May 30, 1995 in Features

She Caught Country-Tune Infection

Robin Abcarian Los Angeles Times
 

I don’t drive a pickup. Don’t have big hair. Hardly ever call my husband “darlin’.” And I ain’t never lived in no holler, nor anything even approaching one.

Whoops. I mean, have not ever, not ain’t.

This tendency to talk like a hillbilly - or rather, an indigenous mountain person - has come over me in the last week, ever since I experienced a peculiar and wholly unanticipated musical conversion while watching the Academy of Country Music Awards on television.

The only other time in my entire life something similar happened was when I fell deeply, irrevocably in love with Tom Selleck during an episode of “Magnum, P.I.” Go figure.

Except for the sweet twang of steel guitars, I have always disdained country music. Always thought it was made by a bunch of histrionic entertainers writing songs with the intellectual depth of Rod McKuen poetry. Plus, the obsession with cowboys and their accessories struck me as nothing more than cultural expropriation, having more in common with the theft of Native American traditions by men’s movement drummer dilettantes than anything resembling true appreciation and respect for an American subculture.

I guess I still think the cowboy thing is a little over the top, but I swear on the grave of my cat (because my mama - who I used to call Mom - is still alive): In one electrifying epiphany last week, I forsook rock ‘n’ roll and fell head over high heels for country.

So, bye bye, Bruce.

And hello, Garth.

It happened somewhere between the Garth Brooks medley of country hits and Loretta Lynn’s tear-jerking acceptance of the Pioneer Award. (Did you know that Loretta met her husband, Mooney, when she was only 13 and by the time she was 18, she already had four kids? When she announced that she had left Mooney’s hospital bed because he insisted she be at the awards ceremony, I had a hormonal surge and fell completely apart.)

To my way of thinking - for which, obviously, there is no accounting - country music suddenly became the most honest, profound and meaningful expression of the interior landscape of the human mind, a way of mapping every inch of our torments and delights.

Sure, there are drawbacks to country - a little too much religion for my secular taste, the way there’s a tad too much Satan worship in heavy metal and a bit much misogyny in rap. Nor is country what you would call a culturally diverse discipline.

These quibbles are more than canceled out by country’s emphasis on sexual indiscretion, drinking binges and other dysfunctional behaviors - subjects that, let’s face it, everybody can relate to.

Or is it just me?

How has my conversion affected my life?

When I told my husband, Jethro, about it, he looked at me like I had just told him I had to go plow the back 40. (I renamed him because “Tom” doesn’t really fit in with my new lifestyle.)

I have been reluctant to play country music in the house since he is a tie-dyed-in-the-wool rock ‘n’ roll type, but he has been surprisingly supportive.

Jethro even announced the other morning that he had written me a country tune. I said, “That is really strange, because you can’t write music and you definitely can’t carry a tune. Is it about how your wife has turned into a nut?”

He looked wounded.

“This is a love offering,” he said, “not a criticism.”

Then he proceeded to sing me his little ditty, “Another Night in the Backhoe Bar.”

It was about love and loss and, frankly, it sounded like hell.

But I’m a country woman now. So I stood by my man.

With hands over my ears till he was done.


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