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Aug15

Country music, clichés, and care

by Bev Foster

Country music lovers, what is it about country music that you love? Please comment! In rural Ontario, it’s the season of county fairs. Over the summer and into the fall more than 200 fairs take place in this province and part of the entertainment at each fair will be a country band. At our local fair in Port Perry - Labour Day Weekend sacrosanct - along with the Dairy show, Family Rodeo, Horse Pulls and Craft exhibits, we boast a Fiddling Contest, Cloggers, and lots of Country Music. ‘Tis also the season of country jamborees. A friend of mine, a die-hard country fan was telling me you can find jamborees to attend every weekend from May to October – and apparently, many people do. The biggest one is coming up this coming weekend in Havelock, not far from Port Perry, https://www.havelockjamboree.com . Country stars, bands, and new artists perform around the clock for 4 days. Thousands of people devotedly trek to their summer Mecca, pitch tents and await an experience that fills them for months to come. I’m not an avid country music lover, but I don’t dislike it either. I find some of the tunes, especially the melancholy ones, catchy; they get under my skin. But it’s the predictable clichés that for me become corny. Line after line, song after song, it’s like I’ve heard it before. For example this verse from          Ray Price’s You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (the title itself is cliché): Oh, there have been times when times were hard But always somehow I made it, I made it through 'Cause for every moment that I've spent hurting There was a moment that I spent, ah, just loving you OR Kenny Chesney’s Love Me Tonight a string of clichés: Well I've been lonesome, I've been empty I've got an aching way deep down inside And I need someone, someone to hold me Pull down the shades, turn out the light And love me tonight Yet, it may very well be the clichés that hook people in like trout to a fishing rod, and makes this music deliciously popular. Popular music in a number of genres is full of clichés and as a songwriter I’ve used my fair share. According to Pat Pattison, songwriting professor at Berklee College in Boston, clichés have been worn smooth by overuse and have become generic. What he means by this is that rather than show, clichés tell. Pattison inspires writers to get a generic image or cliché and then show it to listeners.  Stimulate their senses. He gives this contrasting example, where the first tells and second shows: Noise and confusion, there’s no peace In the hustle and bustle of city streets It’s time to get away from it all Deep inside I hear nature’s call and from Yeats: I will arise and go now… I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore While I stand on the roadway, or the pavements gray I hear it in the deep heart’s core Perhaps clichés are a sign of the vernacular rather than the poetic. In country music, it’s hard to tell. One thing is for sure. Country music expresses something human. It connects with real people and their stories, entertains us, gives us music for a night of dancing and who knows what else. The memories and associations with the music make it a strong resource and viable genre for music care.