Over the weekend I headed down to Canberra (for a whole night!) and while there I picked up a book that was lying around the house called 'Heart Songs' by Annie Proulx. It's a book of short stories about the farmers and country dwellers in a remote part of New England, America, in the (fictional?) Chopping County. The characters are all either very poor or rich, city dwelling intruders. It had alot of elements that resonated with my American Gothic class, all dark secrets and run-down houses and a pervasive past. It also made me think of country music. This was not particularly original thinking on my part, the eponymous story ('Heart Songs') was about a family of these country people ('hicks' if you will, or maybe hillbillies?) who played country music together and are infiltrated by a city dweller who is impressed by their music. All the music is very sad. And I suppose the point of the stories is that they are like country songs themselves, sad and dark but beautiful.
In the car on the way back to Sydney we were listening to a selection of songs from a British folk radio station, and since I was reading this book at the same time I started drawing connections. Folk music is also generally sad and dark. And I think it is essentially the same thing as Country music, but from a different period and place, so the style is necessarily different. But the premise, that these are songs by and for the country people, the rural poor, is similar. Of course this is not really true, at least not these days, and the authenticity of this view and of the music in this style is highly questionable. Listening to some of the folk songs, with all the syllables carefully pronounced and the grammer corrected was interesting. Listening to some of these singers you could just tell how far removed they were from the troubles they were singing about, which ruined the effect somewhat. Fair enough when singing songs set in medieval England, but all the same I felt they were somewhat sanitized. I would really like to listen to the songs in 'Heart Songs', they sounded so good, are sadly entirely fictional.
The sad thing is that with this type of folk singer and the common type of country people miss out on the wonderful things about these genres, their darkness and sadness and all the quality music that expresses it. You have to listen to good country, not the country pop of such as Keith Urban. I mean, how can you have a country singer with the surname of 'Urban'? You should stop there. I shouldn't say this, because I haven't listened to much of his music, and the 'country pop' of the Dixie Chicks is actually pretty good. But my point is that the good, authentic stuff is better and entirely different in feel. Of course, when I say authentic, the problem from before still stands, because as a general rule the people singing country songs are singers, which immediately makes them less authentic.
Well, I should stop there. My main point really was that mostly country songs are sad. Or, in the immortal words of Poison, "every cowboy sings a sad, sad song".