Of Cow-Turds and Truffles: The Music of the Simple-Minded Country Bumpkin
Several years ago I sat, the lonely customer in a pottery-painting shop in a tiny college town, listening to the shopkeeper hum blissfully along with the country radio as I mentally condemned her inane musical preferences with my every brushstroke.
Another simple-minded, ignorant country-bumpkin, I presumed. People who love country music have no grasp on the world, on matters of substance, on human depth...my mind rattled on.
Though I had grown up in Music City, USA (the former home of a beloved country-music-themed amusement park and the birthplace of the Opry), by the time I had become a college student, the music of my homeland had become somehow beneath me. Indie-rock was the music of genius and my music of choice.
After graduation my musical superiority complex and I had big plans to head to Atlanta and write for a major regional magazine of some sort. Nashville had other plans.
As a week back home stretched into weeks and weeks into months, Music City re-infiltrated my soul with the song of honky-tonks and slide guitars. Much to my astonishment, I soon found myself tuning my radio to The House Foundation and tuning out my inner naysayer.
This music couldn't be the security blanket of the ignorant, the unaware, the emotionally absent. Singing loudly and proudly along with its simple-hearted honesty, I was as emotionally present as I had ever been. I was a country convert, and I was happier than ever.
Clearly I had some reevaluating to do.
Driving over luscious rolling hills one day, windows down and spirits high as I blared my twangy tunes, I pondered how to reconcile my former disdain with my new-found love, and it occurred to me:
Country music at its essence, its best, is raw and elemental--like the finest foods.
Young, ambitious chefs, eager to impress with originality, often overdo things in the kitchen. Their recipes contain a myriad ingredients in the name of complexity.
But a truly great chef, though adept with complexity and originality, will show restraint. Seeking out the best ingredients and setting them free to shine rather than masking their inherent beauty takes courage, knowledge, and self-control.
Country writers and performers worth their belt buckles grasp this concept better than anyone.
A great country song is like a wild truffle: fine, exquisite, complex, full of flavor...and yeah, it looks more or less like a cow turd to those who don't know what they're staring at.
Or take lobster: sweet, delicate perfection right out of the boiling water. Drizzle it with lemon or dunk it in drawn butter if you like, but cover it in a ridiculous, heavy sauce, and you rob it of its integrity.
In life, just like in a good country song, the profound is sometimes hidden in plain sight.
I had mistakenly assumed that simple songs were for the simple-minded. But simplicity is an asset of country music, not a shortcoming. I thought country fans were incapable of connecting with their true feelings, but the truth is country fans aren't afraid to dig the truffles from the dirt and let their feelings show, raw and elemental, without the mask of heavy sauces.
Perfectly Ripened Tomatoes
I'm always amazed when I find myself around the dinner table with someone who doesn't care for tomatoes. I understand distastes for seafood, red meat, even chocolate, but if you don't like tomatoes, you have simply been unlucky. A fresh, perfectly ripened tomato is an explosion of life and vibrancy in the mouth. It's an intense burst of happiness and vitality, unmatched by anything I've tried. Most tomatoes benefit greatly from a sprinkling of salt, but a perfectly ripened tomato needs nothing.
"Live Until I Die" from Clay Walker's 1993 self-titled debut album was the first country song I fell in love with as a kid and the first new addition to my iPod when this prodigal daughter returned to her country roots. This juicy classic and few more tasty tomatoes are highlighted below.
- Live Until I Die Written by Clay Walker. Recorded by Clay Walker. From the album Clay Walker (1993, Giant Records).
- It's a Great Day to be Alive Written by Darrell Scott. Recorded by Travis Tritt. From the album Down the Road I Go (2001, Sony).
- Chicken Fried Written by Zac Brown and Wyatt Durette. Recorded by Zac Brown Band. From the album The Foundation (2008, Atlantic).
- Something LIke That Written by Rick Ferrell and Keith Follese. Recorded by Tim McGraw. From the album A Place in the Sun (1999, Curb Records).
