Category Archives: Blog Post 2

All I Heard Was Country

We had left at 4 pm two Tuesdays ago. My fiancé  Madeleine and I were driving to Tyler, Texas from the northwest corner of Arkansas. As the sun began to set, our GPS directed us to exit off Highway 59 and onto Mountain Gateway Scenic Byway through the Ouchita Mountains of Eastern Oklahoma. Although it wasn’t a Friday, the wind in our hair felt too good not to be blasting a song like Eric Paslay’s “Friday Night” on “the wide open road” with one another, especially taking in a view like this one:By the time we got closer to the Texas border, we had to stop in a tiny mountain-valley town in Southeastern Oklahoma for dinner at one of two local restaurants. We chose the Subway. And as we walked in, we were greeted by thick southern accents and country music playing in the background – sounded like Luke Bryan. We had begun to see a theme in the music we heard walking into restaurants and coffee shops. Even before we left the Fayetteville area of Arkansas, we went to Fayettechill outdoor store/bar/coffee, and we had heard, ironically, “Drunk on Your Love” by Brett Eldredge.

We finally made it safely (after two flat tires) to Tyler, Texas and linked up with my parents and my sister for a bit of family vacation. Although Madeleine had to leave for Houston, the country music definitely decided to hang around. It didn’t matter if my family and I went to a diner or a museum, we just kept hearing country music everywhere. I can’t say I was surprised to walk by the Skyline Café of Tyler’s Historic Aviation Memorial Museum and hear, you guessed it – country. To be fair, the Dolly Parton song playing at the time did seem fitting to a museum café with linoleum flooring that seemed stuck back in time (maybe the 70s).

IMG_4526What did come as a surprise was in the quiet of a barn at our Bed & Breakfast spot in Tyler, the Rosevine Inn. I sat on the comfortable leather sofa facing the warm blaze within the stone fireplace ahead of me, looking at this scene on the wall to the left. There it was. An American flag and a mounted deer head. Enjoying the silence and the crackling fire’s subtle attempts to break it, I walked over to take a closer look at this deer, whose placard said, “BE NICE OR GO AWAY.”

I hadn’t gotten up and taken two steps towards the deer before my heart skipped a beat. It turns out that this was no taxidermy – it was an animatronic deer! He introduced himself to me as his plastic, mechanically-controlled head jerked around. Then, this deer launched into song, lip-syncing a classic – “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.

On this Spring Break road trip through Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the top of East Texas, I realized just how deep country music runs in the soul of the South. Whether it was a fast-food restaurant, coffee shop, museum café, or yes, even a talking deer head – country music was what I heard.

And so I have a challenge for you – next time you’re driving  North through these States in our part of the South (especially once you hit Oklahoma), whether you pull in to a Sonic or stop to check out a a local store, pay close attention to what’s on the radio. I knew country music was popular, but I had no idea that it was practically all I’d hear on my road trip. But hey, with music as good as I heard, I’m certainly not complaining.


Filed under Blog Post 2, Reflection, Uncategorized, USA

Great Day to Be Alive

Every young swimmer faces a hard time when they start the dreaded morning practices. The alarm starts ringing early, and life seems to be lived in the dark. When I was fourteen I was moved to the senior group of my home swim club, FAST. This meant that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I was in the water at 5:30 am sharp.

To be in the water by 5:30 I had to get to the pool by 5:15 which meant getting up at 4:50 to eat. Needless to say it was a hard adjustment for fourteen-year-old me. Getting up wasn’t even the worst part. It was going straight to school from the pool that did me in. Out of the pool at 6:50 we had to be at school by 7:30, which meant leaving the pool at 7:10. With the day entirely planned out we had just enough time for the highlight of the mornings. A warm, almost loving, shower. For a while we would just shower, and watch our time wind down before we had to go make it through school, then come back for another practice. Then country music changed everything.

Armed with a water proof speaker, we were now ready to beat the day. There were about ten of us that would really listen to the music coming out of the speaker, and we had ten different opinions about what should be coming out of the speaker.

Each and every one of the swimmers in the men’s locker room would hear a song and say “NO, NO, NO! We can’t listen to this to start the day! I am not going to have Katy Perry in my head all day.” This constant bickering lead to the demise of our beloved speaker. It stayed away for about a week when two juniors on the team, Jason and Austin, walked in the locker room with the speaker proudly above their heads, and grins stretching across their faces.

These two guys had found a song, so perfect, so right for the start of the day, and so easy to sign along to it would reunite the ten of us in the showers. Hounded with questions they said nothing except “Listen up”

Travis Tritt’s  twangy voice rolled smoothly out of the speaker as he sang “I’ve got some rice cookin’ in the microwave.” The entire locker room audience was hooked as his voice boomed in singing “and im doing all right, and it’s a great DAYYY to be alive.” The coming weeks this song about each day being great was a staple of our locker room listening diet.

