23. Gone Country, Alan Jackson

A sprightly guitar is joined by a pedal steel that wails then meanders through the song introducing this happy parable of musicians abandoning pop, folk and classical (?), respectively, to hop on the country bandwagon – “the whole world has gone country,” by the end. There’s an insistent backbeat that relates to rock, but the happy sound and clarity of the lyrics are country endemic. And what fun are all the near-rhymes: “Village-privilege,” “Vegas-ages,” “composition-children.” The song consciously offers a bridge for us rockers to the world of country: “they’re not as backward as they used to be.” A fiddle countermelody and honky-tonk piano add to the tapestry. After everyone is indoctrinated – “look at them boots” – the song rambles along for another 60 seconds of spright before sliding out with my favorite Alan Jackson expression, “We gone!”

Sidebar: Country Rock

There has always been an overlap between “country” and “rock,” with numbers like Sonny James’s Young Love and Guy Mitchell’s Singing the Blues topping my personal charts alongside Fats Domino and Little Richard. I had a thing for Buck Owens in college; but, Ringo Starr homage aside, that was still hee-haw country. It was getting hooked on Randy Travis’s Deeper than the Holler that turned me onto the potential likability of new country. Then I “discovered” Garth Brooks, Reba McIntire, Alison Krauss, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Dixie Chicks. I could now, without missing a beat, come up with a companion Country Top 25 that wouldn’t span as many years or emotions but would be full of songs that were, at their time, my favorites. Like Trisha Yearwood’s She’s in Love with the Boy, Chad Brock’s She Said Yes, Kenny Chesney’s How Forever Feels, Sara Evans’ Suds in the Bucket, and Alan Jackson/Jimmy Buffett’s Five O’Clock Somewhere. And while I’m on the subject of crossover music, there is another middle ground, somewhere not quite rock, not quite country, that maybe is called “urban folk,” where we find Nancy Griffith, Emmylou Harris, John Gorka and a host of others who have also added so much pleasure to my “rock” years.

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