If one is someone who is very positively and deeply affected by music in the soul/jazz/R&B/funk spectrum of genres, the first thing they will have to honestly acknowledge is that not only is this music comparatively seldom represented publicly, but that many simply know next to nothing about it. Deeper one gets into the funk spectrum of music, they more the realization will tend to be that this is musicians music. And that it will likely be other musicians who will be the most interested in it. Even today the most popular music that the average person in anywhere America will know is rock ‘n roll. Any form of it. That is what will be played on the radio. That is what is in the general public’s collective consciousness. I am also a Mainer. And as long as I’ve lived in this state, there is a music here that has deep cultural roots to its people even beyond the rock songs on the radio. And that is country/western music.
Country music has always been everywhere around me. During my fathers youth there was a local television program that he was involved in called Frankenstein’s where a short lived jug band in which he participated (which he originally named the Afterbirth Eaten Pessimistic Lariats) made an appearance. There was also even more famously Stacy’s Country Jamboree. Even now when I go to one of the local grocery stores there is a sign around the corner advertising a “Country Jam” session. Its very deeply ingrained in the culture. Growing up I actually had so very prejudiced and negative attitude towards country music. It seemed like something to laugh at,”bug music” as I thought of it then. By adolescence country music seemed to function mainly as drinking music for “racist rednecks”. Than I started to learn about how people,many country music fans, coined the “disco sucks” movement. And then realized an old statement my mom passed down to me from her grandmother: never be lower than a dog.
It was actually my friend Henrique who bought this concept back uppermost into my adult consciousness. Happened just the other day, in fact. He sent me an online article called Remembering When Country Music Wasn’t So White Or So Conservative. It clarified that my views on country music were not mine alone. To paraphrase the article in the context of my own situation, where I live the heavily reactionary country-western stars such as Toby Keith,Lee Greenwood and Ray Stevens have in different eras been THE musical visionaries in the minds of most people around me. And of course I remember greatly the Dixie Chicks earning scorn during the Iraq War for publicly scorning George W Bush’s controversial presidential administration. One of the most important aspects of the article is how it emphasizes Jimmy Rodgers, a pot smoking yodeler with a deep love of the blues, is one of country musics greatest innovators. That gave me a brain storm. Since it is even more deeply rooted in the local music scene where I am, that might a wonderful way to turn country music lovers onto funk and soul: blues.
I mentioned this fact to Henrique in one of our insightful, if sadly all to rare musical discussions online. And he made an excellent point. Funk,and to a degree soul too are inherently progressive musics. Since they all come from other genres often here thereto unrelated, they are constantly hybridizing themselves in a state of near constant musical perpetual motion. Country music, its musicians and admirers generally take an extremely conservative outlook on their music and life in general. Its based much more on traditionalism-keeping things as close to the given persons “traditional values” as possible. Funk, being despite having its own fanatical and sometimes elitist following, has more to do with breaking with traditions and expanding older values-lyrically and instrumentally, into whole new musical frontiers. Yet this article pointed out a compilation of songs called Country Funk 1969-1975-from the era when the Muscle Shoals studios in Memphis were actually bridging that cultural gap between country and funk musics. In today’s very divided musical climate,perhaps that sort of ethic is again very needed and vitally important.