1700s, and the blues influences of the Deep Southern African Americans, evolving eventually into the folk ballads of Appalachia. The homegrown strummings of the working class that proclaimed their trials and triumphs have remained a constant characteristic of Americana since its conception. The acoustics of classic country embody backroads and simpler times. Mainstream culture has played its part in shaping current country artists and the genre itself as it shifts into an increasingly pop-y form, but the motifs of tractors, women, and beer remain staples. What draws me to country music, besides the easy listening (once you get over the initial grating factor of the singer’s drawls), is the lyrical genius of the songs. Being mainly acoustic, country music owes much of its appeal to the value of a story. The genre has a tendency to be discredited by some due to its perceived fan base, thought of as uneducated or redneck, and that songs of driving on a dirt road with a girl are just as simple as their audience. But paying closer attention to the lyrics reveals that the sagas that play out are chock full of clever lines and heartfelt sentiment.
The following playlist is comprised of some of my favorite songs that encompass the far-reaches of a genre that spans the entire country.
“Goodbye Earl”: The Dixie Chicks
An oxymoron to most country stereotypes, the Dixie Chicks are known for their opposition to George Bush and the war in Iraq and were heavily criticized by the country music industry. This song involves women’s empowerment from cheating husbands and arsenic in black-eyed peas. Also check out “Travelin’ Soldier,” a tear jerker of a story and one of my all-time favorite songs since age six.
“One Piece at a Time”: Johnny Cash
A song about a mismatched, hodgepodge, janky car and lowkey criminal activity. What’s better than that? The best of country, Johnny, that’s what.
“Colder Weather” and “Sweet Annie”: Zac Brown Band
Best enjoyed sequentially, these two songs are beautiful. I recommend driving at night when you’re kinda sad and singing or crying along to these ballads.
“You Never Even Called Me By My Name”: David Allan Coe
Fitting as an introduction to country music, because about two-thirds of the way through the song, it explicitly lists all the necessities of a country music song.
“Wheels”: Flying Burrito Brothers
If the band’s name alone doesn’t win you over, give it a listen.
“People are Crazy”: Billy Currington
I told Rafael Enciso-Oddy ’17 that I was writing this article and he dared me to convince him that country was not awful. I brought up this song as an example of the genre’s laughability. After I read the lyrics aloud to him, we both agreed that “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy,” but also that there is lyrical prowess in the country music genre.
“Cornbread and Butterbeans”: Carolina Chocolate Drops
Not necessarily considered country—more folksy, perhaps—but worth the genre bending to fit it onto this playlist. Try not to dance, and just try to get it out of your head.