Instruct Fr. Z in a matter of great importance

I have decided that I am nearly completely ignorant on a topic of grave importance.

I don’t know much about Country Music.

What provoked this? 

I occasionally zoom around on the radio when driving.  I hear songs with disgusting content on some channels and, when I find I like the attitude and content of a song it is often a Country piece.

And I have always like, say, Bluegrass, though I rarely listen to it.

And I know a few singers/artists just vaguely enough to include a few Country tunes in the audio playlist.

To the point: What’s good? 

"But Father! But Father!", you are saying, "Isn’t that a matter of taste?"

Well… yes and no.

Some music is just plain bad.  Go to many local parishes for a confirmation of that.

There are reasons why some Country artists are big…. but… who are they and… why?

 

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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152 Responses to Instruct Fr. Z in a matter of great importance

  1. Vincenzo says:

    I like some bluegrass too, but I find most country music hard to listen to (particularly the recent stuff which to me sounds like noise and seems formulaic) with a few exceptions such as Willie Nelson who broke away from the Nashville system and some of the ‘outlaw’ artists like Johnny Paycheck (1), (2).

  2. Incaelo says:

    I don’t know much country or bluegrass music, but there are a few artists I like who may be considered as such. I think.

    Dar Williams is one of them, as is the group she used to be in, called Cry Cry Cry (Cold Missouri Waters is especially good). Another band of which I actually know only one song is called Auld Lang Syn, and the song in question is Where My Fortune Lies. If you can find them, they’re worth checking out.

  3. ghlad says:

    Haha, Fr. Z – I’d warn any priest away from country music – it’s all about women!

    Of course many operas are romances, and great works of literature. I suppose that’s not really a reason at all not to listen and enjoy them. But for me, perhaps it’s because of my personal history with courting girls and really enjoying the country music that was popular at the time, but I can’t delineate the music from the feelings.

    A lot of the new “Urban Country” music borrows a lot of innuendo and suggestion from Top 40 pop music these days, as well. That would be the “bad” stuff.

    At any rate, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Clay Walker, a lot of the 90s and early 00s country artists were really great at telling an actual story with their lyrics – love stories, similar to the older generation of country singers like Johnny Cash and all of them – but not being quite so twangy as the classics. I find that country music is best when I’m driving on the highways, because of the bite-sized (and often very touching) stories are better than just pounding loudness.

    Anyhow, some George Straight, specifically the song “Carried Away” still gets me every time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Obv7j1XRLRI

    Or maybe Lee Ann Womack’s song “I Hope You Dance” (written for her daughter’s) will strike your fancy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIAWY4LLsEw

    Lastly maybe you’d like Lonestar’s “I’m Already There” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jm5gfuT9Z4

    (Sorry if you weren’t soliciting particular songs!)

  4. ghlad says:

    Err, poor Lee Ann Womack’s hardly wearing anything in that link I posted. /facepalm

  5. penance2 says:

    My daughter had me listen to this, she brings new music into the house and sometimes into my heart that is where this one landed… Carrie Underwood http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qT4f9gfCJvk

  6. Joe Gallaher says:

    Hi all.Here’s an old joke about country/western music.What happens when you play a country/western song backwards? You get your girl,dog,truck,etc,etc back.Hehehe :)

  7. Grabski says:

    I’d recommend starting w/ the classics; Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline. The Highwaymen; the Outlaws. The soundtrack from “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”.

    My wife says she likes country but not western music :)

  8. Navarricano says:

    Wow. I have been listening almost exclusively to country music lately, and I HATED it when I was kid (mostly because it was my dad’s music I suspect!). My dad always told us when we were growing up that Hank Williams was a cousin of his.

    To the point: most contemporary country music would have been called rock or “country rock” in the 70s; it’s really where melodic rock ‘n’ roll went after the onslaught of disco, punk, new wave, heavy metal, rap/hip hop, “grunge” and alternative music came to dominate rock radio successive waves from 1976 onwards, so it’s probably easier for people who cut their teeth on the soft rock of the 70s and early 80s to listen to than the older, more “twangy” stuff, which I now love.

    If you want the “pure” country, the best stuff, imo, is the early stuff from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Bob Wills, Hank Williams, The Louvin Brothers, Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Buck Owens, Ernest Tubb, Don Gibson, Chet Atkins, etc. Too many to name, but there’s a good place to start …

    Also interesting are the intial experiments in the late 60s/early 70s to bring a country sensibility to rock and vice versa, with folks like The Flying Burrito Brothers (feat. Gram Parsons), Bob Dylan’s country forays, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haaggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson etc. The stuff that’s generally referred to as “outlaw contry”, and that doesn’t get played much on country radio anymore.

    From the early 80s onwards is where I start losing interest. It turns formulaic in my opinion and the pop production overwhelms the genuine country elements, but there are still a lot of good artists who you should probably check out such as Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, definitely Alison Krauss and Union Station …

    Don’t listen to Alison when you’re feeling down though! Even she jokes about how many sad songs she sings, but her voice is just marvellous and her guitarist Dan Tyminski is AMAZING.

  9. sawdustmick says:

    To quote Ray Campi, in his song Rockabilly Rebel,

    “….the Nashville sound has gotten sugary sweet,
    they’ve watered it down, eliminated the beat,
    sounds like they’ve had too much rehearsal,
    time to start a big reversal,
    with some good ole Rockabilly Rock ‘n’ Roll…..”

    If you like Bluegrass Father, perhaps you could do worse than start with Bill Monroe ! Maybe some Johnny Duncan even ?

    Anyway like you say, isn’t it all a bit subjective ????

  10. pjsandstrom says:

    If you know a bit of music history you know that the tune of the “Ambrosian Gloria” (supposedly one of the oldest tunes in use historically) was originally a form of Greek “country music”. And for that matter consider the tunes used for the Ambrosian hymns in the Divine Office (using popular tunes also used by the Arians). And the tunes behind the late Medieval and Renaissance ‘parody Masses’ == the “Armed Man” and “Your face is so pale”. All were popular “country music”.

  11. jorgepreble says:

    Here are some newer/contemporary bluegrass/folk artists.

    Old Crow Medicine Show
    The Avett Brothers
    Alison Krauss
    Nickle Creek

    This is what the kids are listening to… at least back when I was a kid 2 years ago.

  12. Patikins says:

    Fr. Z.,

    I like some country music for some of the same reasons you state: musicality and message. There is a lot of dreck in the contemporary c/w genre as others have stated. Perhaps you could set up a Pandora station (Pandora.com) and seed it with some of the songs/artists mentioned above.

  13. TNCath says:

    Real country music goes back to Hank Williams, Sr., Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells (the king and queen of country music, respectively), Patsy Cline, Lorretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Hank Snow, Marty Robbins, and many others up until about 1975. After that, country music became a bit stale and generic. As for the current generation of country performers, there are some that are true to their founders I mentioned earlier, but listening to them is like listening to Harry Connick, Jr. Why would you listen to him when you can listen to the real thing, Frank Sinatra? It’s like someone else other than Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” for which there ought to be a law against.

  14. teechrlady says:

    I keep reminding my husband that one reason I like country music is b/c they still talk about family, God and patriotism. So I know what you mean.

    The problem with most artists is they’ll have an awesome song that’s inspiring and clean, and their next song might be really raunchy.

    Someone mentioned Carrie Underwood. She had a beautiful song called, Jesus, Take the Wheel and then one of her next hits was Before He Cheats and was all about how her boyfriend/husband was at a bar picking up some other woman and she was out trashing his truck. Classy.

  15. Give a listen to the Zac Brown Band. Tight harmonies, humor, patriotism; I like them.

  16. TNCath says:

    If you are looking for a country song with a unbelievably good theological message that I believe is a very timely reminder for the trying times in the Church, take a look at this country song made famous by the King of Country Music, Roy Acuff, “The Great Speckled Bird”:

    Lyrics: http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/acuff-roy/great-speckled-bird-464.html

    Tune: http://www.soulseduction.com/common/item_detail.php?ItemID=191507&Track=25&Disc=1

  17. Henry Edwards says:

    From the heart of country music territory … It’s all gone downhill since Loretta Lynn and “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, though admittedly most of even the current country music is much better (as music) than than the songs heard at many Sunday Masses.

  18. Ed the Roman says:

    A lot of modern country is mild pop-rock sung with an accent. Billy Ray Cyrus is the archetype here.

  19. Mary Pat says:

    This is a “wow” from Carrie Underwood (temporary home). I agree with teechrlady about being careful with artists. One song is wonderful (like this one) and then next one is skanky.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_SR3BlsmH4

  20. mpm says:

    I like W. Keith Moore’s work.

    http://www.wkeithmoore.com/beloved/

    His is a great mix of patristics and rythmn-and-blues.

  21. Sedgwick says:

    I used to avoid country music like the plague, until I watched the movie “The Rookie.” Since you’re also a baseball fan, Father, pop that baby in the VCR and enjoy. It’ll get you started on who’s good.

  22. JonM says:

    Though I have navigated the Enterprise into the Delta quadrant (American South) I will never be assimilated by the Borg (Country music.)

    Resistance is not futile!

    Actually to be serious, I think some posters are on to something regarding the unevenness in the genre. One song/video might be tolerable or even wholesome, then others are essentially cheap pornographic screeds.

    Modern music in general is pretty bad. Although I think that ‘soft listen’ nonsense is (of what is generally considered tolerable) the worst. The soft beat driven by a man telling his ‘girl’ that she is ‘everything’ and that he is incapable of doing anything but the absolute best. This monster from the 1970s seem to be a staple of doctor’s offices and nearly drove me nuts last week.

  23. JohnW says:

    Father take it from a guy from Texas, western swing is true country. I like George Strait and Bob Wills. Give these guys a listen, I think you like what you hear.

