My Kind of Country

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

Learning to eat broccoli

I was one of those kids who refused to eat vegetables; mealtimes were often a battle of wills with my parents — battles, that more often than not, I won. If left to my own devices, I would have quite happily subsisted on an all junk food diet. Of course, I wasn’t alllowed to do that but there were a lot of foods that i just would not eat. Gradually, as I matured, I came to develop a more well-rounded palette.

Simply put, a junk food diet is usually more appealing to kids. Likewise, many of us are initially drawn to the musical equivalent of junk food, often preferring to listen to ear candy instead of more substantive music. I got into country music during the Urban Cowboy era, so there was ear candy galore on the radio, although there was a lot more diversity on radio playlists in those days. I listened to my fair share of pop-flavored music in those days, but I was always drawn to the more traditional country. Certain artists though, were an acquired taste. Emmylou Harris was an artist that I just didn’t “get” as a kid, but have come to appreciate as an adult.

Willie Nelson was an artist that was very hit or miss for me when I was growing up. Initially I didn’t care for his voice, but every now and then he’d come out with a song that I really liked. Like Emmylou, he was often more palatable as a collaborator than as a solo artist; I always liked his work with Waylon Jennings and the Pancho and Lefty album with Merle Haggard was always one of my favorites. Always On My Mind was the only solo Willie album I owned growing up. If iTunes had existed in the 80s, I definitely would have downloaded some cherry-picked tracks.

I recently purchased a copy of One Hell of a Ride, the boxed set released by Columbia/Legacy last year to coincide with Willie’s 75th birthday, when Amazon had it on sale for half price. It covers some early independently-released tracks, some cuts from his Liberty and Atlantic days, as well as a generous sampling of songs from his long associations with RCA, Columbia and Lost Highway Records. It’s difficult to like everything that Willie does, due to his willingness to experiment with a variety of musical styles and collaborate with just about anybody; sometimes those experiments work and sometimes they don’t. But in listening to the 102 tracks that span the four discs of this collection, I’ve been amazed at how many songs that I thought I didn’t like, but for which I’ve developed a new appreciation. I can remember when “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” from the Honeysuckle Rose soundtrack, came out in 1980. I really hated it, but can remember a friend of my dad’s telling me to really listen to it and pay attention in particular to the guitar work, even if I didn’t like Willie’s singing. I’m afraid I wasn’t willing to put that much thought into listening to music in those days, but now when I listen to that track, I realize that my dad’s friend was right. It really is a great recording. I’m also enjoying listening to some of the earlier incarnations of songs that Willie re-recorded in his more successful days — songs like “Half a Man”, “Blackjack County Chains” and “The Party’s Over”.

With age, they say, comes wisdom. I suppose it’s also true that good taste is something that takes time to develop. I have to confess that I still hate broccoli, though.

What songs or artists have you acquired an appreciation for, despite not liking them initially?

15 responses to “Learning to eat broccoli

  1. Steve from Boston December 15, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Hey, at least you like* musical* broccoli though, ha ha. soul-nourishing music. Some folks never aquire a taste for it.

    I have to admit, I wasn’t crazy about the first Mountain Soul at first, and some songs on OYWH and DMD. (On the Verge of Tears, Last in a Long Lonesome Line)..but now, the layers of emotion, and vocal and instrumental virtuosity are beyond sustaining, they are addictive.

    I didin’t take to Emmylou’s music at first either, but now she is one of my favorites.

    Great topic.

    And as for the vegetable, I love broccoli. 😉

  2. Lep December 15, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Well, I’m nineteen, and I’m embarrassed to admit that as recently as four years ago, I listened to nothing but mainstream contemporary country. If an artist wasn’t new or popular, I wouldn’t give him or her the time of day. I had a strong preference for pop sounds and dismissed anything resembling traditional country as “dumb hick stuff.” However, this stance was based primarily on preconceived notions than any actual exposure to traditional country music (you can thank radio for that).

    I soon began reading the 9513 and other country blogs, and I soon realized that there’s an entire world of country music beyond what CMT plays. Since then, I’ve pretty much dove head-first into exploring our rich genre and have greatly expanded my horizons. I realized that while some contemporary stuff is good, there’s a wealth of excellent music that will never be played on mainstream outlets. I’ve developed a strong taste for neotraditional, honk tonk, and bluegrass, and my interest in mainstream country has steadily declined. Now, I’m much more likely to listen to Ernest Tubb and Vern Gosdin than Chesney or McGraw.

    Frankly, I’m ashamed at some of the thoughts and opinions I held on music when I was younger, but I guess everyone has similar experiences of going after the “ear candy” before they begin to appreciate more substantive music.

    I don’t know if it’s the a result of the abysmal quality of radio in recent years or a product of my maturing taste, but it’s funny how in a few short years I went from listening to nothing but the mainstream to barely paying any attention to the mainstream at all.

    • Razor X December 15, 2009 at 1:07 pm

      You have nothing to be ashamed of; everybody has their starting point and tastes and preferences are bound to change over time. Looking back, I don’t know why I kept listening to country radio for as long as I did. It’s something I just did out of habit, even though for several years I hadn’t felt very connected with most of the music they were playing.

      • Lep December 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm

        Haha, I can sympathize with that. When I lost interest in mainstream country, I still listened to country radio for over a year, just out of habit. I’ve pretty much kicked that now, and I can honestly tell you that I haven’t heard most of the current singles. I’m still waiting for mainstream country to be as good as it was in the late eighties and early nineties, but I’m not holding my breath.

