My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Listening and learning

listeningI’ve been listening to country music since I was 9 years old.  When I was a kid listening to some of these songs, I just sang along, memorizing the melody and the lyric, never really knowing what the song meant.  It wasn’t until I got older that I realized Garth Brooks was singing about murder, Reba about prostitution, and what people meant Faith Hill was doing under those sheets. See, I’ve learned so much from the music I play.  I’ve learned to love, learned what heartache is, learned to forgive, and to hold on.

The introverted and heavy-hearted lyrical stylings of Mary Chapin Carpenter have kept me sane during the craziest times and they still feed my brain regularly.  This is in contrast to Alan Jackson, who takes a straight-forward and bare-bones approach to his songwriting and his music feeds the simple soul in me, the country boy that remembers catching crawdads in the creek and how great it felt to come home muddy and dirty.  And while Alan doesn’t directly sing about those things much – or I’d have already gotten bored with him – he just gives off a good ol’ boy energy in whatever he does.  I need reminded there are still good ol’ boys in the world now and then.

I couldn’t begin to tell you everything country music has taught me.  But I can tell you about some of my favorite albums, and what I learned from them, and how they shaped me into who I am today.

Alan Jackson – Here In The Real World … Alan’s debut album is the best example of his simple and universal appeal. Maybe it’s because it was my introduction to Alan Jackson, so I have a soft spot for it.  I learned all about Music Row and ‘how the wheels turn slow’ from ‘Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow’, I’ll never forget there’s no place like ‘Home’, and that love can still be just as strong after a decade – from this record.

Randy Travis – Storms of Life …  If nothing else, it taught me to appreciate traditional country music, especially in this neo-classic form.  These songs were already country standards by the time I got to them, and were still relevant.  This album told me about the reasons to cheat, broken-hearted madness, and assured me there’ll always be a honky tonk somewhere.  God knows we need one after all that.

Mary Chapin Carpenter – Come On Come On … I call this album my ‘school of hard knocks’.  Mary Chapin Carpenter is a deep soul and also one that has stumbled more than once on the road of life, and it comes across in her songs.  ‘The Hard Way’ and ‘I Take My Chances’ were lessons in the real world for me, pointing out all the grim realities.  Other songs like ‘Passionate Kisses’ and ‘I Feel Lucky’ keep the album from being too abysmal.

Reba McEntire – Rumor Has It … This one taught me just how great a country album really can be, from start to finish.  Reba mixes some stone country numbers with a few snappy tunes and also a few soaring ballads.  Maybe just playing these songs so much embedded them into my consciousness and because of that, their lyrics are closely tied with my own intuition.  I find myself assuming the bitter character in ‘You Remember Me’ or the indecisiveness of ‘Now You Tell Me’ too often.  And I’m constantly ‘waiting for the deal to go down’.

Trisha Yearwood – Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love … This album was released just when life went a little nuts for me.  I found myself right in the middle of each of these songs.  It taught me about losing and letting go.

What albums  and song have shaped your life?  Tell us what they are and what you learned from them …

13 responses to “Listening and learning

  1. Michael July 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Rumor Has It and Come On Come On are my two all-time favorite albums. Very rarely will I have an entire disc on my iPod but these are two exceptions that I revisit quite often (along with the Dixie Chicks’ Taking the Long Way, Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing and Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles). Reba and MCC’s albums were some of the first that I ever purchased (on casette, no less! – I eventually purchased them again on CD and finally converted them to iTunes) and it is funny how, although I didn’t fully understand all of the lyrics as a child, these songs have been with me for most of my life and have evolved with me.

  2. Jake July 30, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Those are some truly great albums, and all of them have great meanings on them to learn from. I’m only 16, so while I have not grown up completely I still remember some albums that I have loved as a child and now revisit for reassurance in hard times.

    The Dixie Chicks albums have probably been a main stay of albums that helped me get through hard times along with helping me to be strong. I listened to Home a lot after a family member’s passing. Then 1999’s Fly after I slowly came out of my grief. And finally Taking The Long Way which really has some great statements that I think helps anyone discover who they are and what they stand for.

