(Photo By Jason Ensler)
Been swept away by the current wave of organic rural songwriting yet? Modern country music, the real stuff, not rural Britney, is almost invariably progressive, because the folks going back to living on the Earth are tending to try to live in sync with it (in fact they’ve only recently converted from “people” to “folks”). The commercial country song about farm and apple pie of recent decades is coming across as fake — down to the contrived twangy accents of the manufactured McArtists — because there ain’t no farms and apple pie no more in much of the heartland. Just strip malls and McDonalds. And the occasional GMO factory and manure lake. The form remains, but the lyrics are imaginary. Except where the acoustic roots revival is hitting its stride.
And nothing can stop it. A physical place makes its music â€“ this is why gangsta rap didn’t originate in, say, Iceland, and why after two years on a remote 41-acre ranch I am involuntarily shopping for a mandolin or a banjo after growing up in a suburb that didn’t even have a country station, let alone the John Prine cult I find to be a feature of any healthy subculture. And it’s also why, when I try to coax the Funky Butte Ranch goats away from whatever mischievous situation they’ve gotten into on a particular day (eating my roses, dancing on the roof of the Ridiculously Oversized American Truck), I generally find myself humming bluegrass (or roots reggae). The goats Natalie and Melissa’s favorite song, by the way, is a slightly lyrically modified version of Bob Marley’s Them Belly Full, which I sing to them as I trot (or in the very pregnant Natalie’s case, waddle) them back to the corral after a morning of foraging the Ranch’s abundant Apache Plume bushes:
Them Belly Full
But They Hungry
A Hungry Goat
Is Every Goat
Music, as anyone who has spent a endearingly frustrating hour around the caprine mind can attest, is the only thing that will make a goat behave. Natalie, as you can see in this photo, actually smiles when I sing to her. Not by accident is the drunken music-loving Greek god Pan represented as a goat. The Athenians country music stations were real.
And as for the organic song in my head today (I almost always have a soundtrack in my head, and it is usually telling me how I feel), it’s How Mountain Girls Can Love. If you are reading this while living in a demographic where there’s still no John Prine cult, this is a Ruby Rakes number that always sets me â€“ and the goats â€“ dancing in the organic equivalent of a sufi trance slam dance. Check out the Stanley Brothers’ version. Even if trapped in city walls, suburban sprawl or office cubicle, you might find you’re more of a knee-slappin’, yee-hawing, straw-in-your-teeth mauve-neck than you realized. I know I am.
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