“If you aint crying or fallin’ in love
then you ain’t heard the good stuff…
and it ain’t country enough!”
When Daddy Let Me Drive
My first exposure to Country music was when Brent Lamb performed in our little town. I loved the sound, but even more, I loved the stories in his songs. I have fond childhood memories of cutting firewood with Daddy, while Brent Lamb’s tapes blared from the open pickup window. And sometimes Daddy even let me drive.
Fast forward a few years. I was the most untypical teenager in my circle of friends. I didn’t like rock music—in fact, it gave me a headache. Then a good friend sent me a Paul Overstreet tape. I played it over and over again. The sound took me back to my childhood, and once again, I loved the stories.
I was standing in the middle of the same friend’s kitchen when I heard my first “current” hit Country song the next year. By the end of “Don’t Take the Girl” I was crying. I was also hooked on Country Music.
The Good Stuff
I’ve heard the joke more times than I can remember: if you play Country music backwards you’ll get your dog, your job, and your wife back. But when I began listening to Country music, I wondered where the joke came from. Maybe that was the Country music of the 1980 and 90’s, but the Country I heard told true stories about life and love. In Country music, I found “The Good Stuff.”
As Sammy Kershaw told Country Standard Time, “You don’t find that anywhere else, in other types of music. In country music, we’re telling down to earth stories that everybody’s lived before.”
Three Chords and the Truth
“Country music is three chords and the truth,” said song writer Harlan Howard. But that truth comes in different varieties. I’ve found Country music falls into three different “chords”—plus a fourth off-key category. There are chords of songs about my country, songs about my family, songs about my love, and then a few bad songs that are off the key of what Country is all about.
Love of Country
There’s no other genre of music more patriotic than Country, and no group of fans more hometown proud. The Dixie Chicks found that out the hard way when they dissed the President and virtually disappeared from Country charts. Tune the radio to a Country station on any patriotic holiday and you’re guaranteed to hear the best of patriotic music—all Country. From “Have You Forgotten?” to “God Bless the USA,” Country music has every song about this grand ol’ land “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly.”
Not only are Country fans proud to be “Born Country,” but they are proud to say that “Where I Come From” is “Down Home” on that “Red Dirt Road.” It’s all about pride in “My Town.”
My city friends tell me that there should be a subcategory they call Suburban Country. Since I’ve never been “Walking in Memphis” as a “Celebrity” I wouldn’t know. The same friends refer to a category called Redneck Country. Maybe so, but I prefer “Redneck Girl” instead of “Redneck Woman,” thanks. Whether “suburban” and Country can be mixed or not, I do know this, with a shotgun, a rifle, and a four-wheel drive, “A Country Boy Can Survive.”
Country Family Fun
When the crops are in and “My List” for the day is done, Country folk are all about fun. Whether it’s the “Watermelon Crawl” or a “Tennessee River Run,” there’s a Country song about it. And nine times out of ten, it’s all about family. There may be a few too many Country songs about drinking, but the rest help us get our priorities straight. The “Busy Man” remembers to slow down and “Spend My Time” to listen to his daughter’s questions in “Help Pour Out the Rain.” And from “Mr. Mom” to “The Woman With You” it’s really all about “My Front Porch Looking In.”
Country music has its roots in “The Family Bible and The Farmer’s Almanac.” Nearly every Country artist has recorded a hymn or two—and some like Brad Paisley release a hymn on every CD. Read inside their CD covers, and they give God the glory. Listen to “Long Black Train” and “Three Wooden Crosses” and you’ll realize that Country artists look forward to seeing “The Streets of Heaven.” Country’s lyrics of pain and tears are laced with faith and hope. And the songs of love and joy say “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
As Country legend Waylon Jennings said, “Country is the only music I know that seems to have no age boundaries. You look out at the audience, whether it’s a boot-heel saloon or state fair and there’s everything from babies to grandparents, with a lot of wild folk in between. They appreciate that you don’t have to be of any one generation to know love, loss, fireworks and playing with fire and that we all need to share a good time now and again.”
