Rediscovering Country

One of the unanticipated benefits of taking up ballroom dancing is the expansion of our appreciation of different types of music. While we’ve acquired the habit of judging all music we hear by the American Bandstandesque criterion of being “easy to dance to” (something that’s admittedly distracting when it occurs at church), we’ve also found that dancing creates a hitherto missing physical connection to music, and this added dimension has opened us up to new genres. For example, we listen to more jazz and “easy listening” pop (think Michael Bublé). That shouldn’t be too surprising, though, as those genres have historically been associated with ballroom-type dancing.

More unexpected is a new appreciation for country music. As our dancing abilities have improved, we’ve become more discerning in matching up music to dance steps, and we were surprised to find that country music isn’t just an endless series of Two Steps. We’ve waltzed, cha-cha’d, rumba’d, and swung to country songs. And the Two Step is really just a straight-line foxtrot. About the only steps we’ve not been able to apply to country music thus far are the tango and the samba, and we’re so clumsy at the latter that we don’t miss it. [Update: George Strait’s River of Love is a pretty good samba.]

I listen almost exclusively to the Outlaw Country station on the Sirius XM station in my car, and Debbie has her car radio tuned to a local country station (she’s less enamored with the “outlaw” version of the genre, and I have to admit that some of the stuff they play can be pretty obnoxious; 50 Cent has nothing on David Allen Coe when it comes to filthy lyrics). But the channel is also one of the few places where you can routinely listen to some of the country classics: Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Snow, Hank Williams, Bob Wills…to name a few. I’ve also been introduced to some of the newer artists like Corb Lund, Lucinda Williams, and Cross Canadian Ragweed (which isn’t Canadian at all, unlike Corb Lund).

In the “mainstream” side, musicians such as Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Zac Brown, and Randy Houser are breathing new life into the genre. Heck, I even like much of what Taylor Swift does, although it’s a bit of a stretch to call her “country” (even so, the fact that she writes most of her own material is impressive to me).

Perhaps it’s just that one can re-listen to the hits from the 60s and 70s only so much, or that modern pop/rock is too angsty and boring. Or perhaps it’s that country music has appropriated what’s best from those other genres while still maintaining (for the most part) its original character. It could be that, more often than not, country artists express moral values via their music that more closely aligns with ours. Whatever the reasons, country has breathed new life into our iPods and radios (and dance steps…we’re not half bad Two Steppers nowadays). And for someone living in West Texas, that’s got to be a Good Thing.


  1. I’ve never been a big country music fan until I got XM radio (forget ballroom dancing…that just ain’t happenin’ when your closet houses only left-footed shoes). Do you get Willie’s Place on your radio? That’s all we listen to these days. I like the old country artists. I think that’s because of the traces of old gospel hymns and blues rifts flowing through their songs…and as you say, a closer alignment of moral values. And having a baby in the home that seems to enjoy it more than any other station makes it our first choice too.

  2. Gwynne, I haven’t checked out Willie’s Place. I guess I need to do that, although I’m probably one of the few Texans who’s not a Willie Nelson fan.
    I guess it took me a while to recover from my late high school and early college days when as a DJ at a small West Texas AM radio station, I was forced by the station’s format to play Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride, Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, and so on, never realizing that in my obsession with Iron Butterfly and Cream that I was in fact spinning classical music.

  3. I’m with no ballroom possible for two non-dancer upper fifties married folks BUT country music has saved our bacon. My wife discovered it in 1999 and it has been with us since. Listening to 50’s and 60’s oldies exclusively makes for nostalgic memories and mind-numbness. Having been folk music folks back in the 60’s, country has taken us back to those roots in a fresh way. Henry at the Midland Tower barber shop keeps Willie’s Place on his satellite radio and i have come to relish the listening.

  4. Well, that’s two votes for Willie’s Place. It’s practically a mandate!
    And, by the way, if our dance club excluded all the “non-dancer upper fifties married folks” the floor would be mighty empty. You might be amazed at what you can learn even at our “advanced” ages. 😉

  5. Bud, I guess forty years of country gives you a pretty good sample to choose from. I still say you’re missing out by not giving some of the newer stuff a shot, but each to his own. We’ve got a big tent pitched here; plenty of room for everyone!

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