She’s Not Country

So there I am last night, watching Friday Night Lights (our current Netflix binge) and keeping track of the Cubs via social media. I started to see a couple articles about Beyoncé’s surprise appearance at the Country Music Awards. “Country fans” were upset she was there. But why? The answer is obvious and complicated.


First, a little background. I grew up in a Nashville suburb. My father’s house was down the way from Twitty City (Conway Twitty‘s house and fun park) and on the weekends my father would take us out on the lake and we would pass by Johnny Cash‘s house.  Reba MacEntire lived on the same lake and I played with her son once while waiting for a table at a restaurant. I spent my summers at Opryland Amusement Park and my Christmas at the Opryland Hotel.

Just about everyone in Nashville is trying to make it in the music industry. They may be working as photographers or construction, but they are song writers and open mic night performers at heart. They write the songs that in their wildest dreams would make the whole world sing, if they could ever get anyone to hear them. There is just as much talent in one square mile in the city of Nashville as there is in London or New York. There’s a reason why non country musicians like Ben Folds live in Nashville.

There was a lot of talk in the 1980’s and 1990’s that country had lost it’s soul, that the days of Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard were gone. Or that Nashville had been stripped of it’s Music City title with everyone buying time shares in Branson, Missouri.

Now, I was never really a “country fan”except in the ways that most kids my age were when country started making “superstars” like Garth Brooks. There was a lot of upset in Nashville at the time. Country Western was re-branding into the pop sensation that is now known as “Country” and Nashville didn’t know what to do. Nashville had once been the epicenter of country music, but in the early to mid-80’s Madonna and Michael Jackson ruled the world and Nashville was slumming it.

SO… re-brand they did. The Grand Ole Opry got a face lift and Gaylord Entertainment took over that part of Nashville. The Ryman Auditorium also received a face lift, 2nd Ave became the Beale St. of Nashville and there were all kinds of music festivals everywhere. Country had moved to the arena and the theaters of old opened their doors to all types of music. Nashville became an epicenter for music as a teenager I benefited seeing artists like Widespread Panic and Bonnie Raitt at the same concert.

But not everyone is pleased about this. Why? For the same reason people are upset that Beyoncé sang at the Country Music Awards.

The first defense to why people where upset was to say, “She’s Not Country” which begs the question, What is Country these days?

When “country” music went to the arena it turned pop, everyone in Nashville thought so and said so, even if they liked it. “Crossover” became the buzz word of the 1990’s. But what is really behind the upset? Well, all things southern- Race (and gender), Money, and Politics

In a comment discussion on Facebook last night I was responding to a “She’s Not Country” argument by saying- no, Beyoncé isn’t “country” but neither was Justin Timberlake and he performed last year at the CMA’s and no one cared.

So we come to our first challenge- Race (and gender). Here’s a great article on the history of women in country music. Not only are there not that many women who sing, the view of women in the songs reaches as far as Daisy Duke shorts and Confederate flag bras. The reality is southern women as strong as brass. But like many things except homemaking, women haven’t always been welcome, and last night was a testament of feminism with their tribute to Dolly Parton.


But the bigger issue here is Race, it is not to be denied. Here’s a long, but great article on the subject. It cannot be denied that the outrage last night was over a black woman being on stage. And anyone who denies that, is not really looking at the truth. “Country” equates itself with the confederate flag and in 2016 that stands for white supremacy. Name one “popular” black country musician besides Darius Rudker? Thought so… (popular is in quotes because I could write a whole other blog on Darius here…)

So I continue in my Facebook discussion and then it comes: “The Dixie Chicks shouldn’t have been there either.” And here we have it. What is country? It’s “good old southern values. God and Country.”

One of my favorite (albeit crude) comedians Bo Burnham points out that Springstein can sing about a Turnpike and it’s art, but country gets a bad wrap for singing about a dirt road (watch this, it’s funny).

Which brings us to #2 Money. 

The joke goes like this:
Q: What do you get when you play country music backwards?
A: You get back your wife, your dog and your truck.

Country lost it’s mojo the moment it got money. Country lost it’s soul for the almighty dollar. It was about hardship, oppression, it came out of the roots of Appalacia and the blues.  Two groups who were highly oppressed and sang because the sorrow had no where else to go. Country adapted into the poor white version of the African-American spiritual. When the Beatles came along country firmly planted itself as the poor white man’s music. Country was always about being down on your luck and appreciating the small things of life.

Like most of us in the civilized world money became the god and God and Jesus were just ways to sell tickets.

