Thursday, October 14, 2010

How a girl from Papua can relate to country music

Many people, myself included, have marvelled that I love country music. When I exclaim how much I love Brad Paisley's "Ain't Nothing Like" song, Isaac always shakes his head in amazement, because what does this jungle girl really know of carnivals in the Kroger parking lot, catching a fish and having it with hush puppies and sweet iced tea, and watching kids play in the sprinklers?

Nothing, really? I've only just experienced most of these kinds of things in the past couple of years. My life has had very little in it of the quintessentially country Americana that is enshrined in country music.

Why do I love it, then, and why do I feel like I DO relate to it?

I was thinking about that over the last couple of weeks, and I think that while I may not have grown up surrounded by Americana, I did grow up in what is essentially a quirky, sheltered small town atmosphere. Jungle hicks or southern hicks, it doesn't really matter!  I, like so many country singers, love to simulataneously laugh at and treasure the  idiocynracies of the world I grew up in, a world that may or may not exist anymore but the vision of it it seems stable in a life of change. Country music has recently gone on a binge of idealization of simple life and childhood. I suppose that's something that a lot of America and I are going through together - experiencing lots of change and the loss of the stability of our unique small-town childhood.

So I can laugh at just how hick "She thinks my tractor's sexy" is, but the truth is that in my world, "She thinks my Vespa/Yamaha/etc" was hilariously applicable. "No shirt, no shoes, no problem" was practically the motto of my guy friends growing up. And we weren't Tenneseans, but we did lie on river banks and write our names on water tanks, we did learn a lot in Sunday School and a lot of people do say "where I come from" is a backward place.

The Lyric's of Justin Moore's "Small Town USA" could have easily been sung of my home, except for being approximately the opposite side of the world from small town USA...

A lot of people called it prison when I was growin up
But these are my roots and this is what I love
Cause everybody knows me and I know them
And I believe that's the way we were supposed to live..

And except for the cold beer part, Zac Brown's song is entirely familiar:
...a little bit of chicken fried
Cold beer on a Friday night
A pair of jeans that fit just right
And the radio up
Well I`ve seen the sunrise
See the love in my woman`s eyes
Feel the touch of a precious child
And know a mother`s love

The values of small town Americana are similar to the values of the community I grew up in. Family. Working hard. Community. Quiet, life-long romance and being known. So yes, I do cry when I hear Brad Paisley sing "Somebody knows you now" or "Little moments".

So I suppose that's why I relate so strongly to country music without really relating at all to growing up in small-town America. I highly value familiarity and stability, and the small things in life that country music is currently crooning about are very similar to the things that were familiar and stable in my very odd life growing up between worlds overseas.

2 comments:

jenabroad said...

I was resistant to country music for my first two and a half years in Texas. Then I went on a week-long solo roadtrip to the Hill Country and up to the canyons in the Panhandle and knew I needed a soundtrack. And of course the only thing playing on any radio stations in the middle of Texas is country. I thought I'd have to ease my way into it, but I was hooked immediately because I was finally taking the time to listen to the lyrics. I feel in love with the stories - some made me laugh and some made me cry, and they spanned just about every aspect of life. Even back in the city, it's just about all that's on my radio when NPR isn't.

AHLondon said...

Beware of country music while pregnant. Anything with "butterflies" in the lyrics might start the waterworks. Yasha barred me from country music by my second pregnancy.