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    Father, stick with the “old songs”. They are closer to the real roots of country music – bluegrass, gospel, folk.

    Anything written after they moved the Opry from the Ryman Auditorium is suspect. It gets pop and (as some folks have noted) real trashy.

    Some good ones are the Carter Family, Roy Acuff, Hank Williams Sr., Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Johnny Cash (I named my second dog after a Johnny Cash song, because her daddy is FC/AFC The Man In Black, call name “Cash”.)

  25. bookworm says:

    “What happens when you play a country/western song backwards? You get your girl, dog, truck, etc. etc, back.”

    The perfect country song, of course, is “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” by David Allan Coe (AKA “I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison”):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAOVRkSCWmg&feature=related

  26. Harold says:

    I have not thought nor heard of “The Great Speckeled Bird” in years. It reminds me of my youngster days in Tennessee where I associated it with my friends of the Pentecostal communions. Looking at the lyrics, however, it does seem to be Catholic.

  27. The Egyptian says:

    It’s like someone else other than Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” for which there ought to be a law against.
    Comment by TNCath

    AMEN

    Father, as a 51 year old I have a collection of British Invasion and early American Rock that I listen too once in a while. I lost interest in Rock after High School, about the Boston, Kansas era. After that there was not enough beer to make it sound good any more:D.
    Got into Country about that time, Really got interested in Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. Especially liked George Straits work to bring back the roots of country.
    The Satanic undertones of Rap and the like, especially their music (porn) videos made them totally unacceptable, and my kids knew it.
    The sound of Patsy Cline’s Crazy, is still the best. I personally could not stand the “I got tears in my ears from lying on my back crying over you” stuff from the 60s.
    Now that my hearing is going bad from loud farm machinery i tend to listen to talk radio mostly, —– and read blogs ;>)

  28. I’m a little late in this conversation, and that’s too bad, because I know a lot about country music. Had I written earlier, it would have been a lot like this entry:

    “Comment by TNCath — 23 April 2010 @ 7:03 am”

    The 70s and early 80s did a lot of damage to the genre, with radio stations going “countrypolitan.” By the mid-80s, there was a “neo-traditionalist” revival. To the extent that the song is reminiscent of those who ever stood behind the plow, or who otherwise live in the country, it’s good country. “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” is probably the best movie soundtrack I can think of, as an introduction to the tradition behind the genre. (That, and it’s a great movie.)

    For anyone who cares, here’s what I’ve written recently on the subject:

    http://manwithblackhat.blogspot.com/2010/04/guitar-workshop-tommy-jarrell.html

    http://manwithblackhat.blogspot.com/2010/04/guitar-workshop-gettin-rhythm.html

  29. ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd (look at my username, of course I like that one best hehe)

    ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen (k. d. lang covered this one quite well)

    If its gospel you want, I find Amy Grant’s song ‘Lead Me On’ to be quite inspiring.

  30. Hi Father,

    You might check out the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. It has a bluegrass/folk bent, but it’s good stuff!

    http://www.amazon.com/O-Brother-Where-Art-Thou/dp/B00004XQ83/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1272028406&sr=1-1

  31. Mike says:

    Kenny Chesney’s “There goes my Life” a surprisingly PRO-LIFE song. I don’t care for the look Chesney presents, but this little ballad is really nice. I remember listening to it when one of my sons was in 3rd grade, and he asked what is was about. I told him in terms he could understand. He’s 16 now, and very pro-life.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP-Sxfntdb4

  32. Ellen says:

    I have to second and third the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou, and I can recommend some of Dolly Parton’s songs too. Yes, she looks like a caricature, but there’s a sharp mind and a good songwriter under the blond and botox. Do give Alan Jackson a listen, he is a wonderful singer and songwriter. And George Strait for sure. He IS country.

  33. robtbrown says:

    Pop music tends to be formulaic for obvious reasons. Probably less than 10% is worth a listen. A lot of contemporary country music is a footnote to the Eagles.

    IMHO, the reason for the success of country was implied above: Pop music is usually Rap, Metal, or Country. Of the three only Country has a fairly happy side and has any inclinations to melody.

    There are some really good contemporary country songs, among which are:

    Red Dirt Road–Brooks and Dunn

    The Right Place by The Derailers–makes me want to put on my jeans and boots, jump in the truck, and head for football practice.

    Streets of Bakersfield by Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam–good song, but the drum line is mindlessly bad)

    Beer For My Horses by Tobey Keith and Willie Nelson

    Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde by Travis Tritt

    Of course, the standards, among which are:

    San Antonio Rose by Bob Wills

    Ring of Fire and Folsom Prison Blues by J Cash

    I fall to Pieces by Patsy Cline–best voice ever in Country Music)

    Walking the Floor over You by Ernest Tubb–worst voice ever in Country Music.

    Amarillo by Morning by George Strait

  34. Nathan says:

    IMO, the purest voice in country music belongs to Emmylou Harris, who can bring the old Appalachian tent-revival gospel hymns to life like no other (her “Angel Band” album is obscure but excellent). No one does prison songs like Johnny Cash, and Doc Watson picks a guitar better than anyone else.

    In Christ,

  35. Titus says:

    From the top:

    1. Influences & Sounds Modern country music is a product of the melding of several diverse musical traditions. Chief among these are:

    A. Bluegrass — mountain music derived from British and Celtic folk songs, lots of banjo and fiddle.
    B. Honky Tonk — this is Hank Williams Sr.; twang, guitars, intermediate tempo, often melodramatic lyrics.
    C. The “Bakersfield Sound” — what Merle Haggard typified; a reaction to slick pop music influences that pushed honky tonk out of Nashville in the 1950s and 1960s (the “Nashville Sound” of Glenn Campbell and Charlie Pride), the Bakersfield sound was a return to a twangier sound that was rawer and had a rock n’ roll edge.
    D. The Blues — the deep melodies out of the delta have worked their way into country music since the beginning; the blues are more of an inspiration and influence than an identifiable sound in country music.
    E. Western Swing — one of the earlier influences on modern country music, this was the “singing cowboy” style of Gene Autry and later Bob Wills.
    F. Rock & Roll — introduced via the Bakersfield sound and Southern Rock groups, these influences produced a “rockabilly” style of twangy rock and roll.

    2. Notable Instruments: country music is often characterized by the prevalence of unique instruments

    A. Steel Guitar — originally an acoustic dobro played by sliding a steel resonator along the strings and now often seen as an amplified console using strings and pedals, this instrument produces the strange whining sound heard in many traditional-style country tunes.

    B. Guitars — country music often relies on guitars for the principle accompaniment; whether an artist plays electric or acoustic depends largely on the principle influences in his sound.

    C. Fiddle — de rigour in bluegrass and important to music influenced by that genre as well as Western Swing; less prevalent in pure honky tonk or rockabilly.

    D. Banjo — a product principally of the bluegrass influence but used in other sounds as well.

    3. Themes: Country music, as a type of folk music (at least traditionally) is often characterized by common themes:

    A. Rural life, especially Southern rural life — country lyrics, especially since the 1960s, have often focused on the benefits of rural life and the plight of farmers and other rural dwellers in the face of urbanization.

    B. Southern life more generally — country music is largely a Southern phenomenon, and the region’s unique identity and perspective often shows up in the music.

    C. Cheating & Loss — the blues influence and the melodramatic character of the bars that honky tonk developed in have given country a proclivity for songs about heartbreak and infidelity; sometimes there are songs about loved one’s deaths, but more often they simply leave

    4. Artists & Sounds Today: all this can be pulled together by pointing to principal artists recording today and a few key names from the past. In no particular order:

    A. Rascal Flatts — epitomizes slick, modern “pop” country music; these guys look more like The Backstreet Boys than Hank Williams and for the most part they sound the same way. They make mass-appeal music with few country roots designed principally to make big bucks (which they do very well). Carry Underwood and Taylor Swift are other good examples of this type of artist, whose music is often heard on non-country stations.

    B. Kenny Chesney — another big name in country music; he started out as a fairly traditional-sounding singer (first hit “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”). Subsequently, Chesney has introduced a tropical sound into much of his music, making him something of a country Jimmy Buffet, although he still plays some songs about his small-town East Tennessee roots.

    C. Tim McGraw — a superstar who vacillates between producing solid traditional-sound tunes (“Indian Outlaw,” “Back When”) and maudlin tripe (“Live Like You Were Dying”); it all goes platinum regardless, though.

    D. Alan Jackson — one of the leaders of a wave of young artists who came on the scene in the early 90s and brought a more traditional sound back to country. Remains massively popular despite his sometimes risky insistence on retaining a honky tonk sound and habit of sometimes covering forgotten country classics.

    E. George Strait — referred to as “King George,” he has 57 #1 hits, a record for any individual in any genre. He has a unique, traditional style of Texas country based on swing and honky tonk: his current single is entitled “Twang.”

    F. Josh Turner — one of a number of much younger country stars who are even more dedicated to traditional country sounds than the 1990s generation; they get some good air time but lack the crossover superstar status of the Carrie Underwood types.

    G. Brad Paisley — another superstar but with a more traditional sound, albeit a unique one relying on his unique electric guitar riffs; often produces songs that are humorous, poke fun at political correctness, or have risque double-entendres.

    H. Alabama — a now-defunct group, Alabama epitomized the country music “supergroup” of the 80s along with bands like Confederate Railroad; like many big artists, they had some traditional hits but also a sizable number of “poppish” songs that relied on synthesizers and the like.

