Wrong's What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture

Wrong's What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture

Wrong's What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture

Wrong's What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture

Synopsis

This is the first study of "hard" country music as well as the first comprehensive application of contemporary cultural theory to country music. Barbara Ching begins by defining the features that make certain country songs and artists "hard." She compares hard country music to "high" American culture, arguing that hard country deliberately focuses on its low position in the American cultural hierarchy, comically singing of failures to live up to American standards of affluence, while mainstream country music focuses on nostalgia, romance, and patriotism of regular folk.
With chapters on Hank Williams Sr. and Jr., Merle Haggard, George Jones, David Allan Coe, Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam, and the Outlaw Movement, this book is written in a jargon-free, engaging style that will interest both academic as well as general readers.

Excerpt

This book is about hard country music for two reasons. First, it’s impossible to really understand country music, now one of the most popular forms of music in the United States, without recognizing that its “country” is a disputed territory where a mainstream-oriented pop production style reigns over a feisty and less fashionable form—“hard country.” Second, hearing hard country music offers an important perspective on the bewildering cultural situation, often called postmodernism, in which we find ourselves. Conversely, once we recognize the postmodern rhetoric of cultural distinction embedded in contemporary hard country, we can hear the music as something more significant than a stylistic variant of a harmless breed of popular music. Although cultural critics like Susan Sontag may well assert that contemporary culture has done away with the traditional distinction between high and low culture, you don’t find them writing an appreciative essay on George Jones. Country music—let alone hard country music—has not figured in any of the now canonical discussions of postmodernity. The difficulty of imagining it may suggest just how remote country music is from intellectual discourse, and thus how overlooked it is in contemporary cultural politics.

“The strength of country music is its lyrics,” says hard country star Waylon Jennings. “Your melody goes where the words take you.” The voices of the hard country stars also underscore the importance of the words although they . . .

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