What’s behind the renewed interest in Country music? It’s a search for roots, for the authentic — for the real. And as the author of this piece says, that renewed interest is affecting more than just music:
But, it isn’t only in music and films that the essence of country is felt. People grounded in the earth are appearing everywhere. The Minute Men resort to civilian vigilance of their land, refusing to give it up without a fight. The grassroots Tea Party movements, mocked as fake Astroturfs by their detractors, insist on keeping their country authentic. Massachusetts residents voted for a senator belittled for his own down-to-earth pick-up truck, who promised to preserve some of the real America. Even Sarah Palin is on the ticket to restore love for country and land.
Country’s entry into more mainstream slots shows that ordinary Americans are rejecting the impersonal and uninspiring. They are searching for concrete and elevating examples of the world around them. Words, images and ideas reflecting this are taking precedence. It is not clear if this will last, but the showstopper country rendition of “America the Beautiful” by The Zac Brown Band at the Grammys gives room for optimism. Zac Brown sings of a real place in his other Grammy performance “Chicken Fried”: “And my house it’s not much to talk about/ But it’s filled with love that’s grown in Southern ground.”
Why has Country music surged back with such unexpected vitality? It’s the tonic we need in a time when all the promises of Modernism crumble before our eyes. Our heads and lives have been stuffed with the straw of abstraction. “Universal” rules have long been assumed to be superior to culture, tradition, and beloved old ways. Cosmopolitan detachment was supposed to replace natural affection for the sights, smells, and sounds of the places we grew up in.
We’ve overdosed on the virtual. We’ve withered away, spiritually, socially, and emotionally. Malnourished on a forced diet of the abstract, the universal, and the multicultural, we have reached the point where we can no longer do without that which makes us human. No wonder we’re witnessing a resurgence of loyalty to community, heritage, and land. No wonder independence movements based on historical bonds are redrawing the world map, and have finally shaken the stagnant, overgrown bureaucracies of the 20th-century megastate.
Country music — which is really Southern music — has become the anthem of homecoming.