Monthly Archives: April 2016

Country: Coping with Sadness

Whether it is the song played during the first dance at a wedding or the radio somehow reminding you of a deceased loved one, music has a long history of being intertwined with our deepest emotions. Yet this doesn’t just seem to be the case for the listener, as many artists use stories of their most painful memories as inspiration for their art. There have been many instances where I’ve listened to a song and reflected on how much sorrow is carried within the lyrics. Country music in particular has staked a reputation for generating a great deal of these morose melodies, present both in classic country as well as the current contemporary trend. While this may be true, the question still remains whether such music is simply the result of inspiration though somber events, or some much more personal to the artist.

Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan

In Luke Bryan‘s song “Drink A Beer” from his 2013 album Crash My Party, Bryan tells about losing his best friend, which many assumed to be him referring to his brother who died in 1996, as well as detailing the grieving process he faced afterwards. When asked about the transparency within his music in a Rolling Stone interview, the country singer offered a simple answer, saying that opening up his personal life offered a sense of reliability, especially for those undergoing similar tragedies. Because the loss of both his brother and sister coincided with his progressing country music career, Bryan considered them less as inspiration but rather “completely immersed” within his career. To him, the sadness simply flowed out from who he is as an artist, rather than anything deliberate.

Yet sadness and loss within country music is not just experienced by the listeners. In my favorite country song of all time, “When I Get Where I’m Going,” by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton, this duet talks about the struggle of living in such a broken world, facing many “sins and temptations” and experiencing “pain and darkness.” When asked about this, songwriter Rivers Rutherford answered in an interview that when the statement “Where I get where I’m going” came up, the only thing he could think about was heaven, since he had just lost his grandfather. Because of the this, the whole song was shaped around this idea of loss and redemption. However, the idea wasn’t picked up until Rutherford connected with Paisley, who had just lost a close aunt, and agreed to sing it uncut in it’s entirety. This shows that even during the songwriting process, the mutual feelings of loss connects beyond just the lyrics, as it creates an understanding beyond that which can be explained by words.

It is for this reason that I believe the mutual understanding of personal struggle to be so powerful that it connects individuals, whether in it’s initial development or public broadcasting, on an intimate level that country music has seen great success in utilizing.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music”

-Aldous Huxley


Filed under Blog Post 4

The Fascinating Story Behind “Convoy” and the Secret Trucker Lingo

“Convoy” by C.W. McCall is one of the most interesting songs in all of country music because of its defiant, unique story. It is about a fictional group of truckers that organize a protest over Citizen’s Band (CB) radio using their own made up code words. Although the story in the song is fictional, it is inspired by real protests and the CB radio fad.

CBRadioCB radio was a relatively cheap radio that, unlike amateur radio, could be used by anyone without a license. For these reasons CB radio become incredibly popular in the 1970’s. CB radio caught on the same way social media and online communication does today. People were excited to have a platform that would connect them to strangers all over the nation for practical and personal uses. CB radio was used for everything from small businesses communicating with employees to hobbyists just looking for entertainment.

convoy_trucksTrucker drivers also began to using CB radio to communicate, especially after the United States enforced a nationwide 55 mph speed limit during the oil crisis of 1973. This, among other regulations, angered truckers who then used their CB radios to form convoys. Convoys were groups of truckers that drove together down highways faster than the speed limit because the police couldn’t catch all of them. Convoys would also tell each other where police officers set up speed traps, if there was a roadside emergency, or even block off roads with their trucks in protest. Because police would also listen to the CB radio channels, the trucker drivers developed an elaborate slang including code names called handles to protect their identities. After hearing about this unique dialogue, McCall and songwriter Chip Davis bought a CB radio which inspired them to write “Convoy”. The song is filled with this trucker slang including lyrics like “Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck. You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c’mon?”. If you are curious, you can find a list of the slang online to figure out what the lyrics mean.

“Convoy” topped the country and pop charts and was included in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Country Songs convoy_movieof All Time in 2014. After “Convoy” was released, people became obsessed with CB radio and trucker culture. Millions of people in the United States began buying CB radios to join in on the fun and even created their own handles and slang words. Many other songs and movies about truckers were made including an action-packed, fairly successful movie that was also called “Convoy” and was based off of the song. The movie featured none other than Kris Kristofferson as the lead trucker, Rubber Duck.

In 1979 another oil crisis emerged causing another wave of protests, but this time it became violent. Many truckers went on strike and would use CB radio to threaten those who didn’t. Some of the more extreme truckers would even throw rocks or shoot at the trucks of drivers who were not participating in the strike. This violence lead to the decline in popularity of trucker culture, culminating in the murder of a truck driver in 1983.

Despite its unfortunate ending, the rise of trucker culture was a fascinating trend. “Convoy” was instrumental in creating and recording the history of this fad. Although seemingly light and fun, the song has a captivating story about serious political issues and how technology can unite people all over the country.