10483372_857640514265683_524370407_nI still believe that we liked this song because we could all relate to what he was saying. Even if none of us made homemade stew, or had three day beards that need shaving, we all knew what it was like to be a little down… We were at morning practice for gosh sakes. No matter how down we would get about a hard practice, or a mountain of homework waiting at home we would always know that it was a great day to be alive.

This one song brought us together and it turned into a way of cheering up a friend who was down. If a teammate was obviously upset, all it would take to bring up their spirits was simply saying “Hey man, it’s a great day to be alive.” This had our team sitting as happy as could be.

As Jason and Austin Graduated, we listened to less and less of Travis Tritt in the locker room. He faded away just as Tritt’s voice does in the singing of this song.  Even though “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive,” was no longer a fan favorite at the pool, it’s message would be something that never leaves my mind, and I think that’s something only county music can do to its listeners.


Filed under Blog Post 2

Hank Williams’ Surprising Influence on the Poet Allen Ginsberg

There is no denying that country music has an influence on society, but sometimes it is surprising how far-reaching that influence goes.  Peter Orlovsky, the life partner of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, suspects that the name of Ginsberg’s best-known poem “Howl” was influenced by Hank Williams’ song “Howlin’ at the Moon”.  Orlovsky says that he sang “Howlin’ at the Moon” to Ginsberg during one of their many nighttime walks through San Francisco.  Days later Orlovsky saw the first draft of “Howl” on Ginsberg’s desk.  Unfortunately Orlovsky and Ginsberg never actually had a conversation about whether the song influenced the poem and Ginsberg is not alive to confirm or deny Orlovsky’s comments.  Nevertheless, it is extremely probable that Ginsberg heard Williams’ music around the same time he was writing “Howl”.

“Howlin’ at the Moon” is an upbeat, humorous song about a man who is so in love that he is acting like a hound dog.  The song light-heartedly talks about how love can drive us crazy.  “Howlin at the Moon” even includes howling in the background by the fiddler Jerry Rivers.  The song was very successful and was one of eight of Williams’ song to reach the Top Ten on the country music charts in 1951.  Although Williams’ career was taking off in the early 1950’s, his personal life was taking a dark turn.  He struggled with alcohol and drug abuse which lead to divorce, expulsion from the Grand Ole Opry, and eventually death. Ginsberg also did drugs, had a troubled love life, and struggled to fit in. Because of the similarities of the two men, Ginsberg may have felt like he could relate to Williams and might have even considered Williams to be one of the outcasts that he writes about.

“Howl” was written in 1955 and is well known for its long, rhythmic lines that criticize the widespread materialism and suburbanization of society in America in the 1950’s.  “Howl” begins with the famous line “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked” and goes on to describe the experiences of himself, his friends, and other outcasts of the generation.  “Howl” vividly describes controversial topics like homosexual sex, drug use, and mental illness using profane language which lead to a court case in 1957 to determine if the poem was obscene.  The judge ruled that “Howl” was not obscene and had “redeeming social importance”.  To this day, “Howl” is widely regarded as one of the most important poems in American literature and has a lasting influence on society.


So how, if at all, could “Howlin’ at the Moon” have influenced “Howl”? The song “Howlin at the Moon” makes listeners think of a happy couple that is about to get engaged and probably will have a wholesome, suburban family like so many others in the 1950’s.  After marriage, we can assume that the man would stop acting like a dog, become a domesticated family man, and probably stop howling.  Ginsberg might have thought this man was giving up his originality in order to conform to the cookie-cutter lifestyle of the 50’s.  “Howl” suggests that people should continue to “howl at the moon” instead of conforming and that there is something special about those who do not fit in.  Whether or not “Howlin’ at the Moon” actually influenced “Howl” is not known, but we can speculate how country music influences even the most unlikely works.


Filed under Blog Post 2, Honky Tonk

Good Golly, Ms. Dolly!

Fotor1103140436-600x450When I think of a female country star, I think of Dolly Parton. The stereotypical country queen is a blonde bombshell with a big country voice, big country hair, and big country boobs. Country music is a genre that has continued to outshine other genres with unparalleled natural talent and has radiated a theme of natural beauty derived from its blue-collar roots of not caring what others may think. However, throughout the previous couple of generations, I feel as if a few particular country stars have conformed to Hollywood influences on beauty preservation and have lost a sense of the reality of growing old.

