Thursday, December 23, 2010

It Only Takes a Generation

This morning my seven year old was dancing around the kitchen singing Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman". I moved to the South when I was five. My parents must be second guessing their decision to leave the suburbs of Detroit.  "Hell, Yeah."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Madonna Nash is Fabulous.

I have gone to the website and listened to the music of almost every musician who has (surprisingly and graciously) followed me on Twitter. So far, I have bought music from one, Madonna Nash, a singer from Wilmington, NC. She has an engaging persona on Twitter. I don't think that's the reason I bought her album over that of another artist, but it couldn't have hurt. Nash seems sweet and generous. She is also incredibly beautiful. Yes, the hair in that photo is hers. I asked her.
Her album, "Madonna Nash", is without a doubt my best recent album purchase. I like every song on the album except one. Most remarkable is that I'm saying this about a female singer. I usually prefer a male voice and almost exclusively buy music from male artists. (Isn't that awful!). Madonna has a warm, sometimes feisty tone with a nice soft twang. Her lyrics are about the stuff that occupies most women's minds: love or the lack thereof, handling a man, self-esteem, and home. She also has made a country album without including even one "I'm so country and here are my qualifications" song, a commendable accomplishment.

The album opens with the single "Dirty Little Secret". It's a catchy song about keeping a secret. According to posts on her Facebook page it appears to be getting some initial radio play. It wouldn't surprise me if we end up hearing it often. "Swinging Door" is probably my favorite song on the album. She's singing with some power and uses one of my favorite expressions "Don't let that swinging door hit you..." Miranda, Carrie, watch out, there's another angry blond headed your way.  The other song I really like is "Whiskey Whispers". It's about a guy coming home after hanging out at a bar all night, lookin' for some lovin'. We need version of this song for golf widows where he comes home after a day on the course, lookin' for some supper. I was interested to read the reviewer for The Mountain Times  say that this song is cliche, mainly because of the boozy theme. I thought the same thing first time I heard it, but after listening to the album multiple times, have since changed my mind.

The same reviewer from the Mountain Times says that the song "Firefly" is cheesy because of some of its references to a Georgia peach. Wrong. Peaches are sweet and maybe a little sappy and so is "Firefly", yet the line "You're my firefly in a mason jar"is a lovely visual reference. The sugary sweetness of "Firefly" makes me think more of my child than my husband. On the other hand, the sultry escapist love song "Out of Town" could motivate me to make some last minute reservations at a B&B in the mountains.

There are a few very slow songs on the album. "Beautiful" is rather heartbreaking; a woman contemplating the loss of her her man to a younger woman. "Yes she's pretty but I'm beautiful." There is a woman close to me to whom this song applies perfectly. I'd send it to her if I didn't think it would make her weep. The harm to ones self-esteem and the underlying conflict between wanting a man back after he's had an affair, and knowing that he really shouldn't be invited back is a real one.

I enjoy listening to Madonna Nash's album from front to back (excluding the final song, "Watch my Purse"). The album has terrific flow and is chock full of good, solid songs. Quite frankly, it doesn't sound like a debut album. It's ripe. Wishing Madonna Nash enough success to fill the back of the truck that will eventually move her to the top of the country charts.
If you want to read another review by a fellow tweeter and fan of Madonna Nash, read this one by Lovin' Lyrics.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Coin: Ride What You Can't Change, or Yo! Support Your Friend's Efforts and Good Things Will Come

 Continuing the discussion from my post "Oy Vey, Facebook has Changed My Consumer Behavior"

About a year ago a boarding school friend's status update mentioned the presale of a CD by Charles Danek, who I remember as a Beatles obsessed teenager. He was preselling CDs to raise the money to produce the album. I said, "Hey, why not? I'd love to help Charlie out." I sent him the payment for the CD and totally forgot about it. Yesterday, to my surprise, the CD arrived in the mail accompanied by a long and thoughtful thank-you note. His band (of collaborators, according to his website) is called "Coin" and the CD title is "Ride What You Can't Change." Here is his website

After 22 years, I had no idea what sort of music to expect from Charles Danek. Luckily, it says right on the cover "a Jazz/Americana travelogue" and that's exactly what it is.  Some of the songs are jazzier, some are more Americana/Folksy. It's all a little sleepy and rather lovely. I'm trapped in the house by 1/2 an inch of snow and ice today and Coin is making it harder to get out of my jammies.  One thing is for sure, I am going to listen to this album more than I expected to when I prepaid for it. It will get loaded up into itunes and enter the shuffle. It may become my snowy day album.

My favorite song on the album is "American Vespers".  A design professor once told my class that it's better for a product to be interesting than pretty, but if it's both, that's ideal.  "American Vespers" is both. Additional voices join Charles and the song sounds like one of the desert travel photos on the inside of the CD case.  I asked Charles who the voices are, because the credits aren't specific. The gravelly older voice that starts the song, setting the mood, (and this is cool, so brace yourself) is Ronny Cox, the actor who played Drew, the banjo playing canoer, in "Deliverance".

I prefer the songs on the album that skew in the direction of  Americana to those displaying strong Jazz influences because I'm not a big Jazz fan.  Despite my prejudices, the jazzy and rather groovy "Get it in Gear" has grown on me in a few listens. The song I would love to hear recorded by a singer with some twang, a big set of lungs, and large noisy band is "Ride".  Country radio? (and I say that most affectionately)

So finally what is my point? First, take a chance on an old friend. I could not be more pleased with the outcome of this exchange. I asked Charles how many CDs he presold via Facebook and other social networking sights and it was a very small number. This approach did not fund his project.

On one hand I'm surprised, because buying an album from someone you like, before it's even recorded, doesn't seem like something one needs to over think. The worst that can happen is the CD never gets recorded, and you lose $15. The best case scenario is that in a few months you receive an enjoyable CD in the mail.

Alternately, I'm not surprised at all that the response was so weak. I am bombarded every day with buy this/listen to this/look at this/vote for this status updates and Tweets from musicians, and at some point one just stops reacting to them. Unfortunately, Social Networking sites have become one big promotional mosh pit.

Looking forward to your next album, Charlie! Now how many versions are there of Strawberry Fields?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why Have I Started Watching Award Shows at 40? American Country Awards

I've made it through half my life, plus or minus, without watching or caring about award shows, so why start now?  Since I no longer smoke, drink in excess, or party like I used to before entering the world of suburban family bliss, give me this one stupidity.

The inaugural (everyone seems to be using that word) American Country Awards (ACA) were Monday night. It hasn't gotten good reviews. It was a poorly produced and confusing combination of  award and variety show. The funniest blog coverage that I've read is The 9513's live blog.  If you didn't see the show it probably won't make any sense.  The Boot has a  review up that covers everything. I'm only going to comment on the few parts of the show that stuck with me.

The ACA is an award show where fans voted for their favorite in each category from a list of nominees. This turned musicians into an annoying chorus of self-promoters chanting "Vote for me! Vote for me!" for over a month. Of course, I voted for my absolute favorite, Joe Nichols, and my honorary favorite (because he's MOT), Jaron and Long Road to Love. Alas, neither of them won anything, but show organizers must have been channeling my vibes.  They sent the two of them onto the stage together to introduce someone. As far as award show pleasure goes, Joe and Jaron on stage together is about as good as it gets for me. It could only be improved upon by their singing a duet and then Jaron wishing everyone a Happy Hanukkah.
Trace Adkins as host exceeded my expectations, which were very low. Award show host probably isn't a natural role for him. The whole bit where he had two hot busty ladies participating in his silly skits was rather misogynistic but, like the New York Times article "No Sex Please, We're Middle Class" states (somewhere in the middle of the article), traditional and bawdy gender roles are part of country music. Perhaps country music lovers all over are enjoying the physical company of their partners more often because of these antics. We can only hope.