Sadly, it’s not all “The Good Stuff.” There are still “Flies on the Butter.” There are some Country songs I find annoying or just plain don’t like, such as “Men Don’t Change” (they do too!) and “Girls Lie Too.” Then there are the handful of truly bad songs that make me change the station—“Stays in Mexico” and the “Song About Best Friends” are definite flies on the butter. I’ll never forgive Gretchen Wilson for having my name “Here for the Party,” but thankfully “off-key” songs like hers are the exception, not the rule, of Country music.
Whether “I Wanna Fall in Love” or “Tryin’ to Get Over You,” Country music is all about “Forever Love.” It’s the largest and most popular chord of Country music—songs about love. Some use Country music when it’s “Complicated” to send secret messages of love and listen for the “Me Too.” Others turn on Country radio to drown out the pain of lost love. Hopeless romantics turn to Country to be reminded of the beauty of the love that they are “One Day Closer” to finding, asking “How Do I Get There from Here?” And the rest listen to Country because they want to keep the romance in their love “From Here to Eternity.”
When guys need help romancing their girl, they can take tips from “Buy Me a Rose” and “I Can Love You Like That.” Maybe “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” but you better “Tell Her.” Of course, girls need to remember that he’s “A Work in Progress” so just be thankful for those “Working Man’s Hands” that “Know How to Love You Well.” Remember what it was like when yours was “Young Love” like “She’s in Love with the Boy.” In Country, from “One Boy One Girl” to “When I Said I Do,” the girls still believe that he can “Rope the Moon” even “When You Say Nothing at All.”
As an innocent teen girl, I made a subcategory for Country love songs called Married People’s Country. The rule in Country music is that you always assume the couple in the song is married. Obviously, you wouldn’t go “Fishin’ in the Dark” without a wedding ring! So when they sing “It’s Your Love” and “Good Morning Beautiful” he’s first given her “My Last Name.”
Not only is Country music the best at expressing love, but it often gives more glory to God than even Christian love songs do. When I listen to some CCM that’s “All About Love” I spend the entire time thinking how much better Country music is—plus it has a great story line! When “The Maker Said Take Her” the boy puts a ring on the finger he’s “Wrapped Around.” So as my Country music plays, “I Tip My Hat to the Keeper of the Stars” because “Heaven Sent Me You.”
It may not always seem like “Just Another Day in Paradise,” but Country music reminds us that through it all, “Love Remains.”
If you don’t like Country’s twang, change the station. Those three chords and the truth are what Country’s all about. Vince Gill recalls of one single, “Then people were like, ‘I don’t know about this; it’s a little too country.’ I’m trying to make sense of that. Can you imagine telling the Rolling Stones, ‘Don’t play that—it rocks too hard’?” If you like a rock beat, Country music has a few crossover artists who maintain their “Country” status by little more than the cowboy hat on their head. But that’s not real Country. As George Strait sings, “When you hear twin fiddles and a steel guitar, you’re listening to the sound of the American heart.”
“Nothin’ On But the Radio”
If you only listen to the radio, you won’t get an accurate picture of Country music. Don’t judge Country music by the ditzy DJ whose voice kept her from becoming a star, or even by the female Country singer who forgot what smoking would do to her vocal chords. On this week’s Top 20 List I can pick out several songs I don’t like, but many of the rest number among my favorites. I may have to turn to the Oldies station when my grandkids ask my husband, “Grandpa, Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days.” But I’ll tell them “What a Day Yesterday Was.” Because as Country singer Marty Stuart said, “The truth of country music, the real stuff, will prevail…generation after generation.”
The Good Stuff
“In life, the pickup does break down, couples break up, loved ones die, and money runs low,” says my suburban Country friend Melinda Lavorante. “However, in life, people also fall in love that lasts forever, have children that they are proud to raise, and go to church and learn about Jesus. Country music presents many angles to life in a very heartfelt, authentic way. And it presents beauty and truth far more often than most any popular music.”
Country music reminds me of my priorities—and how much my man loves me, even if he doesn’t always say it. Country music champions hard work, faith, and true love. Country music is music of merit. So that’s why I sing with Jeff Bates, “If you ‘aint crying or fallin’ in love then you ain’t heard the good stuff…and it ain’t country enough!”