Like most kids since the mid-50s, I grew up listening to rock n’ roll. I liked it all. Whether it was quintessentially 80s bands like Duran Duran or the classic rock of Credence Clearwater Revival, I listened to it. And I still do. Some of it, anyway.
Truth is, I like a broad range of music: I listen to classical when I’m writing; rock when I’m exercising; jazz, blues, or crooners are all perfect for a nice evening dinner; and now, in middle age, country music.
I grew-up hating country music. My father liked Hank Williams (senior, not junior), Ernest Tubbs, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, the Statler Brothers and others from that era. The oldies. Real classic country. I was subjected to a lot of it. Yes, for him The Beatles were crap fit only for hippies and draft-dodgers.
In a twist of irony that would amuse my father, I have, for a variety of reasons, come to appreciate country music. Where rock n’ roll generally has two themes—sex and drugs—country music, while having no shortage of songs on those subjects, has greater breadth, addressing more of life and its complexities. Simply put, rock lacks depth. Don’t be fooled by the twang and often (deliberately) poor grammar of country music, this genre has intelligence. (Such is also the case with blues and jazz music.)
Furthermore, country music doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is self-aware, unashamedly embracing the stereotypes associated with it. Songs like Alan Jackson’s “It’s Alright to be a Redneck” or David Allan Coe’s “You Never Called Me by My Name” or Ray Stevens’s “Mississippi Squirrel” or Jerry Reed’s “The Bird” or Mac Davis’s “It’s Hard to be Humble” or George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s “Got Something to Brag About” or Toby Keith’s “How Do You Like Me Now?” or, my favorite, Bobby Bare’s “The Winner” are good humored to any but the utterly humorless.
But the primary reason I have come to like country music is this—as a rule, it doesn’t assault my values. There are, of course, exceptions, but this genre, more than any other, is infused with explicitly Christian themes—sin, grace, redemption are all common topics. Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train” and Johnny Cash’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and Sawyer Brown’s “Mission Temple Firework Stand” and Brad Paisley’s “When I get Where I’m Going” and Elvis’s “Peace in the Valley” and Keith Urban’s “But for the Grace of God” and Scott McCreery’s “That Old King James” and Randy Travis’s “Three Wooden Crosses” are all Christian without feeling contrived. I could add to this list a hundred more.
You feel like the writers of these songs are your neighbors, that is, people who live in your world and share your experiences and outlook on life.
Beyoncé? Not so much.