Easton Corbin was a hoot. He was either very excited to win, couldn't hear because of his earphones, or forgot he was on TV.  He shouted his thank yous like at a live concert in a stadium. As far as the "I'm so country and here are my qualifications" songs go, Corbin's "A Little More Country than That" is a charming one. His win for breakthrough artist of the year was deserved and his performance, enjoyable.

Toby Keith was honored for his videos and performed "Bullets in the Gun". (Click to read previous post on the "Bullets in the Gun" video.) If I had to sit and watch all of one musician's videos in one sitting, I'd choose Toby's. I may have come close to doing that on an occasion, so I second the honor.

The Band Perry, three cuties with remarkable hair, won song of the year with "If I Die Young". I was following a number of country music bloggers and fans on Twitter during the show and was surprised how many of them don't like this song. I love this song. It's a beautiful, sad and poetic song. Unlike most country songs, the lyrics are sophisticated enough that they require a few listens to digest. Good for the Band Perry!

I liked the fact that they honored the careers of Rascal Flatts and Alan Jackson, but really didn't like the medleys. I fast forwarded through Rascal Flatt's and cringed through Alan Jackson's, which was unfortunately a bit awkward. Unless it is the Beachboys or Queen, please, no more live medleys.

To the often asked question, does country music really need the ACA, my answer is maybe.  I do think the ACA was much more enjoyable to watch than the CMT Artists of the Year melodrama that was on TV last week. If they do the ACA again next year, it will hopefully be a better produced show.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good Hanukkah Music? It's a Miracle.

It's 12/3/10 and I'm adding this to the top of this post. Someone just sent me a very charming Hanukkah Country song.  It made my day! Spinning dreidels, Patsy Cline, Jimmy Rogers, and verklempt all in one song.  Dreidel's Day Out (Blue Dreidel No. 9) by Brigid Kaelin

I am going to start with the one country Hanukkah song I found online. Oy vey, y'all. Eight Candles Burning by Yoseph and Leah Urso.

It's hard to find good Hanukkah music. I think part of the problem is that our expectations for it are set by Christmas music. It's the same problem we have when comparing Hanukkah itself to Christmas. Christmas is one of Christianity's two most important holidays, both theologically and culturally.  Hanukkah just doesn't have the same weight in Jewish life. It's a lovely holiday so I don't want to diminish it, but it's not a holiday we travel to be with family for. Most of us don't attend special services. We don't take a day off. It has a nice ritual, a short story, and miracle. We have the dreidle game, latkes, sufganiyot, gelt and some gift giving (depending who you ask).

Really, the holiday Jewish musicians should be writing songs for is Pesach (Passover). I would love some good  Pesach music to clean the cabinets, cook and set the table to. Pesach has plenty of traditional songs to draw from as well as a nice long story and beautiful family traditions to inspire lyrics. (Of course, I'm not a songwriter or a musician, so what do I know?)

But, back to the subject at hand, Hanukkah music. I'm going to be listening to the list below. There isn't anything country on this list. I did find O'Chanukah by the Sinai Mountain Boys, a bluegrass band, but as much as I want to, I don't like it. I'll keep looking and will also continue to take suggestions and add to the list.

Miracle, Matisyahu A new one. People are saying it sounds like a Katy Perry song. The chorus does, but it doesn't bother me. My prediction is that my daughter will love it and listen to it endlessly.
Eran Baron Cohen Presents: Songs in the Key of Hanukkah This is absolutely the best Hanukkah album I've found. It's modern, original and interesting. Eran Baron Cohen did a really good job. Buy it on itunes it comes with a video. Amazon, no video. Links to both if you click.
Hanukkah Dance, Woody Guthrie I found just a blank video of this on YouTube. This was the only link I found for you to hear the whole song without having to give instructions like "click here, scroll down, click again." I bought it on itunes and then it grew on me. I prefer Guthrie's original to the Klezmatic's version. They have a whole album called Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah. Another Guthrie cover is the Indigo Girls', Happy Joyous Hanukkah.
Light One Candle, Peter, Paul and Mary Beautiful
Hanukkah, Adam Sandler is annoying as all get out, but it still makes me smile every time I hear it.
Or if you'd rather, Neil Diamond's cover of the same song.
Hanukkah Rocks, The LeeVees  I'm going to sound like I've got one foot in Florida, but my girlfriends and I listened to this the other day while playing Mahjong.  We were laughing so hard we had to turn it off so we could concentrate.
Maoz Tzur, Craig Taubman I'm on the fence on this, leaning toward liking it. Fast forward through the intro by Fran Drescher. 
Hanukkah Swings, Kenny Ellis Someone just pointed this album out to me and it sounds great. Love the swing! Traditional songs and a good voice. I am probably going to buy this one.

And now I muddy the water.
The Real Complete Happy Hanukkah Party So, this album has everything. Any Hanukkah song you ever had a hankering to sing is on here. Some of them are O.K.ish. They have a traditional yet slightly groovy (disco?) sound. I like their version of Sivivoni Yarutz. I dunno. Is it good? It has all the traditional songs and it's not cantorial.
Look up Mama Doni or The Macabeats  if you want to listen to or watch videos of popular songs remade into funny Hanukkah songs. I don't want to, but I know I have friends that do because they keep telling me about these two and sending me links. The Macabeats are an a capella group from Yeshiva U. They do have nice voices.
Eight Days of Hanukkah, Rasheeda Azar, written by Senator Orin Hatch and Madeline Stone. It's still odd.

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Country for Kids Concert, part 3, What I love about Rodney Atkins

After a week of exile in South Florida, I am finally finishing writing about the Country for Kids Concert.

Last but certainly not least, Rodney Atkins closed the evening at QDRs Country for Kids concert, supporting the N.C. Children's Hospital. It's been well over a week since the concert, so hopefully my memory will serve me well.

First, the serious. I learned this at the concert. Rodney Atkins was a very sick baby who was put up for adoption. He was adopted and then returned, if you can believe that, a number of times because he was so sick.  Happily a family did adopt him, nurture him to good health, raise him with love, and he was able to become the successful artist he is today. Next to me sat a highschool friend of mine, coincidentally, a farmer's daughter.  She has adopted two children who were born with birth defects. Last year, between the two children, there were thirteen surgeries.  She has just moved to N.C. and specifically to an area where the N.C. Children's Hospital is an easy drive.  In addition, the friend sitting on the other side of me knew one of the mothers in a video they showed about families who have very sick children in the hospital. Quite frankly, until this concert, I had never given the N.C. Children's Hospital much thought, because, Thank God, my daughter has been very healthy.  Sitting next to my friends and hearing Atkins' story made me realize just how important it is to support pediatric hospitals.

