Over the years, I've become a fan of country music, from its Appalachian and Black roots to outlaw country and cosmic American. There's so much rich history and culture surrounding the genre(s) that I'm grateful for smart guides to the people, places, and stories behind the sound. Last month, I appreciated Elamin Abdelmahmoud's Rolling Stone piece "Rewriting Country Music’s Racist History." And over at Longreads, Aaron Gilbreath curated a collection of some great online writing about country music. Here are three of Gilbreath's picks:
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"Push Play" (Chris Dennis, Guernica, April 6, 2020) Dolly Parton is pure country but bigger than country, because she is bigger than life, and yet, you can’t talk about country music without talking about her. And are more sides to her career and influence than a hundred stories can contain. In this personal essay, one young man looks at his past tastes to explore the role Parton played in his ideas of masculinity and difficult coming out. “I think part of my magic, if I have any at all,” Parton once said, “is that I look totally fake but am so totally real.”
“Branded Man” (Andy McLenon and Grant Alden, No Depression, November 1, 2003)
Speaking of Bakersfield: When you sing ”Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas, with Waylon and Willie and the boys,” let’s never forgot Merle Haggard. Yeah yeah, this song’s not about him, but country wouldn’t be country without him. For No Depression, the magazine that celebrated outlaw and underground country, two writers celebrated California’s rural poet, the son of cotton pickers, who brought a lot of poetry and rebellion to country, and made California a place for serious country music, as much as others had made it a place for pop songs and folk tunes.