Gimme that old-fashioned country music, Johnny

Illustration by Amanda Cibulka.

I love to have music with me wherever I go, even when I’m riding my horse. And with a horse whose name is Johnny Cash, how can I resist?

Not only is it a good distraction if there is other noise going on around the farm, but it’s fun. And maybe it’s just me being a crazy horse person, but I think my horse likes it, too.

Getting the music loud enough while I ride used to be a huge challenge. After years of just turning my phone volume up as high as it would go and barely being able to hear it, the owner of the farm where my horse has been for the last year installed a Bluetooth stereo and connected it to the speakers that were already in the arena. It was like Christmas morning for me.

Typically, I just set my phone on shuffle in Pandora, and it sifts through my compilation of country, indie rock and even some classic rock. Country is hands-down my favorite, though.

Lately, I have been unhappy with the shuffle through the newer country music. From the “bro country” music of Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line to the hip-hop sounds of Sam Hunt, I question whether we can even call this country music anymore.

There was a time when country music videos showed a guy in a cowboy hat, strumming his guitar and telling a story about his life.

Lately, it has been songs that include more electric than steel guitar, the same old story about guys who can’t wait for Friday nights and alcohol and the portrayal of country girls in bikini tops, cutoff shorts and cowboy boots.

Not exactly how Tanya Tucker and Hank Williams did it.

I get that times change, but I’m a country girl, and I wouldn’t be caught dead walking around like that. You’re more likely to see dirty work boots, T-shirts and jeans on a real farm girl.

Thankfully, the atrocity of this new portrayal of country wasn’t completely lost on the industry. Some of the classic country music stars as well as some new ones have voiced their disgust with “bro country.” Even George Strait has complained about getting “Kicked Outta Country” (the title of his new song).

One of the new groups, a female duo known as Maddie & Tae, put out a hit song, “Girl in a Country Song,” which called attention to this shift. The music video caught a lot of attention as it showed the country boys in bikini tops and cutoffs. Not a pretty sight, but point made. A round of applause please for Maddie & Tae.

Don’t get me wrong – there is still some great new country music out there. Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood” album is epic, along with Carrie Underwood’s “Storyteller.” Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” is my new favorite song. Tim McGraw also continues to churn out great music.

But that didn’t stop me from erasing some of the “new” country music stars from my Pandora shuffle and adding in “1990s Country” and “Classic Country” favorites.

After all, how could I ride around on a horse named after one of the greatest country music stars of all time with Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” blasting through the speakers? No, Luke, I will not scoot my little hot self over by you.

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