Next, the completely superficial. Rodney Atkins was wearing as bedazzled a t-shirt as any person should ever wear, even a country singer. From where we were sitting, we couldn't actually see the image on his back but it was probably an eagle. My friend was rather enamored by the shirt. "Turn around. What's on your back? That's hilarious. It's so shiny." We were very far back and she didn't actually say it loud enough for him to hear. That would be rude.  But I think we were all in agreement that he was sporting some dazzling bedazzling.

Rodney Atkins performance was a whole lot of fun. He played hit after hit and got everyone up on their feet singing. He had the audience sing the chorus of Farmers Daughter and taped it. I think we flubbed the lyrics in the middle, but Lovin' Lyrics music promotions who is kind enough to be one of my few twitter followers, videotaped it. (Click link above and you also get a glimpse of his bedazzled shirt. See the glint over the shoulder.) 

He went out into the crowd and audience members sang "If you're going through hell" which was rather poignant considering the battles many of the kids at the hospital need to fight.  I'm assuming that some of the audience members were parents of children, or even the children themselves, that have been in the hospital. For a lively rather rocking song, it was quite the tear jerker.

But the performance aside, this is what I love about Rodney Atkins. He sings super-twangy country songs with a sense of humor.  He always keeps it positive. In "About the South" (couldn't find an official video) he doesn't imply some sort of moral highground like, for instance, Josh Thompson's "Way out here". My husband has never picked a turnip and am not a farmer's daughter, but I love his songs because they are funny, sweet, warm and occassionally inspiring. He never comes across as mean. Even "Cleaning this gun" can probably get a smile out of about the most anti-gun father of a daughter. It's charming and the feelings expressed are universal. 

Rodney Atkins has something slightly goofy and very loveable about him. After considering the four performers, I'm sending my friend who comments on my blog a Rodney Atkins CD.  Thank you for reading and participating, Rachel.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Country for Kids Concert, Part 2, Clay Walker and the Sweaty Towel

If it was going to take me so long to finish writing about QDR's Country for Kids Concert to support the N.C. Children's Hospital (on 11/18) I probably shouldn't have started. Oh well. I make no apologies. I left for a  vacation and have been enjoying time with family in South Florida.

After Jason Michael Carroll and James Otto (see previous post) came Clay Walker.  The friend who accompanied me to the concert is a big Clay Walker fan so there were lots of expectations for his part of the show. Since so much time has passed since the concert, details have become blurred but in general, he was funny and soft spoken.  I was a little surprised by his antics, in a good way. He asked everyone in the audience to send word to Ellen DeGeneres, who he claims to have a "man crush" on, that he wants to dance with her on her show, and then proceeded to do a rather amusing dance. He made a show of swinging around his sweaty towel and tossed it into the audience with finesse.

On a side note, I ask you, my readers, what on earth does one do with a sweaty towel tossed to you by a country music star?  I didn't catch it, but someone did. I would probably wash it, take it to TechShop and embroider "This towel mopped up Clay Walker's sweaty brow on 11/18 and the Country for Kids concert" and then put it into the linen closet with the rest of the towels. It would get used and grey, until my daughter one day has to move me into The Heritage and finds it under a pile of stuff.  "Oh goodness Mama, you've been hanging onto this thing since your country music midlife crisis.  Mama, those were some crazy times."

Back to Mr. Walker, he started out with "If I could make a living out of loving you".  He sang "Where do I go from you" and I believe that's the song that he made the funny comment about.  He said it's hard to sing live so the last time he lip synced like Milli Vanilli. I didn't make a note of everything he sang, but he sounded really good and was amusing and very enjoyable throughout. He played "She won't be lonely long" twice, which was a little odd. It sounded like he was starting a different song and then switched to "She won't be lonely long" to finish the concert. I didn't mind because I love that song, but I think my friend, who wanted to hear more of his older songs was disappointed. Regardless, my appreciation for Clay Walker increased at this show and I will definitely see him again if he returns to the area.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Country for Kids Concert, part 1, JMC and James Otto

Wow. Last night was the Country for Kids Concert that QDR 94.7 sponsored to raise money for N.C. Children's Hospital. I just checked the website and between the NC Children's Promise fundraising telethon/radiothon and the concert they raised over a million dollars.

The concert was great! First of all it supported a very important organization in our community, but apart from that, it was just a very enjoyable concert. After going to so many huge concerts at Walnut Creek this summer with the heat, the crowds, and the drunks, it was pleasant to be in a smaller temperature controlled venue where the seats are comfortable and men wear their shirts. On top of that, every performance was outstanding.

Jason Michael Carroll, our local star who has been involved in this fundraising effort for a number of years, opened up with his incredible bass voice. He soon had everyone in tears with "Where I Come From" and "Alyssa Lies".  It's a good thing that he didn't sing "Hurray Home" or they would have had to send in a crew to mop the floor before the next act. In addition to some tunes from his past albums, he played two new songs. One was Christmas on the Farm from his new Christmas CD. Cute. (I do wish someone would put out some good country Jewish Holiday songs. A pipe dream? Jaron? Ray?) The other was "Meet Me in the Barn", a single he's releasing sometime soon. It took me a few hours to put my finger on it, but I think it sounds a bit like Justin Moore's Backwoods.  He also threw in enough farm cliches to get an eye roll from my friend. With that said, if QDR plays it I'm not going to change the channel.   It's the kind of song that after you hear it once you can sing along. "Meet me in the barn, way out in the pasture, park by the tractor, turn off your headlights, sneak in the backway so we don't get caught. I'll be waitin the hayloft with a kiss on my lips..." It's catchy, rather sweet, and we enjoyed it.

I'm adding this in because I just saw a tweet and it reminded me. JMC talked about an organization called Brittany's Battle that raises money for lung cancer research and families in need who are dealing with lung cancer. I went to their website and learned quite a bit. I didn't know that for all the people it takes from us, lung cancer is the most underfunded cancer. I like that JMC is so involved in health related charities. We've got nothin' w/out our health.

James Otto was up next.  He was charming. It's my second time seeing him in concert. The first was when he opened for Trace Atkins and Toby Keith last summer. He said something very funny about that (paraphrasing) "The only problem with being a guy who only has one hit song and opening for guys like that is that I'm a guy with only one hit song." I must say that he underestimates himself. When I saw him last summer, the group I was with thought he was much better than Trace Atkins. After that concert I downloaded a bunch of his music and have since purchased his album Shake What God Gave Ya. He has a Bluesy, R&B thing going on with the country. He doesn't dance around but he exudes a down to earth and friendly energy. There were 1800 people at DPAC last night but he turned it into an intimate performance.   The aspect of Otto's performance that I enjoyed the most was how he integrated his banter with the music. He led in and out of his own songs with verses from Bob Marley and the Rolling Stones, getting some audience participation, and talked in between verses with the other musicians providing background. Perhaps he is a perfectionist, because it was so well rehearsed that it seemed effortless. I didn't know that he co-wrote Jamey Johnson's "In Color". He sang that (amazing) as well as Soldiers and Jesus, which is a beautiful and moving song (my own religious issues aside). "Shake what God Gave You" got much of the audience on their feet as did his hit "Just Got Started Lovin' You". I had the feeling that of the four artists he was the least familiar to the audience. Hopefully he gained some new fans. I thought he was great.

