In the Sixties I hated country music and here’s why. On 29th September 1966, the Top Twenty singles included “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadows” by The Rolling Stones, “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys, “Got To Get You Into My Life” by Cliff Bennett And The Rebel Rousers, “Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles, “All Or Nothing” by The Small Faces, “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes and “I’m A Boy” by The Who. Guess what was Number One? “Distant Drums” by Jim Reeves. The most popular song in the country was a “country” song. It had never been explained to me what “country” music was but all I knew was I didn’t like it. I also knew that my views, even as a twelve year old boy, were not shared by the majority of people in the U.K. Not for the last time either.
I had always liked Bob Dylan singles even though I never bought any of his albums until 1972. “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”. All excellent. Then, one day in 1969, I heard a ghastly noise coming out of the radio and when the song had ended I was flabbergasted to find out that this was a new song by Bob Dylan called “Lay Lady Lay”. Dylan had gone “country” and it was terrible. It didn’t even sound like Bob Dylan. Where was the sneer? The sarcasm? What was all this sincerity and singing in tune all about? I hated it then (and I still hate it). No wonder I hated “country”.
The conversion started when “Zigzag” went on and on about “California Bloodlines” by John Stewart. I listened to it and it was full of good pop songs. Was this “country”? I got the Eagles first album and liked that. This wasn’t “country”, it was “country-rock”. A significant difference. Years later Andy Kershaw had a programme on BBC2 about “New country” and it featured Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett. Brilliant. Do I like “country” or do I like a hybrid of country? Country-rock? New country? Post country? Country-Folk? Country-Blues? I don’t know anything about country but I know what I like. As Orson Welles never said.
It was Richard who turned me on to Courtney Marie Andrews. He has been responsible for introducing me to nearly as much music as Peter. We went to see her at The Komedia in April 2018. She has a baby face but sings with immense power. She wore a strange cape and a short skirt. It was brilliant. We stood very near the front and the bloke next to me took a video which he posted on YouTube. This song isn’t on the new album but gives some idea of what she’s like when she performs live.
Courtney Marie Andrews’ new album “Old Flowers” was released today. It is her fifth album. I have listened to her previous album, “May Your Kindness Remain” a lot and I like it. Yes, it’s country and I like it. She has a great voice, the songs are arranged well, there are good dynamics in the songs and the playing is great. I have heard three of the songs already because they have been released on Spotify as an E.P.
“It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault” is great and makes a liar out of anyone who says that Americans don’t do irony. She is looking up an old lover and wondering why they ever split up. She acknowledges the flaws in her own personality and, by implication, she understands that she is to blame, despite the title of the song. It’s a great country song.
The opening song, “Burlap String” is ineffably sad. She has broken up with her lover for reasons that were good at the time but now seem trivial. “Time eases, but can’t erase, the sad look on true love’s face. When you know what your heart needs and you tell them you must be free but deep down you know the truth: there’s no replacing someone like you.” Her voice is pure, strong, emotional and heartbreaking. Listening to the rest of the album while I’m writing this, I can confidently predict that I am going to love it.
According to Wikipedia, “in 2009 in the United States, country music was the most listened to rush hour radio genre during the evening commute, and second most popular in the morning commute”. I love country music. I am finally in sync with the majority of people. In the USA. Where Trump is president. Ah.
Rap music. I love rap music…..