Author Archives: Dustin Hixenbaugh

About Dustin Hixenbaugh

Dustin Hixenbaugh teaches writing courses at the University of Texas. He is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature and is completing a dissertation on Cuban, Mexican, and United States historical novels. Before moving to Austin, he taught English at La Joya High School, which is located on the Texas-Mexico border. When he was four, his parents bought him a Fisher Price tape recorder and a couple Dolly Parton cassettes, and he has loved country music ever since. Recently, Dusty has also become an avid podcaster, co-hosting LitWit with his friend Carly Sweder and contributing to UT’s Zeugma series.

Student-Made Music Videos II

“Carry On” (2001) by Pat Green. Video by Justin Cole, Gaby Hernández, and Reid Thompson.

“Friends in Low Places” (1990) by Garth Brooks. Video by Samantha Godfrey, Jordanne Mickle, Keaton Schlueter, and Julianne Staine.

“The Greatest” (1999) by Kenny Rogers. Video by Emma Morgan, James Pruitt, and Daniella Torres.

“Gunpowder and Lead” (2008) by Miranda Lambert. Video by Courtney González, Erin McAtee, and Abby Shamis.

“Hell on Heels” (2011) by the Pistol Annies. Video by Randle Cecil, Shelby Conine, Lynden Orr, and Shannon Smith.

“Just to See You Smile” (1997) by Tim McGraw. Video by Joshua Fleming and Marissa Gallardo.

“Mama’s Broken Heart” (2013) by Miranda Lambert. Video by Taylor Campbell, Madison Comstock, Katie O’Neil, and Abby Wills.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Class work, Music Videos

Country Fans Turn on Tim McGraw

Sandt HookIn December 2012, a shooter took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults in an assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. It was the deadliest shooting ever to take place in an American public school.

Two and a half years later, the Sandy Hook Promise organization has put together a concert to raise funds for promoting “gun safety”. Charity concerts happen all the time, but this one is stirring controversy because the man that has agreed to headline it is one of the biggest stars in a genre of music whose fans have clung to their right to bear arms even in the face of mass shootings.

That man is Tim McGraw.

News of the concert was spread by the conservative media outlet Breitbart in an article titled “Country Singers Tim McGraw, Billy Currington Headlining Gun Control Fundraiser.” (Currington had been scheduled as the opening act.) In the comments, Breitbart‘s readers expressed their dismay, claiming that McGraw had abandoned the principles of the country music fans that bought his records. Some readers even suggested that his participation in the concert might end his career. As the user WyoAndy put it, “So I guess you will be able to see Tim McGraw and Billy Currington opening for the dixie chicks real soon at the Paramus, Nj holiday inn! They are both dead to me!”

Trigger, over at Saving Country Music, argues that Breitbart is being intentionally inflammatory. McGraw agreed to do the show because he has personal ties to one of the victims of the shooting. Moreover, the concert is raising funds for gun safety, not gun control. After the Breitbart article went viral the organization released a statement clarifying its purposes:

Sandy Hook Promise supports the 2nd Amendment and is not anti-gun. We recognize an individual’s right to bear arms and support millions of law-abiding citizens in the United States who own firearms. Our primary focus is preventing children from being harmed by gun violence…

We support policy that helps identify, intervene and stop at-risk individuals from hurting themselves or others. And, we support laws that will help to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerously ill people and criminals, as well as out of the reach of children to prevent unintentional shooting deaths and injuries that have become much too frequent.

McGraw, in a statement for The Washington Times, takes a similar stance:

Let me be clear regarding the concert for Sandy Hook given much of the erroneous reporting thus far.  As a gun owner, I support gun ownership. I also believe that with gun ownership comes the responsibility of education and safety – most certainly when it relates to what we value most, our children.  I can’t imagine anyone who disagrees with that…

Through a personal connection, I saw first-hand how the Sandy Hook tragedy affected families and I felt their pain. The concert is meant to do something good for a community that is recovering.

And yet despite these attempts at damage control the concert continues eliciting outrage among fans of country music. Buckling under the pressure, Currington announced on Thursday night that he would not be playing the charity concert though he will open for the other shows on McGraw’s summer tour. Guns rights advocates took Currington’s cancellation as proof that they had been right all along — that the concert had been organized to deprive them of their firearms.

The controversy raises a number of questions that I would love to hear your thoughts about in the comments (or your own posts). Why are guns such a big deal for fans of country music? Do you agree that every “authentic” country performer should support the Second Amendment? Should McGraw have agreed to perform the Sandy Hook Promise concert? Should Currington have pulled out of it?

Most importantly, do you think WyoAndy is right that the controversy signals the end of McGraw’s career? Is he the new Dixie Chicks?


Filed under Charity, Country Pop, News, Politics

Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015

In class, I mentioned that the Country Music Hall of Fame would be announcing its 2015 inductees soon. Turns out, the announcement arrived at the end of March. I thought y’all might want to learn a little more about the new members.

Most years, the Hall of Fame honors people in three categories: (1) a “veteran” artist who has been around for 45+ years, (2) a “modern” artist who has been around for 25+ years, and (3) either a songwriter, musician, or someone else involved in the music business. As usual, I am getting my information from Trigger over at Saving Country Music, who shares additional information about who has been honored in the past and how the decisions are made.

