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The 2012 CMAs: A city slicker’s guide to country music

If you’re a city slicker and you’ve always felt a little left out because you aren’t familiar with country music, you are not alone. Country music appreciation can be hard to come by when you know more about Christian Louboutin shoes than cowboy hats. Still, country music isn’t just for rednecks with chain saws who go noodling on the weekends (look it up). Here’s your guide to country music appreciation.

Honey Boo BooDo your homework

Tune into Swamp People, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or pretty much any show where subtitles are necessary for English-speaking folks. Here you’ll learn how to speak hillbilly, the tenets of redneck society and several ways to prepare mac-n-cheese. These programs are vastly entertaining, and mock if you will, but every city slicker should have a redneck in his or her hip pocket if s*** goes down. If the world ends tomorrow, you’ll need someone who knows how to live off the land, catch a catfish using a forearm as bait, and use mud and duct tape in a hundred different ways. After watching a few of these shows, you should develop a fondness for banjos — oh, and antibiotics.

Twang it all!

Country music has its own accent, called twang. This happens when a person speaks ordinary English until he or she puts on a cowboy hat, worn jeans and cowboy boots — and steps in front of a mic. This very same person will develop a drawl and a twang and all of sudden start saying stuff like, “y’all,” “slap the dog and spit in the fire” and “son of a biscuit.” Go to your local honky-tonk bar, and you’ll see what we mean. When at home, try dropping a “dagnabbit,” or describe someone as “nuttier than a squirrel’s breakfast.” Once you’ve developed an ear for twang and hillbilly-speak, your journey to better appreciating country music will have begun.

It’s not for the weak

Wait until you’re in a good frame of mind before beginning your country music education. If you are easily depressed, you are ill advised to listen to this genre of music by yourself. Have you seen the e-card that says, “Country music is just about people cheating on their wives, then shooting their dog and eating it for dinner”? Extreme though this example may be, it makes a valid point. At least with the blues, we know what type of music we are in for, and we know to not listen to it if we’ve officially bottomed out. But country music can be a little sneaky that way. Listen with caution if you are in a fragile place. We’d never suggest that country music will make a city slicker want to end it all, but it is best enjoyed when your coping skills are not compromised.

Start out with the classics

A good place to start your country music appreciation is with the classics. The outlaw tunes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr. are what made country music as popular as it is today. These early rebels were all about whiskey and doin’ things their way (if you are going to start listening to country music, you’d better get used to dropping the “g” on verbs that end in “ing”). Dial up a little “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean,” “A Country Boy Can Survive,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” If you’re serious about falling in love with country music, start with “Seven Spanish Angels” by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles, and feel free to belt out “well, well well” every time they say “in the valley of the gun.”

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