My Dog Ran Off With My Wife: A Country Music Elegy

I hate country music.  To be fair, I should say that my dislike of the genre is not unqualified, but since the advent of soundbites and their written equivalent (I’m sure there’s a word for it, but I’m not bothering to look it up), anyone with an agenda typically won’t bother to properly contextualize a quote if the abbreviated version better serves their purposes (thus, anyone looking to sully my already-questionable reputation with the country music scene won’t bother quoting me past the first line of the paragraph), and anyone hearing or reading said quote will likely not bother looking for context anyway, so why fucking bother with qualifications.

However, being that I have some time to kill, I’ll qualify that by saying that I detest what I consider to be mainstream contemporary country music.  As far as I’m concerned, the country music scene went to shit about the time that Garth Brooks’ fat ass started flying around onstage like a bald, bloated Peter Pan returning to Neverland after a 20-year bender in the real world, and hasn’t recovered since.  I grew up listening to country music, primarily as a function of my environment, but in that time digested almost everything within the genre, from Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys (although I’m sure some asshole will cleverly point out that this is more properly classified as Western Swing) to The Highwaymen to Brooks and Dunn, and thus, unlike the majority of shit that I rant about, I feel that I can rightfully criticize country music with impunity.

Although I largely abandoned country music in my adolescent years to focus on music that would nurture my stereotypically rebellious cravings and properly piss off my parents, I kept a wayward ear turned towards country until around the time that I stopped listening to the radio altogether, once I began to suspect that either the same song was being played ad nauseum or every song sounded remarkably similar (it would turn out to be a fair bit of both, and to be fair, was true of country, rock, and everything in-between; I could spend an entire rant describing the special place that must surely be  reserved in hell for musical abominations like Linkin Park and the rest of the “nu metal” horseshit).  In the intervening years, as my musical tastes have evolved to embrace increasingly obscure musical acts that continue to properly foster my steadfast and increasingly-pointless rebellious cravings, my only exposure to mainstream country music is through random samplings I’m subjected to when visiting my parents (primarily CMT and its ilk) and various music award shows that I do my damnedest to ignore, but can’t seem to avoid altogether.

Based on this, so far as I can tell, country music has, during the past 10 years or so that I’ve been actively ignoring it, evolved (or devolved, perhaps) into some bland, generic musical primordial ooze that is largely distinguishable from the wasteland of “Pop” music only by the substitution of drum machines, synthesizers and an auto-tune machine for a couple of guitars and some asshole with an appropriately southern drawl in their voice.  To wit, I’m sure that once audio engineers can introduce a proper southern “twang” into the auto-tune algorithm (if it hasn’t been done already), virtually anyone can become a country star, despite the current bar being pretty fucking low.

Despite having never been the most passionate country-music advocate, I did appreciate that it was possessed of its own quite-distinctive musical character that clearly delineated it from its musical brethren, and for the discerning ear, transcended the commonly-levied criticisms that accused it of consisting of little more than simple anthems that exalted drinking, pickup-trucks, trains and “the bitch that left me and took all my shit.”  Although even if it were nothing more than this, at least it was genuine in its celebration of these.  Contemporary country seems to consist of either the same “heartfelt”, whiny bullshit that I can hear on fucking adult contemporary (“Lite FM”) radio or some supposedly clever, tongue-in-cheek (wink, wink) ode to fucking tractors or other redneck staples that at some point became fashionably cute (at the very least, I suppose they still have Toby Keith, who realized around the mid-90’s that the key to his own immortality would be to re-release the same fucking song with slightly different lyrics every other year).

The latest insult to my musical sensibilities came in the form of a buck-toothed, off-key, twenty-something strumpet calling herself Taylor Swift (which smacks of a porn-star name, foremost).  Though the song I endured (I have no recollection of or interest in the name) was (predictably) disagreeable, the accompanying music video was the far worse offense, casting her as some downtrodden generic office drone suffering and lamenting the indignities of a life of quiet desperation that she’ll never have any personal fucking acquaintance with (at least until she washes up in 20 years or so and ends up doing dinner theater shows in fucking Branson),having likely not seen the inside of any vehicle that isn’t a fucking limousine within the past decade.   Being a veteran cubicle-jockey and having suffered the indignities of such for a significant portion of my life, I take umbrage at this video the same way an obese person should be outraged by a fucking idiot, former-model talk-show host who wears a fat-suit around for a week and then weeps about their trials as an overweight person (for the record, fat-suits should only be used for comedic intent and never for personal growth).

Admittedly, I still maintain a somewhat-active interest in the whole Texas Country/Red Dirt (or whatever the fuck it’s called) sub-genre of country music, which seems to be the last bastion of the genre that still retains much of the soul of the original music, while still having its own character, which thankfully (for the most part) maintains a respectful distance from its neutered relative.  Which is why I was particularly outraged when, during my Christmas sojourn to my parents’ house, I bore witness (again, incidentally) to some manner of country music holiday extravaganza featuring all of the ostensibly top-tier country acts, hosted by Clovis the Public Works Commissioner (or whomever the du jour redneck comedian (who’s probably actually from fucking Northumberland) might be), and saw a couple of assholes named Montgomery and Gentry systematically mutilating a song written by a truly great country (although folk/Americana might be a more appropriate classification) artist named Robert Earl Keen.  Though I was initially repelled by the thoroughly disappointing butchering of a classic tune, upon further reflection, I was even more dismayed with the idea that there was likely an entire generation of impressionable neophyte music fans who’s only exposure to the genre was represented by this homogenous collection of American Idol-esque simpletons and who, moreover, might actually walk away from the experience under the mistaken impression that two jackasses, who looked as if they desperately needed to take a shit throughout their entire performance, were in some way responsible for the only song of the evening imbued with any true wit.

And so I pause, ever so briefly, to weep for a future that will likely continue to embrace the downward slide of country music into an unrecognizable miasma of synthetic pop-music, crap-rock and self-parody.   I suppose it’s some small consolation that, in whatever forms it eventually congeals into, it’ll probably still be better than anything from fucking Coldplay.

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  1. JHolley
    March 9th, 2012 at 11:33 | #1

    The thought of a REK song being massacred by two dilholes who thing they’re badasses makes me want to puke all over their sure $900 “cowboy boots.” I’m glad to see him get some notoriety from the in crowd, but not if they’re gonna fuck it up.

    Couldn’t agree more about the downhill slide picking up steam with Garth sailed his fat ass over the tops of the crowd. Not to mention that whole Chris Gaines bullshit.

    I remember a time when songs were written and/or performed by the folks who lived it. Keith Whitley was a drunk, therefore, I believed it when talked about passing out and waking up somewhere strange. David Allen Coe was a redneck degenerate, therefore, I accept his lyrics as the gospel when he talks about kicking hippies asses and Rodrigo stealing that goat. Taylor Swift drifting through a dull, life-sucking corporate existence until she finds love? Never believe it in a million years…

  2. JHolley
    March 9th, 2012 at 11:35 | #2


    …sorry for the typos. I was excited…

  3. March 10th, 2012 at 09:27 | #3

    …and George Strait was a cokehead, which gives him some instant artistic credibility, but like many artists, he was better when he was on the blow.

    Although controversial at the time, I do give Garth Brooks credit for doing a pretty damned respectable cover of Hard Luck Women (only because I was a solid KISS fan until the advent of modern media and reality television made it largely impossible to ignore Gene Simmons’ desperate pleas for attention). But that’s certainly not enough to make up for the sins of the fucking wire-flying or arguably being the progenitor of the whole pop-music “crossover” phenomenon with the atrocity that was Chris Gaines.

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