        I’m not really ashamed of the fact that my preferences changed over time, but rather that I was so dismissive and close-minded as a youngster. Like I said, I hardly think I’m alone in this one – the broccoli and junk food analogies are spot-on. There’s so much country music out there I feel like I’ve missed out on, but better late that never I suppose!

  3. Leeann Ward December 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Hey,
    Didn’t the first President Bush get a lot of flack for publicly admitting that he didn’t like broccoli?:) I like it, but I prefer it smothered in cheese.

    My story is much like Lep’s. I got into country music at around 14-years old. At the time, I didn’t like too much twang in my country and I was embarrassed when my friends thought I liket that “twangy stuff.” Now, I fully embrace that twangy stuff and am embarrassed when people assume country music is that “pop stuff” that’s played on country radio these days.:) I can remember when I realized that I wasn’t enjoying a top forty countdown (up until that point, I listened to it religiously every weekend).Some time in 2006, I realized that I was bored by most of the songs on that weekend’s countdown and that’s when my radio listening started dropping off to what is now nonexistent. Thank you to Apple, for my iPod is a saving grace.

  4. Paul W Dennis December 15, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    In my case, the two Rays (Charles & Price) . While I liked the early Ray Price songbook, the mid-60s product (“Night Life” , “Danny Boy” , “Sweetheart of the Year”, etc ) really left me cold . It wasn’t until the early 70s, and particularly “I’d Rather Be Sorry” that I came to appreciate the Countrypolitan version of Ray Price and to recognize those recordings for the priceless treasures they are.

    Ray Charles initially struck me as too primitive, especially when compared to 60s Motown. It wasn’t until I heard the entire MODERN SOUNDS OF COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC album during my freshman year of college, that I really got turned on to Ray Charles

  5. KathyP December 15, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    This one is easy. John Anderson. After one or two notes on country radio, I’d change the station. That twang and voice of his was unbearable. “Swinging” was fingernails on the blackboard to me. “Seminole Wind,” not so much, though. OMG, this guy was awful.

    That all changed this past summer when he was a fill-in headliner (and closer) at a music festival I attend every year. When he was announced, I groaned and complained to my campmates. But I went anyway. All I can say is WOW. What a show he put on. It was great and he handled those stage crashers like a real pro and didn’t miss a note. He threw everything into that performance and left the crowd satisfied and happy. I still don’t like “Swinging.” But I’d pay to see him again in a heartbeat.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I still do not like Jessi Coulter, even if she’s Shooter’s mother and Waylon’s widow. If the Taliban were ever to torture me, it would be with 24/7 Coulter albums. That truly is nails on the blackboard.

    • Razor X December 15, 2009 at 8:29 pm

      I hated “Swingin'” with a passion when it was on the charts. It is still not my favorite Anderson song, though I don’t hate it as intensely now that I don’t have to hear it every day. And the new recording of it that he did for BNA does not have as obnoxious a production as the original Warner Bros. version.

  6. Felipe December 16, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Well, I’m a “new country fan” too (just listen to it for like 2 or 3 years now) and of course I started with the pop stuff. And I remember when I used to think “I’m not gonna listen X artist because it’s country” and then today I see that their country bone is not that strong.
    But I’m still listening mainstream country, tough I’m getting more and more captivated by the traditional and bluegrass stuff. Actually I think the most beautiful songs in the world are the slow bluegrass ones. Oh I love it.

    But coming back to the topic, I think my background history is very related with something I didn’t like at first and now I appreciate. Well, who comes to mind is Sunny Sweeney. When I first heard her album I thought “Oh my God, what is she telling? What happened to her voice?” hahaha But I thought the songs were so great, that for some reason I kept playing it over and over. Naturally, it came a time when I stopped thinking her voice was caused by a gas or someting. Today I love her and discovered other twangs like her, and I love it too. Sunny was just what made me break the line and explore a new sound to me, and this was great

  7. Pingback: Ryan Bingham/T Bone Burnet Pick Up Golden Globe Nods; Luke Bryan’s “Do I” Tops Charts | The 9513

  8. Nicolas December 20, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Lee Ann Womack

    I remember being introduced to her stuff and I thought she was pretty bad… I dunno why… but now I love her, she’s one of my Top 10 country artists

  9. Derrick January 5, 2010 at 12:28 am

    One thing I have noticed on this posting is people saying how ashamed they are about what they liked. If you enjoy listening to it, then there’s no hard — that’s where the vegetable analogy breaks down a bit in this excellent article.

    But it’s like sushi. If you never tried it, you don’t know but that you might love it. I was that way for years. Then one day, you find that it’s amazing – and you don’t know how you lived without it. I still like pizza, but sushi is one of my favorites.

    Don’t be ashamed if you liked Barbara Mandrell or Juice Newton or John Michael Montgomery or Taylor Swift or whoever the “proper targets” of hatred are in current radio. Keep liking them, if you want. Just be open to new things, too — be they Neko Case or Asleep at the Wheel or The motherlovin Carter Family. As we all find, we just might love them, too. And our world gets a little more exciting for it.

    • Lep January 5, 2010 at 10:05 am

      That’s a great way to put it. I’m not “ashamed” (for lack of better word) of artists I liked or didn’t like, but that in my youth I was too close-minded and unwilling to give anything outside the current mainstream a chance. There’s still a few artists and songs in the mainstream I like (and even a few I love), but I’m kicking myself for not opening my mind to all other music sooner.

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