    I. Some old names to know: Hank Williams Sr. (revered status, honky tonk sound, died in the back seat of a Cadillac in West Virginia); Waylon Jennings & Merle Haggard (“outlaw” country singers who shunned the corporate country world of the Nashville labels and emphasized the Bakersfield sound); Conway Twitty (deep-voiced crooner heard on many Loretta Lynn duets); George Jones (“the Possum” a traditional honky-tonk type but with less of an outlaw streak than Waylon and Merle; maybe best known for “Rocking Chair”); Hank Williams Jr. (“Bocephus” H.W. Sr.’s son, had tons of rock-influenced hits in the 70s and 80s); Tammy Wynette & Loretta Lynn (queens of country ballads from the 60s and 70s; Tammy sang with more of a pop sound about controversial subjects, Lynn with a bit more twang about love and coal mines). Most of these figures are revered among country enthusiasts but wouldn’t get play time on the radio even if they were still recording today.

    Of course, that’s only a smattering. There are of course a lot more nuances in the sound influences (especially once the various sounds start influencing and re-influencing each other: country influences southern rock, southern rock then influences country, etc.) and lots more current artists. Nashville’s the heart of it all, of course, and you can hear the good, the bad, and the ugly of country music depending on where in that town you go. Country can be fun to listen to, but it sort of takes a certain sympathy with some of the underlying themes and motivations. It’s hard to really love a song about the Tennessee River or a small town in Alabama if those places don’t mean anything to you. One could also discuss ad nauseum the conflicts between Music Row label executives and traditional country music and the perception among many that record deals and radio time are hardest to come by for the best country artists because of profit concerns by label executives.

    But I hope this helps, Father!

  36. iudicame says:

    Father Z,

    I hate the “country” music my daughter listens to and she hates the Country music I listen to. As a MAN, I prefer my country singers not sport ponytails (or Roman sandals for that matter)and vomit their tender emotions and syrupy patriotism on the proverbial sawdust covered floor.

    That said, you may want to begin exploring country music from its roots onward. Like any genre, you’ll want to immerse yourself in the classics and get a good grounding in the basic rhythms, themes & structure . Hank Williams is a good starting point and especially the obscure or solo studio stuff – Not the hits. You Tube is the best resource. Here’s an example…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Il7P6i3Ma9E

    m

  37. AnAmericanMother says:

    Nobody’s mentioned the Original Sacred Harp yet. It’s the roots of gospel music and thus in the ancestry of country music.

    This is complex music, based on the New England Singing School model. It was more or less preserved in amber by rural singing societies. Some have discerned links to English West Country gallery music and Scottish folk songs, may be.

    It’s good stuff, anyhow.

    “Alabama”/196 OSH

    Because these are amateur congregational singers, the sound is raw and rough, but that is the tradition of OSH.

    It’s traditional to sing the melody through once with the “sol-fa” method before singing the words. The song leader stands in the middle of a hollow square, with each of the parts on one side. Leader usually directs with just one hand (this song leader must be a church choir lady ’cause she’s using both hands). When you’re in the middle of the square leading, the sound just picks you up and carries you away.

    Some professional groups have recorded it with a little more polished sound, while keeping the straight-ahead driving sound and fortissimo dynamic that marks the genre. You can hear the prettified version of “Alabama” here (Word of Mouth Chorus).

    I like the faster tempo, but you have to be on your toes to do a four-part fuging tune at that speed.

  38. wanda says:

    Yes, yes for ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ soundtrack. We’d hardly finished watching the movie but what my hubby ran out and bought the cd of the soundtrack.

    Nickle Creek, awesomely talented young musicians-bluegrass.

    Willie Nelson, there is no duplicating his voice. Love his older songs-Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons of Blue. He plays the same beat up guitar he has had for ages.

  39. Titus says:

    PS — my list is admittedly not comprehensive. So the great things other posters say about, e.g., Brooks and Dunn, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash are decidedly true.

  40. TNCath says:

    Robtbrown: “Walking the Floor over You by Ernest Tubb—worst voice ever in Country Music.”

    Perhaps, but Little Jimmy Dickens’ “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” is neck and neck with Mr. Tubb. It’s so bad, it’s good!

  41. pyrosapien says:

    Randy Travis
    Johhny Cash

  42. Hans says:

    Mostly when I listen to country I listen to the older stuff, starting with Jimmie Rodgers (“The father of country music”, see jimmierodgers.com), also known as the Blue Yodeler or the Yodeling Brakeman. Otherwise, I would largely echo Navarricano’s comments.

    One name I don’t see anywhere that should be here somewhere is Emmylou Harris.

    There are some good collections that will give you a well-rounded background in the classics of country. Some that I have include:

    Anthology of American Folk Music, ed. by Harry Smith from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

    Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection

    Columbia Country Classics (different volumes sold separately usually)

    There are several collections from Rounder Records, such as:
    Rounder Old Time Music
    Hand-Picked: 25 Years Of Bluegrass On Rounder Records
    Louisiana Spice: 25 Years of Louisiana Music on Rounder Records

    There’s a bit of overlap on these, but it’s surprisingly small.

  43. lofstrr says:

    There is a lot to like about country music. It tends to be very honest, almost to the point of being harsh. Not unlike some of the stories of the Old Testament. There is some truth, however, to it being “all about women.” Much of the modern country music is very specifically marketed and is not too far from being short, audio soap operas in how they talk about love. This to the point of simply singing what a woman wants to hear. There is still a layer of truth in it. God, after all, made women to be captivating to the mind of a man. But it can get a bit tedious.

    With that in mind I would say that the best stuff is the older stuff but if you grab some of the modern stuff, and you should, if you only buy 1 modern country music CD I would look up Chris Ledoux. http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Ledoux-20-Greatest-Hits/dp/B00000J5ZR/ref=ntt_mus_ep_dpi At least he can claim to have actually been a rodeo rider before a singer. Toby Keith is also pretty good. Brad Paisley isn’t bad either.

    A buddy of mine, a few years back, had a dog that had only 3 toes on each paw, very strange. He also had a cat, that got clipped by a car and lost a hind leg. We joked about how he had a “three toed dog and a three legged cat” and how there was a country music song in there somewhere.

  44. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    Father, for you, I cannot nearly reccommend but one artists enough: George Strait. There’s a reason why they call him the King. He’s old school, way old school. If you should want to buy an album he has a great set: George Strait 50 Number Ones. He’s just fantastic.

    Brad Paisely has been hailed as the next Strait. He has a great amount of versatility within the realm of country without branching out into other silly genres. Some of his songs are witty, some are deeply spiritual, and I think he has an amazing sounding voice. One of a kind.

    I’d also suggest Brooks & Dunn, although you may like some of their older work from the early-mid 90′s more than the more recent stuff.

    Again, George Strait!

  45. susanna says:

    Don’t listen to it much, but have the impression that country music is good clean fun, and the artists are nice, regular folks, who wear clothes when they perform. :o

  46. lofstrr says:

    As a lot of people have mentioned, you really do need to look up Johnny Cash. “A Boy Named Sue” makes me laugh every time a hear it.

  47. MikeM says:

    Some songs to start with, Fr. Z:

    The Boondocks by Little Big Town
    Down the Road by Kenny Chesney
    There Goes my Life by Kenny Chesney
    Red Dirt Road by Brooks and Dunn
    Beer for my Horses by Toby Keith

  48. EXCHIEF says:

    Add Alan Jackson to your list

  49. rakesvines says:

    I’m glad you’ve taken a hankering to country. It’s about old school living by plain folks like me. It’s a fresh spirit away ftom city slick, not that anything’s wrong with that. I like Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”, Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel”. There’s the popular Willie Nelson, John Denver and Kenny Rogers. For weddings, there’s Shania Twain’s “From This Moment”. I don’t know what makes them tick really. I just like them because they sing about real life that I can relate to.

  50. I dislike country music, even though I am from a state that regularly produces artists in that genre-Carrie Underwood, Reba McIntire, Garth Brooks, etc.
    But I LOVE the song by David Allen Cole and it’s either called, “You Don’t Have to Call me Darlin’” or “You Never Even Called Me by My Name”. It’s a hoot!

  51. james says:

    May I suggest the band Shenandoah, especially their CD “Extra Mile”. Great/SAFE stuff. I think the goal with any musis is to ensure it is SAFE for our souls… A few random comments:

    The Gibson Brothers are excellent bluegrass. Rick Skaggs, Lester Flatt/Early Scruggs, Bill Munroe, Del Mcroury, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – all SAFE. Most bluegrass is safe. Especially when it lacks lyrics. Bob Wills and most “swing” is both safe, and fun.

    As for country… traditional country is a good sound. Hank Snow, George Jones, early Roger Miller, Cash, others – most of it safe, but some lyrics may not be for the kiddies. Ditto the Highwaymen and the Statlers. Old Buddy Holly can cross over well into country, as well. Modern country – again – Shenandoah is excellent. George Strait, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Alabama, Clay Walker, Tracey Byrd, Mark Chestnut, Collin Raye – early Tracey Lawrence… all safe. I dissect a lot of this for my children. Lyrics and the more top 40 rock stuff should be avoided.

    I also like Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, somw Dwight Yoakam, some Brooks & Dunn… Chesney’s lyrics – his “stories” – can be a bit mainstream. I like him, but be forewarned about the lyrics. Paisley, whose music I like, is a Mason. I have read this online. His lyrics are also questionable at times for the kids. Be forewarned.

    For us Canadians… Gord Lightfoot and Stompin’ Tom! Also Charlie Major, Ampersand (from Rosebud, AB – awesome, little known, check them out online)… and the country side of Blue Rodeo…

  52. Charivari Rob says:

    Well, I’d have to agree with several others that you can hardly go wrong with George Strait.

    bookworm, thank you for the link to David Allen Coe. Loved it! Hadn’t heard it in years!

    Personally, I favor older stuff and more recent. There was 10-15 years from early 90s on that weren’t as good, IMO. Bland, indistinct, generic… Turn on the radio and couldn’t tell one artist from the next. I don’t bother with much of that era.

