One of the most clichéd responses to the question, “What type of music do you like?” is “Anything but country.” Before I saw the light, I too was in this camp because the only type of country music I was exposed to as a teenager in suburban Florida was god-awful “bro country,” a predictable mad-lib of hunting, drinking, and pickup trucks. Much to my delight, this is not all country has to offer. Halftime presents, The Weekly List: Country Songs for Country Haters.
“Slow Movin’ Outlaw” by Waylon Jennings
Perhaps no singer better embodies the subgenre of outlaw country better than Waylon Jennings. This tearful tune depicts the struggles of being an outlaw in a changing world hostile to the runaway lifestyle.
“Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
On this track, Jennings teams up with country legend Willie Nelson to advise against the loneliness and distance of the cowboy life. However, this track makes you question whether there’s more to life than being “doctors and lawyers and such,” as the iconic duo suggests.
“Whiskey River” by Willie Nelson
This track is the quintessential “drink away your sorrows” song. Nelson’s crooning voice and simple, yet powerful lyrics convey the true depths of pain.
“Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard
This song encapsulates the lonesome, rebellious, outlaw spirit that made Merle Haggard so great. This tale of resisting authority because of one’s nature makes you want to drop everything and live a desperado life on the rails.
“Folsom Prison Blues (Live)” by Johnny Cash
No country playlist could be complete without the immortal Johnny Cash, whose performance before the inmates at Folsom Prison remains one of the most incredible live albums of all time. Hearing their uproars at Cash’s vile lyrics makes the performance seems like it’s a concert in hell.
“Jolene” by Dolly Parton
This gut-wrenching song about loving someone who loves someone else demonstrates why Dolly Parton is an immortal country legend and is entirely deserving of Dollywood, the amusement park dedicated to her.
“This Town” by Kacey Musgraves
Not all new country music is hot garbage. This song about the struggles of small town life shows why the 27-year-old Musgraves is here to stay atop the country charts.
“Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” by John Prine
This protest song against the jingoism surrounding the Vietnam War, a stark departure from the political leanings of contemporary country singers, demonstrates Prine’s capacity for crafting witty, genius country-folk songs.
“Fare thee Well, Miss Carousel “ by Townes Van Zandt
This beautiful, devastating ballad about having a relationship subjected to the demands of the country singer’s lifestyle shows why Van Zandt is considered by many to be one of the best songwriters of all time, regardless of genre.
“Timebomb” by the Old 97’s
This exhilarating alt-country song breaks new barriers of cross-genre music, yet in a way that is distinctive to the country music tradition.
That’s it for this installment of the Weekly List. Halftime hopes you enjoyed these selections, and that you won’t head for the hills whenever you hear a drawl and a pedal steel guitar.