I have never gone line dancing. I have never owned a Camaro (though back in the 80's, I did covet the Berlinetta). Speaking of cars, I've never gone to a NASCAR event. A single night of drag-racing in my elementary school years is as close as it gets. Hmmm…what else? I've never chewed tobacco. Never voted for a Republican. Never ate a pork rind. Pecan pie? No thanks.
Country music? There was never a whole lot of it around the house when I was a kid. Maybe a couple of Ray Price records. Mom might have owned a Charlie Pride album too. That's about it.
Teen years during the era of Classic Rock gave me a supposed hatred of country music. Please, don't bring up those Marshall Tucker and Commander Cody records. So does some/any of this mean that I'm not a country music fan? Does it even matter? Maybe we should start up another of those "What Is Country?" arguments? Nah, nobody wants that.
What I find interesting about country music discussions is the sheer amount of sneer-laden condescension involved. All of it backed by absolute surety. That is NOT country music. He's a no-talent hack. Anybody who likes that stuff must not know anything about music. And on it goes.
Sure enough, I do agree with a few viewpoints, mostly that it's a shame that more traditional country has been pushed aside by mainstream country media. Yes, Johnny Cash's middle finger was well-deserved. Modern country music has more to do with pop and rock. No big mystery there. It's a huge business. All of those pretty faces and bodies wrapped in jeans and big hats. So all of the above angry complaints about the music are about as pointless as the typical collection of "values" used to stereotype its fans.
None of this means that good music cannot rise up from the marketing-plan mediocrity. So now, I suppose, I should construct a little defense of "Achy Breaky Heart" and then move on to Billy Ray Cyrus' Wanna Be Your Joe.
Well, OK. Maybe.
First of all, "Achy Breaky Heart" was just a little country/rock/blues/pop thing that made a bunch of folks (in my mind, young things packed into tight jeans) head out to the dance floor to partake in a little shakin'. For some reason though, this made blood boil in some quarters. Sheesh….relax, will ya?!
Wanna Be Your Joe doesn't deserve the baggage of "Achy Breaky" that comes with it. If this had been Cyrus' first release, we'd be talking about a country/pop record with leanings from rock to traditional country. Sure, a few stereotypes are touched on with the tributes to fallen heroes Ronnie Van Zandt ("The Freebird Fell") and Dale Earnhardt ("The Man"). Freed from history, we'd get an irony-free listen to "Country Music Has The Blues", with guest vocals from country music titans Loretta Lynn and George Jones. In between there are the love songs (the popish title track, "I Wouldn't Be Me"), the relationship rants ("Ole What's Her Name", "Lonely Wins") and even a look back to the glory days with "I Want My Mullet Back."
In truth, Wanna Be Your Joe has more in common with John Mellencamp than either a Dwight Yokum or Junior Brown. No crime in that.
But what do I know? I mean, I've got a pickup truck in my back yard that has to be mowed around. Oh, and I used to sport a mullet, too.