"When they're runnin' down my country [music], man, they're walkin' on the fightin' side of me."
Merle Haggard's most famous lyric could well be adapted to express the reaction country music fans may have upon reading Joe Heim's latest review in the June 30 Washington Post.
Heim's lead paragraph begins with a drive-by attack on the genre as a whole:
Country music has always had something of an image problem, particularly among people who fancy themselves as progressives. Immigrant-trashing, gay-bashing, race-baiting, women-hating songs aren't hard to find in the country catalogue. Heck, sometimes you can find them all on a single album.
Heim set forward this straw man in order to more effusively praise country artist Brad Paisley as a "forward-thinking" artist in the vein of say the Bush-bashing "Dixie Chicks" for his latest album, "American Saturday Night" which "celebrates cultural diversity, lionizes women, stirringly welcomes a black president and, for good measure, whoops it up about drinkin' and fishin.'"
In the past, Washington Post music reviewers have made no secret of their disdain of country music star Toby Keith's patriotic homegrown quasi-conservatism. But now that Keith is shying away, almost apologizing for his political scuffles with the Dixie Chicks and the late Peter Jennings, the Post seems to have a new-found respect for Keith as a musician and artist. Below the fold you'll see what I'm talking about, but let's start with two prime examples of the Post's past personal swipes at Keith.
Take this November 5, 2003, review by Bill Friskics-Warren, which front-loads a begrudgingly positive review with the obligatory "I can't stand this guy's politics, but he's a damn fine musician" lede: