The early 90’s were a golden age for music. Bands such as Guns N Roses and Def Leppard were still releasing great hair metal, but the grunge revolution was also starting, with bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam already beginning to lead the trend away from songs about girls and cars into much darker territory. NWA and Public Enemy pushed the boundaries of hip hop and gave us suburban white kids an almost cinematic glimpse into the inner city.
We listened to all of it. Skid Row, Pantera, U2, Alice In Chains, and the Wu-Tang Clan. The variety of different sounds was endless and my CD collection enormous. Most still sit in my basement, alphabetized and sorted by genre.
Try as we might, though, we were county boys at heart. When the sun went down and the beer came out, it was Mark Chesnutt, Randy Travis, and George Strait that we listened to. Music made for bourbon, bonfires, and bullshitting.
I’m very fortunate that my wife shares (most of) my tastes. We go to a lot of shows and over the years have rocked out with Motley Crue and Marilyn Manson, chilled with Robert Cray, and jumped around with Ice T. We’ve sung along with Billy Joel and slow danced to Boyz to Men. In two weeks we’re going to see Irish punk rockers The Dropkick Murphys.
Ask us our favorites, and it’s the country shows that fill most of the top spots. Tracy Lawrence, Brantley Gilbert, Kenny Chesney. We flew all the way to Las Vegas for a Garth Brooks acoustic show. ( Plus, Vegas. )
Last Friday we spent the night in another casino, albeit much closer to home. Jason Michael Carroll was playing the Mohegan Sun Wolf Den, a small venue in an otherwise very big place not far from home. He’s been a favorite of ours since Livin’ Our Love Song became our official anthem to those that never thought we’d make it this far. To my credit, I completely held it together during Alyssa Lies , a song that usually turns me into a blubbering simpleton. I dare anyone that isn’t familiar with the song to click on the link and make it through with dry eyes. You won’t.
Listen, I know all the criticism of country music. The twang, the fiddles, the absurd number of songs about trains. Like any genre, there is good and bad. The difference is that when country music is good, it’s music about real emotion, real people, real stories. To paraphrase another Jason Michael Carroll song, it’s about “where I’m from.”
I don’t expect this little blog post to convert anybody who doesn’t already listen, but I will leave you with one more thought, gentlemen. It may be too late for Valentine’s Day this year, but if you dish out a few bucks for a hotel room and have a long-haired, tight-jeaned, Stetson-wearing baritone serenade your lady for a few hours while drinking copious amounts of Jack Daniels, you might just wake up with a new appreciation of the rodeo.