In these winter days of my undergraduate career I find myself with ever increasing frequency bouncing around Youtube like it was some sad nocturnal music festival in the outskirts of Atlanta. I went through a brief Hank III phase one night last week (I think?) but felt uneasy about it even then. He's pretty emblematic of what's known in some circles as "rebel/outlaw country"-- country punk redneck motorcycle gang, if you follow. Here's "Dick in Dixie", to familiarize ya (I don't need to warn you of vulgarity, do I?):
Well some say I'm not country
and that's just fine with me
'Cause I don't wanna be country
with some faggot looking over at me
They say that I'm ill-mannered
that I'm gonna self-destruct
But if you know what I'm thinkin'
you'll know that pop country really sucks
So I'm here to put the "dick" in Dixie
and the "cunt" back in country
'Cause the kind of country I hear now days
is a bunch of fuckin' shit to me
Well we're losing all the outlaws
that had to stand their ground
and they're being replaced by these kids
from a manufactured town
And they don't have no idea
about sorrow and woe
'Cause they're all just too damn busy
kissin' ass on Music Row
This is, in fact, a more sophisticated example of the genre (I will spare you Whiskeydick's "Drunk as Hell", among other things). Now I have nothing against vulgarity, simplicity, or even lazy songwriting-- there's a very important place in this world for barn stompers, lullabyes, banal melodies sung over a sink full of dishes-- but I just don't believe a damn word he's singing. He's not pop country, sure, and he may in fact be a badass (I've never met the guy!), but, well, as Zorba says:
"...I live all those mysteries, as you call them, and I haven't the time to write. Sometimes it's war, sometimes women, sometimes wine, sometimes the santuri: where would I find the time to drive a miserable pen? That's how the business falls into the hands of the pen-pushers! All those who actually live the mysteries of life haven't the time to write, and all those who have the time don't live them!"
This might be the long way round to saying "show, don't tell," but the particularly sad thing in this instance is the audience for this stuff. If the "outlaw country" musicians are heavy handedly carving their own one dimensional mythology, the concert goers and juke boxers are even more pitiably alienated from whatever pleather studded, whiskey stained heroism the songs are venerating.
I'm a 22 year old Yale student (from Long Island) majoring in Karamazov, Crazy, & Christ, and even I, in my feeble alcohol-ism and "hard living" shadow plays, recoil from this as peasants did from Communist agitators preaching the commune's utopian perfection. It rings of cheap tin and something pathetically foreign, and leaves me quite confused.