Country and city have always been different world, as long as cities have existed. The language each uses to describe the other captures this… Hillbilly, city-slicker, redneck, yuppie, hick, the tradition of mutual derision is as old as history.
This weekend I was borrowing a pickup truck to run yard waste to the county facility. When I started it up a rather annoying radio station began to play. Looking for an alternative I clicked through the presets on the stereo… Country? I can do country.
With a bed full of oleander branches piled higher than the cab and the tarp flapping I was off, with some very country, country music playing. There would be a few loads this Saturday before the county closed the scales at four.
One thing about country music, it is very reliable. Heavy on the guitar, simple melodic lines perfect for driving. The themes are often heavily based on nostalgia and a simple world of country values. The station is one I seldom listen to, KKOA out of Hilo, carrying the programming from ABC Radio’s “Today’s Best Country” satellite feed.
Note, Thomas Rhett’a Sixteen is simply a great song, had not heard that one.
One the second run I noted a distinct theme to the songs on the playlist, the divide between country and city, or country and ‘them’. I think it was while listening to Craig Morgan’s Redneck Yacht Club that I first noticed it. But it was Justin Moore’s Bait A Hook that played the theme loud and clear.
What I also noted was a new level of animosity, something I do not remember from country tunes past. The divide between city and country seemed to be expressed in these songs stark and clear. Music has power, power to shape opinion, and these songs seemed written to do that, Bait a Hook particularly.
Is this choice in theme and lyrics a reflection of current mood? Or consciously chosen to push a message? Musicians have to write what sells to a certain extent, but they have to know that what they write can effect their audience.
I am not sure if this day’s music on one station represents the current popularity of these songs, or that whoever was putting the playlist together that day had something in mind. Checking the current chart, I suspect that the sample I got is not unusual.
The other possibility is that this playlist had been assembled with intent… Specifically meant to be played on this weekend before a midterm election. An election that will hinge on the divide between conservative country values and progressive values.