Author Archives: Kevin Lefkowitz

What a (Country) Semester!

Country music has had a strangely impactful influence on my life. From serving as the feature music on my car rides to school to dominating the atmosphere at the beloved Houston rodeo, it has always pretty much been around. That said, I never really knew much about the history of country music until taking this class. One of the best parts of taking Rhetoric of Country Music is the requirement that I experience interesting country themed activities. Here are the activities I did during the time I was enrolled in this class!

Line Dancing at Rock-a-thon

IMG_3326Just this passed week, my fraternity hosted Rock-a-thon, a philanthropy event in which one person rocks in a chair for 24 straight hours. While this may not be so exciting for the person sitting in the rocking chair, we made sure to include some activities for the audience to enjoy while the rocker rocked. We brought guest speakers, offered cheap food, and even provided an extra rocking chair for anyone who wished to keep our poor rocker company. However, the best part of the event came between hours 22 and 24 when The Enigmatic Strangers, a band featuring several AEPi brothers, performed in front of the crowd. They played line dancing music and everyone danced and had a good time. We raised over $3,400 for the American Cancer Society and had a fun time in the process. Though it was not the focus, country music served an role as part of the festivities. I cannot say for certain that we would have raised as much money as we did without having the final 2 hour stretch of line dancing to the music played by The Enigmatic Strangers.

Houston Rodeo

IMG_5691Who can forget the Houston Rodeo! I have already written about my incredible experience last year at Blake Shelton’s concert. I (of course) went back to the rodeo this year a couple times, but had a somewhat different experience. This year, I went to see Florida Georgia Line and Kenny Chesney. Though I expected Florida Georgia Line to…not meet expectations, I was somewhat disappointed with Kenny Chesney’s performance. He struggled to captivate the crowd, and his songs did not sound great. Though the sound was not entirely his fault because of the acoustics in the building, I did not think he performed like the superstar he is. That said, I have been complaining too much because those nights were really two of the best nights I have had this year! My best friends and I attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and thoroughly enjoyed watching rodeo stars we will not remember . We imagined ourselves having grown up in a rural town, competing in front of thousands of people to hold onto a bucking bronco the longest amount of time. All in all, we loved our trips to the rodeo and cannot wait until next year’s rodeo season.

Watching Walk the Line (2005)

images-1I watched Walk the Line (2005) without high expectations. I was pleasantly surprised with how well Joaquin Phoenix played Johnny Cash, and how much I learned about Cash’s life. The scene when June agreed to marry him seemed forced, but nonetheless brought forth some emotions (my friend might have shed a tear). I thought it was really cool how important music was to rescuing his life, and his performance at the Folsom Prison really hit the nail on the head.

These three experiences greatly impacted my spring semester of 2016. Because of this class, I not only gained knowledge about a music genre I love, but I also made memories I will remember forever. Dusty, thank you for a great semester and good luck next year! It is an honor to have been in your last class at the University of Texas.

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Filed under Blog Post 5

What is “Country?” A Longwinded Rant

Photo: is “country?” When listening to songs like “Take a Back Road” or “Boys Round Here”, people tend to get the impression that “country” means small town, trucks, and beer drinking. However, with global warming occurring as well as the increased urbanization of America, trucks and small towns will begin going away. No, small towns will never disappear, but they will become less isolated as the large cities expand. I sit here thinking about what that this means for the future of “country” and country music. Could it be that “country” is really more of a way of life? If so, what is that way of life? Having grown up in Houston, a big city with a huge sports and business culture, I never considered myself “country.” That said, I always envied the lives of people who grew up in small towns and always loved listening to country music. I think Easton Corbin sang about this concept when he sang “A Little More Country Than That.” He sang about being a little more country than “a dirt road full of pot holes with a creek bank and some cane poles.” Either this guy literally lives in the middle of nowhere, or he is talking about his culture. He also sang about not two-timing and playing games because he understands that there is more to “country” than farming and roping cattle.