Politics– The comment about the Dixie Chicks has nothing to do with the music, it has everything to do with their politics. They do not fit the “southern values” mold. Because they speak out against War, against misogyny, against racism. Well then sorry country, if breaking the political mold of conservative republicanism is not country then neither can  Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash be yours either…

“Country” isn’t a type of music anymore. Listen to The Eagles or Crosby, Stills, and Nash, they sound a lot like country or today just turn on Mumford and Sons. Hell people, Elvis was country!

The “Country Music” you love today has come a long way from the country of old. Like everything else in this world it has adapted and changed with the times and Beyoncé’s presence on stage is nothing short of what’s next for Country Music.

Now, listen to this, it’s not “country” but it’s country.


Something’s about to happen. Today a long awaited dream is about to come true. No, I’m not getting married (SO not ready for that…) I’m done having children, it’s something else, not bigger, not better, different.

Today a dream comes true.

After three years of hard work on a project (and years of work from people before that) the next steps are about to happen, and it’s amazing. There are hundreds of people that have made this possible, thousands of dollars, countless hours of hard work. Today 7 people will gather in a room and talk and I cannot sleep from excitement.

So why is it than when I awoke at 5:15 this morning all could hear is a voice in my head say, “you quit everything you’ve ever started?” Really? The demons are starting early this morning and they know right where to hit me.

I’m a quitter.

I pretend to claim it proudly. I quit things that are not worth it.

For years music was my life; I ate, slept, drank, breathed music, for all the wrong reasons. I have blogged about music over and over again. I love music, there is no doubt. But I performed it because I was good at it, not because I loved it. I was “successful” at it, it was my drug. I will always be thankful for music because it saved my life, in more ways than one. By the end of high school I was practicing 5 hours a day. I was playing pieces people twice my age and talent dreamed of, and I hated ever second of it.

I remember nothing but people pushing perfection because I was “so talented.” I wanted to be bad at it. Yes, partially because i am sick and twisted, but I did it for all the wrong reasons. I needed someone to be proud of me, for something, anything, and this seemed to be the thing they were proud of.

I love my sister, and I watched her struggle hour after hour in practice, I watched her be rejected audition after audition, I would have gladly given her my spot. Today she is an amazing music educator, I am ridiculously proud. I could never do what she does, never, I would not survive.

When I gave up a career in music and went to seminary I was called a quitter. I was told I was throwing my life away, a lofty career. In what? I thought. In self hate? Because that’s where this was going, I was already there.

Every time I see a dream succeed the demons return. I’m a quitter. I’ll find a way to turn success into failure.

Maybe this is why I’ve always loved the idea of community so much. If a group succeeds it’s the success of the group. If there’s a failure on the part of the group, I’ll take the blame in public (and usually blame everyone else in private but that’s a different confession for another time).

The book of James says that all boasting is evil, and okay… whatever. But I will say this. I never want credit for success because I am terrified that every thing I touch will fail. How sick is that?

It’s sick, but it’s true.

Today a dream comes true, I will try, I promise, to bask in the glory. I will try, I promise, to that the people who made it possible, and I will, to the best of my ability, try to not consider myself a quitter. This was not an easy task, I had a TON of help. Thanks be to God. Amen.


(Un)Resolved: Hit It!

I am participating in the UncoSynchro blog, a writing collaborative effort from ‪#‎Unco14‬‬, focusing on subversive themes of faith and life. The theme for January is(Un)Resolved.


My first CD’s I ever bought was through a subscription, you know one of those where you get 5 CD’s for a penny and then you buy 5 more over a year or two. Of the 5 CD’s I bought with my penny I remember 3 of them. “Use Your Illusion I & II” by Guns and Roses and the Violent Femmes’ “Add it Up”. I believe there was also a Whitney Houston album and Boyz II Men album.

CD’s were new. I had gotten a “Discman” for Christmas from my mother. I also got a cassette of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” from my dad. It was the era of new technology. These cd’s were never going to last… you couldn’t re-record over them, they scratched easily. It didn’t matter that I had literally worn out my Cindy Lauper “She’s So Unusual” cassette TWICE. These CD’s were too fragile…

Recently I have been overwhelmed at work. I need a win, I need something to go right. Everything seems to be happening at once. So I do what I do when I have too much work and am overwhelmed? I ignore it all and make a playlist. Music has always been important to me, it was my drug, my escape. In the playlist I made included the song “American Music” from the Violent Femmes album “Why Do Birds Sing?”, also on the compilation CD “Add it Up”. I really do love the Violent Femmes, but I haven’t listened to them in years. I was immediately flooded back to memories of mid-teens.

