As part of my continuing drive-by attacks on contemporary country music, I turn now to “Way Out Here,” a Josh Thompson tune that enjoyed a few weeks on the country charts earlier this year. I heard it the other day. It’s intended to be one of those all-American anthems of blue-collar pride and independence, but mostly it conjures the image of a flabby guy on a bar stool popping open his 13th Keystone of the night:
Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun
And you might meet ’em both if you show up here not welcome son
Our necks are burnt, our roads are dirt and our trucks ain’t clean
The dogs run loose, we smoke, we chew and fry everything”
Hey Josh: With that attitude, I don’t think you’ll be getting much company at the doublewide, welcome or not. If I were you, I’d put away the AK and see if you can’t do something about getting those junk vehicles hauled off.
Nothing like good country music. Except that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, what is good is not country and what is country is not good. Several of the genre’s current top artists — Taylor Swift, Sugarland and Lady Antebellum, for example, are gifted musicians, but they are about as country as Avril Lavigne. “Way Out Here” is definitely country, but it relies on trite images of rural nobility that became obsolete with the advent of satellite dishes and home-cooked meth.
If earlier country was a Norman Rockwell painting, current country is one by Thomas Kinkade — the shopping mall “painter of light” who became rich by abandoning any notion of artistic expression and devoting himself instead to endless images of cozy cabins. Today’s country music is just as empty. It’s mostly about the artists celebrating themselves — Brad Paisley’s “Anything Like Me” and Reba McEntire’s “Turn on the Radio” — or wallowing in phony nostalgia — Rodney Atkins’ “Farmer’s Daughter” and “It’s America” come to mind.
I hear Thomas Kinkade, once worth millions, recently had to declare bankruptcy. Creatively, country music might be headed in the same direction.