1980s country music titan Alabama was singing the praises of essential workers before it was cool.
Whelp, we just had our first country music COVID-19-related fatality. Joe Diffie, 61, died yesterday of complications related to COVID-19. (And John Prine is in the hospital in critical condition. Ugh.) People who don’t know who Joe Diffie is (what kind of asshole brags about not knowing who someone is, let alone after they die?) missed an artist who kind of epitomized 90s country.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but given recent news involving Sam Hunt and Kylie Rae Harris, this is your reminder that if you drink, don’t drive: do the watermelon crawl (or engage in some other activity that is not driving a motor vehicle).
The American calendar is full of opportunities to express your patriotism and/or buy a mattress: Flag Day, Lee-Jackson Day, Patriot’s Day, Purple Heart Day, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (part of Constitution Week), National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Gold Star Mother’s Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Bill of Rights Day Veterans Day, Memorial Day . . . but the granddaddy of them all is Independence Day. Our forebears risked life and limb to fight for our freedoms; on Independence Day we risk life and limb to shoot explosives into the air to make pretty night-flowers. We celebrate in time-honored ways: going to the lake, grilling out, beer drinking, lawnmower races. . .
We used Forever and Ever, Amen for our first dance at our wedding. The music video suggests it wasn’t a terribly original choice. I don’t mind. I love this song. And the music video also suggests it was thematically appropriate given the venue for the ceremony.
Jason Aldean will be named artist of the decade at the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 7. It is hard to get excited about the announcement. Not because there are better options out there, but because there . . . really aren’t. Alabama or George Strait he ain’t, but who else deserves the award? Aldean may have played a role in hick hop and bro-country going mainstream. But I wouldn’t blame him here for spawning imitators any more than I would blame Tolkien over at the other site for spawning imitators.
While I was in Texas over Christmas I caught the recording of Garth’s live show in South Bend. Garth Brooks is, if anything, a showman. What a lot of people don’t know is that he crafted his early shows by mimicking Chris LeDoux. Not many artists could get away with it, but Garth shares an enormous stage presence and magnetism with LeDoux. It was a symbiotic relationship—Garth helped propel LeDoux’s career past the rodeo circuit.
I’ve never seen Garth in concert. But I did get to see LeDoux in concert before his untimely death, and it was everything a country music fan could ask for.
I took way too long to finish Ozark season 2. When I did finish the last three episodes in a rush, I was rewarded with three killer episodes. Including one featuring one of the all-time great songs in country music history.
One of my favorite lines from the great movie The Blues Brothers is when Elwood Blues asks the proprietor of a honky tonk “What kind of music do you usually have here?” She responds, “Oh, we got both kinds—we got country and Western.” It provided the grist for my favorite Baptist joke: I grew up going to a church with both kinds of preaching—hellfire and damnation. But have you ever wondered what the heck is “Western”?
Dwight Yoakam is Western. Western is cowboy music, but it is more than that. It was shaped by the cattle towns and the open range, but its roots are deeper. Like old-time, its roots are in Appalachia and England and Scotland before that. The same hillbillies who took their music with them when they settled in Oklahoma would take it with them when they moved again to the interior of California. The Bakersfield Sound developed as an alternative to the overproduced pablum coming out of Nashville (then, as now). Its most successful products were Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Dwight Yoakam would pick up that mantle twenty years later.
I promoted J.P. Harris instead of Eric Church a week and a half ago, but I don’t want Church’s good work in the mainstream to go unrecognized. I like to poke fun, but he makes music as good as anyone in mainstream country today (a low bar, to be sure).