Today I’d like to issue a public apology.

Dear any and all drivers on Manchester Road between 1:30 and 2:00 this afternoon,

I am sorry assaulting your ears with the bluegrass blaring from my open car windows. I am sorry I turned the volume on my radio up to 18. I am sorry I opened both front windows instead of the usual one. I am sorry I did not take pity on you and close those windows at the stoplight.

2005 picture of USA banjo player Earl Scruggs

2005 picture of USA banjo player Earl Scruggs (source: Wikipedia)

I understand that some people have a great opposition to country music. I understand that for these people, bluegrass is especially offensive since it is the most exceedingly country of all country music. I understand that I may have made some of these people’s ears bleed and eye muscles involuntarily twitch. Please let me explain myself.

Consider this post my “coming out” as a closet bluegrass lover (although my post on Dolly Parton may have been a hint). I love bluegrass and always have–the driving beats, varied instrumentation and tight harmonies. I’ve always been the only one who will gladly sit through one of my grandpa’s old country records in its entirety without cringing or leaving the room. If you’re looking for someone to blame for my transgressive musical quirks, he’s your man. There is no other explanation.

And I’m not talking about the hipster type of bluegrass (cough cough Momford & Sons) that seems to have come out of the woodwork in the last couple of years. The object of my affection is the stuff that has been around since your granddaddy’s heyday. The twangier the instrumentation and the scratchier the recording, the better.

But my love for twang faces one critical obstacle: the time of year. For whatever reason, I listen to certain musical genres and artists according to seasons and even certain settings. For example, I only listen to J. Tillman in the winter, and I only play Ben Fold’s album “Songs for Silverman” when I’m at an airport or driving through Amish country. (Don’t ask my why.) So for me, hardcore bluegrass is only appropriate from May through September. It just doesn’t work any other time of year, so I relish in it while I can.

And with certain aforementioned hipsters trying to encroach on the music I love, it can be difficult to find authentic music these days. I make a point of driving somewhere (anywhere) on summer Sundays between noon and 2 p.m. to catch the Bluegrass Breakdown show on KDHX, St. Louis’ independent radio station. They got the good stuff.

The fact that I did not roll up my windows even as the cars lined up beside me at the stoplight today is perhaps a sign that I went a little overboard. Again, I’m sorry for any ear bleeding.

Sincerely yours,

The driver of the car in the next lane.


In defense of Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton. It’s a pretty common opinion that she’s just too much–her clothes a little too gaudy, her hair a little too big, her voice a little too twangy and her physique a little too busty.

On the outside she may look like a ditzy, narcissistic starlet, but her past and present reveal that she is much more than that.

Hers is the quintessential American rags-to-riches story. One of 12 children, her family lived a small cabin in Tennessee, in a rural region of the Great Smokey Mountains which was and still is impoverished. Many of her family members and relatives were illiterate.

Dolly Parton at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Dolly Parton at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With an estimated $450 million net worth, Parton launched her Imagination Library in 1996. Children enrolled in the foundation receive one book per month from birth until they enter kindergarten to foster early literacy skills and a love of reading in pre-schoolers.

The program began in Parton’s home county and has since spread all over the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

Instead of simply throwing money at issues such as illiteracy, she took the challenges she faced in her own humble beginnings and created a solution to help others in that situation.

And unlike most other celebrities, her positive, down-to-earth attitude is actually worth imitating. She radiates joy wherever she goes and has impressive energy on stage even at the age of 67.

Her music is a breath of fresh air. She doesn’t write about sex, violence or anything super depressing (with the exception of a couple notable tearjerkers).

Her honest journey from her humble beginnings has motivated her to give back to her fans in her own perky, glitzy way.

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