"It's a Great Day to be Alive" (YouTube post by AmericanZeus)
Mysterious, evasive, rough around the edges...an unshucked oyster is like the man that can't be pinned down. But crack that shell, and discover an intimate vulnerability. It's briny and a little frightening every time you try it, but darn it if it isn't sexy.
- Threadbare Gypsy Soul Written by Pat Green. Recorded by Pat Green and Willie Nelson. From the album Three Days (2001, Universal/Republic).
- I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes Written by Brett Beavers and Dierks Bentley. Recorded by Dierks Bentley. From the album Feel That Fire (2009, Capitol).
Watch "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes" Music Video
Deep, bittersweet, and richly emotional, dark chocolate melts in your mouth and melts your heart with its supple, velvety texture and gripping, cravable intensity.
- Whiskey Lullaby Written by Bill Anderson and Jon Randall. Recorded by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. From the album Mud on the Tires (2003, Arista Nashville).
- Dig Two Graves Written by Ashley Gorley and Bob Regan. Recorded by Randy Travis. From the album Around the Bend (2008, Warner Brothers).
- Highway 20 Ride Written by Zac Brown and Wyatt Durette. Recorded by Zac Brown Band. From the album The Foundation (2008, Atlantic).
Watch "Whiskey Lullaby" Music Video
"Highway 20 Ride" (YouTube post by zacbrownband)
Fresh Sea Scallops
There's a lot you can do with a scallop in the name of haute cuisine: citrus-herb sauces, hoisin for a little Asian flair. But a perfect scallop, fresh from the sea, is sweet, delicate, and somehow whimsical, as though it was carried to shore on a mermaid's back just to make your day. Why tamper with that?
- Carried Away Written by Steve Bogard and Jeff Stevens. Recorded by George Strait. From the album Blue Clear Sky (1996, MCA).
- Can't Take My Eyes Off You Written by Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley, and Hillary Scott. Recorded by Lady Antebellum. From the album Lady Antebellum (2008, Capitol Nashville).
"Can't Take my Eyes Off You" (YouTube post by kufandnv)
A Well-Marbled Rib Eye
The ribbons of delicious fat circulating enticingly throughout a juicy, prime-grade rib-eye steak might not appeal to you if you are a dieter or a vegetarian. You might not relate to terms like "meaty." But adjectives like solid, hearty, classic, and substantive suggest this most inherently flavorful cut of beef cannot be ignored. Salt it, pepper it, stick it in a screaming hot cast-iron skillet with a little pat of butter, and DON'T overcook.
Rethinking your diet yet?
- Down the Road Written by Mac McAnally. Recorded by Mac McAnally on the album Simple Life (1990, Warner Bros.). Recorded by Kenny Chesney and Mac McAnally on the album Lucky Old Sun (2008, Blue Chair).
- Where Corn Don't Grow Written by Roger Murrah and Mark Allan Springer. Recorded by Waylon Jennings on the album The Eagle (1990, Epic). Recorded by Travis Tritt on the album The Restless Kind (1996, Warner Bros.).
"Down the Road" by Mac McAnally, original music video
- Down The Road - Mac McAnally | Music Video | VEVO
Watch the music video for Down The Road by Mac McAnally and more new Country videos on VEVO.
Bright, Fragrant Strawberries
Glossy, red, heart-shaped, and cute-as-can-be, is there a more romantic fruit than the strawberry? Perfect strawberries smell and taste as happy, sweet, and flavorful as being married to your very best friend.
- Forever and Ever, Amen Written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz. Recorded by Randy Travis. From the album Always and Forever (1987, Warner Bros.).
- John Deere Green Written by Dennis Linde. Recorded by Joe Diffie. From the album Honky Tonk Attitude (1993, Epic).
Watch "Forever and Ever, Amen" Music Video
Perfectly Ripened Brie
It may sound a little strange to compare a country song to a soft, French, rind-ripened cheese, but consider what Sarah Labensky and Alan Hause have to say about Brie in their book On Cooking (Prentice Hall): "At the peak of ripeness, it is creamy and rich, with a texture that oozes."
