“Three cords and the truth” is the way one person once described country music. I think it is a fitting description.
On my birthday, June 27th, Carol and I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame in Music City. It is educational, entertaining, and for country music fans, Mecca.
The building is spectacular and alone worth seeing. We chose the audio tour and were able to listen to the stories and music of each display along the way. It is the history of an art form born of the experiences of simple people, the joys of life, but more often the struggles of making a living, relationships, and failed remedies for disappointment and heart ache.
In my childhood it was not uncommon to hear the twangy rhythms of guitars, banjos, and fiddles coming from front porches on summer nights. Atrip to the store often included a concert by the men who were drawn together by the music. The hills of North Carolina (my home), the hollers of West Virgina, and the smoky vistas of East Tennessee were then, and are now, accented by the sometimes mournful and sometimes joyful sounds of country music.
Be it Bluegrass, traditional country, or rock-a-billy, country music tells a story. It is the lives of country people on frets and bows and lyrics, transparent and laid bare. Love found and love lost, fighting and faith, hope and despair, tied to the music of the mountains that grips the human spirit.
Some only see this art form only as songs about dogs, pickup trucks, drinking, and mama in jail. I see it as an expose’ of the human quest for peace and happiness, most often ending in failure. I suppose it is the story of men and women who are looking for love in all the wrong places. (forgive me..)
Friday afternoon we strolled along Broadway in Nashville where wannabes, somebodies and nobodies, ply their trades in hopes of the big break. Street singers, one after another, pick a tune and sing a lyric, for a buck tossed into the guitar case. You will never see them on the Oprystage. But, at Tootsies open mike night, an occasional star is born. Dozens of bars with a stage for singers and players dot the street anchored by Tootsies Orchid Bar and Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop.
The highway from Tootsies or some other small venue to the Opry stage, or the Country Music Hall of Fame, is most often many years long and winds through broken hearts and shattered dreams deep into the valley where only the most determined keep plucking along.
Why do I like country music? It’s the people and places, the sounds and scenes, they tell my story in a unique way that has become part of who I am. No, I don’t endorse the themes of many songs but they are the truth, much more often than we are comfortable admitting.