Author Archives: Brent Borman

Country Music in Video Games

Before I took this class, most of the country music I had encountered had been at rodeos or the radio.   These mediums traditionally play a specific type of country music, so I never really considered myself a fan based off of what I heard. This changed, however, once I was introduced to Hank Williams’ music. His music was simple, somewhat folk-sounding, and placed a lot of importance on story telling. His music was completely refreshing for me and I was instantly hooked on country music. Ironically, I was introduced to Hank Williams through a video game, something that did not even exist during Hank Williams’ time.

TheLastOfUsThe aforementioned game was my brother’s (seriously) copy of The Last of Us, a 2013 game about the zombie apocalypse. It is a beautiful, cinematic game that follows two characters, a hardened survivor and a little girl, as they struggle to survive the end of society. It definitely picked up on the zombie trend of the last couple years and appeals to a younger gamer audience. In fact, The Last of Us has sold over 7 million copies since its release a year ago.

I have included a video of one of the scenes that features Hank Williams. In this scene, protagonists Ellie and Joel playfully banter during one of their few peaceful moments. After a few moments they pop a Hank Williams tape into the cassette player and Hank Williams’ song “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” begins to play. Joel comments that the tape is a “good one” and Ellie hopelessly remarks that it is better than nothing. Joel (the older survivor) appreciates the tape, while Ellie says that it is better than nothing.

Note:  this video has some colorful language and themes, only watch if you can handle such material.

To me, this was a very telling moment for both characters, as well as Hank Williams’ music. His music is instantly recognizable to the older survivor, while sounding obnoxious and revolting to the younger girl. I believe the same goes for real life, as mature audiences will appreciate the timelessness of old country music while younger audiences will instantly dismiss the music as sounding hillbilly. In a heart-warming change of taste, however, Ellie declares that “this isn’t that bad”.

I feel like Ellie and Joel’s exchange has some relevance to country music. Younger audiences (like Ellie) usually haven’t been exposed to very much country music, at least not classics like Hank Williams. After listening to the tape for just a few moments, she has already developed a taste for country music. I feel like this is true for most people: they say that they don’t like country music, but once you show them the “right” artist or song, their taste dramatically changes. The Last of Us did this to me by simply including Hank Williams’ music in the game. Although I didn’t know of him beforehand, I liked his music once I heard it and it opened me up to more country music.

In a world dominated by technology, there are nearly an infinite number artists and songs available to listen to. Many younger audiences tend to gravitate towards music that they are familiar with, such as hip-hop or pop or even electronic. The Last of Us managed to alter my own musical preferences simply by showing me some old Hank Williams songs and letting me know of their existence. It is sort of like a gifted basketball player who has never picked up a basketball; the second he does, it will just feel right to him. Similarly, when I first heard Hank Williams I knew that I had to learn more about this type of music. In a world dominated by technology, I can at least appreciate that some forms of modern media still pay homage to old country music legends.


Filed under Honky Tonk, Movies and TV, Reflection

Give Hank a Listen


If I were to recommend only one country musician for somebody to listen to, I would have to go with Hank Williams, an artist whose songs originally piqued my interest in country music.  Hank Williams is considered one of the most influential figures in country music history, and was the first artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame alongside Jimmy Rodgers and Fred Rose.  Although he died at the young age of 29 in 1953, he left behind timeless songs that keep him relevant to country musicians and fans to this day.

One of the things that I like the most about Hank Williams is that I feel as if I can relate to him as a person.  For anybody who has ever lost a true love, you know that it is an incredibly painful and scarring experience.  Many, if not most, of Hank Williams’ songs deal with his experience with heartbreak and loss.  His music has definitely helped me work through some of my own feelings of loss, or at least helped distract me from it.  The first song I heard from Williams, “Alone and Forsaken“, is an old favorite of mine.

Another one of my favorite Hank Williams tracks is one of his more uncharacteristically positive songs, “I Saw the Light“.  It is an upbeat song that incorporates both folk and gospel elements, something that Williams was often known to do.   It is also refreshing to hear a different side to Williams than the pain-stricken one that we hear in most of his songs.  “Settin’ the Woods on Fire” is another song that focuses more on rhythm and rhyming than storytelling and sorrow.

Although Hank Williams didn’t live a long life, he certainly seemed old beyond his years.  It would be hard enough to live your entire life with spinal issues, never mind with the amount of personal and romantic trouble he found himself wound up in.  Nevertheless, he still found a way to share his experiences through songwriting.  His song “Lost Highway” paints a vivid picture of Hank’s lonely life, and offers advice for any listeners who can still be saved.  Although his songs are relatively simple, the emotion that Hank conveys makes listening to him a personal experience.

I recommend that you at least give Hank Williams a listen.  His songs are not very long, but they convey powerful messages that let you relate to Hank.

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Filed under Classic Country, Honky Tonk

Country Music in Bull Creek

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a small neighborhood nestled within the green Austin hill country.  Just a ways down the creek from my childhood home is the Bull Creek Party Barn, a music venue that featured artists such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Janis Joplin, and the Lost Gonzo Band in the 1970s.  Although the Bull Creek Party Barn is no longer open as a music venue, it served an important role in Austin’s live country music culture.


While originally built 40 years earlier as a gathering place for ranch hands, the Bull Creek Party Barn started to get rented out for weddings, concerts, fraternity parties, and dances in the 1970s.  Former owner Judy Johnson recalls that “We had all kinds of parties out there.  Everybody wanted their party there.  We paid Jerry Jeff Walker $5,000 to play, but Willie played for free”.  The fact that Willie played for free showed that the artists were enjoying the shows as much as the fans.  Many country music artists found Austin’s live music culture and enthusiastic crowds to be a breath of fresh air compared to Nashville’s conservative image and formulaic recording process.

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson playing at the Bull Creek Party Barn in 1975

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson playing at the Bull Creek Party Barn in 1975

While most concerts nowadays would be located downtown at a crowded venue, stories of the Bull Creek Party Barn in its heyday evoke images of both hippies and bikers sprawled across blankets and in front of camp fires, all drinking beer and smoking and enjoying good music.  For me, a big part of music is about bringing people together in a positive way.  I think it is really cool that country music could bring together two groups of people who would probably not hang out under normal circumstances.  Here, country music provided a place where all sorts of people could have a shared interest.

The Bull Creek Party Barn ca. 2014

The Bull Creek Party Barn ca. 2014

The Bull Creek Party Barn is one of those things that seemed to happen at the right place at the right time.  It seems like the combination of people, nature, partying, and country music came together in just the right way.  Although I take pride in knowing that famous musicians such as Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin had at one point played shows in my small neighborhood, I also feel slight regret in knowing that I was born about 20 years after these shows were performed.  Nevertheless, the Bull Creek Party Barn is an important part of Austin’s country music culture.


Filed under Austin, Live Music, Outlaw