I'll continue the review of Clay Walker and Rodney Atkins in following posts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Songs that Honor Thy Father and Mother

Continuing the series about parents and children, inspired by the Country for Kids concert 11/18 supporting N.C. Children's Hospital.  James Otto, Jason Michael Carroll, Clay Walker, and Rodney Atkins will be performing. I watched an interview that WQDR94.7, the radio station sponsoring the concert, posted with the mother of a patient at N.C. Children's Hospital so I decided to devote this post to parents. Being a parent of a healthy child, thank God, I can't begin to understand what it must be like waiting for a child to come out of surgery, waiting for serious test results, or seeing a child who is very uncomfortable or in pain. We should be grateful to our parents for raising us, and teaching us right from wrong, protecting us during our developmental years and providing moral support in adulthood, but those parents who sit night and day in hospitals rooms advocating, loving, and praying, deserve special recognition from all of us. 

On a lighter note....

When I put together the "parenting" mix last week, I asked for suggestions from friends. Some of their suggestions were more about honoring a parent, either living or deceased, than about "Parenting" so I promised an "Honor your Father and Mother" mix. It does appear to be the one commandment I'm going to be able to make a mix about. As much material is available, I'm going to resist making a "Thou shalt not commit adultery" mix.

Many of these songs honoring parents focus on what the parent taught the child, so I'd like to point out a few things I learned from my parents.

Dad taught me to be an individual and not worry too much about what other people think. He passed down to me his artistic eye, distrust of exercise, tendency to become obsessed with a hobby, and appreciation for dirty jokes. The one skill that appears to have skipped a generation is his incredible ability to watch WWII naval battles on TV and read unrelated non-fiction simultaneously, retaining detailed information from both sources.

Mom taught me how to be a friend and entertain.  One thing is for sure. Just like Mom, I'll put off almost any self-imposed obligation for lunch with a friend. Like Mom, I will have people over at the drop of a hat. Unlike Mom, the cutlery may be a mishmash of colored plastic, the plates leftovers from a birthday party and the house messy, but there will be more than enough food and drink to keep all guests well fed and watered. We have an expression in our house that comes from Mom. "Is it generous? Because we need to be generous." We may joke about it, but we know she's right.

I've added some good recommendations from friends to the few country songs that immediately came to mind. This list is a work in progress. Being a parent, wife and designer have gotten in the way of my blogging these last few days.  Please make suggestions in the comments section. I'll periodically add some of your contributions to the list.

Chris Young, Voices
Clay Walker, Fore She Was Mama
Allen Jackson, Drive
Carrie Underwood, Mama's Song
Steve Goodman, My Old Man (you'll have to google it and listen on iLike)
Keith Urban, Song for Dad
Confederate Railroad, Daddy Never was the Cadillac Kind
Sugarland, Baby Girl
Jace Everett, Between a Father and a Son
2Pac, Dear Mama
Tom Jones and John Farham, My Yiddishe Mama
Connie Francis, My Yiddishe Mama (Yiddish/English version)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Good Musical Mix to "Parent" To

I'm continuing my series of posts leading up to the Country for Kids concert supporting the N.C. Children's Hospital on November 18th at Durham Performing Arts Center. In an effort to promote conversation on my blog, I am going to give away a CD to or make a donation in honor of someone who leaves a comment. The CD will be the latest of any of the four artists performing, James Otto, Clay Walker, Jason Michael Carrol, or Rodney Atkins.

I understand that "Parenting" is a recent verb. The other day I noticed that one of my male friends has it listed as an interest on his Facebook profile (and he is a great Dad).  I will admit that I am a slacker Mom.  I allow my child to watch hours of moderately appropriate TV on weekend mornings, pulled her out of school at lunchtime to go to the Country Throwdown, and rarely make her eat fruit, but I still love a good song about being a parent.

Darius Rucker was opening for Brad Paisley this summer.  He played his song "It won't be like this for long". I was drinking my beer, remaining nonchalant, until I turned to my friend and realized that she had tears welling up in her eye as she was singing away.  She turned to me and said "This song is so true. It's been so hard. I remember feeling like this." Of course, I teared up as well, as I can't let a girlfriend cry alone. My friend falls into the supermom category of women. She's incredibly organized, with chore lists,  TV time tickets and calendars with little illustrations of each child's activity so the child can keep track of their own week. Her children think that hamburger buns are normally whole wheat, and she pays attention and advocates with an energy level I couldn't rustle up if there were front row tickets to a George Strait concert dangling in front of me.

So, in honor of all of my supermom and slacker parent friends alike, I've put together a list of fabulous "parenting songs". Some of these are my favorites. I've added some additional recommendations from friends so it's not all country. If you have one that isn't on the list, please leave a comment!

Bette Midler, Baby Mine, video, purchase song
Brad Paisley, If He's Anything Like Me, video, purchase song
Darius Rucker, It Won't Be Like This for Long, video, purchase song
Martina McBride, In My Daughter's Eyes, video, purchase song
Rodney Atkins, Watching You, video, purchase song
Tori Amos, Ribbons Undone, purchase song
Lonestar, My Front Porch Looking In, video, purchase song
Lee Anne Womack, I Hope You Dance, video, purchase song
Cat Stevens, Father and Son, video, purchase song
Jamey Johnson, The Dollar, video, purchase song
John Sebastian, Younger Generation, video, purchase song
Trace Adkins, You're Gonna Miss This, video, purchase song
Tim McGraw, My Little Girl, video, purchase song
The Cast of Fiddler on the Roof, Sunrise Sunset, video, purchase song
Harry Chapin, Cat's in the Cradle, video, purchase song
Jason Michael Carroll, Hurray Home, video, purchase song
Heartland, I Loved Her First, video, purchase song

I included the "purchase song" link to Amazon just to make your life easier. I'm not making any money from that.
Remember, leave a comment!

11/16 I added some additional songs, two from a commenter's recommendation. Now can anyone tell me why there are so few good songs about being a parent, sung by women, or am I just biased toward male singers?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Zahra Baker is Confirmed Dead

Sadly, the police confirmed that they have found enough physical evidence that they can say they have found Zahra Baker, and that she is dead.  It's horrifying. There are no words and no songs.

After my last blog post regarding Zahra Baker's abuse, parental anger and corporal punishment, this question of when to intervene still bothered me. I asked the Chabad Rabbi who teaches the Jewish ethics class I take if he thinks I should have said something to the Dad who was spanking his child on the beach.  He said that if the father was a stranger, and the boy was not being beaten, just spanked, it probably would  not have been a good idea to intervene.  As the father was a stranger, it could have escalated the situation in an undesirable way. He did say that if the father had been a person I knew, it would have been appropriate to say something, even if it was just a comment that spanking has been proven to be a poor method of discipline. He was very adamant that spanking was not something parents should be doing.

In addition he added one of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, that all of these experiences, where we witness or experience something disturbing and question our reaction, are important. They prepare us to do the right thing the next time we are faced with a similar situation.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Alyssa Lies, Zahra Baker, Maimonides, and Self Control

Read to the end. I'm giving away a CD.

I've been listening to quite a bit of Jason Michael Carroll (JMC). He's performing in the Country for Kids concert to support N.C. Children's hospital on November 18th, together with James Otto, Clay Walker, and Rodney Atkins. I've made a nice mix of their best songs to get me in the groove.  It's a little pre-concert routine I have.

