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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 21, 2003

When you stand by your country music, nothin' else matters

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By Keiko Ohnuma
Advertiser Staff Writer

So shoot me — I like country music.

I know it's fin. Ask me: I'll list my tastes in punk, soul, jazz, hip-hop, trip-hop, dance, trance, Celtic, cumbia, Tibetan yak bells.

But when nobody asks, it's a relief to put all that taste aside.

Even as a teenager, I had my reservations about what everyone was listening to. Rock 'n' roll was just all there was.

It annoyed me that rock bands always seemed to be about the genius of some guy — usually the guitarist — as a golden god with an electric rod.

Sure, there were chicks who rocked. Even guitarists. But the whole thing seemed undeniably sweaty. The only way a woman fit in the picture is if she slept with the band or grew underarm hair and screamed. Or better yet, died tragically.

Privately, I always preferred chick music. Tori Amos. Tracy Thorn. Even (this is going to get me in trouble again) the Indigo Girls.

But when I realized their caterwauling complaints made some of my roommates howl, and brought hurtful eye-rolling on the part of male companions, I learned to listen in the privacy of my own Walkman.

In the indulgent Sensurround of my private emotions, I fell far from the impeccable influence of friends. Eventually my quest for new soundscapes led me to a place I could never have imagined.


It was then that I found, while humming to some sweet Bible-thumping ballad with furious fiddling and banjo jams, that people hate this stuff. At least everyone I know does.

"It's full of, like, 'My man left me alone with the farm,'" my sister moaned when I shared one of my heavy-rotation jogging discs.

"WHY do you like it?" my boyfriend's daughter asked, cocking an eyebrow over her Cocoa Pebbles.

"Um ... I like melody?" I shrugged.

Wailing away in my truck a few days later, it occurred to me that I like country because it's basically like chick music.

A woman doesn't have to be a bimbo or boy to share the country-music stage. She can be as dumb-headed as a man, pack a dog and a gun, and still popularize her push-up bra i as Dolly did long before Madonna. When her man leaves her, she doesn't piss and moan about suicide. She gets herself a clue and writes another song.

The guys of country aren't so bad themselves. Sure, they talk stink about women like all musicians, but there's a self-mocking aspect to it that makes me think they might not smell so bad after a two-hour set. A cowpoke isn't any less macho for crying into his beer cuz his woman done gone.

In short, country music is white soul i making it the soundtrack to suit my katonk fantasies, more cowgirl than any other color leather. Against the mundane suburban breeding ground of rock culture, country offers a braver, brighter American myth where the frontier and farm put everyone on more equal footing.

Behind its silliness and sarcastic posing, the old-time music preaches what rock pays lip service to and hip-hop just plain forgot: Who's lovin' matters more in this world than who's getting played.

Reach Keiko Ohnuma at kohnuma@honoluluadvertiser.com.