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Check in to Country -- Writer's Poke #450



Twenty years ago, I had a roommate named Larry. Larry was a full-blown southern-Illinois cowboy. He wore the cowboy hat around the Eastern Illinois University campus, and he knew hundreds of different line dances.

I was into Megadeth and KISS at the time, but it was the era of grunge, and metal seemed like it was dying, if not already six feet under. So, thanks in part to Larry, and in part to Kurt Cobain, I decided I'd give Country a shot.

Country didn't stick me for long, but I did manage to give it a fair shot -- at least a few months. I even joined Larry and the girls of 8J at a honkytonk in Champaign, Illinois, before finally admitting that Country was not the uniform for me.

In a certain sense, music is a sort of uniform, and it's easy to define yourself (or to allow yourself to be defined) by the type of music you listen to. Even today, I'm sure people label me as a "Hair Metal guy," although I'm not really sure what that label means in 2014. I'm sure it doesn't mean what it meant in the 1980s.

But what does it mean to be a "Country guy" in 2014? On a whim, for the first time in twenty years, I decided to start listening to Country music again. The first few songs I listened to sounded vaguely familiar, but Country does seem to have evolved over the past 20 years. Take Jerrod Niemann's "I Could Drink to That All Night," which was one of the first Country songs I heard when I switched my radio dial to uncharted territory. I was used to the rock influence in Country music, but wow. When did hip-hop fully blend into the scene?

So this is Country in 2014? If so, I like what I'm hearing. Will it stick with me for good this time around? I don't know, but I consider this listening experiment to be "musical tourism." It's fun to hear what's out there, but I know I can always "go home" (e.g. my Pandora stations or Hair Nation on satellite radio) when I'm ready to sleep in my own musical bed, so to speak.


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