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inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #51 of 64: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 31 Dec 07 11:37
    
>very small town America

That's where I live. I live in a town of less than 10,000 people, and
there were more than a dozen yellow ribbons on the fence around the
city park. Nampa, the second biggest city in Idaho, lost a guy during
9/11 and has its own set of yellow ribbons. There was a kid in my
daughter's daycare who had both parents go to the Middle East, and I'd
have to stop and count on my fingers to think how many people I know
personally had a mother, father, spouse, cousin over there. Fortunately
they've all come back in one piece, so far.

Complicated is right. A real significant plurality of Idahoans
identify as independent, even if they happen to be voting Republican
right now, and there was a big furor at the notion of having to
register to vote in the Republican primary because that would cut out
those people. A number of our politicians, including our governor, are
identified more as Libertarian even if they have an R next to their
names. A fair number of people are a lot more live and let live about
things like homosexuality, drug use, being a Democrat, etc. than one
might expect given the high proportion of Republicans we have.

I don't think Keith supports Bush per se other than as a mechanism for
supporting the troops, and he has issues with some of the ways the
wars have been conducted. He's upset about 9/11. He supports the
soldiers. According to one interview, he's "patriotic not political,"
and I think that describes it pretty well. Yes, you've got The Angry
American but you've also got I'm Not Smoking Pot with Willie No More.
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #52 of 64: Liz Mechem (thelizwiz) Tue 1 Jan 08 20:27
    
Sharon, thanks so much for checking in on this. Living part of the
time in a rural, poor county and the rest of the time in a suburb of
New York full of self-employed artists and latte-drinking rich people,
I know full well who's fighting the war and who isn't. But I also see
that the sentiments are much more complicated among my neighbors in
Claryville than they are in Nyack. Here in latte-land, I think many
folks secretly equate supporting the troops with supporting the war --
even though our bumper stickers say otherwise. Up in Claryville, where
they listen to Toby Keith, not Willie Nelson (more on this below),
they're more angry about the war than we are, because their kids are
over there. But there's pride mixed with the anger, and that's the
thing that makes it hard for an outsider to understand. It seems to
boil down to this: I don't like the fact that they're over there, but
since they are, I'm going to be proud of their service and sacrifice.
The pride is the consolation prize for the loss and hardship. And
again, there are as many variations on this question as there are front
doors in any given town. 

Before I jump back to the tantalizing questions raised by Mark and get
to John's blue state/red state question, boy, gotta give props to Rik.
 

Dr. Hook was such a great amalgam of gritty American genres that was
so right at the time.  I remember buying the Grateful Dead's Europe '72
when it came out, at the Record Factory in SF's Inner Sunset -- the
latest from our local boys, and springing for a Dr. Hook record -- was
it Sloppy Seconds? The two went together: a country apart, but drawing
on so many of the same roots. Didn't realize that the band had spent so
much time in Nashville, but of course it makes sense. Thanks for
mentioning Tompall Glaser; he gets left off many discussions of the
Outlaw movement as he's overshadowed by Waylon and Willie. Did you ever
meet up with David Allen Coe during the early 70s? He pretty much
defined the anti-establishment element in Nashville then, from what I
understand. 

The red state/blue state question is something I don't really feel
qualified to answer. But that won't stop me from trying. One of the
things that helped with writing this book, since I HAD to cover artists
like Brooks and Dunn and Rascal Flatts, newer acts whose politics and
commercialism rub me the wrong way, was that I had to look hard at what
they were contributing to their fans, even if I wasn't one of them.
What the heck was the appeal? I read all the spin and listened to their
music and watched their videos and live performances. With Rascal
Flatts, I came up a little short, I admit. There's just very little
there there. Brooks and Dunn had a video that came out post 9/11 and
pre-invasion (remember those few months?) that was all about
inclusiveness and how America is for everyone, etc., but just as
quickly, they turned around and supported Bush's  war. Put that in
contrast to the Dixie Chicks, and there's your divide right there. 

When you used to talk crossover in country you were talking about the
country/pop crossover acts of Eddy Arnold and his ilk in the 50s, or
then the country/rock crossover of 80s acts like Alabama, or even
Shania or Tim McGraw with their hip-hop dabblings. But there's another
kind of country crossover - the kind that aims to be both popular and
true to its roots. The Dixie Chicks kind of embody this. They can snag
the people in the Volvos and the SUVs alike. (Full disclosure: I drive
a Volvo, and Chris drives an SUV). 