Filed under Blog Post 4, Movies and TV

Discovering Classic Country: William Michael Morgan

I was sitting at home the other night, scrolling through the recent releases on iTunes as I tend to do sometimes. I’m not sure whether it’s the fact that I’m in this class or just the fact that country music has been growing on me lately, but I decided to check out what was popular in Country instead of Rap/Hip-Hop like I usually do. Then I stumbled upon William Michael Morgan‘s self-titled “William Michael Morgan – EP”.

William-Michael-Morgan-EPEven just from the album cover, I could tell this was going to be a good old traditional country album. Clean-shaven, cowboy hat on, grainy block letters and a coffee-colored button down. It seems like the only stereotypes missing were a guitar and maybe some sort of alcoholic beverage peeking out somewhere. Either way, this image had me primed for some true country listening.  And that’s exactly what I got.

I was surprised to discover just how nice his voice and music was! His lyrics are thoughtful and his tunes are definitely catchy. If you haven’t heard any of his music yet, I’d recommend what I thought was his catchiest song – “Beer Drinker”.

I love this song! He says, “Let’s give it up for the guys on the clock / who work all week and twist one off / thank a beer drinker.” It’s a catchy song encouraging us to thank all the behind the scenes people in life who make sure we can “flip a switch without a hitch” and who fix things, like keeping “our hot tubs hot and our AC’s cool.” This song sounds about as country as it gets with the acoustic guitar, occasional guitar riffs, piano in the back, steel guitar, and the twang in his voice.

While that song’s great, another one of my favorites off of his EP would definitely have to be his hit “I Met a Girl.” This song is really nice: more uptempo guitar really gets your head bobbin’ to the music. Steel guitar is a little more prominent and helps set the romantic mood in this song. The chorus is as catchy as it gets, but it’s the bridge that comes in about 2 minutes into the song that really caught my ear.

He sings “when you turned around / my whole world got turned upside down / and the only thing that I could say was – hey.” I admit, that first part of the line would be tough without  being in some sort of alternate universe, but the simplicity of him being so enamored with her that all he could say was “hey” was both touching and truly relatable. This song made me think about the first time I met my now fiancé, and so those lyrics really resonated with me. And he’s got some real clever lyrics in this song too – “she don’t need umbrellas in the summer rain / she could catch the eye of a hurricane/ in blue jeans and pearls.”

You can’t just take my word for it though – check out his music and let me know what you think. Maybe I’m just behind and everybody already knows about this guy, but if you haven’t heard of him yet, do yourself a favor and take a listen to the other 4 songs on his EP as well. He talks about romance and cheating, about working hard and drinking beer, about blue jeans and vinyl – it’s got all the elements of a classic country album put together with pleasant vocals and a great, catchy sound. And who knows, if you like him enough, you can catch him live performing in nearby Salado, Texas on April 23rd!


Filed under Blog Post 4, Reviews

My Experiences with Country Music

Note: This is an example of Blog Post 5.

the-little-longhorn-saloonTecate TacoMy friends and I occasionally go to The Little Longhorn Saloon on Sundays for Chicken Shit Bingo, and while that’s a lot of fun, it sometimes becomes hard to watch the band and get your drink order because of the massive amount of tourists that flock there. Nevertheless, when a group of  friends I met at UT from New York and L.A. had friends in town and wanted to do something “Texan,” I had to bring them to The Little Longhorn for “Tecate and Taco Tuesday.” This event is perfect for any college student: $2 Tecate, Free Tacos, $1 Lonestar during happy hour, and free music. While the bar didn’t feature one of their usual old school country bands, they had a blues band, Kevin & the Krawlers, who ended up being a lot of fun to listen to. When we were leaving, the girls from New York told me that they felt like Texas was like an entirely different country. I had done my job.

Another “country” experience I had this semester was watching The Last Waltz (1978) about a week ago. This is one of my Top 10 favorite movies of all time; I’ve probably seen it 50 times and for some reason I own two or three copies of it. It’s a concert documentary about a band named “The Band” and their last concert before they broke up. The Band’s music is a mix of American roots rock: bits of blues, rock and roll, and country all mixed together. It was directed by Martin Scorsese and features many musical guests such as Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, and Eric Clapton among others. This movie was huge for me because it changed my sense of genre in music and I began to appreciate what blues, country, jazz, and rock and roll all have in common.

Lastly, I went to a festival at Cedar Park a couple weeks ago. The setup was a little strange: There was a large amphitheater which hosted some of the artists, while outside there was a dozen food trucks and an outdoor stage for the rest of the artists. I was there with my friends to see three of the artists: Dr. John, Leon Russell, and Asleep at the Wheel. Dr. John’s music is a weird mix of New Orleans voodoo culture with rock and roll and R&B (he is featured in The Last Waltz as a guest). Leon Russell started out as a studio musician and worked alongside Glen Campbell before going solo and making his own rock and roll mixed with a gospel style performance.

