Enduring Country Music

I grew up listening to a lot of country music, not because it was my first choice, but because my brother was an autocratic DJ. Although there are a few country songs and even country artists that I enjoy, for the most part, I endure country music. I endure it because I have been constantly subjected to it over the years. Being subjected to any type of music breeds a disdain for it. At my current job I am subjected to not just country, but modern country music, a term as oxymoronic as honest politician or men’s lotion. I could endure the modern country station with a little more patience, but I haven’t heard a single Merle Haggard song, not one!

What makes Country music enduring is tradition. These modern country lyrics are shallow. The content is overtly sexual, objectify women, and smacks of immorality, rebellion, arrogance, ignorance, and alcohol. I miss the days when country music lyrics were about Jesus. And America. And being rebellious, and cheating on your wife, and alcohol, and racism, and…well the music was better anyway.

Country music has always been most popular with working class Americans because the lyrics were so very relatable and emotional. Country musicians were bards who entertained in the local beer joints, singing to men and women who were often stuck in a socioeconomic situation with no hope of a way up or out. These songs gave them escape and release. These songs were ballads which told stories which connected with the very real struggles that working Americans were living out in their daily lives. It also appealed to their aspirations, traditions, and desires. Country Music gave a voice to many Americans.

With todays changing society, much of the culture of the American working class is rapidly becoming outdated, and in some cases taboo. People don’t farm like they did in post depression and World War II generations. There is a massive urban and suburban migration, and many dying small towns. It’s not as socially acceptable or politically correct to sing lyrics like, “Be proud you a rebel cause the South’s gonna do it again.” Today’s country musicians are aware of this and so a new image of the country musician is being forced upon one of the most loyal fanbases in the music industry. There has been a shift from singing about real social and economic issues heard in songs like, Working Man’s Blues, and Sixteen Tons, to shallower generic lyrics about girls, trucks, and having a bad attitude. In essence, modern country has long since abandoned the Southern culture and is trying to appeal to a wider audience, hence the hip hop influence and rapping. Of course there is still love to sing about, but the newer country songs push the limits of vulgarity that were set by rock and roll bands of the 70’s and 80’s.

It’s often the case that great oppression brings great hope. Although I am daily oppressed (and depressed) by modern country music, now more than ever I feel like I may have what it takes to be a professional songwriter. I think there’s probably good money to be made by writing a few tunes and letting one of these modern country guys record one of my songs. Since many establishments insist on playing modern country music, I think I could retire early. I’d like to share a few lyrics in the style of modern country that I’ve been sitting on for a while.

I got a Ford truck I painted primer gray

I’m going to go fishing when I get off work today

Little girl you ought to come with me

Maybe we can drink a little whiskey

I might look just like all these other country guys

But I’m different let me tell you why

(right here there needs to be a musical cut, then the band comes in full with chorus)

I’m a real country boy

I love Jesus, but sometimes I cuss

I ain’t into drama, don’t like to fuss

I play guitar, but I listen to rap

Got a fake accent…

Never mind. I’m fixing to go listen to some choir music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liars and Lies I’ve Been Told

Since the majority of the history in rural towns is oral, my goal is to give you a few tools to help you differentiate between what’s fact and what’s oral fiction.

I’ve spent much of my life sorting out which of the stories given to me as a child were true and which were not. It’s not as easy as you’d think, because much of the time the truth can be more outrageous than any liar’s tale. For instance, my Great Grandfather, Daniel Webster Wells, used to catch catfish out of the Coosa River that were four feet long. I know this is true, because I have pictures. I know that I shot my neighbor with a BB Gun too, as I got a terrible spanking for that. But there are some stories that I haven’t quite been able to verify. It’s these tales that make you wonder, not because of the bizarre content, but because of the source.  Some people are fun to listen to, but not very credible. In the harshest terms, they are liars. There are so many types of liars that it’s almost not fair to group them all in the same category, but God isn’t fair, he’s just, and he decided that all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. I do not condone lying, but this is not a sermon, it’s more of a essay on the different types of liars. Since the majority of the history in rural towns is oral, my goal is to give you a few tools to help you differentiate between what’s fact and what’s oral fiction.

Some liars are habitual, and lie for lying’s sake. Jerry Clower said, “Some folks would rather climb a tree and tell a lie before they’d stand on the ground and tell the truth.” These liars have no motive for lying other than it’s just what they do. I had one of these type of liars tell me that there was a family who adopted a child from another country and they were having a hard time with the child because in the former country, yes meant no, and no meant yes. The same person also told me about an infant sitting on their mother’s lap as she was sewing. At some point the child cried out and the mother picked up the baby and held it on her shoulder, patting it’s back. The child instantly let out a gasp, but didn’t cry anymore, but the mother missed her sewing needle. Fifteen years later, the child now a young lady, complained of a pimple on her back. When her mother went to squeeze the pimple the needle shot out of the girls back. I know from experience that these habitual liars get mad when you don’t believe them.

