“I like everything except Rap and Country.”
God, is there a more phrase as simultaneously innocuous and incendiary as that one? It’s the pop music equivalent of “I’m not racist, but…;” a phrase oft repeated by the woefully underinformed and culturally stagnant when they want to appear more evolved than they actually are. By saying that phrase, you are marking yourself as a milquetoast middle of the road dingus bereft of imagination and taste. You have time for everything, except for Nas and Patsy Cline? Fuck you. You’re going to miss everything cool and die angry.
I’m letting myself get worked up about this, which is silly, because A. It’s only pop music (but I like it) and B. You don’t really hear the phrase bandied about as much anymore. Hip-Hop has dominated the mainstream for decades at this point, and all but the most adamant of holdouts has entered the fold. But Country, well, that’s a different story.
The thing that made the utterer’s of the dread sentence uncomfortable about Hip-Hop is the same thing that still makes them uncomfortable about country: it’s music with a strong, complex cultural identity. Rap and Country exist outside a number of folks’ frames of reference, especially if they’re young white middle class Yankees. People hate leaving their comfort zones, and so they glom onto the worst aspects of the Other as a reason to reject them (see: any time someone uses the “Bitches & Hoes” or “Jingoistic, Xenophobic Bullshit” arguments).
There still is, by and large, a cultural embargo on Country above the Mason Dixon. When it manages to be successful up here, it’s usually been smuggled in as “Indie Folk” or “Americana” by groups like Deer Tick and songwriters like Alela Diane, or disguised as “Utter Trash” by the likes of Mumford & Sons. People feel the need to avoid the label to seem palatable to the northern market.
Nashville’s Caitlin Rose, on the other hand, could not give a half-pint of piss about what you think; the 25-year-old singer has no qualms about being Country. Since her 2008 debut EP, Dead Flowers, she’s been singing chain smoking, hard drinking sagas of heartbreak, songs that could, and do, rub shoulders with the likes of Waylon Jennings and Patsy Cline. Her second album, The Stand-In, dropped earlier this month, and its clean, almost glossy production has the balls to flirt with the Music Row mainstream. A friend of mine from Nashville called the record an “Indie Linda Rondstat Revival,” and she’s not wrong.
Rose’s music is simultaneously sweet and shitkicking; bright and gloomy. In short, it’s damn good Country. For a little taste, check out her cover of Alex Turner/Artic Monkeys’ “Piledriver Waltz:”
Neat, right? If that tickled your fancy, you’re in luck: Caitlin Rose is gonna be in town for a few days, playing Park Slope’s Union Hall on Saturday and Mercury Lounge in the LES on Monday. By all accounts she’s a great live show. Check it out.
And that’s this week’s dose of Now Take Them Out Devils. If you’re interested in hearing more from Simon Lazarus Vasta, you can follow him on Twitter @Hunter_S_Narc, or nip down to the Mercury Lounge show on Monday and buy him a drink or twelve. Join us next week for a meditation on the dark side of Lite FM….
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