Lately when JMC's "Alyssa Lies" comes up in the shuffle I can't help but tear up. Assuming he plays this song at the concert, there isn't likely to be a dry eye in the place. Many of us are going to be thinking about the sad search for the Zahra Baker, who has been missing a month from the Hickory, N.C. area. The fact that Zahra Baker has battled cancer, which resulted in her losing her leg and partial hearing, and that the concert supports a childrens hospital, is going to hammer home the sad circumstances of her recent life and assumed death from abuse. There is a certain communal guilt in stories like hers, and one that is expressed in the song. If you want to read an article detailing how Zahra was treated in the public setting of her neighborhood, read this article from the Winston-Salem Journal.

The song isn't new, but if you haven't heard it, Alyssa Lies tell the story of a father who takes a couple days to understand that his daughter has a new friend who comes to school full of bruises. He decides to go to the school the next day to report what he has heard but it is too late. The child has died.  This story isn't far fetched.  Neighbors and family reported Zahra's abuse to social services but ultimately not enough was done to help her.

It makes me question my response to something I witnessed on the beach this summer. There was a group of adults and their kids sitting nearby, listening to music and playing in the water. Then all of a sudden a father starts yelling at his eight year old son because he dumped sand on his mother's feet and towel, puts him over his knee and proceeded to spank him on his bare tuchas, a handful of smacks. I shook my head and moved my chair away. Others shook their heads and glared at them. My sister-in-law, an attorney, told me that I should have called the authorities, but on what grounds? Spanking is legal in South Carolina. The man wasn't beating his son. He humiliated his son in public and proved to all the world that he's a humorless father with a terrible temper and weak parenting skills, but he didn't damage the boy physically.

Now, looking back, I ask myself, if that father was angry enough to spank his kid in front of everyone on the beach for something so trivial, what does he do when the child truly misbehaves?  To this day I'm not sure what I should have done.  Should I have spoken up? "Hey there! Take a deep breath and get a grip, Mister."? Perhaps.

I was reminded of this incident further during a Jewish ethics class I take once a week. We were discussing the characteristics of an ethical person.  Maimonides, a renowned Jewish philosopher from the Middle Ages, said that anger is one character trait that we should avoid completely, even in situations where anger would be a normal response.  "Therefore, [the Sages] instructed us that one should distance himself from anger so much so that one accustoms himself not to feel even things which [would ordinarily] incite one to anger. And this is the ideal path."  To apply this to parenting, Maimonides says that if one needs to act angry to get a child's attention, that's OK, but one shouldn't actually be angry. Why? One reason is that when people are very angry, they do irrational things. Their wisdom and good judgement escapes them.

But the culture of using corporal punishment is not based on anger. Anger escalates it and ultimately is what kills children, but if we take the Montgomey Gentry song  "You Do Your Thing" that says "I ain't gonna spare the rod, Cuz that ain't what my daddy did, And I sure know the difference between wrong and right" it shows a rationally made parenting decision. One of my graduate school professors tells a story about how she learned basic carpentry.  She misbehaved in a way her father found so egregious that he had her go out to his workroom and use his saws, drills and sand paper to make a paddle that he later beat her with. It was obvious from the telling of the story that the memory of her father's cold cruelty was far more significant than any memory she had of the lesson learned. An angry parent who inflicts pain as the standard consequence for misbehavior is not going to be able to make good decision regarding the intensity of such a punishment. A parent who isn't angry, and still uses pain as a method of punishing or training a child, is either a bit of a sadist or sadly misguided by family tradition.

One of my favorite parenting songs is  "Watching You" by Rodney Atkins, who is also performing at the Country for Kids concert. His song sweetly states that our children see how we behave and behave accordingly. In the song, the boy uses a swear word and tells the father he learned it from watching him, and when the boy prays, and the father realizes that the boy’s faith comes from watching him as well.

What part of our behavior do we want to see reflected back at us when we visit our children's households? How are we going to prevent sad stories like Zahra's from happening over and over again? I bet that some people don't think that these things are connected, but they are. Our tempers and methods of discipline are on a continuum.  It's up to each one of us to decide where we are along that line and if we're really comfortable with how our behavior could ultimately affect our children and our children's children.

To promote discussion, I'm giving away the latest CD of one of the four artists performing at the Country for Kids concert, James Otto, Jason Michael Carroll, Clay Walker, or Rodney Atkins.  Leave an interesting comment on this subject. Extra credit goes to the writers who uses a musical reference in their comments. I'll announce the winner on Monday Nov. 15th. The winner chooses which CD they want. If the winner doesn't want a CD I'll make an equivalent donation to N.C. Children's Hospital in thier honor.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm Off Topic,Y'all, Some Groovy Tunes by MOTs

So I was surfing around, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I came upon Jewish TV Network.  I haven't watched every single video in their music video section yet, but 'yet' is the operative word. All I can say is that if you have some time to burn and want to watch some really great videos, by Israelis and Jewish artists in the U.S. and Canada, watch these. It's a good collection of videos, all in one place, with no commercials. I highly recommend So Called: You are Never Alone, both songs by The Idan Raichel Project, Balkan Beat box, the long video about Moshe ben Ari, and Dana Parish. I have to tear my self away and finish watching another day.

Twitter. Honoring my First Follower.

Twitter is a lonely place for a newbie. I was tickled pink to find one of my closest friends from highschool, but what I'm looking for are people who love music and are interested in reading my blog.

Then, the joy, a follower who didn't know me already, found me! He appeared out of the blue. Of course I followed him in return. I don't know anything about him except that he's a musician named Marcus Harmon who has posted a lovely video of a this sleepy and quietly haunting song.  Click here to see his video.  I surfed around and found quite a number of videos and interviews. Harmon appears to be a guy who is serious about performing and making music.  I'm happy to devote this post to wishing him well in his pursuit of good music and good fortune. I will point out that Marcus Harmon does have quite a following, over 1700. He is obviously doing something right.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Been My Jason Aldean Kinda Day

A nightmare about pulling an enormous tick our of my daughter's hair woke me up at 5 am today.  This is what happens when you have a pack of nine deer living in your backyard. So I got an early start on Jason Aldean's new album.  I really like him and have been looking forward to this for a while. The title track, My Kinda Party, released a while back, didn't make it to my ipod on its own. I knew that there was going to be better material in the album so I waited, and there definitely is.

I've listened to the album at least five times already today and I'm not sick of it. There's the duet with Kelly Clarkson, which I'm guessing will be a hit, but I don't think there is a really rocking song like Crazytown that is going to get a crowd of 10,000 beating their fists in the air, bang, bang, bang, but My Kinda Party is coming close. It's growing on me. There isn't a shake your tush song like "She's Country" or anything quite as sweet as "Big Green Tractor", but it's a great album

What is there, for the most part, are a number of very poetic and poignant songs about life and love. Aldean doesn't seem to write his songs, but he sings them like he does. There is something so personal and conversational in his voice that it's very easy to believe that he is singing about himself and to make an emotional connection.

I do already have a favorite. I knew that I was going to like "Church Pew or Bar Stool" (written by Josh Thompson) from title alone. Shul pew or bar stool? It's a song about getting out of a suffocating small town, or, if you translate it into my world, suffocating small community.  "When you don't seem to run on either side of the fence, people act like you don't make sense." Wow, can I ever relate to that line.  "Well it's crystal clear that I, just need to find, a place where there is no lines, and nothing like it is around here." I've wanted to get the heck out of Dodge my entire life. The catch is that "Dodge" follows you wherever you go. The only place with no lines is the place in life where you can finally step to your own beat and not care what others think. I think that place is the age of 40. Maybe Mr. Aldean will find a song that touches on that a few albums from now.

