For the past few years, since the switch from analog over-the-air signals to digital, we haven’t watched much broadcast TV in the Ross household. We don’t have cable TV in my area that I know of, and we dropped satellite service because we were paying too much for too many channels we didn’t watch.
The networks that carry the Super Bowl stream that game for free over the internet, so I’ve watched those games, but for the most part my entertainment has been reading books, taking pictures and watching YouTube videos.
The lack of television means we haven’t been able to watch the Ken Burns series on country music, which has almost all of my Facebook friends raving in approval. When it comes out on DVD or when I break down and buy a streaming service, I’ll watch it.
Often at night, when everyone else has gone to sleep or closed a bedroom door, I’ll plug my headphones into a Kindle and pull up some YouTube videos of the music I grew up with and music I didn’t know about in those years. One night last week I listened to songs by Tom T. Hall, Merle Haggard, the Statler Brothers and a few others before I realized it was past my bedtime. Then I listened to a few more.
When I went off to live in a college dorm, I found that most of my new friends and acquaintances were more into the Beatles and the Allman Brothers Band and they didn’t understand my enjoyment of country music. But country music was what we listened to in the blue-collar family I grew up in.
Sometime in my late 20s my tastes changed and I segued to Bach, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. The baroque period was of particular interest because it reminded me most of bluegrass and older country in some ways.
As I learned more about music, it became obvious that just about every genre has some great pieces. Every genre also has tons of awful music that you have to sort through to get to the good stuff.
At this point, I’m supposed to say that I hate modern country music. Actually, I don’t. It’s just that I don’t know enough about it. Mass-produced music is not made for old coots like me.
A few months ago I listened to a modern country song on the car radio, and it was apparent the singer was reciting words written to accompany a backing track that had nothing to do with the tune he was singing. It was one of those things that I listen to just to see how awful it is. The song felt like a fusion of everything bad in both country and pop. It touched my heart the way a talk radio host does when he says I need to invest in gold because gold never loses its value.
I can’t tell you how happy I was about three years ago when I was riding in a car driven by my older son, then 22 years old. He asked if I minded if he put on some music. I said, sure, just to see what he liked. Out of his phone came Merle and other country singers from my time.
So yes, there is hope for the younger generation. I don’t know who listens to this generic stuff that’s produced today, but some blue-collar twentysomethings I know recognize good music when they hear it.