This is good. It’s a year long exploration into Country music as written by the AV Club’s main hip-hop writer. Today’s installment is about my pretend grandad Willie Nelson’s concept albums. Next week his collaborations. I am about to read the articles about Johnny Cash. I am very, very happy about this series.
Country music and I have a weird relationship. I used to HATE it. A lot. It was all my dad would listen to in the car. He also refused to ever turn on the AC (it cuts down on gas mileage) no matter how hot it was or how much Nebraska smelled like cow/sheep/pig manure. The two things may have influenced each other. I remember he would turn on WWWW, the radio station he liked, all W’s, genius, and blare out whatever twangy hits they were playing and I would just cringe in the back seat and want to die. It was just too embarrassing, being carted around town with all the redneck hits pouring out the open windows of his Escort. When I started driving he stuck a W4 sticker on my first car and I spent ages scraping it off to avoid the shame of being seen with such a travesty on my car in the school parking lot.
But when I moved to Detroit something changed (I know, Detroit is not where you go to learn about country music, Detroit is where you go to learn about techno or old r&b, what can I say, I’m backwards.) At the end of the night at the Garden Bowl they would always play Patsy Cline as the signal that it was time for people to get out. This triggered memories of a little girl at my elementary school dressed as a cowgirl and singing an admirable version of Crazy at the talent show one year, and of my dad being excited when the Patsy Cline biopic came to the movie theater where he worked as a projectionist, and also (deep down in some drunk corner of my mind) of the drowsy feeling of being on vacation in an overwarm car with my parents murmering to each other in the front seat, my brother passed out next to me, and a book in my hand as I watched the landscape along the Pennsylvania turnpike pass by. This memory was not bad.
So I started paying better attention. I realized I actually really like Patsy and Johnny (there was a picture of him (a very famous picture I now know) flipping a crowd the bird behind the bar) and on the ride to get my sad Shakespearean inspired tattoo my friend Renee plunked a Freakwater tape into the car and started putting the song Hero/Heroine on repeat and I was converted. From that moment I started listening to the stupidly titled Americana (just call it Country, jerks.) and then slowly began branching back into the old world of the Escort. Until I reached the point of no return and started devoting a goodly portion of my IPod to C&W of all forms.
As a kid I used to say I liked all music except Country and Rap. I now realize that I was an idiot on both counts and I’m glad I figured it out. Because, shit, otherwise I would miss out on the awesomeness of a morning commute into work soundtracked by a shuffle setting that brings me Sleater Kinney singing I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone then Willie Nelson with Good Times followed by Kanye West with All Falls Down. It’s all right.