The Country Music Scene as a metaphor for the Mormon Literary Scene


I like country music, I do. I've blogged about Gram Parsons and Kasey Chambers before, and if you're willing to look around, you'll love given to Emmylou and Alison and others as well. It's not inaccurate to say I love country music. But I would never say that because people would get the wrong idea and interpret that to mean I love country radio which is an entirely different thing.

A thing what sucks.

Emmylou HarrisYou turn on your country radio and do you hear Emmylou Harris's new album which ranks among the best of her stories career and which you are seriously considering buying me for Coast Guard Day (only eleven days left!)? No. No you don't.

So what do you hear?

Well, crap to put it gently.

If you're lucky there will be a good song every hour, but that's pushing it with most stations. And most stations have no sense of history. No Hank Sr, no Tex, no Gene, lucky to get any Willie.... It's the Church of What's Happening Now. So long as you define What's Happening Now in terms of what has a beat / is crazy sentimental / has embarrassing puns / is silly patriotic / is desperately trying to maintain crossover appeal.

There's a lot of good stuff happening in country music as a listen to KPIG or the Miller will tell you.

If you just followed either of those links, you'll notice that my hatred for crossover music does not equal a feeling that country music should not be allowed to cross-pollinate. Country does not exist in a bubble. But neither must it cave to pop sensibilities.

I think a lot of people who casually reject country music have no idea what breadth the field actually has.

Take this song, about ten years old now, by Buddy Miller:

Great song. Very country. But it's about landmines. Want to guess how many times it was on the radio?

Buddy Miller's great (his wife is even better), but a song that doesn't meet the strict strictures of country radio gets missed by most fans and people who could be fans.

And that's a tragedy.

(ps: I was serious about getting me that emmylou album)


  1. A thing what sucks... So what do you [read]?... Well, crap to put it gently.

    I'm taking it this is the take-home message re Mormon literary scene?

  2. .

    No, the scene has its EmmyLous, but you can't read them on the radio.

  3. I'm tempted to name myself the Johnny Cash of the movement, but deep down I know that I'm just not that dark and not that cool.

  4. .

    How about Roy Orbison? He's not as dark but he's every bit as cool.