Music » Music Feature

My Generation

You can take the country out of the boy, but not his parents.

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A North Carolina kid who loved music, I grew up drawn to modern country. It fascinated me how a singer with an accent like my own (or that of Mom and Dad) could get things so pure and simple, dissecting a broken heart with the kind of precision that has everyone within earshot memorizing the words. I imagine it's the way my mom felt about the Beatles as a 10-year-old in '64, when her parents were the only family on her block with a color television. She was a celebrity in Mullins, South Carolina, the night the Fab Four appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and inked a culturally indelible image.

Appropriately, when I was 13, the Beatles were the band that pulled me away from my generation's country by proving that it was nothing more than a mindless recasting of melodies they had made better three decades earlier. I realized that, if I were lucky, a country song would rarely be more than the Beatles in my vernacular, maybe with a little slide guitar or muted mandolin for authenticity's sake. My parents encouraged me, buying Beatles anthologies and biographies for birthdays, but for themselves -- having already gone through their own rock or rhythm-and-blues phases (also known as college) -- stuck closer to the dull glow of modern Nashville.

In fact, they think my rockist aversion to such is a high-minded hoot. I could hear Mom smiling through the phone as she said that I needed to take Dad to see Kenny Chesney for Father's Day, or when she dropped this non sequitur: "Dad says you need to go get the new Dixie Chicks. You won't like the music -- but you don't like Bush, either."

No, it doesn't matter that she was exactly right.

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