Orange Country

20171126_231151I moved to Orange County, CA in 2013. Yet most my life was still in Los Angeles. It wasn’t until a year+ ago that I completely enveloped myself in the territory. It was then that I realized there were 2 things I would not go a day without hearing about: Country Music & Jesus. Let’s focus on the former, with the latter being a much longer post for a later time.

Keep in mind this is coming from the guy that started working in radio at a Reggaeton station [yes I loved Daddy Yankee way before you did], not only was I on air at an EDM station in the #1 party town in the US but breathed PLUR daily [without drugs], and will still sing “Mi Ultimo Deseo” at karaoke. Not to mention was the creator of this mixtape gem below that I still, and will forever bump.

As a matter of fact, my musical taste as far back as I can remember [burning 3 Doors Down and Alice Deejay to a CD-R in 1998] incorporated everything I could get my hands on, EXCEPT COUNTRY.

In the AOL AIM, myspace days, that was the defining factor of who I was. After A/S/L, you were either a “I listen to everything but country” person or you listened to country.

Shania-TwainNow, given, Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much” is an earworm that has crept into my head  for the past 2 decades. And Faith Hill’s “This Kiss” is up there with Sixpence Nonethericher’s similarly titled 90s hit. Plus, the household names that would “cross-over” were not lost on me: Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, & Kenny Chesney. [I actually find Walker Hayes “Shut Up Kenny” quite hilarious as I feel that every country song I know of from the 2000s is from Kenny; ha i relate!]

But moving forward to 2018. Spotify still trying to figure me out. It’s actually their “Hot Country” playlist that gets me.

I love popular music. Always have, always will. But by definition popular music is very genre bending based on culture. And right now, popular music is very hip-hop infused, sprinkled with EDM and a few classic “pop” records. Notice what’s missing. Rock.

Where has the rock music gone? Now, before the words Foo Fighters can come out of your mouth, I’ll be just as quick to add Maroon 5, Cold War Kids, The Neighborhood and anything really that is quickly dissolved into a sub-genre of electro-folk-hipster-americana that you would hear on a Sonos speaker at a Doctor’s office. It’s soft.  This is not music that ignites the soul anymore. (Trust me I was all about this scene from 2009-2014; The Lumineers, M83, Milky Chance, The xx). Those days are over.

Which brings me to my personal playlist called “Country bangerzzzz” (I was in a hurry to save the list obvi). Don’t even ask me why The xx “On Hold” and The 1975 “Somebody Else” are on this exact playlist. The only rationale I can give you is that they evoke emotion. The same emotion I get out of all the country songs on this list. Something I don’t think any rock music is capable of doing right now.

250px-FingandslideI strongly feel country music is filling that void that rock music held so long in my soul. Even banda has taken the place of rock en español which appears non-existent in the Spanish music world. I could go on about the lyrics as most loyal country fans do. I could talk about the cross-overs and how some of the beats go pretty hard and all could be top 40 if you just remove the slide guitar. But oh, how dope that slide guitar sounds sometimes.

I obviously don’t relate to anything outside of my city boy jurisdiction, but then again I don’t relate to much of hip-hop’s lyrics either and am just as much a fan. Country has found a new way into my musical heart. A special place that has me categorizing many as those soft-rock-esque songs of the late 90s. (train, Goo Goo Dolls, and Everlast would be country if they came out today.) The smooth songs that put you in a contemplative mood. And then there’s songs that make me say, wow it’s been awhile since I’ve heard an American artist use a guitar like that.

Given, the booze, women, and line dancing tracks I haven’t been able to get 100% behind yet, although I can appreciate 2 of 3. Perhaps someone needs to take me out to one of these country clubs I’ve been hearing about and complete the conversion.

And if you ask me how I started listening to country: I remember the exact moment. I was in the car with my mom on a Sunday night and she had the country station on, as she does. Maren Morris “I Could Use a Love Song” came on the radio. My ears perked up. It was the perfect Sunday night vibe. Then the lyrics hit me:

A long gone drive
You know the kind where you take a turn and you don’t know why
But it clears your mind, a surefire cure

20180206_200702The craving begun. Not only did I take one of those drives later that evening. But I sought out even more love songs. Which led me down the country rabbit hole. Adding songs to that playlist and building others. Here are some of my favorite country songs right now (in no particular order):

  • “Craving You” – Thomas Rhett & Maren Morris
  • “Unforgettable” – Thomas Rhett
  • “Marry Me” – Thomas Rhett

20180206_200443– Pause: i think you can tell my favorite artist so far. Thomas Rhett is pop music. Matter of fact, “Craving You” was mixed by Serban Ghenea who has mixed tracks by Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez to name a few. Which proves that sometimes the only difference between the genre of a song is in the recording or mixing. Did you know “Despacito” was written as a spanish pop song by Luis Fonsi and it wasn’t until Daddy Yankee encouraged  forced him to change it to have an urban beat that the track started to get global recognition. Anyway, I digress…

  • “In Case You Didn’t Know” – Brett Young
  • “The Long Way” – Brett Eldredge
  • “What Ifs” – Kane Brown ft. Lauren Alaina (c’mon now, if you can get past that 0:07 second intro, this song goes hard)
  • “Greatest Love Story” – LANCO
  • “Stay Downtown” – Cole Swindell
  • “Hooked” – Dylan Scott
  • “I’d Be Jealous Too” – Dustin Lynch
  • “Written in the Sand” – Old Dominion (this is such an earworm that gets stuck in my head for days)
  • “American Country Love Song” – Jake Owen
  • “Legends” – Kelsea Ballerini
  • “Take Back Home Girl” – Chris Lane ft. Tori Kelly
  • “This Night Back” – Canaan Smith (this srsly sounds more rock than country)
  • “Losing Sleep” – Chris Young

Now, where’s Chris Stapleton on this list? Oh, to me that’s Blues and I’ve always loved Blues. :)