    You’re a tech-savvy man, Father – look up a few stations on the web, stream ‘em while you’re pottering around the house, figure out what you like and what you don’t.

  53. james says:

    One more – Mark Mallet’s “Deliver Me From Me” – Catholic artist from Alberta, now living in Saskatchewan… Great CD of safe country, with Catholic lyrics. And NOT cheesey… We listen to it often on drives through the Prairies…

  54. Wow! What a response. Yes, Father Z, sometimes it’s just bad–in the parish, on the radio/internet, etc. However, adding to all the good material everybody has already contributed, I’d suggest that country possesses some unique merits in terms of cultural history and values. First, country music more than any other genre appreciates story/narrative, whether funny “Bubba shot the jukebox” or serious “Thunder Rolls”. There’s an analogy between this and the rich banquet of stories in Scripture. Obviously not every biblical character is worthy of emulation, and so it is in country, too. So for every syrupy love ballad there’s Tammy Wynnette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”. Second, what’s wrong with a rural (predominated by southern/appalachian metaphors) perspective? I’ve taught in 3 different colleges in 3 different states (one being along the east coast) and in each there have been several FAITHFUL Catholic students who loved their Church and listened to country music. They’re not mutually exclusive.

  55. Scott W. says:

    Funny how every popular medium is invaded by experts exhorting you to find the “pure” stuff as opposed to something like…oh I don’t know…actually enjoying what you are listening to. Sorry, don’t mean to pick, but few people cared about old-timey music until those brahmin elites, the Coen brothers, told them to. Then suddenly everyone was like, “Oh I’ve always loved this music!” when really their only exposure to that music was when Yosimite Sam blew himself up playing “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms” on a piano he rigged to explode on the high note.

    But I good filter is eliminate any anthem song that glories in country or redneckness. To wit: If you are aware that you are country or a redneck, you are neither. :)

    Some people say Junior Brown is a back-to-the-pure-stuff artist. I don’t know about that, but “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead” is fun.

  56. Daniel Latinus says:

    My mother liked country music, and the early rock and roll of her youth. I grew up listening to country, but lost interest in the late 1970s-early 1980s.

    As for artists, other have mentioned the ones I would have (Cash, Haggerd, Bill Monroe, etc.), but I would add the Statler Brothers, and Dolly Parton in her pre-crossover days.

    Ah yes, the songs about cheating and fornication. It is surprisingly rather explicit, and often voices an unapologetic, unrepentent attitude. (“If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”) But a number of songs show the cheater being caught in his own web, or the emotional devastation he leaves behind. There are also some songs that try to show the moral struggle between what the singer knows is right, and what the singer desires. I remember a song from the 1970s, sung by a woman, about a girl praying just before she gives in to her boyfriend’s advances. Another song contrasted a young boy’s profession of faith at his baptism, to his womanizing in later life, which were summed up in the words, “do you want to go to Heaven?”

    And all of this lives in the same house as a deeply felt religious conviction, a love for our Lord, and a sense of justice and decency. Much of the theology that gets voiced in these songs is an highly individualistic evangelicalism. However there are fair number of songs that strike back against both self-righteous criticism, and real or imagined hypocrisy.

    So Father, enjoy your explorations in the world of country music.

  57. james says:

    “Ampersand (from Rosebud, AB – awesome, little known, check them out online)”
    I meant Lewis & Royale, their CD “Ampersand”. Can’t recommend it enough. To
    everybody.

    Forgot George Fox (another Canadian!) and Paul Overstreet. Overstreet is very good. And
    SAFE. Like most here, my ear is tuned into traditional country. The older, Buck
    Owens vein. But there are some good artist now, holding onto the traditional sound.

    What makes much country “safe” is the artists roots – mostly Southern Baptists. So,
    they are born into a culture of faith-based music. Like the Gaither Family music. Guy
    Penrod. Billy Graham crusades. Et al. Soil for their collective roots…

    Like folk, there’s the element of story-telling, which is both obvious and attractive,
    as long as the tale is not “tempting”…

    Have fun! Watch the lyrics, though…

  58. james says:

    Scott W – Good point in your first paragraph! I’m done posting!!

  59. The Astronomer says:

    Anything by Merle Haggard. He’s the man. Absolutely defines classic country. None of this modern, ready-for-MTV dreck

  60. robtbrown says:

    Robtbrown: “Walking the Floor over You by Ernest Tubb—worst voice ever in Country Music.”

    Perhaps, but Little Jimmy Dickens’ “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” is neck and neck with Mr. Tubb. It’s so bad, it’s good!
    Comment by TNCath

    Compared to Ernest Tubb, Little Jimmy Dickens was Pavarotti.

    Here’s a story I told in my Mystical Theology class: Ernest Tubb was a really nice guy but a drunk. Between gigs he would get drunk on the bus and turn mean. Then he not only would start firing band members, he would throw them off the bus. Then he would pass out. When he woke up, he would ask what happened to Slim. The others would tell what happened, and the bus would have to go back to pick up the exfenestrated musician.

    I told the story to illustrate that in the spiritual life there’s a lot of looping back–it’s not just a straight line up through the mansions.

    To those of a more literary bent, I did not talk about Captain Shotover and the 7th degree of concentration.

  61. robtbrown says:

    Anything by Merle Haggard. He’s the man. Absolutely defines classic country. None of this modern, ready-for-MTV dreck
    Comment by The Astronomer

    When he was asked to describe his career, Merle Haggard said that it is was 23 year long bus ride.

  62. robtbrown says:

    Willie Nelson, who had IRS problems, authored the following great line:

    I started out picking cotton in Texas, and ended up owing the govt 16 million dollars. Is this a great country, or what?

  63. robtbrown says:

    Like folk, there’s the element of story-telling, which is both obvious and attractive,
    as long as the tale is not “tempting”…

    Have fun! Watch the lyrics, though…
    Comment by james

    What tempting lyrics?

  64. Sylvia says:

    Try Gillian Welch! :) I also like Nickel Creek, even though it is a bit “pop”-y.

  65. Scott W. says:

    Scott W – Good point in your first paragraph! I’m done posting!!

    Nah, don’t stop! I was being tongue-in-cheek.

    But here’s a question for the experts: Here is Brad Paisley’s song “Alcohol”. Now, we could spend days listing all the country songs about alcohol and drinking, but this is the only one I know that personifies alcohol. Any others?

  66. EnoughRope says:

    Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett for the win! Throw in some Townes Van Zandt and I’m as happy as a pig in….. Oh Chris Knight is good too!!! His song called Enough Rope is where I got my handle.

  67. Ralph says:

    I am a country music fan. Pretty much all the stuff on the radio right now is not country music, in my opinion. I am from rural AZ so country music was my mothers milk. (White guys listened to country, Mexican guys listened to Nortaneo)

    Best bets for a new comer:

    George Strait
    Randy Travis (He has three very nice gospel albums)
    Don Williams
    Paul Overstreet (has uplifting songs)

    You might listen to some Texas Swing music as well. Asleep at the Wheel is the best known example.

    Hope you learn to enjoy the genre.

  68. michelelyl says:

    George Strait-traditional-no one better
    Brad Paisley- amazing voice, very clever lyrics
    Carrie Underwood- one of the best new country singers
    Rascal Flatts- fun and excellent vocals
    Michele

  69. abloomfield says:

    Well for country I can recommend Brad Paisley. For Bluegrass I have many recommendations: Blue Highway, The Grasscals, Ronnie Bowman, Lou Reid & Carolina, Dan Tyminsky, Allison Krauss & Union Station (some stuff is more country, some more bluegrass), Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Mountain Heart.

  70. jkking says:

    You REALLY should check out Gillian Welch – especially her first album, “Revival.” She’s amazing.

  71. Gregg the Obscure says:

    My dad (born in 1922 in what some have called the American Outback) was quite fond of “Country and especially Western”. He had a huge collection, mostly of recordings in terrible condition, of music from the thirties, forties and fifties and a smattering from the sixties.

    Bob Wills is a delight (as was his guitarist, Leon McAuliffe). Jimmy “The Singing Brakeman” Rodgers has some great songs(many of his tunes were covered on the “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack). Spade Cooley, Hank Williams (the original, not the knockoff) and Patsy Cline have some good ones and early Johnny Cash recordings are worthwhile. The best C&W is about the trials and joys of ordinary lives, not the hormonal afflictions of adolescents or the drug-induced hallucinations of libertines, hence its appeal to more mature audiences.

    On the other hand, the Carter Family’s sound is so grating and harsh that I can’t listen to them at all.

  72. Jenny says:

    Alison Krauss

  73. Ben Dunlap says:

    I’ll add a third vote for Gillian Welch. One thing, though, is that her recordings give only the barest hint of what she’s capable of. Her live performances — in which the songs typically last for 5-10 minutes and include a lot of improvisation — are breathtaking.

  74. New Sister says:

    I appreciate CW because it openly lauds (and builds a culture around) American patriotism, Christian Faith, and family values. (The fact that liberals tend to snub it only increases its value in my eyes!)

    I agree w/ all about Emmylou Harris, and am suprised to see no one thus far has mentioned the icon Dolly Parton… any reason why?

  75. NeoCarlist says:

    A good priest friend refers to country music as “Protestant Confession”.
    I must add my voice to recommendations for:
    George Strait
    Merle Haggard
    “O Brother Where Art Thou” – especially the delightfully dark song “Oh Death”
    Nickel Creek (but only their first album)
    Alison Krauss

  76. Ellen says:

    Someone mentioned Junior Brown!!! He’s a sort of cross between Ernest Tubb, Jimi Hendrix and the Beach Boys. Love him!