6a00e552403d2f883301b7c6fa457a970b-500wiWhen I think of beauty-gone-bad, I think of Dolly Parton. Not only is she one of the most talented stars in the industry, Dolly Parton is the image of what most people think of when they think of country music. From the beginning of her career, Dolly was obsessed with her looks and always strived to be “prettier”, even though she was already one of the prettiest girls in the industry. From the singer’s never-ending thirst for satisfaction, she quickly crafted a signature look. Ms. Parton’s big blonde hair and massive breasts could be spotted from miles away, but for her that was never enough. Dolly posed for Playboy Magazine in 1978, shifting her from “classic country” to a more sexualized image that greatly contributed to her desire for “bigger and better”.

Dolly Parton’s career continued through the decades, with each era adding more and more plastic surgery to her look. The singer once admitted, “if I see something sagging, dragging or bagging, I get it sucked, tucked or plucked. It takes a lot of money to look as cheap as I look”. Parton’s recognition to her spoiled beauty really makes me sad for her, because I feel as if so many beautiful people are so caught up in impressing others that they don’t let themselves naturally grow old. Especially within a genre that prides itself in cultivating such down-to-earth people who care more about the music than the image, I am surprised to see so many stars defy that ideal and conform to the media’s expectations on how to look.

DollyPartonPlasticSurgeryDolly Parton not only inspired future country singers with her musical talent, she also set a signature tone for the image of the female country star. Several proceeding singers began to craft the stereotypical look and also succeeded in spoiling their natural beauty. Reba McEntire, Kellie Pickler, and even Kenny Rodgers were a few that didn’t take growing old as an answer.

Although this whole article has seemed like a rant against plastic surgery, I do believe that if it weren’t for Dolly Parton’s strive for ageless beauty, she would not be the cute bubbly character that we all know and love. Dolly Parton may have allowed unnatural influences to shape her self-expression, but she created an image that will forever be embellished in the country music hall of fame and has put a serious imprint on the future generations of stars. Despite the plastic surgery, Dolly Parton radiates ageless beauty on the inside and out.

If this is not the cutest, most accurate video of Dolly Parton, then I don’t know what is…


Filed under Blog Post 2, Country Symbols, Women

I Don’t Have an Accent, But My Lyrics Do

Tips-for-Writing-Lyrics-to-Your-First-SongI don’t get it. Why do I write song lyrics in a country accent? I don’t sing with an accent, speak with one, or even think with one, but I write with one. The words that I write on any sheet, I always read back to myself as if it’s a country song. It’s not like I only listen to country music. My iPhone contains many different artists and genres, like (admittedly) Justin Bieber’s album, Travis $cott, Jeremih, KISS, etc. Even if it were only country…in that sense, I would write in a British accent if I only listened to Ed Sheeran. It’s wild to me because I began loving country music only 14 months ago. I used to never listen to country music, so every lyric written was just in Lee’s voice. Now when I write, it sounds like a man named “Buck” or “Levi” is singing through my brain onto the paper. I struggle to find my own voice in my own lyrics. I can’t pinpoint why, and it drives me insane.

I’ve come up with two possible reasons for my odd situation. The first is that most of the stories seem to sound BETTER with a country accent. Like “Good Directions” by Billy Currington, it just makes things seem more meaningful, or even more experienced. I guess it’s because auto tune is less noticeable for country, all country beats seem man-made, and the lyrics can be understood, unlike today’s rappers like Future or Fetty Wap. The second reason is most likely the more accurate reason. Is it is because country lyrics are so much more relatable than anything else? I mean, it ranges from cars to going out at night, but there’s never anything too out of the ordinary.

While most hip-hop singers or rappers have lyrics that contain profanity, Lamborghinis, or a plethora of women, country music lyrics make the artist seem like a normal human, with an exceptional singing voice and reason to sing. Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” is a prime example of one of the most relatable songs I’ve ever heard. Take a listen if you haven’t heard it.

There’s no country verse (that I’ve heard) that talks about acid and lean like A$AP Rocky, none about getting dirty money like Jordan Belfort, and none about dealing drugs and needing to contact “the plug.” Believe it or not, I do not sell drugs; I do not drop acid or sip on codeine; I do not even know how to make dirty money if I tried, so I can’t relate to these lyrics. Here’s my attempt at writing a rap, right now – “I’ve got two tattoos, one of my mom and one of my shoes.” Who can’t relate to that right? Here’s a quick attempt of a lyric that I’d actually write — “I’d wrap my fingers in your chenille blanket, wondering when you’re gonna stop faking.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can only think that John Mayer or a country star could sing those lyrics.

No, I don’t have tattoos. Yes, I tend to drink from a Red Solo Cup. My mind is stuck in reality, as well as country, where people sing about jobs, dancing, a significant other, or home. I’d say I’m more interested in John Mayer or (recently) Bieber when it comes to what I want to sing like. I don’t sing with a country accent. Why do my lyrics have one?

*This video contains profanity*

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