Asleep at the Wheel is probably the most country band that was at this show. They’ve been active in various lineups since the 1970’s and have won 9 Grammys. They mainly play Western Swing and Texas Country and commonly feature electric guitar, drums, bass, piano, multiple fiddles, horns, and mandolin. I think they’re a great band to go see live because its great dance music, they’re all incredibly good musicians, and it’s a good look into the past at what Texas country music used to be. They have nostalgic value to me because my parents always played their records when I was growing up. I’ve been able to see them quite a few times while living in Austin and they were nice enough to talk to my friends and I after the last few shows of theirs that we’ve gone to. They’ll be playing April 23rd for Austin’s Earth Day Festival as well as a couple shows at Gruene Hall in mid-May.


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5

Leaving My Country Comfort Zone

I’m a firm believer that being totally immersed in something unfamiliar and uncomfortable to you is a unique and necessary experience. When I signed up for this class, I didn’t know that it would be one of those experiences because I was completely unaware of how much I didn’t know about country music. I realized this on day one of class, but instead of feeling unprepared and panicking like I normally do when I understand how screwed I am for a class, I felt really good about where I was. If you come in knowing nothing, you have so much to learn, and for the first time in a college classroom, I felt like the purpose of the course was for me to learn and grow instead of produce—work, projects, grades, etc.

Maybe knowledge of the country music industry isn’t vital to my understanding of the real world, or maybe it is. I think learning all that you can about a different culture changes who you are before you did so, all for the better. Before I understood the depth and history of the country music industry, I had little appreciation for it, but now I can say that I can understand the decades of emotion, passion, and effort that are a part of this genre.

Well, as they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” so I went and did some cool stuff to really “immerse” myself in the country music culture!

  1. Texas Two-Step Throwdown ft. Luke Pell

The “Texas Wrangler Mavericks” a.k.a. Wranglers, a men’s organization on campus, had a two-stepping event at Ironwood Hall downtown featuring the local country artist Luke Pell. While I did go for the two-stepping, I stayed for the music. As it usually goes with college boys, no one was really brave enough to ask girls to dance (or at least when I got there they weren’t asking girls to dance), so I was inclined to leave, but I figured I would give Luke a chance and I’m glad I did! If you haven’t heard of him, check him out—he is your typical traditional country boy.

  1. Coupland Dance Hall via BYX ft. Terry Lee Hughes and the Debonaires

    Me n Gabe. Gabe n me.

    Me n Gabe. Gabe n me.

My friend Gabe took me to his BYX date event at the Coupland Dance Hall a month or two ago and it was so much fun! Coupland is the saloon style venue that you picture in your mind when you think of country dancing. In Coupland, Texas, driving to the dance hall feels like starring in a horror film (there is even a myth that it’s haunted); the dirt road is empty and there are no street lights. Then, you ride up a hill and on the other side of it is the Dance Hall. The funniest part of this place is that there is a painting of a young naked woman above the bar and the manager, an old gray-haired woman, will openly admit to you that the painting is of her! I highly recommend Coupland Dance Hall and the Debonaires (who only covered songs, but they rocked it! My favorite/most accurate covers they did were Josh Abbott Band).

  1. Steve Moakler concert

    I could've posted a better picture of the set list I stole, but this was taken in an excited stupor and I thought it was funny that I couldn't even get the names of the songs in it.

    I could’ve posted a better picture of the set list I stole, but this was taken in an excited stupor and I thought it was funny that I couldn’t even get the names of the songs in it.

I wrote about Steve Moakler earlier in the semester because he is one of my favorite singer-songwriters gone Country. The concert was at none other than Stubb’s Barbecue. Sweet Steve raked in approximately 30 people, most of whom were middle-aged couples, whereas in his hometown of Pittsburgh, he sold out a show at the Rex Theater. My roommate and I were giggling to ourselves the whole time because all of the sudden this Pittsburgh native had a country accent that he incorporated not only into his add-lib, but even his songs (pre-country phase). Steve is always a good time, though. It was probably one of my favorite concerts solely because I could stand with a lot of space around me, only 10 feet from the band, and listen to the music without being shoved or hear people screaming the lyrics so loud you can’t even hear the artist. 10/10 would recommend smaller artists like Steve Moakler before they get big! (and Stubb’s BBQ of course)


I thoroughly enjoyed being brought out of my comfort zone by this class in order to gain an understanding of something that is loved by so many people and I believe that to fully understand another person, you have to understand what they like/dislike and why. It’s kind of like a more fun version of sociology–you get the point.

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Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5, Concert, Dancing, Lists, Live Music