Country Music’s Rural Roots Not The Same As The Past


By Peter Gerstenzang

I’ve just finished spending a few hours listening to current country music. Actually, it was five songs, so it couldn’t have been a couple of hours. Unless I heard the dance remixes.

I’ve always gotten a good idea of what’s happening in America from a voice hailing from our rural areas. Except now, that rural voice seems to be coming from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. And that was a guy. The following are recent top five country singles. From five folks who will be working at Red Robin in the near future.

1. Take Your Time – Sam Hunt: The song title refers to the studly narrator’s advice to the hot girl at the bar. He’d like to drink with her, only when she’s ready. A charming approach that Ted Danson used in the old days. Less charming when you discover Ted Bundy also used it in the old days. What makes this song unique for country? Hunt raps in each verse. An idea similar to realizing your parents have sex. You’re glad they are. But if you dwell on it, you can’t keep solid food down for a week.

2. Lonely Tonight – Blake Shelton: Loneliness use to be a staple of country music. When Hank Williams sang about it, you knew he was drunk and in agony. Blake Shelton sounds like he’s holding a Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain bar. And is so upset, he may not be able to finish it.

3. Make Me Wanna Thomas Rhett: A schizophrenic little number. It starts out as funky as a 70s dance tune. Then Rhett comes in, sounding so psychotically Southern, you figure his doctors at the insane asylum suggested singing instead of basket weaving. Apparently, when he’s on his meds, he actually sounds like Noel Coward.

4. Ain’t Worth the Whiskey – Cole Swindell: This is the most disturbing mix of players I’ve heard since Mike Huckabee played bass with Ted Nugent. But even though that was pull-on-the-appends funny, this drinking song is just plain weird. It opens with a blast of faceless AOR, then settles into a song about drinking. Okay, that’s country. But this Cole guy doesn’t sound like he wants to obliterate himself with booze. He’ll have a few Jameson’s-neat, then call a car service. If you don’t take out at least one fire hydrant and one old man with a walker while you’re driving home? You ain’t country!

5. Just Gettin’ Started – Jason Aldean: I just realized this is the fifth band in a row true to their roots. That part is good. The bad part is those roots are Matchbox Twenty. In this song, Jason’s girl can’t keep her hands off him as they tool around in his pick-up truck. All we can pray for is Aldean reciprocates. Hands off the wheel long enough and he may hit the old man that Swindell missed. In country, like in life, there’s always a little bit of hope.