  77. chonak says:

    For a survey, I think you wouldn’t go wrong watching the Grand Old Opry Live show in its weekly cable appearance on the GAC channel.

  78. Jaybirdnbham says:

    Alan Jackson!

  79. seanl says:

    I’d suggest some Alison Krauss first and foremost, along with Nickle Creek, Brad Paisley. For something similar but not exactly country/bluegrass, look up L’Angélus. They are a catholic cajun/zydeco band from down in Louisiana. They have some catchy songs, along with some really nice slow ones like their Ballad of the Sorrowful Mysteries.

  80. chloesmom says:

    Like many other posters, I grew up listening to the classics: Marty Robbins (El Paso is one of the best, featuring wonderful acoustic guitar work), Gene Autry (who can forget “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, LOL); Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers (Tumbling Tumbleweeds is one of their hits); Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, et al. And of course the master himself, Johnny Cash. I agree that you can’t go wrong starting off with these folks. Y’all have a great day now, you hear?

  81. contrarian says:

    Some great suggestions on this thread. Here’s some specifically bluegrass suggestions:
    Cherryholmes
    Carrie Hasslas
    Cadillac Sky
    Del McCoury
    Dale Ann Bradley
    Newfound Road
    Bad Livers

    Other great straight country artists:
    Jayhawks
    Steve Earle (the best…the best)
    Whiskey Town
    Begonias
    Gilian Welch (the best…the best)
    Mary Gauthier

    Glad you are getting into country! Another reason that this is becoming my favorite blog. :)

  82. kradcliffe says:

    Father, I recommend that you try Pandora online radio. You plug in a song that you know you like, and Pandora will play songs that are similar in some way. You give thumbs up or thumbs down to the songs and Pandora will gradually figure out what it is that you like.

    It’s also interesting to read how they select the songs. “We played this song because you have indicated a preference for songs with a two-step rhythm, raspy male vocals, and frequent use of the high hat.”

    That’s how I started with a Johnny Cash song and discovered that I like Merle Haggard. Who knew?!

    And, I apparently prefer West Coast to East Coast rap. Huh.

  83. Martial Artist says:

    Two recommendations that are not country music, but do have connections thereto. One is prompted by AnAmericanMother‘s reference to the old New England Singing School. A small but very capable group here in Seattle, The Tudor Choir, has recorded a number of CD’s of shape note and shaker songs. They happen to be the resident ensemble at my parish church. But, even without any favoritism, they are magnificent. You can find their available discography (CD), as well as a couple of audio sample from each CD, at http://www.tudorchoir.org/recordings.html.

    Second, and this is very close to the roots of much “country music,” and was also mentioned by AnAmericanMother, and that is traditional Scottish and Irish folk music. One group I am familiar with that has about ten CDs in print is a duo called Men of Worth. CDs and samples for listening are at http://www.menofworth.com/Page.asp?NavID=3. I own all but their two latest CDs—an omission that bears correcting.

    Take a listen and see if it appeals.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  84. Scarlett says:

    I’m loving this thread. I’ve recently discovered I like country music, though all I’m really familiar with is what’s played on the radio – the “pop country.” I like it anyway, but I’m sure there’s more depth I have yet to discover.

    I think I’m going to add George Strait and Johnny Cash to my pandora – can’t believe I never thought of it before!

  85. gilisme says:

    Rev. Fr.:

    Hillbilly, then country and western, started by Irish and Scot immigrants and evolved into Blue Grass. Some good examples have been suggested, but you may try Celtic Music because of the similarity.

    benedicte pateror reverente?

    Gil

  86. Eugenio says:

    Father Z,

    You might appreciate the music of the Avett Brothers, particularly their recent album, “I and Love and You.” You might look at the lyrics in some tracks. The genre is more newgrass.

    Give them a listen. Their music is free at their website.

    jes

  87. Liz F says:

    Yesterday I was driving home from out of town and belting out Moldy Oldies–hey, I was all alone for a change!–and as the words dawned on me they all seemed to about one-night-stands. Sadly, I would scan to find another song to sing. I lamented not liking country music for the same reasons you mention. I like the hill billy music that country music is supposed to have come from, but not country music so much.

  88. Acreades says:

    One of the greatest musical groups working out right now is Midlake. I guarantee you will enjoy their music. Listen to them for free: http://www.myspace.com/midlake

    They have a good message, and, having worked with and being friends with them, they are all good guys, strong Christians.

    They aren’t technically ‘country’, as their label is more ‘indie’, but they are pastoral and acoustic, and create wonderful full-album stories of days gone by.

    Their first full-length album built a dystopia much like eastern Germany in the 1960′s. Their sound on this album is similar to Coldplay.

    Their second was based on perhaps the late 1800′s, extolling hard work, purity, and an appreciation of nature and simplicity. Their sound on this album is similar to Fleetwood Mac and America.

    Their third album, just released, is very similar to the second, but much more acoustic. Still pastoral and agrarian in themes.

    As a bit of background (and to explain their wonderful musicianship, song-crafting, and ability to change styles easily) is that they are jazzmen from the University of North Texas. As most musicians would tell you, if you can master jazz, you can move among genres quite easily.

    More free Midlake music and videos on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=midlake&aq=f

    Enjoy!

  89. Jim of Bowie says:

    A lot of Alison Krauss recommendations. I like her recording of The Lucky One. Also, Amarillo by Morning – George Strait and El Paso by Marty Robbins.

  90. Jim of Bowie says:

    Also, try Nanci Griffith. Love her voice.

  91. MAJ Tony says:

    Titus said: George Jones (“the Possum” a traditional honky-tonk type but with less of an outlaw streak than Waylon and Merle; maybe best known for “Rocking Chair”)

    The Possum is best known for [i]He Stopped Loving Her Today, a song believed by “many” to be the greatest C&W song of all time. At least that was the “consensus” 20 years ago. :) He was also known for songs with a good bit of wit in them. Songs like White Lightnin’, I Like Beer, and one about himself entitled, appropriately enough, No Show Jones. There are also good “small town” classic like Sunday Morning Sidewalk and Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine.

    I grew up on 70s-80s country

    lofstrr brought up one of my favorite Cash numbers entitled A Boy Named Sue. This classic was written by none other than Shel Silverstein, and the recording you hear of it is done at San Quentin prison in 1969, and according to Cash, he’d only read over it a few times, and the song was “sung” off the lyric sheet. The song may have been inspired by one of the prosecutors in the Scopes Monkey Trial Mr. Sue K. Hicks, Esq. who was named after his mother, who died from complications of childbirth. Mr. Hicks said it was never an issue with him.

    I wouldn’t classify Country as a genre as “wholesome,” but it tends to be “less bad” than other genres as a whole. David Allan Coe has some funny stuff; however, once you learn about Mr. Coe, you find he’s a pretty rough dude, and some of his songs are as pornographic (perhaps moreso) as any rap song. I just got on his website, and found that there is a whole CD devoted to such material. I learned about this about 20 years ago in an advanced algebra class in which one of my classmates mentioned the title of a particularly obscene song. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised, having had the veil of teenage innocence removed from my eyes.

    I’m not from Texas, but even I know Bob Wills is still the King (there’s a song about that, btw. by Waylon Jennings.)

    Well the honky-tonks in Texas were my natural second home
    Where you tip your hat to the ladies and the Rose of San Anton’
    I grew up on music that we call western swing
    It don’t matter whose in Austin, Bob Wills is still the king

    Lord I can still remember the way things were back then
    In spite of all the hard times I’d live it all again
    Hear the Texas Playboys and Tommy Duncan sing
    Makes me proud to be from Texas where Bob Wills is still the king

    You can hear the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville Tennessee
    It’s the home of Country Music on that we all agree
    But when you cross that old Red River, hoss, that just don’t mean a thing
    Once you’re down in Texas, Bob Wills is still the king

    Well if you ain’t never been there then I guess you ain’t been told
    That you just can’t live in Texas ‘less you got a lot a soul
    It’s the home of Willie Nelson, the home of western swing
    He’ll be the first to tell you, Bob Wills is still the king

  92. JamesW4CPM says:

    I just cannot past up this opportunity to tell about a funny experience I had involving a priest and country music.

    Awhile back my dad and I were in need of a farm truck and since we didn’t have one at the time we borrowed one from the Fathers of Mercy (we live right down the road from them). Just out of curiosity to hear what the musical taste were of the particular Father whose truck we were borrowing, we turned on the CD player. The first song that came on was Taylor Swift’s “Our Song”. We cracked up laughing! He had a bunch of popular country songs, including love songs and songs from girls. When we gave him a hard time about it all he could do was look sheepish and say that his sister made the CD for him and that Taylor has a good voice. We will never let him live it down.

    When I go to seminary this fall my iPod will be full of country, pop, rock, jazz, and classical music, with a fair helping of Latin and Taylor Swift of course. o{]:¬D

  93. Marc says:

    Is Country music compatible with Catholicism?

    I cite Cardinal Ratzinger in his address at the VIII International Church Music Congress in Rome, November 17, 1985. It was printed Sacred Music 112 (1986, pp. 13-22), and also in A New Song for the Lord (NY: Crossroad, 1995):

    “…Music becomes ecstasy, liberation from the ego, amalgamation with the universe. Today we experience the secularized variation of this type in rock and pop music, whose festivals are an anti-cult with the same tendency: desire for destruction, repealing the limitations of the everyday, and the illusion of salvation in liberation from the ego, in the wild ecstasy of a tumultuous crowd. These are measures which involve a form of release related to that achieved through drugs. It is the complete antithesis of Christian faith in the Redemption. Accordingly, it is only logical that in this area diabolical cults and demonic musics are on the increase today, and their dangerous power of deliberately destroying personality is not yet taken seriously enough. ”

    This applies pretty much to all pop and rock music.