The other song that immediately spoke to me is "Fly Over States". I've always found Aldean's voice to be interesting, rather than beautiful, but it's beautiful in this song.  Being one of the majority of Americans that have never driven from coast to coast, the song makes me want to jump into my car and head west. "On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes, Like a watercolored painted sky, you'll think heavens doors have opened, you'll understand why God made those flyover states."

Then there are the lost love songs. Aldean can make the feeling of longing palpable,  like he's crying inside, but is too much of man to let on. He did that in Truth, he does that in "See You When I See You", "If You Can See Me Know" and "Heartache that Don't Stop". 
I'd love to hear what my readers think.  If you've heard the album or any of the songs.  Please comment.

This post was revised extensively on Nov. 3rd because it was too long and I changed my mind about a couple of things.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Year NPR, my Husband and Joe Nichols Came Together to Change my Life

I could explain my recent obsession with country music in two words, midlife crisis, but I'd rather tell a bit of a story.

I have never been a fan of any specific music genre. Fan is the operative word here, originating from the word, fanatic. I've subsisted for years on the drone of NPR and small doses of Israeli music, classic and Southern rock, heavy metal, and country. Occasionally I would dip into the bucket of my teenage angst that is a gruesome brew of folk, new wave, punk, acid rock, and a whole lot of  Red Hot Chili Peppers. So what happened?

Three things happened within a few months that turned me from casual music listener to country music fan.

1. My husband bought me an ipod for my birthday, and when I filled it with podcasts of This American Life and my old tired music collection, it became apparent that if I didn't start listening to brand new music, my demise was going to be premature death by boredom.

2. NPR had a fund drive that got on my nerves to such a degree that I tuned into country radio and never looked back. I still have an ear open for good things happening in other genres, and listen to classic rock, but as I've noticed, classic rock just means old popular music, much of which I didn't like when it first came out. Given a choice, I'll almost always choose to listen to a new country song.

3. A review in the News and Observer of Joe Nichols' album Old Things New got my attention, and when I listened to it, I fell head over heals in love, not with him, with the music.  I can't imagine a life worth living that does not include an intra-ear drip of similar sounds. Today is, coincidentally, the one year anniversary of that review.

I met Joe Nichols briefly in May. He did a show in a bar in my hometown.  I brought the only other Joe Nichols admirer I know, my daughter's 1st grade teacher, along for the almost two hour drive and overnight at my Mom's. After an excellent show we stood in the slow moving meet and greet line to say hello and get an autograph. By the time we got to the front I forgot to tell him what I wanted to say, that I love his voice. It would have been nice to have remembered to say that his album changed my life; that this album was the one that made me realize how much I truly enjoy country music. He comes across as a down to earth guy, so he may have appreciated the compliment.

That's the last meet and greet line I'm ever standing in. Unless I run into him on the street or this blog finds its wings, takes off and scores me a press pass one day, this post will have to suffice as my expression of gratitude to Joe Nichols (and NPR).  My husband has been thanked many times for the ipod.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.

The blogging stars aligned a few days ago. I was working in my studio (I have a small art related business) listening to Merle Haggard Radio on Pandora, and Willie's and Waylon's "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys" comes on. That's a great song. I'm thinking that there must be a way to include that song in my blog, when I notice an email from an old friend.

"I grew up much the same as you- growing up on classical music in a somewhat rural environment. Country music speaks to whatever Hoosier soul I have and reminds me of the lay of land that I come from, even if it is not my family's culture at all. In fact, one of the only ways I have been able to rebel was with country music. My parents were most accepting and liberal about everything- except for their disdain of country music. They simply hate it. Of course, they are completely ignorant of it in many ways. As you pointed out, it's not all about Jesus, mostly about love and family."

Growing up, my Dad had little tolerance for any music that wasn't classical. My Mom, on the other hand has always been more open minded. She would occasionally suffer through listening to a bit of whatever I liked. She was very generous and took my friends and I to see the Police's Synchronicity tour, even though she kept her hands over her ears for the entire concert. She once told me that when she was young she liked Elvis, although I've never heard her voluntarily listen to anything but classical music.

I was curious what she thinks of this blog and my current obsession with country music.  I called her to ask and was actually surprised by her answers.

KC (Kibitzing Country): Hey Mom. So, what do you think of my blog?
Mom: I enjoyed reading it. It has humor. I'm glad you're humor is coming out.

I read her the email from my friend.

KC: So does it bother you that I don't like classical music?
Mom: No, it doesn't bother me. I wish you did. I think it's more sophisticated than other music. We certainly exposed you to it, but it doesn't bother me. If you liked hard rock or rap or mean music, that would bother me. But country music is nice. It expresses universal emotions.
KC: I always assumed that you think it's low class.
Mom: No. I don't think it's low class. When I am on a long car trip, and I can't find a radio station with classical music or NPR, I listen to country.

Wow! Fascinating! I have never given any though to what my Mother listens to when she she's out of range of a classical music station or NPR. Now when I can't find a friend to accompany me to a concert I will bring my Mom and a set of earplugs so she doesn't need to hold her hands over her ears.

For the rest of you Mamas, how do you protect your children from growing up to to be country fans? All I can suggest is not to raise them in the country, or anywhere that resembles the country. Unfortunately, rigorous exposure to classical music does not appear to be an affective vaccine.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Robin Hood Meets Crime Stoppers, Literally

When Toby Keith's album "Bullets in the Gun" came out I didn't immediately fall in love with it's title track. It's grown on me, but I do remember thinking at first "What on earth is Toby singing about, some sort of Bonnie and Clyde nonsense?"  Then last week he released the video.  It is a very literal video. It kicked my internal dialogue onto the subject of literal videos and narrative videos. Strangely enough, one of the blogs I follow The 9513, had a short post on the subject of literal videos just a few days ago.

You can click here to view the "Bullets in the Gun" video.

This is one of the rare instances when the video actually improves the song. The video reminds me of a cross between Disney's Robin Hood and an episode of Crime Stoppers. The little Toby Keith appearing on the screen like Alan-a-Dale (Roger Miller) from the animated versions of Robin Hood, narrating the story, is brilliant. Even better is the instance toward the end of the video where he borrows a technique from theater. There is a quick moment when one can see, on the side of the screen Toby Keith's outline in the shadow. The spotlight comes on and he continues to narrate.

I like the choice of actors. He chose someone that looks just enough like him to for the viewer to make some connection, yet, like in those horrible Crime Stoppers reenactments, the actor never really looks quite like the criminal. Obviously Toby Keith is not singing about an episode of his life, but the loose visual connection between the singer and the actor, since the song is written in the first person,  is effective.

The very narrative video that I think detracts from the song is Brad Paisley's and Allison Kraus' "Whiskey Lullaby".  There is a beautiful abstraction to the lyrics that is completely undermined by the story that plays out in the video. I love videos, but I'd rather watch a clip of them singing the song live.

The song that I think needs a more literal and narrative video is Clay Walker's "She Won't be Lonely Long."  That video is a wasted opportunity. Clay Walker made a timid and boring video for an incredibly sexy song with plenty of visual references.  "Somethin’ bout the way she’s blushin’. You can tell she isn’t sure. Let you know she’s up to somethin’. She’s never done before." I see what he was trying to achieve through subtlety, but there is nothing subtle about that song.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oy, They Got Me. Facebook has Changed My Consumer Behavior.