When I think of “country”, I think of someone with Southern values. I think of someone who works hard for his or her family, but never compromises his or her core morals. I think of someone who, when the times get tough, will fight through the obstacles and will never waiver. In that regard, “country” people live everywhere, regardless of if they grew up in a trailer or drive a pickup. No, I’m not writing this post to make myself feel better or to include more people in the “country” tent. I’m doing this because I see country music moving in the wrong direction regarding lyrics. I grew up listening to country songs, partly because I love the sound, but also because of the for which they stand. When I turn on the radio and “Home Alone Tonight” comes on, I can’t help thinking how this could easily be a song that any pop artist could sing. Sure, many recent songs have featured small towns, but they seem to lack the values that made country music so special to me. I grew up listing to songs that, even if they were a little pop sounding, at least they differed in that I could identify with their messages. “If You’re Going Through Hell” is a favorite of mine to listen to when I experience failure. No, George Strait would have never sung it, but at least it has a message behind it that demonstrates the values my parents tried to instill in me.

I cannot explain why I felt the need to rant about the state of country music, but I hope it shed some light onto why I care so deeply when Sam Hunt’s songs reach the top of the charts. I don’t care about other people’s song preferences, but I do care about the future of the genre I love the most. I think its time we reevaluate what the word “country” means, because once we lose trucks, country music singers will have a hard time differentiating themselves from other musicians.


Filed under Blog Post 4, Country Pop, New Country

Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Country Urban Bridge



Ask most people in the United States what they did as kids between the hours of 7:00am and 11:00am on Saturday mornings, and they will answer you “I turned on the TV to watch Saturday morning cartoons.” No, not everyone enjoyed this blissful weekend activity, but for the (for everyone’s sake, hopefully) majority of Americans who did, the thought of Saturday morning cartoons brings a sense of nostalgia and happiness not easily replicated by many ideas. Whether they watched Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, Kids WB, Fox, PBS, or local TV, most people think fondly of the times when they hurried to the couch at 6:58 and caught the end of a poorly-made infomercial. Though to most people, country music seems to evoke thoughts of trucks, beer, and romance, country music makes me think of the little things in life. I think of the commonalities people of different backgrounds share with each other, and of the things that can simplify our hectic lives. Is there anything that fits that description more than Saturday morning cartoons?



I ran down every Saturday at 6:58 to avoid missing the opening seconds of Scooby-Doo. After Scooby-Doo, and Yu-Gi-Oh!, I ran to my room to get dressed and brush my teeth. I was a Kids WB guy, but I made sure to watch Fox when Digimon came on. After one episode on Fox, I returned to WB to watch Jackie Chan’s Adventures and, of course, Pokemon. Breakfast usually came in between Digimon and Jackie Chan’s Adventures, but I made sure to sit in position to watch the show while eating.

Although my TV schedule changed several times (I’m not even sure if the one written above is 100% accurate), I always loved cartoon time. Other shows that I remember liking are Transformers, Saved by the Bell, and especially Batman Beyond, so somehow and at some point those shows made it into the Saturday morning lineup. In a world in which not everyone enjoys the taste of beer and more and more people choose to drive environmentally conscious vehicles, country music is going to have to choose whether it is the music of the people, or the music of a people. Historically, it made the switch from “hillbilly music” to “middle class music” to become something with which more people can identify. Luke Bryan even wrote a song about country music’s ruralization. Certain songs by Kenny Chesney and Kip Moore have shown the more rural side of country music, but I for one do not identify with many of their all of their ideals. I’m a die-hard patriot so I identify with Patriot songs, but even having grown up in Texas, never had to work on a farm or . George Strait once sang about passing notes in class and Darius Rucker’s “Alright” and Phil Vasser’s “Just Another Day in Paradise” very much talk about the day-to-day activities that make life worth living. A song about Saturday morning cartoons would fit right in.


Filed under Blog Post 3

March=Rodeo Season

March is just around the corner and that means three things to my friends and me. Spring Break, March Madness, and the Houston Rodeo. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo takes place throughout the month of March and dominates most of my friends’ social calendar. For those not from Houston, the Houston rodeo is one of the largest entertainment and livestock exhibitions in the world. It has a carnival and nightly concerts featuring popular country singers as well as some pop singers. If thats not enough, the people who put on the rodeo insist on selling cheap concert tickets so everyone can afford to enjoy the Rodeo festivities. For comparison’s sake, I went to the carnival and Blake Shelton concert for $18.

