Southern Girl Academy: Music

Most define southern music as country music and most assume all southerners listen only to country music. While some do, I don’t listen to modern country at all and I’m not the only one.

For me and many other modern southern women indie folk music is more pleasing to the ears and socially acceptable than country music these days. This likely has something to do with the fact that modern country music tends to sound closer to Lady Gaga than Waylon Jennings. It has lost the soulful, story-telling harmonies and nostalgia of the past. However, any good southerner can appreciate the renaissance of this type of music by the likes of the Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker and Jamie Johnson.

I should mention, too, that I personally adore Lady Gaga. Any woman who is so confident to arrive anywhere in a meat dress or an egg has earned my respect.

Besides, southern ladies should have diverse taste in music so as not to seem simple.

Southern music is about nostalgia.

Susan Probasco, my darling and very sassy friend, who just so happens to be an anthropologist and expert on women from the delta had this to say when I asked her opinion:

Q: How do you define southern music?

Susan: “Authenticity is really the key. This is a problematic notion, but authentic or not, music that feels nostalgic seems to have great appeal for our generation. Nostalgia especially sells during hard economic times.”

Q: What’s an example of a nostalgic southern song?

Susan: “Walking After Midnight” by Patsy Cline and “Good Ole Boys Like Me” by Don Williams are both great. A nostalgic song can take you away from the stress of modern, everyday life to a simpler time. And a theme to nostalgia from classic country music can inspire current artists who aren’t necessarily southern, but whose works speak to the theme of nostalgia – Alison Krauss (IL), Keith Urban (AU) (IA), Deana Carter (WI), etc.”

Growing up I spent some time with my dad at his doublewide trailer on a dirt road in Southwest Little Rock. Daddy smoked Marlboro Lights, drank Budweiser and shot bottle rockets out of a Coke bottle year-round just for the fun of it. My sister and I rode three wheelers and played with the driveway gravel.

During the summer we spent our days at Nanny & Popo’s house. Some mornings we would play in the yard, which at the time felt huge, while Popo tended to his tomato plants. Other mornings we would stand on stools and bake sugar cookies with Nanny. In the afternoons we watched her “stories” (southern for soap operas).

In the late afternoon we would meet Maxine, Nanny’s across-the-street neighbor for a walk.

Our family had a concrete business, so at noon all the men would come over for lunch.  These weren’t fancy times, but they were good times. Music that reminds me of this is good for my soul.

I remember driving around with daddy in his truck listening to country music. This was the early 80s and country was country. Sometimes he would put me in his lap and let me drive. I cherish these memories. Daddy is gone now. He died when I was in the eighth grade. My sister and I never lived with our parents. We were raised by grandparents (she in Chicago and I in Little Rock) because we were born to teenagers who just simply weren’t ready to be parents. It happened. We don’t talk about it.

High school is awkward for every teenager, not just those of us raised by grandparents. Music helped me survive. Any time I put in a tape of the Oakridge Boys I could bring my daddy back.

These days I’ve moved on. Southern women must always move on. We must not dwell or dawdle in the past, but it is good to remember. My taste in music has changed, but I still appreciate anything with soul, harmonies and a nostalgic story. It just sounds different these days.
Southern Rules about Music:

  • Always have music on somewhere in the background – turn it up if you are home alone and cleaning, turn it down if your Nana stops by
  • Familiarize yourself with Pandora and use it. Generally, I have no idea who sings what, but I do know there are a couple of artists I really like. Pandora does the rest for me.
  • Learn something about your favorite artists. The gift of conversation sets southern women apart. Even if you have no idea who Cee Lo Green is, be prepared to tell an interesting story about Lucinda Williams or whomever you are into at the moment.
  • Go to a concert on occasion. This is just for fun, but it will also give you something worthwhile to talk about later.
  • Appreciate the classics: Hank Williams, JR. (You should know that he is commonly referred to a Bocephus by true southerners. It’s the equivalent of ancient Christians drawing a fish in the sand. You either know or you don’t), Jerry Jeff Walker, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard should give you somewhere to start.
  • Be Diverse in Music – Just because you are southern does not mean you only listen to country music.  Like what you like and own it. Being southern also means being confident in your eccentricities.

Pandora Suggestions for the Modern Southern Woman:

  • Lucinda Williams (daughter of poet and Arkansas resident Miller Williams)
  • Lucero (Favorite lyric: “Prettiest little girl I ever saw, standin’ on the banks of the Arkansas”) or Old Crow Medicine Show
  • The Band Perry or Lady Antebellum
  • The Indigo Girls
  • Any of the aforementioned classics (Waylon, Hank, Willie, Jerry Jeff, Merle)
  • Adele (she’s not southern, but that girl’s got soul)

Stephanie McCratic received a good Christian upbringing. She will use it against you at will and to her advantage. Raised in Little Rock, she now lives in a small town in Northwest Arkansas with her husband Steve. Her 17-month-old daughter Charlie is quite advanced.


3 Responses

  1. Great post! Don’t forget another great Arkansan: Johnny Cash.

  2. I didn’t want to be too obviously geocentric. Johnny Cash is one of the absolute greatest.
    There are so many that I adore.

  3. I listen to classic country, but my true love is bluegrass. I grew up in Western, NC and my entire family picked. If there was a holiday or get-together, there was and still is bluegrass.

    While our elders have went on, the younger ones are trying to fill their shoes.

    Adele? She has been rocking my socks for some time. Love her. And the Foo Fighters 🙂

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