In so many ways music was (and still is) my salvation. It saved me from myself, it allowed me to release feelings I couldn’t even put names to, I didn’t even know I had. Music, no matter the genre, and I mean that. From the beginning there was really not a genre I didn’t like. Music allowed this overly emotional child to feel and to not go crazy. I would dance, I would laugh, I would cry, weep, I would sink into the numbness of life. Music took me away from what was happening and into a world where beauty and pain lived simultaneously.

Where true, unconditional love existed, where hate, real hate was allowed to be expressed. Things existed in music that didn’t exist in my world. Expression of feeling was mandatory in music. Without it, there is nothingness. Even the first time I experienced John Cage’s 4’33” I experienced expression of feeling. I was in college at a piano recital given by the associate dean. I didn’t know what was happening, and then I got it. Everything is music.

Music is extremely triggering. Both good and bad. I remember that “Is This Love” by Whitesnake was playing the first time I was kissed, “Son of a Preacher Man”  from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack was the first time I was complimented by my mother for my voice, and Matchbox 20’s “3am” was playing the first time my boyfriend beat the crap out of me. In a cruel twist of fate when I have bouts of insomnia I wake up at 3am with that song playing in my head. “and I said, baby, it’s 3am I must be lonely.”

Music made me feel like I could conquer the world, achieve anything, I learned adaptation and change, to “go with the flow” by learning jazz and improvisation. I learned music theory and rules and when to break them. I learned that even in the chaos there was intentional beauty.

Music became my God. As a minister I do not say this to be blasphemous. I say this in all sincerity, Music is God, it is how I experience God, how I enter the world. It is what provides me life, it is in the rhythm of breath. As the choral song by Dorothy Fields goes “To feel the rhythm of life, to feel the powerful beat”.

I cannot, nor will ever get enough. Music will always be never ending it will always be (un)resolved for me. And praise Jesus for that! I wanted to leave you with a song. And I was having trouble picking one. So I will go with the obvious choice, the one I am listening to right now. It is the song that concludes my latest playlist, from the master himself, I give you: Blue in Green by Mr. Miles Davis. So turn the speakers up, grab a glass of whatever you want, and enjoy the unresolve.

To Perfect or Not to Perfect

There are people around me who encounter me in certain situations that call me a perfectionist.  I am not, and I will not claim the title. I am not a “type A” personality or a “control freak”. I am particular and I like things to be right if at all possible.

There are few things I agree with that I was taught in the Southern Baptist Church, but I do agree with this- I am not perfect. I understand the limitations of situations, of being human, and I have many weaknesses- like not asking for help. But something about control became magnified and caused an epiphany for me when I was trying to get pregnant with my first child. There are things I have control over, and things I very much do not.

SerenityWhat happened in the heightened situation of hormones was that I made a decision to control the things I could and let the things I cannot control go.  This is not unlike the serenity prayer prayed in AA, NA, OA, etc. every hour of every day.

But… I do take the courage part very seriously.  I feel that we focus a lot on granting the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, but we forget the courage to change the things we can.  This is hard, harder sometimes than letting go of control is taking it.

On the mornings that I walk my daughter to school I am consistently impressed by the teacher that is in charge of the cross walk. She taps on windows of parents that parked in the wrong place, politely but with authority asks for parents to use the cross walk as a good example for the children.

As I walked away the other day I wondered if the school specifically picked teachers with personalities that were naturally confronting. But you don’t have to be, you do however need to have a confidence and courage that you are in the right and (in her case) protecting the safety of all those involved, especially the children.

I do not have a naturally confronting nature, confrontation is something I worked very, very hard to be comfortable with- it comes with the “everybody-needs-to-like-me syndrome”.  Now I push when need be and pull back when I can.  Sometimes it is only in retrospect when I understand the difference (the wisdom to know…).

I do, however, as my best friend Melissa says- “Want things the way that I want them.” If you know me, you will see the difference between “type A perfectionism” and wanting things done well.  I am able to let things go that cannot be controlled and I could care less if there is a typo in the bulletin, but when it comes to relaying information, we should tell the truth, especially when we have access to it.

There are so many things that are a “matter of opinion” but there are some that are not. I believed this is why I loved music as much as I did, there are controlled rules- a quarter note = 1 beat,  crescendo, decrescendo, ritardando- these were all directions, but there was also room for interpretation.

The composer told me what note to play or sing and I played or sang that note, and I got louder and softer/faster and slower as the music told me to. That was the control the composer had over the music, but the interpretation was up to the player or singer or conductor. A composer dead 300 years has no say in the interpretation.

Serenity and courage, not perfection.

May we all today dare to have the courage to stand up for what is right, and to let go of the need to control the uncontrollable.