    Marc

  94. AnAmericanMother says:

    Relax, Marc, country (REAL country) isn’t pop.

    The junk they’re pushing as country nowadays, you have a point.

    Just listen to the old songs.

    Keith, that’s some good stuff.

    The Sacred Harp is on the way from the New England schoolmasters to Country. Or Gospel. Or maybe both.

    More than you wanted to know about Sacred Harp

    This documentary film toured and we ran into it at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, GA. It’s very good. Best line in the film – one of the young men interviewed for the film went away to college and came back to study and sing OSH. He said, “They asked me, ‘Do you want to sound like a bunch of ignorant Southerners?’ . . . and I said, ‘Well, YEAH!’”

  95. lacrossecath says:

    In non bluegrass(bluegrass really is just a rip off of Irish folk music), you really have two main country musics – old country and new country. An easy litmus test is to listen to Hank Williams Sr(old) and Hank Williams Jr(new). To me old country is just boring, but if you are in a group of guys drinking beer that know the words it is enjoyable. Some new country is infected with the rock/drug culture(Hank Jr) but some I like(which probably is best classified as protestant cultural music, ie Carrie Underwood, Josh Turner.

    GREAT quote Marc(although BXVI was not talking about country music). Youtube “Potentia Animi”

    Great, now I’m thinking about this way to much. I’m going to have to write a post on it.

    If we qualify it as country, my favorite is Johnny Cash(even though he cant really sing). He is the bridge between the old and the new, I think.

  96. robtbrown says:

    In non bluegrass(bluegrass really is just a rip off of Irish folk music),
    Comment by lacrossecath

    I thought it originated in areas settled by people from Scotland, not Ireland.

  97. lacrossecath says:

    Robtbrown, you may know better than I. What I meant to put was Gaelic music which would encompass both.

  98. iowapapist says:

    Dear Father:

    As a hard-core bluegrass officianado, I would recommend the following artists:

    -The Kentucky Colonels: (Many of these guys branched out into country, bluegrass and rock and roll groups like the Flying Burrito Brothers, Country Gazette, The Byrds)
    -The Johnson Mountain Boys: Especially “At the Old Schoolhouse”. Solid instrumentation and vocals.
    -Newgrass Revival: Especially their first album by the band’s name. Includes “Great Balls of Fire”, “With Care from Someone” and “Lonesome Fiddle Blues”
    -Also, Del McCoury, Bill Monroe (obviously), Jimmy Martin, Doyle Lawson, Lonesome River Band, and the Osborne Brothers.
    Always remember how to get a banjo player off of your porch-simply, pay him for the pizza!

  99. I’m probably going to be “taken to the cleaners” for this suggestion…believe me, country music is not my first choice nor my preference…but I do like Keith Urban; some of his music is very moving and he has a very good integration of country/blues/soul/rock…that’s just my opinion.

  100. Titus says:

    Funny how every popular medium is invaded by experts exhorting you to find the “pure” stuff as opposed to something like…oh I don’t know…actually enjoying what you are listening to. Sorry, don’t mean to pick, but few people cared about old-timey music until those brahmin elites, the Coen brothers

    Who the deuce are the Coen brothers? The guys who make movies? I discovered traditional country music all by myself and enjoy it because I find it entertaining when I’m not in the mood for Verdi and Dvorak.

    Tony: you’re probably right on George Jones’s biggest hits. (I also enjoy “Two Dollar Pistol.”) I was just thinking of the giant rocking chair in the front yard of his house.

    As for the subject matter, nobody’s advocating country music as a model for good living. And it’s not exactly like the old stuff is a lot better in that department than much of the new stuff (well, except the really old stuff, Roy Rogers). Jimmy Akin had a sensible post a few years ago about country music as folk art and why it’s not necessarily wrong to sing a song about distasteful occurrences. What sets country’s treatment of these topics apart from other types of music is 1) it’s far less explicit and 2) the topics are far tamer. You find fornication, alcoholism, infidelity, and occasionally drug use in country, of course. You don’t find, however, the sort of glorification of rampant grave sin that is almost the sine qua non of, e.g., rap. Furthermore, most of the ballads about, e.g., marital infidelity are pretty frank about its negative consequences. The music isn’t intended to be classy, contra a commenter above: it’s just supposed to be about some of the things that happen in life. The flip side is that country produces a fair number of great tunes about the good things in life: being faithful to one’s home, family, friends, and way of life.

    Also, there’s very little that needs “radio editing”; even mild swearing is quite rare and I’ve never heard the sort of shocking stuff that is all over a hip hop song in country (well, if you don’t count David Allan Coe, which I feel is fair). Maybe some things you don’t want to explain to the kids once in a while, but not much in the way of words they shouldn’t know.

  101. AnAmericanMother says:

    lacrossecath,

    I play and sing both. It’s clear that bluegrass grew out of Scottish music (more Scots than Irish, and more specifically Lowland and Border Scots). John Jacob Niles was the first to make a detailed study of mountain music, tracing the links with reference to The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. And bluegrass grew out of the mountain music that the Scotch-Irish (a/k/a Lowlanders who were ‘planted’ in Ireland by Cromwell and then came on their merry way to America) brought with them to the mountains of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and points south.

    But they aren’t the same. The thing I notice the most is the difference in the chording and harmonies, although the instrumentation is of course different. There are also some distinct melodic lines that are unique to bluegrass and foreign to the Lallans tradition, although modal melodies play a big part in both. And of course the words.

  102. Mary Ann says:

    My current favorite online radio stream is Radio Heartland from MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) at:

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/services/radio_heartland/

    24 hour family friendly, commercial free streaming “From the washboard to the fret board” as they say. Very eclectic, the old and new.

  103. MAJ Tony says:

    Well, if you want to hear the best Bluegrass, come to Bean Blossom, IN from 12-19 June for the annual Bill Monroe Bean Blossom Bluegrass Music Festival. I’ve never personally been to the fest, but the Nashville (Indiana) – Bean Blossom area is possibly the most scenic area in the state, as it’s in the southern hills where the glaciers never hit. Click http://www.beanblossomtickets.shoppingcartsplus.com/page/page/1665687.htm for info. Unfortunately, I will be training that week, so no-can-go for me.

  104. poet70 says:

    You might want to forget George Strait. He seems to many of us to sound like, etc., the old stereotyped country. You might want to concentrate on modern and contemporary bluegrass (a good argument can be made for the connections between bluegrass and baroque classical, such as Bach and Hayden, as bluegrass partially descends from the same kinds of folk music that are so embedded in the great baroque works). I’d also listen particularly to Sugarland, Little Big Town, Yonder Mountain, Ricky Scraggs, Pat Green, Travis Tritt. . . and Faith Hill’s “The Secret of Life” is quite wonderful. In general, country music (it isn’t called country and western anymore) at its best has good lyrics, can be highly and interestingly narrative, is non-salacious, patriotic, is often very religious (particularly Christian), is some of the best popular music being written and performed today–probably the best inheritor of the great folk and rock songs of the late 60s-early 70s. To avoid the stereotyped country music of truck and dog, etc., go mainly with the joyous and/or religious, I’d think. Anyway, there are many, many excellent comments above to give you plenty of guidance. Country music fans are often real good people!

  105. Scott W. says:

    Either you are taking me too seriously, or I am taking you too seriously. :)

  106. Hans says:

    Funny how every popular medium is invaded by experts exhorting you to find the “pure” stuff as opposed to something like…oh I don’t know…actually enjoying what you are listening to. Sorry, don’t mean to pick, but few people cared about old-timey music until those brahmin elites, the Coen brothers, told them to.

    I’m hardly an expert, and I don’t know about others, Scott, but I started listening to old-timey music in the ’60s and ’70s because my father (a chemistry professor) liked it just as much as he hated the mostly university-based ‘folk revival’. For instance, the year he was on sabbatical in Oak Ridge we spent more than a few weekends finding places where the music was still played.

    I think the Coen brothers did a good thing, bringing this music to a wider audience; it’s not as if it’s taken over the world. And here’s the thing with music, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to listen; the old maxim applies with music: de gustibus non est disputandum.

    Besides, with country music it hardly makes sense to complain of the ‘experts’, because it was experts like Ralph Peer and John Lomax who made country (and other) music into a popular form.

    Come to think of it, there is a podcast of old-time and bluegrass music by somebody named Jack Lewis called “A Bluegrass and Old Time Music Radio Show” (search for that in iTunes) that started as recordings of his band and others at local shows and competitions in western Virginia and adjacent areas. In one of his episodes he explains the differences between old-time and bluegrass music.

  107. isabella says:

    Funny – it’s all I listen to and I can’t remember a song that hasn’t already been posted.

    Does anybody know who does the song about the old man who is telling a boy how much he loved his grandmother just after she had died?

    And another one about “I’ll wait for you” where a man is late for everything (and his patient wife just says “I’ll wait for you”), even the birth of his first son. Now he’s got a really long wait because she died giving birth and is waiting for him, presumably in heaven because she died giving birth. Sugarland is good. They are all sweet.

    Carrie Underwood – I like “Before he Cheats” a little better than “Jesus Take the Wheel” (which came out just before I totalled a car on black ice when a Dodge Ram hit me) so I listened to it almost nonstop for a while. Same with “Before he cheats” a little later – I think it went viral.

    I grew up with horses and that’s all we ever listened to on the barn radio, why it’s so embarrassing not to know who they are. Hah – Independence Day by Martina MacBride — not really a priest song but a great turn up the volume driving song (way old, but still good), especially right now for me.

    The original of “The Thunder Rolls” by Garth (with the ending that the radio stations never play – don’t want to ruin the surprise). OTOH, that might not be a good clerical song either. I just noticed the last few of these have a common theme, so will go deal with my life now.

