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Monday, June 22, 2009

Que Es Mas Macho: Punk Country Edition

The genre of music I've had the hardest time embracing is Country and Western. I associate it with hicks, intolerance and chewing tobacco. These associations go back to growing up in a very provincial area of rural Washington. I never wanted to have anything to do with the music or the lifestyle that I saw in front of me. I don't wear jeans. I can't stand cowboy boots. And mustaches creep me out.

As I grew older, I started appreciating indie-country... slices of Americana laid down with banjos and acoustic guitars. Whether quiet or raging, these tunes rebelled against the factory mold of what country was supposed to be and followed their own vision. The easy entree into this underappreciated world was Johnny Cash... because, after all, what could be more punk rock than this:

More recently, I've run across a couple of songs by country artists that surprised me. They embody the true meaning of punk rock. Like rappers that incorporate sentimentality into their lyrics, these artists are bucking the norms of the genre in ways that show courage. Both of these songs run the risk of alienating audiences that normally support the country music industry.

The first example, played a bit tongue-in-cheek, is Willie Nelson's Cowboys are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other. And he may be confusing cross-gender identification with homosexuality, but I'm still proud of Willie for recording this tune.

The second example is Steve Earle's John Walker's Blues. I'm not sure I've heard any musician, of any genre, pen a tune that tries to humanify Islam for American audiences. Earle's gravelly twang may be an acquired taste, but this song absolutely blew me away.

So, gentle reader, que es mas macho?



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