One of the big divides now in country seems to be between excessively
produced music and live acts, and those that favor acoustic instruments
and rootsier, more pared-down arrangements -- alt country, if you
will. It seems somewhat simplistic, and there are exceptions galore,
but the same dividing line that separates these two groups seems to run
along red/blue lines, with the red favoring the hyped, mass-appeal
stuff and the blue on the side of the unplugged. Not too surprising,
really. But again, it's more a cultural divide than a regional one. You
can buy a nice little Willie Nelson complilation in Starbucks.  
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #53 of 64: Liz Mechem (thelizwiz) Tue 1 Jan 08 20:42
    
Sharon, your post made me think of Merle Haggard.  There's some
crossover for you: "Let's get out of Iraq and get back on track," says
the same ol' Hag who gave us "Okie from Muskogee" and "Working Man
Blues." It's too easy to just say sheep on one side, goats on the
other.  The best are above that fray. 
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #54 of 64: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 1 Jan 08 21:30
    
One really wonderful thing about living in what is arguably the most
Republican state in the Union is learning nuance and that not
everything is black and white -- or red and blue, for that matter.
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #55 of 64: cookin' something up (robertflink) Wed 2 Jan 08 05:02
    
OTOH, nuance can ruin a good political dog fight. 

BTW, my early love of country music was due, in large part, to the
anti-glitz idea.  I get a little "cognitive dissonance" when I see
glitzy anti-glitz.  
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #56 of 64: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 2 Jan 08 06:03
    
Merle Haggard is a guy who thinks for himself.  Even when he was
nominally running down all of us sandal-wearing pot-smoking types, I
sensed a kindred spirit and actually owned a couple of his albums back
in hippie days.
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #57 of 64: Liz Mechem (thelizwiz) Wed 2 Jan 08 12:03
    
Just heard this excellent segment on Soundcheck on WNYC, an interview
with Tony Russell, country music historian. He has a new book out with
the word "Legends" in it too, and he keeps it real. Some good clips
here, including an amazing recording from 1922. 

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/soundcheck/episodes/2008/01/02


BTW, I need to correct an earlier mistake, when I attributed a theory
of Russell's to Bill C. Malone, another country music historian.  It
was Russell, not Malone, who came up with the theory of the two strains
of country music springing from either the Carter Family or Jimmie
Rodgers.  
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #58 of 64: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 2 Jan 08 13:33
    

Thanks for the pointer, Liz.

And thanks, also, to both Liz and Chris for joining us for the past couple
weeks to talk about their book, "Legends of Country," and to share so many
fascinating tidbits about country music and its rich history and roots. A
big tip o' the hat to John Ross, too, for so ably leading this conversation.
It's been really rewarding.

Though we've turned our virtual spotlight to a new guest, this doesn't mean
this discussion has to stop. The topic will remain open for further comments
indefintely, so if you can stick around, please feel welcome to do so. If
you must go, thanks for being here, and good luck with your next project!
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #59 of 64: Chris Carroll (marvy) Wed 2 Jan 08 14:45
    
Thank you. It's been a real pleasure for me, as well. Though I learned thta
my wife is quite a bit more long winded and erudite than I. Funny, that
doesn't seem to be the case around the house, here, go figure! Enjoyed
talking with you all, and look forward to seeing you around the Well. I've
offered to treat Liz to a year if she decides to stick around so you might
well see her around these parts as, uh, well.
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #60 of 64: Liz Mechem (thelizwiz) Wed 2 Jan 08 18:28
    
Thanks to all who participated! And thanks to Cynthia for inviting us
and to John for some good, probing questions. I'll be checking in every
day or so, and will keep sharing news or new good country music we
hear about.  Now I'm on to the next writing project -- this time a book
on world religions. Not too far a leap from country music. Maybe I'd
better check in with the Writer's conference for some tips on curbing
my longwindedness. 
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #61 of 64: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 3 Jan 08 12:40
    
Yeah, this was a really fun discussion.  Thankfully, my wife actually
kinda likes country music (at least enough not to complain when I play
it), but I don't ordinarily get to have conversations about the deep
cultural meaning of Nudie suits.
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #62 of 64: John Ross (johnross) Thu 3 Jan 08 12:45
    
I can just see it now...the publsher is aiming the book at the TBN market,
so their list of world religions is limited to mainstream Christians and a
few colorfully mistaken others -- Jews, Buddhists and Mormons. But nothing
about Wiccans, Animists or the Greek Pantheon, who are just too obscure...
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #63 of 64: John Ross (johnross) Thu 3 Jan 08 12:48
    
More seriously, thanks from me, as well. When I first looked through the
book, I found myself making a mental list of people who should have been
in it. But as we got into the discussion, it became clear that Chris and Liz
probably have a similar list of their own, so the discussion moved into some
interesting paths.
  
inkwell.vue.316 : Chris Carroll and Liz Mechem, "Legends of Country"
permalink #64 of 64: Get Shorty (esau) Thu 3 Jan 08 13:58
    
I really enjoyed the discussion, reading it all offline but never
managing to pose a question. Of course, I have a few things to add but
I'll let them go.

There's a little moment from several years back when Jon Stewart hosted
some music awards show, probably the American Music Awards. A fairly
new-on-the-scene Shania Twain performed, doing a high-gloss dance
production number behind her hit of the moment. I watched it thinking,
jeez, she's a knockout, but this music is basically Britney Spears
dance-pop sung with a slight twang.

Jon Stewart comes back onstage and says, "So that's country music?,"
suppressing a barely concealed smile. "I gotta check that out."
  



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