Lately my Facebook page has more posts from bands, musicians, and radio stations than friends.  A friend from my high school class, Seth Goldstein, is an expert and entrepreneur in the area of social media.  He is definitely on the leading edge while I am following far in the rear. He sometimes posts his thoughts on social networking and advertising. Seeing these posts made me realize that people are thinking long and deep about something most of us just consider a nuisance. I say to myself, "He isn't talking about me. I'm never clicking on any of those FB ads. Those advertisers think they've got my number, but they consistently miss the mark." I even had confirmation. A while back, probably because I googled horseback riding lessons, all of the ads on my FB page became horse related.  I'm not a horsey kind of gal. I'm actually a little afraid of horses. These horse related ads persist, months later.

Then, the other day, an ad for Sean Patrick McGraw popped up. I was skeptical but I couldn't resist. I clicked. I listened to the one song I could listen to on his website, "My So Called Life", and the next thing I knew I was spending 99 cents.  I am a very impulsive and loose music purchaser, so let's not overthink this purchase, but I am going to concede that they got me. I even "liked" him. Now today, I see his status is "My So Called Life" hits country radio TODAY. Call your local stations!!" I don't call radio stations to make requests but, dang, I have been sucked right into his little marketing ploy.

I think of the time I bought a t-shirt and koozie from Joe Nichols. He posted something about his website's merchandise sale, like he's doing his fans a favor.   I wanted a t-shirt but he didn't have my size at his concert. I went to his website, found my size, added the koozie (which I do love) and typed in my credit card number. I don't regret that purchase, but I wouldn't have made it if it hadn't been for that post.

Other examples are Toby Keith's "Bullets in the Gun" and Kenny Chesney's "Hemingway's Whiskey", two new albums being released within a few days of each other. I see both artists' posts, or rather, posts by their people. They are promoting their albums ad nauseum and I bought both albums within a week of their releases.  This is very uncharacteristic behavior. Usually I download albums in pieces.

Now, to my surprise, I find myself occasionally voting in a peoples' choice award called The ACAs (American Country Awards).  A few of the nominated artists encourage their fans via FB posts to vote for them at least once every day. I rarely do things like vote in online contests. It requires registering initially, signing in each time, and voting over several pages.  I have always assumed that there is some very obsessive group of fans to whom such tasks were automatically delegated. That was not my job.

I've had enough. I'm about to hide the posts of all of the artists I've "liked" on FB, apart from the ones who do the posting themselves and occasionally say something mildly interesting (and I'm using the word "interesting" loosely).  Dierks Bentley, JaronJason Michael Carroll, Jace Everett and Joe Nichols will make the cut .  The first one to be blocked is Jason Aldean.  "Vote for this. Download this. Buy this. Request this." That's enough, Mr. Aldean. Sing a good song, and I'll listen.

I've successfully avoided the distractions of Twitter but am considering giving it another shot.  I've heard a number of artists talk about how they like communicating with their fans via Twitter and am a little curious. Am I just asking for it?

It's Oct. 29th. The post's title has been changed to reflect that FB is the social networking website I use. So far I've hidden Trace Adkins, Toby Keith, Kenney Chesney, and Jason Aldean.  Now that I'm paying attention, I will applaud Dierks Bentley, The Band Perry and Lady Antebellum for making and effort on Facebook to connect with their fans in addition to their fan's wallets.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Song about Faith that an Atheist Can Enjoy

Since I am on the topic of religion in country music, here's a completely secular song about faith, "Believers" by Joe Nichols. It's about optimistically standing up for a belief that one holds dear and not caving to the forces of cynicism.

He hasn't made a video of this song so I had to chose between two options with somewhat mediocre sound.  This  video of him performing the song for Sirius is the best one.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rabbinical Scholars Forgive Me

So I'm sitting at the JCC pool talking to one of my husband's good friends, who doesn't mince words.  "How do you listen to that music? You're not Christian." he asks.

The majority of country music songs are love songs and don't touch on religion at all, but our friend at the pool is also correct.  One of every few songs played on country radio, will have a reference to church, preachers, Jesus, or praying on one's knees. If I'm really bored one day I'll figure out the ratio, but hopefully I will never have that kind of time on my hands.

There are very few songs that I just won't listen to but there are some. Carrie Underwood's "Jesus take the Wheel" and "Temporary Home" are two examples.  Objectively they are both beautiful songs but religiously they are completely foreign to my world view and the religious content is the song.

But sometimes the religious message translates to the Jewish experience.  "God I'm down here on my knees cuz it's the last place left to fall. Beggin' for another chance if there's any chance at all, That you might still be listening, loving and forgiving guys like me." (lyrics) is from Chris Young's recent hit "The Man I Want to Be", (video) asking God's help to change so he can win back a woman he loves. I'm not saying that it's a Jewish song, but this song reminds me of Yom Kippur. It may not be a neat analogy, but rabbinical scholars forgive me, I'm going to give it a whirl.

The man in the song has acknowledged his aveirot (sins). It's implied by this being the last place for him to fall, that he has already asked the woman for forgiveness, and having been rebuffed, is additionally asking forgiveness from God. This is standard Jewish procedure at High Holiday time. He is asking God to change him, which is strangely passive.  Only we can change ourselves.  We would say that in this moment of repentence the man has already changed. In addition are the two lines "God I wanna be your man, I wanna be her man." which brings to mind that concept that we need to repair our relationships with one another in order to repair our relationship with God.

The High Holidays is the only time that Jews get down on their knees and then even go farther to prostrate themselves (during the Aleinu). Very few people apart from the Rabbis and Cantors in progressive synagogues do this, but it is the tradition. It is the time of year that we, as it says in the song, are "beggin' for another chance, if there's any chance at all."

On a more superficial note, sometimes I just change the words of the song if it's one I really like and I want to sing along.  Much to the amusement of my seven year old, Jason Aldean's song "Don't Give Up on Me" now starts "I don't go to shul enough. I curse outloud, I drink too much. I'm more than a sinner than a tzaddik.  I've got a dusty Tanach on my shelf...."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Readers Choice gets No Respect at Country Weekly

So I couldn't resist picking up Country Weekly this week in the supermarket check-out aisle. They have appointed Tim McGraw as country's sexiest man in 2010. Ok. Fine. Tim McGraw is impossibly sexy when he has a hat on. There is a reason he almost always wears that hat.

Here's the thing that amused me and why I'm writing about something so ridiculous.  They say at the beginning of the article that the readers' choices, which they have put in a little box on the last page, surprised them. Obviously that is the case, because only four of the readers' choices overlapped CW's choices, and readers' number one choice, Trace Adkins, isn't even on CW's list.  Now we should at this point remember that I voted for Jaron Lowenstein four times just because he's MOT.  He didn't make the top 10 of either list, and I'm not surprised. I don't actually think that Jaron Lowenstein is country music's sexiest man so I understand that CW's may need to make some editorial decisions that contradict the results of a readers poll. Danny Gokey was #4 on the readers' choice list and I'm glad he wasn't one of CW's top 10.