My first time at the rodeo was when my mom took my siblings and me nearly 18 years ago. She dressed us up in boots, jeans, flannels, and cowboy hats and we had the best time. She took us to the rodeo every year and insisted on going to see her favorite country singers in concert, but we hated the loud noise. As we grew older and began appreciating the music, we began going more than just once a year and now attend the rodeo almost three times a week during “rodeo month”.

Like I said before, my friends and I went to listen to Blake Shelton last year and loved every second of it. He not only plays great music, but he engages the crowd and puts on a great show. He joked about his work on The Voice, and just seemed like an all around great guy. I’m so glad we got to see him live because it really gave me a new perspective on celebrities. I had previously considered him just another good country singer, but his performance really made me respect him as a person and now I listen to more of his music.

I left out one important aspect of the Houston rodeo: the food. Everything is deliciously fried, battered and topped with powdered sugar or chocolate (or both). I tried my first fried oreo, fried ice cream, fried cookie dough, fried coke, and fried snickers at the rodeo and now frequently fry my own candies at home, despite my doctor’s warnings. Every trip to the rodeo leaves me feeling gross and yet oddly satisfied with my dietary choices.

The Houston rodeo is the best month of the year and we are all lucky to go to school so close to Houston. As soon as Spring Break comes, you can bet that my friends and I will drive back to Houston, ready to rodeo (yes, it is a verb too). We’ll cheer on the random cowboys we have never heard of, pay way too much money to go on somewhat unsatisfactory rides, eat gross amounts of fried foods, listen to excellent music, and have an overall great time. I love rodeo season.


Filed under Blog Post 2, Houston Rodeo, Live Music

Houston: Large City, Tight Community

When growing up, I never would have considered Houston a community. It has a population of over two million and contains several school districts. In fact, I just met someone my age who said she grew up in Houston and went to the same community center and recreational center that I went to almost every week. However, whenever I leave the city, more so when I leave the state, I bond more closely with people from Houston. We bond over our shared favorite local restaurants and sports teams, and an irrational, yet fairly strong, dislike for Dallas. Houston’s culture may contribute to this. Houston has all the perks of the big city, but with the charm of a Texan town. Yes, we have professional sports and big businesses and too much pollution, but many of our “city things” are infused with a Texas flavor. Saltgrass Steakhouse and Rudy’s Barbecue are perfect examples of Texas chains. They look like classic barbecue or steakhouses; there are just more than two of them. When I came to college, I met so many new people that I almost subconsciously gravitated towards people from Houston. Though I think this happened coincidentally, some of my closest friends at UT right now are from my hometown. Once we established ourselves as the “Houston group”, we bonded with other Texas cliques with our love for country music. Our love for country music does not separate us from other people; it brings us closer to the different groups of people on campus.

Maybe the thing that differentiates us from the other groups is which kind of country music we enjoy. We regularly listen to Zac Brown, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Dierks Bentley. We think of it as a nice blend of old and new, but not too new. I am not a fan of Florida Georgia Line or Sam Hunt. Hunt is talented, but his music just does not sound like the country music I fell in love with. He also talks too much in his songs. When we go somewhere and they claim to play country music but “Breakup In a Small Town” by Sam Hunt comes on, this makes me long for the days of Strait and Jackson. From what I have seen, the Dallas group listens to more old Kenny Rogers and Conway Twitty and the Austin group listens to the current music. This is a sweeping generalization and based only on a small sample size, but these are just my experiences.

I did not mean to sound snobby or imply that Sam Hunt plays bad music. I just wanted to clarify the difference in country music taste between my Houston based group and some of the other groups at UT. We listen to contemporary country music as long as it still has similarities with the music of the 90’s. Sure, Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley have different styles than do Alan Jackson and George Strait, but their styles are closer to the classics than are Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. Florida Georgia Line just does not sound good to me.

I think coming to the University of Texas forced me to identify more as a Houstonian than ever before. When I lived in Houston, I found smaller groups to shrink the crowd, but now Houston is the smaller group. We love country music in Houston, and my Houston friends at UT love country music just the same.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Class work, Texas