    But how can you listen to anything BUT country?!!!? Nothing better, at least for driving. I get funny looks at stoplights with country blaring out of my Prius. I miss my truck.

    Many of my favorites are not appropriate for this blog.

  108. “Jesus take the wheel” is our themesong here…I would not even begin to try to explain this…it’s our daily prayer and pious ejaculation…thank you, Carrie Underwood!

  109. I do not know if he has been mentioned, but Ian Tyson is one of my favourites.

    I do not know how many times and by how many people covered his Four Strong Winds.

    A country artist writing and singing good songs about cowboys, love, and loss.

  110. larsonnh says:

    I can’t recommend Johnny Cash highly enough. He’s rightly famous for the prison albums. But you really must listen to the work he did in the last 15 years of his life.

    “American Recordings” is a wonderful album. You asked — what makes so-and-so great? This album will show you the heights and the depths of Cash’s soul. The album starts in sin, and ends in redemption. I don’t know a performer alive today who can convince both the prison population and the church congregation, “I really am one of you.”

  111. Scott W. says:

    I’m hardly an expert, and I don’t know about others, Scott, but I started listening to old-timey music in the ‘60s and ‘70s because my father (a chemistry professor) liked it just as much as he hated the mostly university-based ‘folk revival’. For instance, the year he was on sabbatical in Oak Ridge we spent more than a few weekends finding places where the music was still played.

    I think the Coen brothers did a good thing, bringing this music to a wider audience; it’s not as if it’s taken over the world. And here’s the thing with music, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to listen; the old maxim applies with music: de gustibus non est disputandum.

    Besides, with country music it hardly makes sense to complain of the ‘experts’, because it was experts like Ralph Peer and John Lomax who made country (and other) music into a popular form.

    Again, I’m being taken waaay too seriously. I’m calling geek check. :)

  112. Marg says:

    In Portugal on “pilgrimage” last year about this time, our tour leader played Willie Nelson’s, “On the Road Again”, while we were on the bus. Everyone cheered. Always liked Willie in small doses. Also George Strait, Alan Jackson and The Oak Ridge Boys, “Elvira”.

  113. james says:

    Two more: Leland Martin and David Ball.

  114. mrsmontoya says:

    Country music songs have stories, and tell them better than other types of music.

  115. PeterK says:

    “some Country artists are big…. but… who are they and… why?”
    yikes that is a broad question. with so many different Country genres out there such as western swing (bob wills), honky-tonk (Hank Williams), Cowboy (Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry), Truckin’(Red Stegal), the women June Carter Cash, Loretta, Dolly, Patsy, or groups like the Oak Ridge Boys, or small but extremely talented guys like Junior Brown or BR-549

    the question that needs to be answered first is “define big”

    to me they are all big

  116. jm says:

    Buddy & Julie Miller.

  117. thebigweave says:

    Hey Father-

    I would have to say that these are three of my favorite country songs that are not Alison Krauss. The first is by David Ball, who is more along the lines of Texas swing and has some nice yodeling in some of his songs. Good classic storytelling song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=Q0gX-bipodU

    The next is gospel-esque and overtly Christian…LOVE IT! Josh Turner:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyRZTAmcW7c

    The last is good ol Randy Travis:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_I-sTv6NV0

    Hope that you like these Father, note….no scandalously dressed individuals in these videos.

  118. RichardT says:

    Forget Country & Western Father; what you need is West Country music. Firmly rooted in (and manured by) tradition.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb63PdPweDc&feature=related

  119. Re: West Country music

    Scrumpy and Western is not what I meant to wake up to!

    Somewhere, there’s a Wikipedia editor who’s awfully goodnatured about it, though:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folk_music_of_England#The_West_Country

  120. mwa says:

    Dear Father,
    if you are taking an interest in Country and/or Bluegrass, you should check into who’s playing at the Birchmere in Alexandria while you’re in the DC area.

  121. Re: murder ballads and songs about one night stands

    Considering the content of the Old Testament, I think it’s perfectly okay to write and sing cautionary tales about this stuff. Although it’s a bit disturbing, the number of bluegrass songs about killing people with a silver dagger (as opposed to English folk music’s “little penknife”) and/or burying people in the back acres. :) But it’s very similar to singing the blues as a coping mechanism; if you sing a lot of formulaic songs about stabbing people and being very sorry and getting hung, you’re a lot less likely to do it yourself.

    Re: old timey music and bluegrass

    Actually, it’s interesting to see how different they are from Scottish music, Irish music, blues ballads, etc. while still working the same territory and drawing from many of the same roots. The tuning and key differences are very frustrating for traditional players on both sides of the line, though.

    Re: “elite” vs just folks

    Southern old timey music didn’t “need” the Coen Brothers to stay alive. It was just under the radar for a lot of people. OTOH, it was probably nice for musicians to get a chance to make extra money and recruit new blood — though the problems caused by a sudden influx probably almost equalled the good stuff.

    What’s actually more serious is the way old time music that’s not from the South and West has almost disappeared. People don’t seem too concerned about the death of indigenous Ohio fiddle styles, even though we had almost as many old styles as Kentucky. And I’m sure many other states could say the same, especially in New England. People there seem to have replaced it (where they even care) with professional folk music stuff from the thirties on. People there don’t think of the little songs and jingles that Great-grandma knew as being Folk Music. It’s sad, very.

  122. Tom in NY says:

    @Marc: if all music led in the wrong direction, we wouldn’t use it in our worship now. Didn’t music help the cult of Dionysos (son of Zeus, or Dios) all those years ago? Does Gregorian chant lift your soul?

    Thanks to many readers for their references to modern artists as well as their heritage in 17th and 18th century Scotland and Ulster.

    Salutationes omnibus.

  123. Scott W. says:

    Southern old timey music didn’t “need” the Coen Brothers to stay alive.

    What is wrong with you people? J-O-K-E!

  124. robtbrown says:

    Anyone ever see the movie Mars Attacks? The Martians arrive and are absolutely destroying us. All our weapons are inadequate. They are finally defeated by Country Music, which makes their heads explode.

  125. catholicmidwest says:

    Lots of good comment here. I like country music, but there are sort of 4 kinds, not counting crossover between the kinds:

    a) American folk or hill music-bluegrass, appalachian, etc.

    b) classic country music-Patsy Cline, Chet Atkins, Hank Williams, et al; there are good lists above

    c) country-rock, which is where decent rock music went-Kenny Chesney etc.

    d) everything that doesn’t fit anywhere else including humor and some of the religious music

    Haven’t read all of the comments above YET, but I’d recommend some:

    Randy Travis-classic country, including spirituals (one of my all-time favorites)

    Josh Turner-great deep voice

    Brad Paisley-upbeat, funny, great live performances if you can get to one

    Alan Jackson-again classic country, very melodic, but a few drinking songs included

    Alison Krauss with or without Union Station-beautiful voice

    Oak Ridge Boys-classic choral vocals, great Christmas music

    Chet Atkins-master of the classic steel guitar

    And who can forget Hank Williams. “I’m so lonesome I could cry” is my all-time favorite country song.

    Fr Z, a lot of this stuff is on YouTube, so you can check it out before you buy. This technique can save you a mint!

    PS, you aren’t a country western fan til you’ve heard ROCKYTOP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n9prNixjbg

    PPS, I just love banjo, including banjo jazz. So even though it’s not country, my liking for country music led me to Bela Fleck, the best (and most uncontested, lets be honest) jazz banjo player. But he’s really good and it’s fun to listen to.

  126. michaeljayp says:

    Father, my wife believes that you are kidding us all. But she says that, if you are not, she will pray for you more earnestly than ever.

  127. catholicmidwest says:

    The last reminds me of the stretches of mountain road in Tennessee & Kentucky where you have to watch for runaway trucks. The grades are very steep and if a truck breaks down while moving it, the driver has a hair-raising experience and has to try to control the truck down the mountain. There are extra lanes and “ditch” areas so that trucks don’t steamroll cars. It can be very dangerous, particularly if the weather is bad.

    Beautiful part of the country, though. Breath-taking views and great hospitality in that part of the country.

  128. catholicmidwest says:

    In the days before all the music distribution networks, some families had bands and choirs and would play at protestant churches and other places, particularly in the south and in the Appalachian mountains. My grandfather was a minister and we had a family band, banjos, dulcimer, vocalists and all. At home when they were horsing around, sometimes one of my uncles played the saw and another the jug just to make us laugh.

    Here’s a family band. Some people have forgotten that normal people can make music.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkmAjPh75RA&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGiflQIMUI0&feature=related

    A lot of hymns and tunes that were sung in those churches and families were later picked up and made popular by Johnny Cash and others, but that’s where they came from–things like “I’ll Fly Away” and “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.”

    I know one song that I’ve never heard outside my family. I’m pretty sure others do too.

    This is American music much more than what comes out of Detroit and California.

  129. Marc says:

    @Tom in NY:

    BXVI is talking specifically about the dangers of pop and rock “music”. He makes the point on the contrary that Gregorian and good composers (he cites in particular Palestrina) lift the spirit, and this is why they are so important and necessary in liturgy. The problem arises in modern days when pop songs are introduced at Mass. Unfortunately much so-called “Church music” today is inspired directly from pop music, and written by people who have a background in secular pop rather than classic sacred music. As the Holy Father explains, this brings the “fumes of Satan” right into the heart of our liturgies under the pretext of making them “lively” or “contemporary”. I live in Russia, and the Orthodox Church here would never even dream of bringing such tunes into churches. Only sacred music is allowed, and rules are very strict. I have no idea how we Catholics could ever let this happen.