On the other hand, it's a bit of a shanda that Trace Adkins is the #1 readers' choice and isn't even included in the article. He should be. Many women apparently find the blond giant very attractive and between the radio play he gets, numerous appearances all over television, his ad campaign with Richard Petty, and his tour with Toby Keith, the man is ubiquitous. CW, have a little more respect for your readers' opinions.

Cowboy Hats and Carolina

I was looking at this photo from last night of Eric Church from WQDR's facebook page. He doesn't wear a cowboy hat. He's a Carolina boy and he has some integrity.  People in North Carolina don't wear cowboy hats unless they are dressing up like cowboys or cowgirls. I have had this argument many times with friends who claim that I need a cowboy hat to wear to concerts. Thank you, Eric Church, for reinforcing my point.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Does Eric Church Listen to NPR?

I am not at the Miranda Lambert concert tonight. From the day the tickets went on sale I've been debating whether or not to go, looking at available tickets, and just not pressing buy. Yesterday I saw the folly of my ways and made a desperate attempt to recruit one of my few friends who like country music to no avail.

The reason that I never bought tickets is a stupid one.  As much as I like Miranda Lambert, I really didn't want to see Eric Church, who is opening for her. I'm not going to say that I don't like Eric Church, because that wouldn't be totally true. I like the song "Smoke a Little Smoke", and remember thinking that he was loud, honest and rocked at the Country Throwdown. Unfortunately, the only time I've ever felt uncomfortable at a concert was also during that same set.  I was only uncomfortable for one song, but it left this indelible mark on my opinion of him. I can still remember the feeling of wanting to put my hands over my ears and walk out the minute he sang the lines "I believe the Bible is cold, hard fact. An' I believe that Jesus is comin' back, Before she does."  I have to laugh now as I reread the lyrics of Before She Does.  Being an NPR listener it reminds me of their "This I Believe" series and I wonder if that's what gave him the idea for the song. Maybe Eric Church is an NPR listener.  If that is the case perhaps we have at least one thing in common in addition to believing that O.J. did it.

I do regret that I'm not listening to Miranda right now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Way Out Where?

One of the side affects of listening to country radio is that a line like "Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun, and you might meet'em both if you show up here unwelcome, son." may get stuck in your head. I actually think the Josh Thompson song  "Way Out Here" is rather catchy, even if it is yet another version of "A Country Boy Can Survive". In general, I have nothing against guns and think God is great, as long as they aren't being used in combination to kill anybody.  In anycase, that line doesn't need to be the soundtrack of my day.

I do have one small bone to pick with Mr. Thompson. "We won't take a dime if we ain't earned it."  The residents of rural America accept plenty of foodstamps. Farm subsidies aren't going to service workers in suburbia.  I believe that we should feed our hungry, so this is not a criticism of people that take food stamps if they need them.  I don't have a firm position on farm subsidies either way, but this claim that rural Americans are so hardy that, unlike the rest of us, they are able to overcome all hardship without help from taxpayers or charitable organizations, is a bunch of hooey.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

But is it Good for the Jews?

Yesterday I purchased and downloaded Jaron and the Long Road to Love's album, "Getting Dressed in the Dark". It's very easy to listen to, shall I say, easy listening. Every song is, at the very least, pretty, which I know isn't what an artist wants to hear, but that's the truth. Pretty songs. The one stand-out song is "Pray for You". It's been on the radio for a while and I understand from something Jaron posted on his facebook page, is now the #1 video on CMT.

The first time I heard the song “Pray for You” I was so surprised. It was one of those moments when I search the faces of other drivers at the stoplight for signs that we are listening to the same thing. Country music has many funny songs, but this one is mean funny. There are also countless country songs that talk about church, preachers and praying, but Pray for You is charmingly irreverent. A few days later I was flipping through a magazine and saw that a guy named Jaron Lowenstein sings “Pray for You”. Of course the MOT bells rang and I nearly plotzed in the checkout line as I heard my Grandmother, of blessed memory, ask “But is this good for the Jews?”

Why would I hear my Grandmother asking that?  If you don't know the song, here's the video. 

Jewish people don’t say “I’ll pray for you.” That’s a Christian expression.  So, as a Jewish person who has lived in the Bible belt most of her life, quite frankly, it made me feel a bit paranoid. What will they think of him, and us, if G-d forbid someone decides he is making fun of Christians. To me it’s obvious that he’s not making fun of anyone but himself, but G-d forbid someone doesn't see it that way. It would be a shame.

I dug around the Internet searching for insight. Very few people seem all that spun up about it. The song has its detractors, but in most of the comment threads I read, the complainers were greatly outnumbered by people who loved the song.  It's a poignant little song. I certainly had a grudge that immediately came to mind when I heard it.  When asked why he used a preacher and church in the song, Jaron has said in an interview that he co-wrote the song with the son of a Baptist minister and jokes that nothing rhymes with synagogue. Well, I am very glad that he was able to find a way to get that song out of his brain and onto the radio. If he had written it in a Jewish context, nobody would have heard it.

Yes! Grandma, it is good for the Jews. Country Weekly gave readers the option to vote for Jaron as Country’s hottest man.  I voted for him four times, using all my husband’s and my email addresses.  There is nothing that would make me happier than seeing his shaina punim on the cover of Country Weekly as Country Music’s hottest man. 

Now regarding the video for “That’s Beautiful to Me”. Why the Santa hat on the lady? Enough with the camouflage Jaron.  Grow some beitzim.

What's a nice Jewish girl like you doing listening to Country Music?

What's a nice Jewish girl like me doing listening to country music, they ask. If I was into Jazz, nobody would say a word. I've never been to New Orleans. My parents didn't listen to Jazz. But if I liked Jazz, that would be cool. How about hip hop or soul? I went to a Mary J. Blige concert with a friend who had an extra ticket. I didn't really know her music but I enjoyed it. Nobody thought it was odd that I was going to a Mary J. Blige concert.  I was one of a handful of Caucasians in the audience of 10,000, but nobody told me that they were surprised I was going because I'm white. Nobody laughed.

I'm an educated Jewish woman who really likes country music. Don't laugh because it's rude.

The seed for my love affair with country music was planted 1979 when a babysitter turned on the radio and changed the station.  The song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was on.  I remember this moment clearly because my parents only listened to classical music and the news, so it was very surprising. "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was the most wonderful song I had ever heard. It told a story. It had drama. It was noisy. I could feel the hellish fiddle in my hair follicles; the virtuous fiddle down to the bottom of my stamping feet.

From that moment on I've loved music with a bit of twang.  I grew up in the South and, being Jewish, have felt like a bit of an outsider, but country music and Southern rock have always sounded like home to me.  My family lived on the outskirts of a small Southern city and I had a rather pastoral childhood, running around in the fields and woods, catching tadpoles and crawdads. Dad is a conservative doctor (retired) who listened to classical music, drove a truck and kept guns. As a teenager I once had to give our Rabbi a ride somewhere in my Dad's truck and he told me that my Dad is an enigma. Perhaps I'm following suit. I'm an upper-middle class Jewish housewife who watches CMT and GAC while folding laundry.  I ditch the husband and kid to spend many a summer evening on the lawn of an amphitheater, drinking beer and dancing to the likes of Brooks & Dunn and Toby Keith.

One day I wanted to communicate with some fellow country music loving tribe members and did a google search for "Jewish country music fans". Virtual silence. So I decided to start a blog. If you're out there, holler and we'll kibitz.