    Kelly Clarkson’s My December – while I can see why it’s not mainstream for it’s bitterness. This album is a lot like Alanis’s Jagged Little Pill with a more acoustic sound, and like Jagged Little Pill helped me relate to someone else as they expressed their feelings of hurt and bitterness to someone that treated them wrong.

    That was proabably a little too much oversharing haha

    BTW, this is really a great topic, seeing albums that have affected other people in a good way is always interesting to look at.

  3. David S July 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I’m only 21 years old, so music hasn’t had a lot time to “shape my life,” BUT Miranda Lambert’s Kerosene album, released in 2005, certainly impacted the last years of my teenage life, starting when I was 17. The song “New Strings” gave me the strength to leave a lingering love interest behind at age 17 when it was time for me to move on to college. “Mama I’m Alright” and “What About Georgia” depicted my life on my own and my relationship with my parents when I started college at an earlier-than-usual age and was no longer able to enjoy the comforts of home. The lyrics and emotion of the “Kerosene” album only verified to me that I was making the right decisions for someone my age and in my position.

  4. J.R. Journey July 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Great stories guys.

    Michael: I really like the Common Thread album too. I prefer almost all the covers to the Eagles originals now.

    Jake: For a 16 year-old, you certainly have refined tastes. I’m impressed.

    David: Isn’t it great to have songs as the soundtrack of your life? Especially when things get rough. What’s even better is going back and listening to those songs after the initial hurt is over. It’s then they help you realize just how much you’ve healed and how much you’ve grown in the process.

    • Leeann Ward July 30, 2009 at 10:28 pm

      I can’t say that a specific album has changed or shaped me in any way. I can say that country music did. It helpd me get through some turbulent times in my childhood and was just the escape that I needed. I remember that it was my lifeline. For a couple years, it was the only music I could have on in order to feel happy. Dramatic now that I look back on it.

      I, too, like the Eagles tribute album better than the originals.

  5. Paul W Dennis July 30, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    I can’t honestly say that any album actually changed my life. I should say something glib like “I’m simply not that shallow” , but its not the album that has that effect but the individual songs. The best example that I can think of would be the Billie Holiday classic “Black and Blue”, but for an album to maintain that intensity is impossible.

    I wouldn’t even try to describe the soundtrack of my life – it would take too long

    • Razor X July 30, 2009 at 8:43 pm

      ” …. but its not the album that has that effect but the individual songs”

      I agree. I’ve been thinking back to the albums that I listened to when I was growing up and realized that most of them were hits compilations because I didn’t have enough money to buy every release from every artist I liked. I used to save up my allowance until I had enough to buy a new cassette – usually a Greatest Hits or Best Of collection. So while specific songs often hold special memories, entire albums, for the most part, do not.

      • Chris July 31, 2009 at 8:17 am

        I would agree it’s more individual songs for me too, although there aren’t many since I’m so young, I guess. One I can think of right now is “The Last Time” by Lee Ann Womack, it helps me say goodbye and I always think “What if this is the last time I see them? Should I really do that?”

  6. Lanibug July 31, 2009 at 9:36 am

    I would have to agree that it is more songs that have shaped me – but it is also artists that have shaped me — there are artists that I lean more to who there songs were more likely to shape me than others….

    Scary how many people actually like the Common Threads album…..

  7. Paul W Dennis July 31, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I didn’t like the Common Threads album, but then I don’t like the Eagles either.

  8. Pingback: Ralph Stanley Lets Loose in Memoir; ACL with Willie and the Wheel Airs Early; Free Music | The 9513

  9. James S. July 31, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Yeah, I have individual songs attached to special times in my life, but can’t think of any albums as a whole that have changed my life. If anything, growing up during the early 90’s new traditional era has helped make me the kind of country fan I am today. Sure, my tastes have grown a lot in recent years, but when it comes to country music, I still lean heavily toward artists with a neo-traditional sound. Also, I find myself coming back to my favorite 90’s artists quite often, but that’s probably just nostalgia.

    Oh, and chalk up another who likes the “Common Thread” album.

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