October 20, 2010
Bourjaily: The Decline of Country Music
By Phil Bourjaily
Last time I tried listening to a country station I heard “Drinkin Beer and Wastin Bullets:” an ode to the simple joy of getting hammered on light beer* in a deer stand and drunkenly spraying lead--specifically Winchester 100-grain bullets--across the landscape.
It’s meant to be taken lightly, I know, but it exemplifies the aggressively dumbed-down lyrics that come out of Nashville these days which contribute so much to the ongoing decline of mainstream country music.
While I was never a hardcore country fan I discovered country radio in the late 80s and listened to it throughout the 90s. I could station-surf in the car on my way to go hunting and regularly find songs by “New Traditionalists” like Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam, George (“All my exes live in Texas”) Strait and Randy Travis as well as Allison Krauss and the Mavericks. Their songs were styled after old-school country and written with clever word play and some wonderful lyrics. It was intelligent music for grownups. It’s gone and I miss it.
If you need to get “Drinkin Beer and Wastin Bullets” out of your mind, check out Ray Price in this clip of “Crazy Arms/Heartache by the Numbers.” He was 83 when it was filmed last year. Ray can still sing, he radiates pure class, and his pedal steel guy can play, too.
*which is, I guess, technically beer, but not really.