For the better part of two decades, I’ve despised country music.
The twangy, alternative acoustic rock that’s passed off as country these days has always bothered me, and it probably didn’t help that my sister made me listen to it every day as she drove me to school during high school. But when “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart’s theme song performed and co-written by Ryan Bingham, won best original song at the Oscars, a shimmer of hope for what country music once was shone through.
The likes of most country artists I hear on 93Q and Country Music Television have bothered me for years. Where has the manliness gone? Sure, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” is catchy and “She’s Everything” is romantic, but it’s also boring and has been done a million times before.
With lyrics such as “she looks great in cheap sunglasses. She looks great in anything” taking over the airwaves, it seems we’ve been owed good country music for a long time.
Good country, in my opinion, has blood, sweat and tears poured into it. When I listen to Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Wayland Jennings, David Allen Coe and, of course, Conway Twitty – I’m kidding about that last one – I hear real sorrow, real joy and real hardship. I don’t hear this in most country today.
A lot of fans of the country legends past (listed above) have been wondering when our savior would come to rescue us from the high-pitched, emasculated, dreadful remnant of country that plays on the radio these days.
Ryan Bingham is that savior.
Bingham’s voice is a raspy moan and, while it is sometimes whiny, listeners can feel the pain behind his lyrics. “The Weary Kind” begins with an acoustic guitar being strummed softly and, 20 seconds into the song when Bingham’s voice is first heard, listeners might mistake it for an acoustic Bob Dylan set.
The best part of Bingham’s music, for as much as I have complimented merely one of his songs, is its diversity. Other soon-to-be-hit songs he’s recorded include “Country Roads,” “Dylan’s Hard Rain” and “Take It Easy, Mama,” which begins with a riff eerily similar to that of many Jet songs. When his songs are fun, it’s fun to listen to them; when they are sad, it’s sad to listen to them; when they are somewhere in between, it’s impossible not to tap your foot.
I had almost given up on country music, but thanks to Bingham and his band, The Dead Horses (coupled with the recent release of American VI, Johnny Cash’s final album), I have gained hope for country music once again.
However, for the time being, I’ll stick to listening to it on my computer and iPod. I’m still not bold enough to brave the murky waters of country radio: too many sharks pretending to be country artists. For fans of the old school, Bingham brings hope for the genre’s future.
So I’ve decided to pick up my crazy heart, and give country music one more try.