Ooey, Gooey, but somehow classy and refined, Brie is sensual, irresistible, pungent, powerful, and assertive like a fine country woman baring her soul through song.
- I Will Always Love You Written by Dolly Parton. Recorded by Dolly Parton. From the album Jolene (1974, RCA).
- Crazy Written by Willie Nelson. Recorded by Patsy Cline. From the album Patsy Cline Showcase (1961, Decca; rereleased by MCA as Patsy Cline Showcase with the Jordanaires).
"I Will Always Love You" (YouTube post by applejack88)
Beef Tenderloin, or Filet
The most naturally tender cut you can find. Salt it. Pepper it. Serve it to me rare.
Need I say more?
- It Just Comes Natural Written by Marv Green and Jim Collins. Recorded by George Strait. From the album It Just Comes Natural (2006, MCA Nashville).
- Keeper of the Stars Written by Dickey Lee, Danny Mayo, and Karen Staley. Recorded by Tracy Byrd. From the album No Ordinary Man (1995, MCA).
Watch "Keeper of the Stars" Music Video
The Boot-Stompin' Beat Goes On....
I've come a long way since that day in the pottery-painting shop. I'd love to go back in time and tell that shopkeeper to crank up the country--you can bet that now I'd be singing right along with her.
If this sampling of songs has whetted your appetite for more tasty treats from the country-music menu, don't be afraid to eat up. A veritable farmer's market awaits you!
Filled with the Spirit of Nashville?
- Anderson Design Group Studio Store
Like the artwork on this page? Check out the Anderson Design Group Studio Store to see these and a many more amazing prints and gifts that are sure to fill you with the Spirit of Nashville.
- Grand Ole Opry
Check out the Grand Ole Opry website for info on the Mothership of Country Music.
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame to learn more about the rich history of country music.
See who won the Spirit of Nashville Contest and the prints that inspired them.
Week 1 Winner: Tara
I have loved the vintage Nashville prints for so long but haven't been able to commit to any for sheer indecisiveness! I had wanted one or two for my New York apartment, but Nashville pulled me back home before I could pay it homage in NYC. I've had my heart on the Bluebird Cafe for the longest time, though. No matter where I've lived people have a) been fascinated with my hometown and considered me lucky to have grown up there b) never even visited Nashville and c) have heard of the Bluebird.
Week 2 Winner: TSJohnston
I like the 'Legacy Bridges of Nashville' print. It reminds me of summer and goofing around with friends and taking pictures. It reminds me of Riverstages and Dancin' In The District.
Week 3 Winner:AshleyHaggard
These prints were hanging in the Green Hills Mall for a long time along an empty wall that surrounded an abandoned store...and every day on my way into work I would slowly walk by them and allow my mind to reminisce about some of the venues and the memories they held. I loved that each print featured something or somewhere that makes Nashville so unique. Loveless Cafe, Ryman, Centennial Park, Bluebird Cafe- and of course, The Donut Den! I've always wanted to own one of these prints but I couldn't ever pick a favorite! I was so sad when they finally took them down. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Anderson Design with a friend- not knowing they were the ones behind these prints! There's a little store inside their office and I had so much fun going through all of the different items- and then gushed to the owner how much I loved his prints. He pointed out that there is one that features a bunch of them! I looked it up on the site and it's called The Collectors Print...it has all of my favorite things about Nashville on it- including The Donut Den! There's just too many memories to choose from when it comes to your home town...which is why this is perfect! I don't have to choose! And I have to agree- there's nothing better than going to the Farmers Market and finding a huge ripe tomato and taking a huge bite out of it!
**Contest ran for the month of March, 2010; prizes provided by Anderson Design Group.
More on Nashville by Questiongirl
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Nashville native reflects on the dining establishments she misses most from her new home in South Florida.
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