Saturday, August 26, 2006

Whose Country Is This?

Country Music that is. I have been catching up on my blog reading and today could be thought of a letter to Raven, a New Yorker who well defends his liking of country music, particularly last week the Dixie Chicks. It got me too thinking about the types of music I like.

Just a little background: I blog about my life in terms of my sexuality but the other river running deep – and strangely connected to the sexuality – is my love of music. I have succumbed to iTunes and let’s just say the collection is measured in five digits now. Thirty-eight years of collecting adds up.

Music has become a very real part of my journey this past year. Carrie points out that since my Father’s Day present of an iPod fourteen months ago, things have not been the same. She believes that the music freed my soul and in a very real way liberated my gay side. She is right as usual, but I digress.

One of the songs that sent me reeling this winter was a Mary Chapin Carpenter song: Jubilee.
And I can tell by the way you're searching

For something you can't even name
That you haven't been able to come to the table
Simply glad that you came

Ian turned me onto this song. The thing is that iTunes (yes, I bought the song) assigns songs a genre and this one is Country. If they had called this folk-rock, it would have been just as accurate to me.

Another song on the journey was I Will Always Love You. Now Whitney Houston did not become rich recording country music – middle of the road pop all the way for her. The thing is that it was a good song that Whitney did, but when I discovered the Dolly original version, I was floored, I was moved, I cried – often.
If I should stay

Well, I would only be in your way
And so I'll go, and yet I know
That I'll think of you each step of my way

The song a wife might sing to a gay husband on her way out the door. Countless listenings later, I have been a bit desensitized though this weekend when a disappointing cover came on (Melissa Etheridge) the person I was with did sense there was more to this for me. A country song yes – but known to most of the universe for the pop version.

Then I think back to my Grateful Dead days – not exactly a country band. But they did a wonderful version of Marty Robbin’s – a country/ cowboy icon – El Paso. Hell, they did a whole album an eon ago – Workingman’s Dead with a whole country feel.

Marty Robbin’s takes me to his song Big Iron done by Steve Goodman – the late folk singer who gave us City of New Orleans. I own the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band doing Will The Circle Be Unbroken with a who’s who of country artists and also doing Mr. Bojangles with David Bromberg – as true a folk artist as you can find.

iTunes thinks that Iris Dement is a Folk artist and while possibly true for Wasteland of The Free – a prophetic protest song, there remains When My Morning Comes Around, country as can be.

And getting back to the Dixie Chicks, Not Ready To Make Nice may be favorite folk-rock protest song since Iris Dement a decade ago.

My most recent favorite artist is a Texas folk singer named Slaid Cleave. The thing is that Lydia – a song about a coal mining family – and Breakfast In Hell – logging in Ontario –are real close to country from my perspective.

I could go on but the point is simple. Mark –do not apologize for being a New Yorker listening to country. We have spent as a group way too much time realizing the difficulties of pigeon holing our sexual orientations with “proper” labeling. Let’s not drag the music down to the same level. Country, folk, folk-rock, traditional – the tent is mighty big and confusing. And that is the joy.

Next post, back to the usual whining, but it does feel good to talk about something else so dear to my heart for a change.


Flip said...

Lyle Lovett

Cowboy Junkies

Country? I don't know. Just listen.


Paul said...

In most markets, the number one rated radio station is most likely a country station. (Of course, I know that you probably already know that.)

I heard another great song last week. I can't stop listening to it. Thanks to Marc, a blogger friend that died just this last week, I was introduced to Spoon. Not country, but an "Austin" group. Their song, I Summon You is currently at the top of my iTunes play list.

It's worth a play!

bear said...

I like the post. Feel free to talk about whatever's on your mind. I think everyone has a connection to music, we all love music. Interesting mention, that music helped bring out your gayness. (Digress please!) :)

Brad said...

"Will the Circle be Unbroken" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is still an album that I listen to.

Raven in NYC (aka Mark) said...

I certainly make no apologies at all. My one frustration is that while, as paul mentioned, the country station in most markets is the #1 station, but new york doesn't have one. I think my pull to country music is that modern country music currently is holding the the roots of rock music. Current rock music is evolving and dissecting, and while I have a lot of it on my eye pod, when I want something straight forward it's often country music that fits the bill.

Then again like other areas of my life I'm open to anything musically speaking. My ipod is a united nations of music. Pop- yup. Country - Yup. Hardcore rap - Yup. Classic R&B - Yup. Current R&B - Yup. Opera- Yup. Classic Jazz - Yup. Modern Jazz - Yup. Heck I think I might even have a polka on there somewhere (but that's the heritage talking too).