Category Archives: New Country

How Do You Like Me Now?

unnamed-1I inherited my love for Toby Keith from my mother, along with a pair of boots signed by him at
the Harris County Fair circa 1996. The only thing we ever listened to in the kitchen was his “Boomtown” album. Artists like Toby, Tim, and Kenny were pretty much the extent of my country music awareness until I turned 10, and I don’t have any complaints about it at all.

Toby Keith Country MusicI knew for sure I would be a “Whiskey Girl” when I was in the 3rd grade; I was wrong… so, so wrong- whiskey does NOT make me frisky, whiskey makes me sob uncontrollably. That being said, Toby Keith is known for rambunctious, “Get Drunk and Be Somebody”-esque songs. He gets a bad rap for being some kind of ignorant wash-up who killed country music, but I think that’s pretty unbased as far as his music is concerned.  He’s had his controversies, but he HAS great music. “I Love This Bar” as much as the next girl, and I wanted to share a few of my favorite songs both performed AND written by Keith that don’t really embody what most country fans would consider a typical TK song.

“Woman Behind the Man” is from his Boomtown album, and it’s a far more compelling love song than “Whiskey Girl” could even come close to. The song displays a capacity for love that an everyday country music fan wouldn’t begin to imagine possible of Toby. Similar in theme to “Stand Beside Me” by Jo Dee Messina, it’s a great example of women being viewed as equals and a healthy relationship, not based on tattoos or blue jeans.

“Every Night” is another example of Toby engaging with a more sensitive side, understanding the heartache and pain that a woman he is interested in is dealing with. It’s far from a boot stomping, beer drinking, all-american honky-tonk jive.

I love “Yesterday’s Rain” because even though the lyrics themselves are unabashedly miserable, it still manages to be a catchy song with a lively instrumental. It’s pretty typical country (albeit corporate) but it still stands out from the general Toby impression.

This is probably the most popular of the songs listed, and most people wouldn’t list ‘stoner’ as one of Toby Keith’s characteristics, it would fall farrrr below drunk and obnoxious; this song goes to prove just that. However, the song does mention his “great contact high” and he gives in and smokes again at the end of the song, so I like to think he came around at least a little bit. Also it’s just a fun TK song that I think is at least a little bit different from his typical rowdy redneck bad rap.

Hopefully after listening to these songs (and checking out his albums to find more on your own), you too will admit that his work has many dimensions, and I also hope to swing some fans in his favor- he’s a fun guy! I’m not saying he’s the next Albert Einstein, but his music doesn’t constantly cycle between tramp stamps, trucks, and red solo cups.


Filed under New Country

Toby Keith Preaches… Acceptance?

Typically people don’t associate advocating for acceptance with Country music but Keith’s bar-anthem “I Love This Bar” is all about welcoming all. This song is deceptively progressive and impressively easy to find yourself singing along to.

Most of Toby Keith’s songs from this album are fun songs about drinking, women, and dreams but this one is a little bit more. This song is an interesting mix of progressive politics and classic Toby Keith Country. The backdrop for this song is a bar reminiscent of Cheers with Keith singing loving about his favorite bar but what is surprising is his attitude toward the patrons that frequent it. At first this song appears to not be any different as he mentions “smokers,” and, “boozers,” and “bikers,” but when he mentions, “yuppies” one realizes that this might go somewhere different. Some of the more unexpected people that are mentioned throughout the song include, high-techs, lovers, divorces, and hookers, however what really suggests an even more accepting atmosphere is the comparisons of opposites like, “winners and losers,” and, “a dumbass and a wiseguy”. These comparisons of opposites imply that not only those types of people are allowed in but so too are all those in between. Toby Keith really creates an image of a motley group of people.

In my mind, the strongest and most powerful part of this song is the end of the chorus, which goes, “Just walking through the front door / puts a big smile on my face / it ain’t to0 far, come as you are”. Hearing this celebratory and lighthearted song drop the line, “Come as you are,”  makes me smile because I think that is how the topic of acceptance should be approached – positively. Toby Keith approaches the topic of acceptance not in an accusatory or frustrated way, but in a way that is highlights and celebrates the diversity of the bar. One can imagine themselves in this bar, walking in and seeing inviting faces, which I think is a better catalyst for change than a negative song.

If nothing else, I think that this song fits perfectly with the rest of Toby Keith’s songs on the album like “As Good as I Once Was” and “I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight”. The fact that Keith managed to stick to his sound and produce a song with an atypical meaning is impressive. Finally, the message of acceptance in this song that is not typically associated with Country music, and I am glad that it does such an effective job at demonstrating it positively.


Filed under Blog Post 2, New Country

The Houston Rodeo, That’s What Country Is

The Houston Livestock and Rodeo is one of the most prominent events every spring in Houston. Every March I bring out my cowboy boots and look forward to three weeks of entertainment and Texas culture. Growing up, my dad was always very involved with the Rodeo and still is today. Those who are involved in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are a family, and it is a community that will always remind me of country music.

The Rodeo embraces country music of every sub-genre. George Strait, Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton, and Miranda Lambert can all play within the same three weeks and be equally appreciated and enjoyed.

One of my favorite country songs is an underappreciated Luke Bryan song from one of his first albums. This is a song long before the “Country Girl Shake It” days. “What Country Is” is a catchy but adamant tune.

The song follows the tradition of many mainstream country singers in the present day by putting out a song that speaks against typical country music stereotypes. Every time I hear this song I am reminded of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo community.

