If you're a country music fan you might be advised to avoid reading the Washington Post Style section when its writers tackle country music. It might make you want to put your boot up the critic's posterior.
The latest nuisance is J. Freedom du Lac's analysis of why country music radio is so chock full of songs about small town America. To you and me, the answer might be obvious, but du Lac set out to paint the trend as "divisive" and reactionary. In this excerpt, du Lac sets out to discredit the professional opinion of a D.C.-area country music station programmer:
Says Meg Stevens, the WMZQ program director: "It's a global theme: Wherever you're from, that's your place. You see what's happening with the economy and what's going on in the world, and people are getting in closer to their roots and their community, whether you're from rural Virginia or downtown D.C."
But the Atkins song and others of its ilk -- from Jason Aldean's "Hicktown" and Miranda Lambert's "Famous in a Small Town" to Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried" and Josh Turner's "Way Down South" -- are narrowcasting to a specific community: the core country audience, whose roots aren't exactly in America's urban centers.
The symbolism and prideful sentiments of the songs are intended to create a sense of belonging among people with similar backgrounds and lifestyles, or at least people who romanticize life in the rural South. (It's not a place; it's a state of mind.) To some listeners, though, it might sound as if the artists are closing ranks.