Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Country Music

I may as well begin with a disclaimer. I have never followed country music, so what follows is one country-music ignoramus’ impressions of one visit to Nashville.

The General Jackson showboat revue presented country stars’ hits through history (since 1925). Six young singers told us a few stories and imitated a few famous singers. Most song choices were love songs. Although the female singers were quite shimmery with sequins, the show itself was refreshingly unglitzy and unshowoffey.  The technology was simple. When a guy came out to sing a Roy Acuff hit, a black-and-white photo of Roy Acuff was projected on the curtain behind the stage. No one swung from the rafters onto the stage in a flaming chariot; they walked on like normal people. Strobe lights and amps were neither blinding nor deafening; we saw no attempt to outdo any extreme special effect common in rock concerts. We enjoyed the evening’s retrospective entertainment.

We enjoyed the Grand Ole Opry variety show for its simplicity as well. Divided into four half-hour segments, each with a different sponsor, each segment featured two or three country stars who each sang two songs. No offense to any of the fine talents on stage, but the only one with name recognition for us was the Charlie Daniels Band, famous for furious fiddling (and belt buckle the size of a pie plate). Again, no high-tech or uber-glamor. A deep-voiced announcer read the commercials: “It’s spring! And you’re going to want to stock up on fishing lures at Bass Pro Shop.” And “It’s spring! And what better place to buy all your supplies for spring cleaning than the Dollar Store?” Performers dressed casually and comfortably and interacted easily with the audience. Another fun evening. 

A bonus of both shows was frequent, freely flowing, natural references to God. If God blesses us half as much as performers in these two shows asked Him to, we’ll be angelically glowing in the dark by the end of this week.

In stark contrast to the General Jackson’s and Grand Ole Opry’s wholesomeness was the honky-tonk district of downtown Nashville. Close to the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry’s home from 1943 to 1974, this district is seedy and a tacky testimonial to time-honored traditions. Country music expresses the human condition in heart-tugging lyrics. Downtown Nashville sells guitar picks, beer, more beer, cowboy boots, more cowboy boots, and souvenir packages of dried cow patties. The honky-tonk district seems to miss the heart and soul of the country music genre. 

As omnipresent as Elvis was in downtown Nashville (two statues in this photo alone), he was curiously absent from both music shows we saw, and I missed him.

Robert took a great shot of a bronze statue of country-music greats Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl inside the Ryman Auditorium, an old church dubbed "the mother church of country music."

1 comment:

tandemingtroll said...

Your vacation sounds wonderful so far. I hope the weather holds up and you get to see some more great sights. We went to the science center in Nashville on our way to the Smoky Mountains one year. It was pretty noisy, but a good place to spend half a day with kids.