I’ve always been resistant to country music. Maybe it’s because today’s country artists are pretty much the living worst? For an extremely accurate representation of the modern bastardisation of the genre, I direct you to Bo Burnham’s absolute banger ‘Country Song’ (linked below). He sums it up better than I ever could as a “bunch of millionaire metrosexuals who’ve never done a hard day’s work in their life” who “list the same words and phrases off sort of mad lib style in every song, raking in millions of dollars from ACTUAL working-class people!” You know the drill: beer, horses, trucks and blue jeans. As Burnham points out though, this does a massive disservice to a genre that used to be a gold mine of honest, authentic portrayals of everyday struggles – rocky relationships, homesickness, the endless daily grind. In fact, there are loads of old school artists who began their careers with a country/folk-y/blues-y style and went on to straddle genres, defining each as they went (think Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, hell even The Rolling Stones’ first album was totally Blues).
But the absolute, widely accepted Queen of Country was and still is Dolly Parton. It was Dolly who inspired my old school country music education of late. She was my ticket into a genre which I didn’t realise was actually riddled with certified BANGERS in every era (probably up until about the 2000s if we’re being honest with ourselves). Dolly has had one of the most prolific, badass careers of any musician ever. She has been a song-writing legend for a looong time now (seriously look up list of songs written by Dolly Parton, it will shock you how many huge tracks recorded by other artists she’s written or co-written). She’s also just the coolest individual, doing charity work left and right, summing up life with pithy phrases and she has no qualms challenging the music industry and its sometimes-inexplicable standards. Perhaps down to her genuine rags-to-riches life story, she’s always had her feet firmly on the ground and as such has garnered huge respect from pretty much everyone who encounters her. For some reason the video below of Dolly playing her fake nails with Patti LaBelle epitomises this to me.
Needless to say, you’ll be hearing a lot from me about country music because once you tap in, it’s impossible to get out. There’s something so real about it that a lot of other music starts sounding very hollow. It changes you, bro, it changes you.
Today, I’m gonna be gushing over probably the best collab album I’ve discovered of all time. ‘Trio’, a collab between Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt (three paragons of country), the album consists of some of the best written songs with such emotion you may even find tears in your eyes. The imagery makes you feel like you’re in the bed of a pickup truck surrounded by stunning Southern scenery with flowers in your braids. And the HARMONIES are just unbeatable, three powerful, pure voices that blend together like frickin’ milk and honey. Maybe it’s the stereotype of the country-singing cowboy but there’s something about hearing women’s voices in country that makes you feel like you’re listening to the sirens of the south, with deep, complex stories about rural life and how it shapes you.
I’m not even gonna name highlights cause the WHOLE thing is a highlight, like every single song is just breath-taking. Even if you’re not a country fan I urge you to give this a listen, you may even end up a newly initiated country-head like me you never know. It’s also mandatory to look up these three singing live. It reminds you how amazing it is to witness ultra-talented musicians making sweet sounds with just a guitar and a stool (and how not-amazing it is to see untalented musicians hiding behind backing tracks and autotune). In today’s world of outsourcing song-writing and having an entourage army who construct your image down to the eyebrows, we must remember that all that shit is unnecessary when it comes to making music from the heart – pure and unadulterated. If you want to hear raw emotion, listen to these three (both together and separately).
It’s crazy when you dig into the past and realise that even your fav and like so original current artists have nicked and remoulded the sounds of yesteryear. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and I would say it’s a necessary, sometimes moving, part of art in general. Buuuut, every so often you realise that artists in the mainstream have just full-on ripped off older music and made it 100x worse. SO, it is always worth going back to the gals and guys whose sound is the bedrock of everything we’ve been jamming to since. That’s my aim at the moment, I’m in a period of old school education and I’m absolutely loving it – not least because when I listen to it, I feel like I’m the lead in an old movie (escapism anyone?). What I’m saying is, expect some dad music reaching your screens cause that’s all this lady is listening to right now and you WILL enjoy it so help me God.
Big country lovin’,
Featured image source: https://www.rhino.com/product/farther-along-2lp