Recently, a twenty-something friend of mine told me that you can take courses in country music for college credit these days. She also told me she got an "A" on her paper on Kenny Rogers. This same twenty-something gave me a blank look when I asked her to analyze Kenny's crossover from rock to country to country pop to pop and its socio-politico-economic ramification on the take-out chicken franchise industry. Turns out, her essay was on "the effect of Kenny Rogers music on the listening pleasure of the average college student."
A couple of months back, when first working up notes to this series, somewhere halfway down the page I scrawled the cryptic yet cliched phrase "not a bang but a whimper." I confess I no longer remember what that was supposed to mean. But I suspect it was related to the next note: "chart the wussification of hardcore country as brought on by the ascent of pop crossover success." Trouble is, I'm essentially a wussy myself.
Being a child of the early seventies, I was raised on pablum -- the cheesier the better. Some call it "ear candy," some call it a "guilty pleasure." Some call it crap and leave it at that. The same things that draws me to country music is what draws me to all pop music. What attracts me to a record is not its "timelessness," but what I call (for lack of a better term) its "ephemeral" quality. I'm not looking for something that will endure, I want something that's gone forever. I like a record that was made for a market that no longer exists.
The songs in this collection are probably not the first choice among country enthusiasts. In fact, some of these might even make most "real" country fans leave the room. Which isn't to say they're bad; some of them are considered classics. It's not like they don't have working class themes; some of them even involve various forms of self destructive behavior. But they are either "too pop" or "too formula." They're all unabashedly and self-consciously aimed at the cross-over market.
They all have that intangible ...something that makes them an abomination to the ears of purists. That is to say, they're "kitsch." They play too fast and too loose with the laws that rule our aesthetic lives. They dance back and forth across the fences demarcating styles, failing utterly to live by and live up to the standards set by their betters. But you know what? As far as I'm concerned, a good pop song's a good pop song, no matter where it comes from. And you shouldn't overthink that.
1. He's Got A Way With Women - Hank Thompson
2. Coming Back To You - Browns
3. Chet's Tune - Some Of Chet's Friends
4. Your Sweet Love Lifted Me - Bobby Barnett
5. Do What You Think's Best - George Jones
6. Rings Of Gold - Dottie West & Don Gibson
7. Good Enough To Be Your Wife - Jeannie C. Riley
8. How Can I Unlove You - Lynn Anderson
9. If I Don't Like The Way You Love Me - Mary Taylor
10. Sock It To Me Country Style - Jim Ed Brown
11. South - Roger Miller
12. Farm In Pennsyltucky - Jeannie Seely
13. One's On The Way - Loretta Lynn
14. I Knew Jesus (Before He Was A Star) - Glen Campbell