Brad Paisley, Friedrich Nietzsche, and King Solomon

Which of these is not like the others? Thoughts on country music and wisdom.

A few years ago I found myself taking frequent trips with about a dozen of my very educated and very motivated peers in a fifteen-passenger van. The question naturally came up, “What’ll we listen to on the radio?” Moving from Podunk, USA (pop. 714) to UT Austin (undergraduate pop. roughly 50k) I had learned that my preference for country music had zero chance of winning a popular vote among the subset of Millennials I was with. So I was surprised when no other genre was even mentioned before Buddy Jewell’s “Southern Comfort” filled our van.

I’m fairly sure these twenty-somethings were not a representative sample of Generation Y. But nevertheless, country music (of a certain flavor) does get at one of the frustrations we have with post-modernism, namely the Nietzschean notion that in order to be significant and fulfilled I’ve got to “Go Big” (e.g. think global). Some of the best (and most popular) country music today encourages us to do just the opposite. That’s how the Zac Brown Band rose to fame.

“It’s funny how it`s the little things in life that mean the most

Not where you live, what you drive, or the price tag on your clothes

There`s no dollar sign on a peace of mind, this I’ve come to know.”

Some argue that lyrics about chicken fried steak are nothing more than crude glorifications of backward appetites. Unfortunately they’re right at times (Roger Creager’s “Everclear” anyone?). But a few country artists frequently rise above the we-want-beer-and-more-beer mantra to remind us that enjoying a good chicken fried steak is…well, really enjoyable. Brad Paisley’s “Camouflage” is a great example.

“You can blend in in the country.

You can stand out in the fashion world.

Be invisible to a white tail and irresistible to a redneck girl.

Camouflage, camouflage

Oh you’re my favorite color camouflage.”

Or Alan Jackson’s “When Daddy let me Drive.

“It was, just an old plywood boat

75 Johnson, electric choke.

A young boy, two hands on the wheel

I can’t replace the way it made me feel.

And I would turn her shoreline, and make it wide

He’d say, ya can’t beat the way an old wood boat rides.

Just a little lake across the Alabama line

But I was king of the ocean, when daddy let me drive.”

As Mr. Brown pointed out in a previous article, you can’t argue with good country music, because in the end, it just reminds you of what you already know. And after a few years of trying to “change the world,” at least a few of us are starting to remember that there is something very fulfilling, very human about appreciating simple things. After a life of denying himself nothing his eyes desired, King Solomon came to the same conclusion.

“Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.” -Ecclesiastes 8:15

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