I am reminded of the Houston Rodeo for two different reasons. It reminds me what the Houston Rodeo can do for a young, aspiring entertainer. Four years ago, Luke Bryan was a relatively unknown country artist.

The Rodeo took a chance on him, and his success one Saturday afternoon helped propel him to where he is now, a two-time Entertainer of the Year. At the same time, the Rodeo honors and appreciates more traditional country singers like Brad Paisley, George Strait, or Rascal Flatts.

lukeb123The song “What Country Is” also argues against the stereotypes thrown at country music. The Houston Rodeo itself faces stereotypes from those who know little about the extravaganza. The song describes how country music is not a “rebel flag you bought at the mall,” referencing how people who listen to country music can be unfairly judged.

At the end of the song, he talks about how a love for country music is something that cannot be bought, but “it’s something you’re born with”. As a Texan and a Houstonian, I grew up immersed in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo community.

Being involved in this community has introduced me to the different facets of country music and culture, and overall made me a more open-minded and appreciative person of everything country music has to offer. I see country music, whether old or new, representative of American values that are celebrated and cherished, especially during those special three weeks in March.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Country Pop, New Country

Have You Met My Texas Yet?

What exactly does it mean to be part of a community? It means feeling like you are a part of something that makes a whole. It means contributing to something others can relate to. Luckily for me, my sense of community is strong. I am born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas and if someone were to ask me who I am, the first thing that comes to my mind is Texan. Yes, I take that very seriously. Being a Texan is something that people think of as the southern hick stereotype. For example, I grew up going to summer camp in Missouri and every year without fail I would be asked, “Oh you’re from Texas? Does that mean you ride your horse to school?” No, I drive a car because there are roads in Texas!

When people think of Texas, they usually imagine deserts and horses and not much else. However, if non-Texans listen to “My Texas” by Josh Abbot Band, it is obvious that Texas has much more to it than cowboys. Josh Abbot Band lists events and destinations that a true Texan should complete within their lifetime. One could say that real Texas pride can be determined by the amount of things you can check off from Josh Abbot Band’s list. I can say for myself that I have successfully completed 16 items off the Texas bucket list. Some of these include, “floating down the ole Rio, been to the Houston rodeo, sang ‘Carry On’ at a Pat Green show, seen an Abilene sunset, [and] been somewhere where they call you friend” (Josh Abbot Band). I encourage anyone who doesn’t completely understand what it means to be a Texan to listen to this song and give me your feedback.

Being a Texan makes you feel like you belong to an exclusive group. No one truly understands Texas until they live there. That being said, the majority of people within the United States are naïve as to what being a Texan is all about. Each person’s identity belongs in his or her specific city, county or suburb within Texas, but all of these areas make up one big state of mind. Part of my identity belongs to Fort Worth. No, not Dallas, not Dallas-Fort Worth but just Fort Worth. If you listen closely to Josh Abbot, you will notice that Dallas is not mentioned. That is a whole different story.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Lists, New Country, Texas

Country Music: California’s Forbidden Fruit

Where I grew up in southern California, country music is like a forbidden fruit. If you think about it, talk about it, or listen to it (God forbid), you’re inevitably evil. No one in their right mind would find country music pleasant to listen to. If you ask your average civilian from my hometown what their favorite type of music is, it would likely go something like this: “Uhm I’m in to rap, hip hop, indie…I mean I love a little bit of everything…oh, except country, of course”.

Of course.

Similarly, my dad always jokes that if it isn’t about trucks, beer, breaking up with girls, or your dog dying, “it ain’t country”. This is a reasonable observation, but it hurts my heart a little nonetheless.

Despite the lack of country music enthusiasts within the area I grew up, I can’t complain about much else. Surrounded by palm tress, in-n-out, and the beach, I feel very fortunate to consider myself a part of the southern California community. But living here for 18+ years has definitely had an impact on the way I view this genre of music.

For example, it’s considered common courtesy to ask the passengers in your car if they like country music before tuning your radio to the one country station that’s available. I cut people a little slack though, because up until the summer before my junior year of high school, I was the same way. The genre had no appeal to me whatsoever and I just didn’t like the way it sounded. It took stumbling on the playlist “Country Favorites” on 8tracks to get me hooked.

The playlist features artists such as Luke Bryan, Chris Cagle, and Gary Allen. I found every song to be incredibly catchy and evoke this positive feeling of nostalgia that I had never experienced with other types of music. The collection of songs touched on everything I dreamt of about the perfect summer: having a boy fall hopelessly in love with me, driving down a long road and singing at the top of my lungs, staying up and watching the stars, making memories with lifelong friends, and whatever else I thought was cool when I was 16.

Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” was the epitome of this summer dream I had. He discusses the feeling of invincibility that many experience when they’re a teenager. Many young people long to “never grow up” and feel as if “[they’re] comin’ alive” as Owen sings.

It’s possible that the negative connotation southern Californians generally associate with country music is due to the fact that the genre tends to be associated with Southern culture. They may assume it doesn’t relate to their own lifestyle or beliefs. However, many of the ideas surrounding growing up, feeling on top of the world, and falling in love are universal, and therefore completely compatible with the lifestyle of a typical southern Californian.

tumblr_nfneiv8TdB1rcrcdeo1_1280In the next few years, I am hopeful that more country artists will begin sprouting up from the west coast, and more people will start to love the genre as much as I do. And maybe, just maybe, Jake Owen will eventually change his lyrics to “a southern California summer, barefoot blue jean night”.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Class work, New Country