Friday, January 14, 2011

Country Music

Where I come from, country music is king. In the small town where my folks still live, country rules the airwaves in the public places and on the radio dials in the pickups. Rock'n'roll is a second-class citizen, and classical music is a foreigner. So, when I read this description of country by Russell Moore this morning, I couldn't help but note it on this blog. It is one of the best descriptions I have read.

Roots music, after all, is remarkably honest about things commercial music often doesn’t want to talk about: despair, loneliness, heartache, sin, redemption, sowing what one reaps. And in so doing, this music often unveils what it looks like to be, in Flannery O’Connor’s words, “Christ-haunted.” Often, in this music, there’s a Christian subtext but no Christianity. There’s some kind of redemption but no crucifixion. There’s grace, and grace abounding, but often grace that sin may abound.

This is how Wilie Nelson can end a concert by moving, without comment, from crooning “Whiskey River, Take My Mind” to softly singing “Amazing Grace.” The point isn’t that Willie does this. It’s that he knows stadiums full of concert-goers want him too.

In the music of the Bible Belt, we can hear something of what it means to be simultaneously the Publican and the Pharisee. It’s a religious identity, indeed a “Christian” identity, with a tortured conscience. That’s an awfully heartsick place to be.

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