  130. robtbrown says:

    Is this the national anthem of Bluegrass?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APl9fRFmdC0

  131. robtbrown says:

    Can’t help but love a song with the lyric:

    Don’t you marry Lester Flatt
    He slicks his hair with possum fat.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7QIlqb1RGQ&feature=related

  132. robtbrown says:

    This thread has caused me to listen to one Flatt and Scruggs song after another on You Tube.

    For some reason I’m hungry for biscuits and gravy.

  133. catholicmidwest says:

    Here’s a video that could have been straight out of my childhood. Look at that house. Old time southern, pure and simple. And that old boy can play.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaryJVLqR_M

    Fr Z, don’t let people tell you that all country music is about sex and women. Some of it is, but only so that it can be sold at truck stops ;) (and on mainstream radio). You can find lots of stuff that’s not only clean and fun but wholesome and even religious.

  134. Henry Edwards says:

    I first saw Flatt and Scruggs in person when they were the headliners one August at the week-long “Hillbilly Homecoming” that back then took place annually on the campus of my high school in the foothills of the Smokies.

  135. Henry Edwards says:

    I should add that right now I listening on EWTN to their lead-in (to the Mass) on the life and background of Pope Benedict XVI. I take it, from what I’ve head so far, that his musical preferences do not include Flatt and Scruggs in the way that they made such a big impression on me in my callow youth.

  136. MAJ Tony says:

    robtbrown — re your 10:41 I found this Foggy Mountain Breakdown clip after watching your link to same. Never knew Steve Martin was such a good banjo player. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icMTVV5Lwaw&feature=related

  137. catholicmidwest says:

    Getting to the Catholic connection, either Catholics in general have some kind of congenital music defect OR there are 30 people in just about every parish who can manage to sing in order to accompany worship at least as well as any of the people in the family bands I posted above. Which begs the question, why does Catholic music sound like it does? IT sounds like catfights in the rain, and I’m serious. It’s beyond awful. It’s stomach-turning and mind-rebooting. Little protestant congregations all over the place, even here in Michigan, with 70 or 80 people total and no money manage better music than this. What *is* the Church’s problem?

    I love the song “Amazing Grace,” which is a relatively new hymn. It has a very Protestant theme, but there is some truth about it, even more so if you add the Catholic understanding of grace to it. (Because justification is different from a Catholics point of view & a Protestant point of view, very different.)

    The lyrics were written by John Newton, a man who repented and ultimately became a minister, in the 1700′s and like many old hymns, those words were set to an old British folk melody. (Many hymns are new words set to old celtic or germanic melodies.)

    Catholics adopted it after V2, as they did many Protestant hymns. But catholics have this “droney” thing they do to it and ALL their other music. It’s spooky. I have no idea what it is. Everything is like a dirge gone rancid. They compose themselves, click into the drone-mindwave-thing, and out it comes. Catholics murder “Amazing Grace,” and pretty much everything else, IMO.

    (It doesn’t help that they also keep trying to change the words in order to keep the copyrights paying the big $$$$$$$. So people don’t learn it by heart and actually sing it. Talk about money-changers outside the temple. GRrrr.)

  138. Mrs. O says:

    One caution.
    On David Allen Cole – You never called me by my name.
    That is usually played at bars/sing along/usually all drunk too.
    If you do play this, say around people of my age……don’t be surprised if we say….why Father, we never knew!!!!
    I like Randy Travis personally.

  139. Ung Foy says:

    George Strait

  140. missalthumper says:

    Trace Adkins. Yes, many of his songs are “problematic”. But you must at least listen to “Muddy Water”. Not our “faith tradition”, but oh, it’s a beautiful song. And songs like “And They Do”, talking about his daughters growing up; “You’re Gonna Miss This”, ditto; and even “Hot Mama”, about how he loves his wife just the way she is. And I second the vote for Brad Paisley, especially watch his videos, they’re hysterical.

  141. robtbrown says:

    catholicmidwest,

    You’ve lost me on Amazing Grace. The lyrics are decidedly Protestant, and it is drenched in unctuous sentimentalism. The only thing worse than hearing it sung is hearing it played on bagpipes.

  142. Kathy C says:

    robtbrown, I’ve heard that complaint about Amazing Grace being too protestant before. However,to us converts the “I found Jesus” sentiments ring true. I wasn’t baptised as an infant, I wasn’t raised in any faith really, and for the most part I can relate to it. Maybe you can just consider having to listen to it as a gift to converts? Not because they’re former protestants, but because it means something to them, if not to you. And yeah, I’d like us to pick up the pace a bit also.

  143. robtbrown says:

    Kathy C,

    I am a convert.

    I don’t think liturgy (or hymns) should be an expression of someone’s religious sentiment. If someone wants to listen to Amazing Grace or anything else on their own time, that’s fine. Imposing it on others, however, is unjust.

  144. Marc says:

    The New Liturgical Movement recently had a very good piece on why hymns -such as Amazing Grace- are out of place in Catholic Liturgy. It can be found at http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2010/04/in-defense-of-non-singing-congregations.html and why Catholics should not be expected to sing Protestant style during Mass.

    Here is a short quote, but I highly recommend reading the whole article.

    QUOTE:

    The Catholic ritual is not people based or people centered. It is not given by the community as a gift each to other. It is a gift from God that we offer back to God, something we receive humbly as a blessing and an occasion of grace as we offer our lives back to God in sacrifice.

    This is why the hymn—which I define here in the common usage as a metrically divided, melodically strophic song with rhyming vernacular text—has no traditional place in Catholic liturgy, particularly in not Mass.

    UNQUOTE

    The Catholic liturgy has its own musical tradition: the schola singing Gregorian chant, and polyphony. And anyone claiming that this is difficult should see how not only traditional Catholic parishes do it, but also how the Orthodox church in Russia maintains a similar tradition even in small parishes.

    Saving the liturgy begins with proper Catholic music, whether in the ordinary or the extraordinary form.

  145. lacrossecath says:

    Thank you AnAmericanMother

    I’ve been meaning to read up on it more as I only remember a short conversation or article leading me to the more general Gaelic connection. So do you think of bluegrass as an American style of music? Do you recommend the John Jacob Niles book?

  146. catholicmidwest says:

    RobtBrown,

    I’m not a cradle catholic. I’m a convert, by a long and torturous path, and Amazing Grace has a lot of meaning for me as a result. Many Catholic hymns, particularly newer ones, mean less than nothing to me, and some of them are downright stupid. Many Catholic practices still look odd to me, as a matter of fact.

    And I love bagpipes. I’m one of those rare-as-hen’s-teeth converts with 100% British blood running through my veins. And yes, I read and read and read until I came to my senses and could hear God, who had been calling me all along.

    Do you want to know what’s the wackiest thing for me, a convert, even after all these years? The scripture readings in Mass. I’m serious. Those translations are absolutely atrocious. And almost no catholics appear to even realize that they’re:
    a) not the same as any reading translation whatsoever–probably because most Catholics don’t really read scripture, and
    b) not a complete set. Contrary to what’s almost always claimed, about 1/2 of scripture is completely MISSING. You’re hearing a partial set–a sanitized set–with all the imprecatory stuff and most of the hardcore old testament stuff gone.

    On top of all that it’s annoying to listen to the readers butcher the “proclaimed” “version” until it sounds like Dick-Jane-&-Sally-Visit-the-Farm while I have a lovely old classical version running in my head and I know that one’s in English and closer to right. I sure hope these new translations we’re going to get soon do something about this.

  147. catholicmidwest says:

    And RobtBrown,

    I have no problem with dropping all the hymns from Mass completely. I’d just as soon the whole thing be done in chant and choir music anyway. I’d listen to my Amazing Grace etc. on CDs from the protestant bookstore. I do that now, anyway, because their musical quality is better than CAtholic music.

    However, since we appear to be stuck with the 4-hymn dagwood, Amazing Grace may be as good as some of the other ones I’ve heard. Yes, the possibility of confusing Catholics further exists, since the theology of Amazing Grace, if taken literally, is quite protestant. On the other hand, the theology of about half of the popular contemporary Catholic hymns is barely Christian. And I’m not sure most CAtholics can tell the difference anyway–after 25 years of watching, I seriously don’t think so.

  148. Marc says:

    Catholicmidwest,

    Indeed, the problem is that so-called modern “Catholic Hymns” do not correspond to Catholic liturgical tradition, and corresponding neither to the Catholic tradition nor to the traditions that have naturally developped Hymns as their expression, end up being of poor quality, barely Catholic or even Christian, and ultimately leading the faithful away from the Catholic faith and Church… I agree that Amazing Grace is good Hymn, and much better than the junk we are fed in most parishes. It is just not appropriate for Catholic liturgy.

    I also fully agree with your comments on Mass readings… That’s what you get when you write “liturgy” by committee to replace 2000 years of tradition…

  149. MAJ Tony says:

    @ missalthumper

    I saw/heard a Trace Adkins concert from the back of a HMMWV. It was August of 2008. Behind me was an M1 tank and a Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicle, both with troops sitting on it for seats. The stage was a flatbed semi-trailer, and the concert lasted about 30 minutes, after which most folks lined up at the nearby fire station for autographs. I was in Nineveh Province, Iraq, about 1 mile from the oldest Christian monastery in the country, Mar Elias, on FOB Marez, on the south side of Mosul. He made a few comments about how Mama thought he hadn’t have oughta sang this or that song. Another he purposely ran past her before production, and I think he said something to the effect that she said it wasn’t too bad. With that, he does certainly have some with good moral lessons and some specifically religious. Of course, having been shot by his wife might have had something to do with the moral/religious aspects.

    We were supposed to get Toby Keith a month prior, but sandstorms killed the flights, and if the flight gets killed, so does the concert with little hope for rescheduling.

  150. JohnE says:

    L’Angelus is a cajun/country/zydeco band, and Catholic. Good fun: http://www.youtube.com/user/Bearcat745