Thursday, August 29, 2013

Overcoming Southern Prejudice, One Band at a Time

I don’t want to go the South. Ever. I don’t have a good reason for thinking this way. It is based on my own ignorant prejudice of an entire region. This prejudice is not based on race. It is not based on religion (though I do think too many Southerners are probably way too religious). It is not based on any specific experience I have had or that I have heard anyone close to me have. I have exactly two experiences in the South. I spent my half of my Honeymoon in Orlando, Florida. Nothing about the region stuck out too much too me. It was sticky. But also the weather outside was very humid. The other experience is actually a collage in my mind of flying through the Atlanta airport twice and the Charlotte airport once. My memory of those experiences was that all the people sure did seem nice.

All prejudices are bad. One of the first metaphoric phrases I remember is that “you can’t judge a book by its cover”. That was probably brought to me by my loving mother to make me feel better about my bloated, unattractive cover on the outside of the Big Book of Sexiness. I have clearly judged all the inhabitants of South as uneducated rednecks and/or crooks based on (1) history lessons (2) Larry the Cable Guy and (3) Hillbilly Handfishing.

When it comes to music, I have been quick to say “I hate Country Music”. Those that may not know me that well know that “hate” is not a word I throw around lightly. There is a big divide in my mind between “rather not”, “do not like” and “hate”. I reserve that hate for only the evilest of the evil. Sunburns. The Jets. A certain female property manager in the 90’s.  I have come down from those earlier proclamations of “I hate Country Music” to just a “I’d rather not listen to Country Music.” In fact, I’d listen to it before classical music and opera. Moving up with a bullet!

My oldest son, Teen Sexy, is an absolute joy of a person. I am so proud of the young man he is becoming. However, all teens see what their parents are and want to find away to distance themselves. Tell a teenager he better not ever drink/have sex/swear and you’ll catch him exalting like Tourette’s sufferer while banging the girl least-likely-to-succeed on the couch next to an empty bottle of Jack. Well, Teen Sexy’s big revolt to this time is his LOVE of Country Music. He might have missed my shift from “hate” to “rather not”. My biggest fear is that his next rebellion will be to want to vote Republican.

Actually, I have had a musically history with Southern Rock. There is a fine line between Southern Rock and Country. I have never liked Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers, but I was a big fan of ZZ Top and 38 Special in my teens. Along the way there have been other songs with a bit of a Southern twang that I have enjoyed.

The big turning point in my adult appreciation for Southern Rock was a concert Mrs. Sexy took me to in Portland for my birthday in 2008. The Hold Steady is absolutely one of my favorite bands in the whole world. They are even better live. For this particular tour, The Hold Steady were co-headlining with a band that I knew had a pretty good following, but I had never heard really listened to,  The Drive-By Truckers.

I would like to say that hearing DBT in concert immediately made me a big fan and that would be the end of the endless essay. It didn’t. It was pretty good, but I wasn’t paying that much attention. What kept dragging me was the Truckers lead singer, Patterson Hood. He was so genuinely happy to be on stage I thought he had won a contest. For the end of the DBT set, The Hold Steady joined the Truckers on the stage for “Let There Be Rock”. It was such a fun song and story that I scrambled to find a copy of this live version. Patterson also didn’t listened to Skynard as much as AC/DC  and Ozzy Osborne growing up (like me!). “Bon Scott singin’ ‘Let There Be Rock’!”

In the years since, a Drive-By Truckers Song even made the 2010 Sexy 20, but I never much got into their catalog of music or downloaded a whole album. I don’t know when or how it happened this year, and it has taken 9 paragraphs to get to it, but the Drive-By Truckers are officially the Big Sexy Band of Summer – 2013! When I sit down to work, throw on the headphones to mow the lawn or get ready for a bit of a drive  and want to listen to something, it just seems like it is often the band I hook up on Spotify.

My first constant listening of DBT this summer was to their 2002 classic double album Southern Rock Opera. Check out the spoken word Alabama history lesson , Three Great Alabama Icons  with it’s perfect segue way into a “song from the devil’s point of view” (“Wallace) about former governor and possibly #1 culprit in my southern prejudice, George Wallace.

Going through the DBT catalog, and as a new fan, I spend a lot of time on a greatest hits compilation from about 4 years (and two albums) ago. When I do branch out, I find gem after gem of songs with a good rocking beat but an ample amount of soul that is hitting me just right at this time and place in my life. There are many stellar DBT songs, but I’m going to close with this one, Zip City. It is led by the DBT’s other lead singer, Mike Cooley. This song has too much soul to it than a live version can give credit to, but this animated video is kinda fun. My only problem with the video is this is a better song to just listen to and create your own imagery.

Can music influence prejudice? I don’t know the answer. I still have a lower opinion than I should of Southerners and I wish I didn’t since I really haven't known any my entire life. I do think now I might enjoy a long weekend in New Orleans or tailgating before taking in an SEC football game. Progress.

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