Small Town Populism in Song
There is perhaps no more pure expression of culture than the arts. This is true for all sorts of things like food, crafts and of course music. As a child of divorce that split his time between the suburbs and the farm, I have an affinity for country music that runs deep. I was raised on Waylon and Willie and some of my fondest memories are of cruising country roads in my dad’s faded blue pickup truck on the way to a fishing spot or a farm auction.
The country music of my youth is today called ‘outlaw country’ and it seemed to be about a lot of different subjects. Johnny Cash was a pretty progressive guy and the 70s influenced much of what we listened to. The 80s and 90s saw country music go pop and I lost interest for nearly two decades. As an adult I have found myself falling back in love with a genre of music that reminds me of the things I hold most dear. With that said though, I have no illusions that country music is thinking a lot of deep thoughts. What is going on today is a celebration of country/redneck culture and a slightly tongue-in-cheek affinity for small town populism. It wags its finger at city folks and says, “We’re having fun out on the farms and at the local honky tonk bar…come join us.”
I’ve been thinking about other musical genres that celebrate a certain culture or geographic locale with equal passion. Bluegrass has it, but this is fairly niche. Thanks to coworkers who play the local hip-hop station for most of our workday, I’ve started to hear the same themes in their music. Bragging about their lifestyle. An unashamed celebration of their culture. An emphasis on fun. Of course, like all quickly-formed theories the intelligent reader will poke all sorts of holes in my hypothesis but as a blogger I take pride in being able to generalize when it suits my needs.
I present below a selection of country songs that highlight this trend. For good measure I am starting with one of the hits of this summer which demonstrates there may be some cross-over appeal. I am also ending with the slightly coutry-inspired classic from JCM which literally defines small town populism.
Cruise (Remix) ft. Nelly – Florida Georgia Line
These Are My People – Rodney Adkins
Famous in a Small Town – Miranda Lambert
Round Here – Florida Georgia Line
Boys Round Here – Blake Shelton
How Country Feels – Randy Houser
I Was Born in a Small Town – John Cougar Mellencamp