Friday, December 26, 2008

Country Music - Questions (and answers?)

At the Country Piknik, Mragowo, Poland, 2006. Photo (c) R. E. Gruber

I came across a question and answer session on pegged to the question Why don't most people like country music?

"im 13 years old, live in california and i personally LOVE country music (and i mean REAL country). i dont see anything wrong with country music even though growing up in a family who only listened to rap. i just dont understand why some people despise country!"
The replies (and the question) made me think of my friend, the Polish country singer Lonstar, and his recent English-language album called "What's This Country Thing?" -- which is also the name of the title song, the first part of which you can hear on Lonstar's myspace page.

Lonstar performing at the Berlin Country Music Messe, Feb. 2007. Photo (c) R. E. Gruber

The gist of the song is Lonstar's answers to a "lady" who asks the question, "What's this country thing" -- i.e. what is the appeal of country music. In Europe, where hardcore fans often dress up in wild west attire (and drink a lot... and line-dance a lot...), country music is often scorned by the mainstream. Lovers of pure American country music are sometimes embarrassed by the raucous "scene" -- such as that associated with the trucker festivals and other big events, where a carnival atmosphere can prevail. Many country music fans scorn, in particular, local-language country music, sung by local musicians in German, Czech, Polish, French.....

For example, in his book Das Neue Grosse Buch der Country Music (Koenigswinter: Heel, 2005), my friend Walter Fuchs, a staunch country music fan and one of Germany's most serious experts on the genre, wrote:
"[T]hat the German language country song, [. . .] with its interpreters dressed up like cowboys and its partly banal to infantile text has brought the altogether serious German Country Music scene into discredit is undisputed. Numerous friends of country music often do not dare to 'out' themselves in front of their friends for fear of being identified as a fan of German language country songs. [. . .] The German language country song and the original country song from the U.S.A. are worlds apart."

All photos (c) R. E. Gruber.

In his song -- which he sings in both Polish and English versions, Lonstar sets out to show his skeptical questioner that there is more to country music (and "country") than that.

He sings: "you criticize it, saying that it's kid stuff, backward and bad taste, stuff we should grow out of, dirty trash and waste."
"Country's not about a boot or a cowboy hat, you should learn about it just a little more than that. It's a life that prides every word to the music of your laughter, crying, joy and hurt. A friend you can rely on, faithful to the bone. If it feels like home, then it's country.

"Simple man and scholar, granny, dad and son; poor man and a rich man, there's room for everyone. And you insinuate it's isolated, 'cos pearls and swine don't mix. You claim it's a pastime, good for fools and hicks -- which is a lie, 'cos we have loving couples, and the cheatin' wives, those who've just got fired, and those who've won a prize, united in the country music circle, good as daily bread. Why don't you drop this line of accusation, lady, join our bunch instead. And see for yourself...."

(Earlier this year, I posted a video of Lonstar singing at the Mragowo Country Piknik.)

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