My favorite type of liars are the entertaining liars, they lie because they have an audience. They don’t tend to get mad if you don’t believe them as long as you are entertained by the tale. Most of the entertaining liars I’ve met could have made honest careers as fiction writers. I had a liar of this ilk tell me that as he was driving to my house, he saw a prominent citizen in our community on his roof, dressed as Santa Claus, reading the newspaper while sitting on the chimney, apparently using the restroom. Now that’s pretty funny and outrageous, but if you knew the citizen, you would have found yourself wondering if it was true. Another time, the same talebearer told me that he had heard someone call in to the classic rock station and give the following testimony. “I love the Lord, and I’m thankful that he’s given me a sound mind. I appreciate the uplifting music that y’all play, it really blesses me. I just want the Lord to make me humble and (h)umble.” Of course, we knew who he was lying about, and it was funny, but also not unbelievable. You have to be careful with these entertaining liars, or you will establish their credibility by believing and repeating their lies.

Once, my brother, cousin, and I were building a fence at my grandmother’s place. There was a withered old man with a tracheotomy and cowboy hat who came out to watch us as we built the fence beside his residence. I’m not sure how we got on the subject, but as Zach carried the heavy post driver over to the next post, the old man stated that he had “once picked up a syrup mill by himself.” Now Zach, never been one to “enjoy a good lie”, was not about to let this slide, having recently spent a whole day making sorghum syrup. He dropped the post driver and said, “They ain’t no way you picked up a syrup mill by yourself.”

My cousin, who was quite a story teller in his own right, tried to calm Zach down and let it be, hoping to draw out more of the tale. “Just let him alone Zach, maybe he did.” And then to the old man, “How much did that syrup mill weigh?”

“He ain’t picked up no syrup mill Anthony.” I suppose liars don’t like to be called out, and soon the old man went back inside leaving us to our work.

Some liars will not retreat as easily when faced with the truth. I place these in the category of the ignorant liar, which is someone who doesn’t let their lack of knowledge keep them from teaching. These proud liars will be able to dominate any conversation on any subject with their wealth of knowledge. Some folks call them “Know-it-Alls”. Once I remember a conversation with a man about construction of a building in Childersburg, AL being halted after Indian artifacts were found during the initial excavation.

“I shouldn’t wonder that they found some Indian pottery, you can dig just about anywhere around here and find Indian pottery and arrowheads.”  He said. This was true enough, I used to find arrowheads all the time in the cotton fields behind my house, but he took it further and capped his statement with, “Childersburg is the oldest city.”

I asked him incredulously, “You mean in the Coosa Valley? Or the State of Alabama?”

“Naw! Childersburg is the oldest city in the world!” He said arrogantly.

What makes these particular liars so annoying is that you can’t convince them of what is true. When you argue with a fool, you always lose.

Calling a liar in many cases will get you nowhere. Sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut. If someone is lying they’ll eventually trip over one of their own lies. If I feel like I’m being told a lie, I like to ask verifying questions. A liar will never disappoint you when you ask for details. It helps if you can remember these details and then ask again a month or so later. If you’re lucky, they’ll start in on a fresh set of details that contradicted the set from last month. Even better they’ll be unsuccessful in trying to remember the set that they gave you last month.

The last type of liar I’d like to mention would be the exaggerator. What might start out as embellishment, will turn into a full blown lie. I’ve been with people that are recounting a story of which I was an eye witness, and I find myself frowning because I don’t remember it that way. Or someone will tell a lie about something that they didn’t do and then say, “Ask Zane, he was there.” Which is another lie.

My mom was babysitting a child once who told her of all of the things that he’d stolen. My mother was disappointed and admonished the child that it wasn’t good to steal. He replied, “Aw, I’s just lying.” You don’t have to teach children how to lie, you’re supposed to teach them not to lie. If you are a liar though, you show your children how to lie. This is why lying runs in the family. There was a time when it was a shameful to lie, and people knew it was wrong. That must have been a long time ago.

 

Biblical Rock Band Names

I’ve composed a list of band names taken from the Bible.

I’ve composed a list of band names taken from the Bible.

  1. Wounded in the Stones
  2. Balaam’s Ass
  3. Kicking Against the Pricks
  4. Strange Fire
  5. The Fleshpots
  6. Pestilent Fellows of the Baser Sort
  7. The Whited Walls
  8. Jannes & Jambres
  9. The She Bears
  10. Dead Men’s Bones
  11. The Bloody Husbands
  12. Sons of Korah
  13. The Privy Members
  14. Wilderness of Sin
  15. The Lame Men
  16. Chaff
  17. Backsliding Heifer
  18. Gate of Sodom
  19. The 10 Plagues
  20. Hole in the Roof
  21. Golden Calf
  22. Pillar of Salt
  23. Forehead Bald
  24. The Italian Band
  25. Tombs of Gadara
  26. Noise of the Viols
  27. Hands Against Every Man
  28. Sepulchre Throat
  29. Plain of Ono
  30. Fire of Molech
  31. Sons of Belial
  32. The Peeping Wizards
  33. Ostrich Mother
  34. Dart in the Liver
  35. Golden Emerods
  36. Nehushtan
  37. High Places
  38. Riotous Eaters of Flesh
  39. Leave Us Alone!
  40. The Slow Bellies