Friday, 5 February 2010

Coming out in the country

It's my little embarrassing secret.

I kept it in the closet for years, just doing it when I thought nobody was listening, tapping my feet when I should have been working, finding it on the Internet, sneaking into shops to buy it when I thought I could get away unseen.

But now there's no longer anything shameful left in the world I can stand up, be proud, and admit it.

I am a fan of country and western music. Possibly the least cool thing a UK resident can be.

There. I've said it. No going back now. Welcome to a life of being different.

That I should be into one of the most unreconstructed and illiberal forms of North American popular music might come as a complete mystery to readers of blogs like this one. In my defence I should say that I have extremely wide musical tastes spanning five decades and multiple genres and nationalities on both digital and analogue media. Yet for all that there's something about a slide guitar that sets my feet tapping and I'm well away. It shouldn't be so much of a surprise though, it's an art form known for its powerful female performers and once you've stripped away the redneck trash, the dead dawgs and broken pickuptrucks its lyrics are not afraid of dealing head on with almost anything. Almost anything I should say. OK, yet to hear a serious transgender themed country and western record. (I am not considering Weird Al Yankovic's offering as eligible, it's a novelty record.)

So, to the search engine! Blimey, some results! Something tells me I won't be seeing any of them playing the Calgary Stampede any time soon though. Buck Shot & Bebe Gunn, an FtM trans male and genetic female duo are described in Wikipedia as "the Sonny and Cher of Americana country music". Poor sods, what did they do to deserve that? Or how about Dallas/Marie, "a D.I.Y. country-punk folk singer". Whatever that is. Heavy metal infects country with its confusing array of a million subgenres.

Cutting edge alternative country might be a little inaccessible if you're not a hardcore fan (though if you're curious, I'm listening to Corb Lund as I write this, to name but one current favourite artist) so I'll leave you with something much older from Nashville's campest era that might be this blog's theme song were it to have one. Tell me this doesn't reach you in some way!


  1. Can't really take this seriously. It's fun though!

  2. The Hurtin' Albertans?! The less said about this shameful element of your personality, the better! Defying convention at every turn...

  3. Oh, at last, another Country Music fan - I thought I was alone, finding your sight has showed me I'm normal and its OK.

    Fancy eloping to Nashville?

  4. I have to ask, what do people have against country music?

    Whilst not a fan per say, I wouldn't switch it off (unlike an amount of people I know)...

    I love the voice of Elizabeth Cook though...

  5. @Cathy: Fantastic stuff! Got to seek out more from her, thanks for that!

    @Leslie: Yeah, I know. How can a fan of the Proclaimers and Kirsty MacColl also tap their feet to Family reunion? Too damn easily! I'll put a paper bag over my head.

    @Jess: A Fellow Believer! Just wait while I fuel up the El Camino, load up my dawg and some beer, and we're on our way!

    @Stace: Dunno, maybe the sheer levels of uncoolness generated by its devotees back in the day dressing up in Wild West gear and going to a pub in Surbiton for a spot of line dancing have something to do with it. "Folks call me Hank, and this here's Mary-Lou, but really we're Kevin and Maureen" as a satirical tunesmith once had it. I mean, the very idea of a split identity with its own scene and wardrobe! :)

  6. OK that made me giggle. What's wrong with Kirsty anyway? (Or is she just acceptable for people who watch TOTP2 when it's on).

    As for the country dressing up... For the last 17 years my footware of choice has been cowboy boots (except when driving, don't do that it's bad! Then again people comment on me having driving shoes in the car...)

  7. Nothing at all wrong with Kirsty, she's sadly missed.

    Never owned a set of cowboy boots. If this doesn't sound odd in this context, in bloke mode I've always avoided anything with a heel. Too easy to bump your head on doorways.

  8. To be honest with the boots I've always gone with what I can get away with... I have a pair that was brought back from Canada as a present. They are the highest I've had, and thanks to a particularly poor cobler also have slightly sinnier heels than they are supposed to have.

    I have had a couple of comments with them... One that in an echoy school corridor (our building is a converted school) I match the women in high heals for noise and two running in them makes me step a little stocato (and not altogether too manly)

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  10. Girl, you have a knack for writing. I just love your posts!

    I do like all kinds of music but I don't put country music at the top of the list.

    Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shania Twain come to mind as two female singers I really like.

    Now if you and Jess are going to Nashville, I may just have to make the cross-country trip to visit you'all.

    Calie xxx

  11. Why thank you ma'am, mighty friendly of you there! :)

    That's enough fake Southern drawl for a milennium.

    Going to Nashville, don't, I would! Well, not just Nashville, when my ship comes in one of my wild plans is to do the Great North American Roadtrip. In a suitably grotesque 1970s barge, naturally, stick it in drive, engage the cruise control and recline on the red Naugahyde bench seat, admiring the sheer quality of the velour dashboard... Fantastic stuff! I'm not sure I'd have the courage to do it as a sort of Two lane blacktop meets Priscilla, queen of the desert though.

    I wouldn't quite say I put C&W at the top of the list in that there's no one top genre, it's just a reasonable sized part of a multi-faceted music playlist.

    In current mainstream female performers I find the two C&W artists I listen to most are the ones whose CDs happen to be in my car ATM, namely the Be Good Tanyas and the Dixie Chicks. Of which the former are an acquired taste, but quite rewarding.

  12. Dear Jenny, I must share an observation from this side of the pond. To my view, American roots/country music was made legitimate in the late 70's when Nick Lowe encouraged Elvis Costello to record in Nashville.

    All of a sudden, it was cool to love and explore this genre.

    In the same way that The Stones saved blues rock, the post-punk bretheren of your sceptered isle kept real country alive when it really was in deathbed condition here.

    Glad you are loving what you love.

    xoxo - Petra

  13. I had never considered it that way but you have a point. One of the revelations has been in discovering the common root of country and western and British folk music which has in turn evolved itself into part of British popular music. Replace Billy Bragg's Estuary English with a Texan drawl and they really aren't that far apart.

  14. Jenny, I adore the Be Good Tanyas, but I never thought of them as being country artists. I like a lot of artists that I would call Americana or Alt Country or No Depression. More genuine than the polished, cynical stuff that comes out of Nashville. So, maybe the Hurtin' Albertans deserve more slack from me.

    @ Petra -- Glad that Nick Lowe sent Elvis to Nashville, just sad that Nick didn't produce and Billy Sherrill did. A great disservice to Elvis' love of country music.

  15. I think we've been divided by a common language again :)

  16. Me and my American colloquialisms! We'll have to parse out the subgenres some other time and see if we can agree on things.

  17. I'll listen to anything, me. I learned a valuable lesson a couple of decades ago when I saw a rapper called Credit to the Nation live. I was working the event, rap was never my thing. Anyway, his backing track - DAT in those days - failed mid-set. Disaster? Not a bit of it! He just kept on going as if nothing had happened, the crowd never realised anything was wrong and it took all the techs a few seconds to realise it too. I saw a very talented performer that night and I learned never to judge a piece of music by its genre. Hip-hop still isn't my thing, but I'll never not listen to something new in that line just because it's from that end of the spectrum.

    If you do check out the Hurtin' Albertans, please forgive them. They have one song in their repertoire about a pickuptruck.