Three chords + the truth =

Kacey Musgrave's "Same Trailer Different Park" album

Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay. Brother’s hooked on maryjane.
Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.

That’s modern day Shakespeare, and a lyric from Kacey Musgrave’s breakout album Same Trailer Different Park. Three simple phrases sum up a family’s condition in just sixteen words. That’s tight storytelling, too—and one of the reasons I love country music.

Country music is three chords and the truth.
– Harland Howard

I’m all with Harlan about that. Not what passes today as rural pop (e.g., Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, et al) but good ol’ country, even that with some modern sensibility thrown in (e.g., Kacey’s Follow Your Arrow.)

It too easy too dismiss country music as all hat / no cattle, but when it’s good, it’s great at capturing universal human truths for no B.S., oftentimes painful playback.

But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
– Johnny Cash, Folson Prison Blues



That’s raw. But when you hear the inmates of San Quentin State Prison react, you’re hearing them respond to the truth—their truth—something rarely reflected in popular culture, then or now. That’s powerful stuff (even if the specifics don’t apply.)

Country gets a bad rap (as, interestingly, does rap itself) as too formulaic, too insular, too programmed. And it is, whenever it strays too far from its roots. But for every too-pretty, jeans-clad, faux cowboy wannabe, there’s a thousand un- or barely sung songwriters mining the truth for all it’s worth. One personal favorite: Buddy Miller.

“Same hurt in every heart. Same trailer, different park.”
– Kacey Musgraves, Merry Go ‘Round

Wow, that’s…country.

-dp

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