No country for vapid men

I can’t lie to you: I would love it if ILB returned to full-scale positing with positivity in its heels. My Gamblers Anonymous pamphlet even tells me to put aside 30 minutes a day to reflect on “being more positive”. I should really be hitting you off with some enlightened music debate, unearthing the stars of tomorrow, passing comment on the classics of yesteryear, putting them all in some sort of critical context. But, no, this is still a place where I just go “Jesus Christ look at this shitty hack”. And reaching his 2000 wordcount before going “fuck it, that’ll do, invoice enc” today is Simmy Richman.

There’s probably a good article to be written about the relationship between Britain and country music. As a genre, it’s always had a big fanbase among the old white working class in the UK: the people who drove the linedancing boom of the late 90s and can still be found rolling up to the working men’s clubs of Droylsden and Guiseley in bolo ties and cowboy boots every Saturday night. What is it that drives this fandom? Is it a need for an authentically untampered “white” genre by people who are too industrialised to care for folk? Is it a hands across the Atlantic show of blue collar solidarity? Is it just an extension of whatever it is that causes 15% of council houses to contain shrines to either Elvis or James Dean?

I don’t know, but to me that sounds like a good “Hmmm, never thought of that” article. Send your hacks out to speak to some of these fans, maybe question the front row of a Kenny or Dolly concert see what they’ve got to say, get Harris in for the obligatory “I totally have a show on radio about country!” comment, (Whisperin’) Bob’s your uncle.

What would be a bad article about country music from a UK perspective? I’d say one that starts off with an exposition of “Hey guys, country music is all about Garth Brooks divorcing his truck and marrying his truck’s cousin, amirite?” and ending with a “No, but seriously: there’s plenty of great country music that dumb hicks are too stupid to appreciate, thankfully us more educated cats in Old Europe can listen to these underground masters of the art”.

I haven’t seen Crazy Heart (Rich Four Four does a pretty impressive kufi ten-gallon hat-smacking of it here), but the fact it’s opening in UK cinemas seems a pretty poor premise to write this article based on: nobody was asking me to write a 3,000 word weekend magazine cover story on my love of Barry Windham when The Wrestler dropped. But the actual problem with this article is… Simmy Richman clearly doesn’t love country music at all.

If someone wrote an article about how world music was great, as long as you ignore the savages with the bones through their noses and concentrate on Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, they’d be decried as an idiot and a racist. If someone wrote about how MIA is the greatest living rapper because she isn’t scary like all those coloured lads (it’s the foreign boys, Gary, the foreign boys), they’d be one of the former editors of The Lipster treated likewise. So how on earth can Richman get away with positing that the route to country enlightenment starts with a fucking Elvis Costello album and reaches its destination with Gram Parsons because “His purpose was to sell country music to people who would otherwise never listen to it”? Chicago Southern Fried Pizza and Kebab sells Italian food to people who would otherwise never eat it: doesn’t mean it’s of any nutritional or taste value.

Luckily Maverick country music festival organiser Paul Spencer turns up to drop some gems, opining that “Children love to see real musicians playing real music” so, you know, if you’re entertaining your five-year-old niece this weekend, don’t put on a Ke$ha or Demi Lovato CD, they’d much rather watch your VHS dub of Vanilla Fudge performances from the early 70s.

Look, this is basically the kind of “Blackalicious talk about real issues unlike so-called ‘jiggy’ artists” article that was skeeted our incessantly in the late 90s, except 15 years later and about country music. It’s annoying that for a genre so overlooked and vilified in the UK that the one chance it gets for some British shine in the chattering classes’ rags has to be written by a man who so clearly loathes country music and wants it to be replaced by what is effectively shitty indie-songwriting with the occasional steel guitar overdub. Don’t talk to me about Lyle Lovett’s Squidward features, about how some schlub you rubbed one out to her Myspace promo photos is a “Dolly for the Lily Allen” generation, about RYAN FUCKING ADAMS. Talk to me about Spade Cooley, about Red Foley, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Kitty Wells. Or, alternatively, just shut the fuck up. I think this would be Richman’s best option.


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