Today I’m going to explore two of the most popular musical genres of the South: country music and the blues. I’m a blues girl, myself. Now, I realize that there’s a fine line between the blues and country music, and that’s a line that I don’t want to cross. I’ll go as far as bluegrass, but I stop there.
You might say that both of these musical genres are forms of artful whining. But the difference between the blues and country music is the difference between telling it like it is and ruthlessly exploiting my emotions.
If I happen to hear a country song that starts off with a letter stuck to an old oak tree, I switch the radio dial, because whoever wrote that letter is going to die. And that will make me cry. And I don’t want to listen to a song and cry unless I’m watching Les Miserables.
With the blues, you start down and you stay down, and those minor chords make it kind of fun while you’re down there. Not so with country music. You’ll be Sittin’ Knee-Deep in the Water Somewhere and the next thing you know, you’re being showered with tears that are pouring down on you from Holes in the Floor of Heaven.
Don’t jerk me around like that.
I don’t want to be having a rollicking good time with my red Solo cup in hand and in the next moment witness my daughter growing up too quickly before my very eyes while plumbers and other sages are telling her that she’s going to miss this when it’s gone, which starts me spiraling straight into a Sunrise, Sunset melancholy. Stop it, already!
With the blues, I know what’s coming. There will always be a minor scale and a major problem, and it will be played out in a very reliable fashion. There will be a 12-bar chord progression, three-line stanza and double entendre. If I miss the first line of a verse, I don’t have to worry because it’ll be sung all over again–right away.
With the blues, there will be an issue with a spouse—he’s either cheating or leaving. If it’s a Sad, Sad Sunday, I know it’s because my baby has to go. If there’s nothin’ I can do as you leave me here to cry, I know that my love will follow you as the years go passing by. If you’ve been meetin’ your man, baby, down at the local laundromat, then I know that someone’s done got wise and daddy ain’t going for that. You see? There are no surprises with this musical genre.
I respect the blues. There’s integrity in them thar lyrics. It might sound real sweet to have some slick country music cowboy singing to you about how the July moonlight shines, with “your pretty little head” on his shoulder—but I’ve heard that line before. A blues singer will compare his woman to a whiskey store, and that sounds a whole lot more honest to me.
I’m not trying to convert you. I know you’re happy with your trucks and sunshine and cutoff jeans, your Keith Urbans and your Carrie Underwoods. But I’ll take B.B. King every time.
Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.