This year’s “veteran” inductee is the Browns, a family trio that had a number of crossover hits in the 1950s and early 1960s. Their best known song is probably “The Three Bells,” which was adapted from a French song (“Les Trois Cloches”) and was a #1 hit on the country and pop charts and — most surprisingly for a country song — a top 10 R&B hit as well. The group’s success coincided with the heyday of the Nashville Sound, which explains the crossover appeal and lush orchestration — and also probably the reason it has taken the group so long to be canonized. If you watch the video, you’ll understand why people criticize the Nashville Sound for not sounding authentically country.

After the group disbanded in the 1960s, the male singer, Jim Ed Brown, enjoyed some success as a solo artist. His best known song is “Pop A Top,” which Alan Jackson covered in 1999. Jim Ed has continued to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, and in January of this year he made waves for releasing his first studio album in 40 years (called In Style Again). That same month he underwent a series of treatments for cancer, and it could be a combination of the new album and frail health that led the Hall of Fame to choose to recognize the Browns with its highest honor after ignoring the group for so long.

The “modern” inductee is the Oak Ridge Boys, whose Christmas music I am familiar with but who otherwise are pretty unknown to me. Trigger points out the irony that the Oak Ridge Boys actually formed in the 1940s, which makes their induction as a “modern” act kind of suspect. Anyway, they got their start as a gospel quartet before enjoying a series of country hits — including many #1s — in the 1970s and 1980s. One of their best known hits is 1981’s “Elvira,” which hit #1 country and #5 pop.

The musician being inducted is the late Grady Martin, who played guitar on Marty Robbins’s “El Paso,” Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and handfuls of other Rockabilly, Nashville Sound, and Classic Country recordings.

Of course, as soon as the inductees were announced, discontented fans took to social media to say who really “should” have been recognized instead of these three. Since it’s pretty hard to get into the Country Music Hall of Fame, there are a number of people who have been eligible for a while who still aren’t in, and every year there are younger stars who are newly eligible.

Some eligible performers who haven’t yet been invited to join include the Maddox Brothers and Rose, Ralph Stanley, Hank Williams, Jr., Charlie Daniels, June Carter Cash, Lynn Anderson, Tanya Tucker, David Allen Coe, Johnny Paycheck, Ricky Skaggs, Rosanne Cash, Dwight Yoakum, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, and Kenny Chesney.

What do you think about the new inductees? Are you familiar with any of them? Who do you hope makes it in, in the next couple of years? I would love to know!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Awards, Classic Country, Countrypolitan, Nashville Sound, News

Announcing Country Music’s Newest Subgenre: “Metro-Politan” Country

Over at Saving Country Music, Trigger has written a new post condemning the trend in adding dance beats to country music. Citing the success of Sam Hunt’s Montevallo, which is currently holding the #1 position on Billboard’s Country Albums chart, he claims that a new subgenre of country music is sprouting its “unfortunate tentacles.” He calls this emerging subgenre “Metro-Politan Country” and predicts that it will become more prevalent in the next couple of years before dying the way that Bro Country seems to be dying now.

Since we’ve been talking so much about country’s subgenres and the troubles with analyzing them while they’re popular, I thought y’all might enjoy taking a look at this new article. Also, I’ll be happy to give you class credit if you decide to leave Trigger a comment. You might respond directly to his post or to any of the other comments that have already been written. Just leave me a comment here letting me know that you’ve done this.

If you’re interested in Sam Hunt, you should check out a review of the Montevallo album that one of my students wrote last semester.

Lastly, I thought I would point out that Hunt’s not the first person to integrate dance beats into country music. The technique extends at least as far back as the Countrypolitan moment of the 70s/80s, including Dolly Parton’s take on “House of the Rising Sun” (1980) and “Potential New Boyfriend” (1983).

1 Comment

Filed under Bro Country, Countrypolitan, Dancing, Song Analysis

Waltzing with the Debutante

Honky Tonk Debutante by Christine WarrenLast week, the Rhetoric of Country Music class had the pleasure of welcoming the author (and country music expert) Christine J. Warren to class. She spoke about some of country’s early subgenres, shared great stories about the development of Austin’s live music scene, and read a couple of passages from her book Honky Tonk Debutante: The History of Honky-Tonk Music as I Care to Tell It (2014).

With this post, I wanted to share links to a couple of projects that developed from Christine’s visit. First, she mentions the class on her own blog (“Reality on the Half Shell”), and she even includes photos of the card we signed for her.

Second, I included an interview I did with Christine in the new episode of the Zeugma podcast series. Zeugma is sponsored by UT’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing, and it generally addresses topics related to rhetoric, technology, and popular culture. I am contributing to all of the podcast’s Season 3 episodes, but the new one on “Honky Tonkin'” has the clearest relevance to our class. Anyway, if you have about 20 minutes to spare, I’d love for you to check it out.

Do you have any lingering questions from Christine’s presentation? What do think of her blog post about us and the “Honky Tonkin'” podcast?

Let us know in the comments!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Austin, Class work, Honky Tonk