I want to make something clear before I start writing this article. I am from Lynchburg, Virginia, which is a medium-sized, middle class town in the central, piedmont region of the state. Here, country music is a moderately big deal and has an average to below average following; a stark contrast to the rest of Virginia, and what I describe as the “wanna-be south.” This is why I believe that while I was growing up, country music was something that I would tolerate always, and celebrate occasionally.
In good ol’ Lburg, there are probably two country radio stations, a classic/new alternative rock station, a national public radio station, and two new poppy “kissy” FM stations that play Christina Aguilera and Nickelback and cause an of average 3 or 4 suicides a year. There are others, but they come and go, so who really cares. In the grand scheme of things, country music is what I would describe as tepidly popular, but not annoying or over the top.
In January of this year I moved to Austin, Texas, after living for a year with my buddies from college in Northern Virginia (which is an entirely different article altogether). Now, Austin, as a whole, is an incredible city. Smack dab in the middle of the most republican, close-minded, redneck state in the union, is the liberal oasis that I now call home (rarely do I venture north, south, east, or west, unless I’m on a plane). There are a ton of bars, lots of live music, a dozen golf courses and countless outdoor activities within a half hour. The weather is gorgeous 11 months of the year and perfect for a lot of the things that I like to do. I have enjoyed the 8 months that I have lived here so far, and I can reasonably say that I will be here at least for a few more years.
The music and the bands that frequent the bars downtown and in the greater Austin area, is/are typically of a rock and roll genre, with hints of wherever that particular band is from. There is also a lot of progressive, folk, foreign, and other genres which I respectfully refer to as “look at me I’m a hippie and I listen to this,” music. I listen to a station in Austin that includes all of these, and I consider it to be the best station I have listened to. Ergo, the music here is good (another disclaimer of sorts).
There is however a genre of music that I have been exposed to here and, with conviction, I can say it is the most annoying music of all. The “music” that I’m referring to is, you guessed it (or probably you didn’t), TEXAS COUNTRY.
My first reaction to this garbage was “why does it have to be Texas Country?” Everywhere else in the United States, just “country” is good enough. What if I was talking to someone and they asked me what my favorite music was and I said, “Well I enjoy jazz, but my real passion is Connecticut Country.” Come on, that shit just sounds ridiculous. Well, it’s not ridiculous in Texas.
The bands for the most part are from Texas, tour Texas (because it’s fuckin big enough), sing about Texas, and talk about Texas at their shows. They may also venture into Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, but rarely. They have tour buses, they have roadies and crews, they have all the same shit normal bands do. But they aren’t typical country music artists. They’re confusing because they dress like Tommy Lee and Dave Navarro, wearing their sandblasted jeans from Express for men and their gothic full fronted graphic tees from Hot Topic. A mix between Gavin Rossdale or Scott Stap and Toby Keith would be an appropriate description of the typical Texas country artist. They are distinctly reminiscent of what we used to call “posers” in middle school.
Now, we all know that country music, while wildly popular in many areas, can be a little simple. Such themes as “drinking down by the river,” “riding shotgun,” and “her daddy on the porch with a shotgun,” are popular. Also, metaphors like “as dry and warm as the Texas plains,” “deeper than the holler” (which I think is redneck for hollow, but who can tell), and “my windshields cracked, just like my heart” are mainstays. It’s more of the same with Texas country, but the difference is that’s all there really is. Just those types of lyrics, every song, all the time. Here’s a good example. This is a song by Wade Bowen, from Who the Hell Cares, Texas, near Lubbock. It’s called “God Bless this Town:”
You just thought that you knew about rumors man
But you ain’t ever lived in my town
And it’s still goin down
What’s his name’s runnin’ around with Mary
Hell last I heard he’s already been married 3 times
I would estimate that 30% of Texas Country songs are about small towns just like the one so eloquently described here. Painful.
There is a place in Texas call Gruene, pronounced like the color green. Here, every weekend during the summer, throngs of people come to tube the Guadalupe River. This is an activity where you pay a company cash (no credit cards) to give you the inner tube of a semi tractor trailer tire, haul you down a rickety road in a bus that failed inspection in 1979, and dump you off at a spot on the river. You can take a cooler with beer, which may be the only saving grace of this bullshit of a Saturday. Then you get in the river, and you float on your tube, among a bunch of drunk people giving themselves alcohol poisoning and dehydrating in the 107 degree Texas sun. And what, you ask, is blaring from every damn boombox on the river? Texas Country. This is just one of several activities that are complimented by this shitty music.
Do not, I repeat do not, take a song that I have listened to and enjoyed my whole life, by an artist who is 50 times more successful than you, add some steel guitar and some idiot wearing a bandana, and play it on your tour. An example is “Into the Mystic,” by Van Morrison, covered by Stoney Larue. Do yourself a favor and DON’T check it out.
In closing I want to say, as I said before, I used to tolerate and even enjoy country music. There are some good songs, and some bad songs, some good and bad artists. But I will pretty much listen to anything. I think that my issue with Texas Country is the arrogance involved in it. Some people really think that this is the best music available. And there are a lot of people like that living right here in Austin. Now I can’t even listen to regular country music, which is the point of the article, and I’m bitter. If I hear one more person say, “I’ll listen to anything, as long as it’s Texas Country, and as long as it’s loud!” I am just going to snap.