Suburban Dad: Crazy for Feeling so Country

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Marek Fuchs
Marek Fuchs Photo Credit: Contributed

Is Dixie rising in Westchester and Connecticut? Every time I turn the radio on these days, I wonder. After all, on the public airwaves in the suburban ring around New York, we’re accustomed to Top 40 pop, album rock, old standards—and even New Rochelle-based WVOX (1460 AM), which broadcasts pure community radio full of talk shows with local gadflies as hosts.

But country music? 

Stranger things have happened. Or maybe not. Out of Mount Kisco, WFAF (106.3 FM), simulcasting on WDBY 105.5 FM in Danbury, has just gone country. Not that Mt. Kisco and Danbury are a little more rock n’ roll…but country? Really? 

Country is, to be certain, the music of the American land at large. But with its musical laments for a simpler past and narratives of lost girls, as well as remembrances of horses and pick-up trucks past, is it really right for us?

Can you see residents of our gilded little land humming along to lyrics about lonesome souls working as ranch hands or long-haul truckers passing by scraping tumbleweed under prairie moons? 

For God’s sake, we’re talking Westchester and Connecticut here, where the closest we come to a rodeo is Greenwich Ave., Greenwich’s own  sloping version of Rodeo Drive.

Maybe it’s just me, but Brad Paisley seems a curious soundtrack for our bastions of high net worth and SAT scores: “It ain't hip to sing about tractors, trucks and little towns or mama/Yeah that might be true/But this is country music, and we do.”

But maybe I’m wrong as anyone since Hank Williams refused to let his dear Savior in. Perhaps Dixie can rise in the leafy well-to-do suburbs.  After all, in listening to 106.3 nonstop the last couple of weeks, I’ve been taken by the songs about misgiven affection, self-imposed lucklessness and roads carelessly traveled. Maybe my musical tastes have even evolved…or devolved, depending on how you see it.

The point is that I’m undecided. Can Dixie rise on the airwaves here? That might depend on whether the music can speak directly to our local population and its concerns.

Toward that end, I want to run an experiment in the form of a contest. In the space below, I want you to write country lyrics adapted for our local landscape of strivers and nightmare youth athletic coaches. Think Metro North instead of freight trains, but—well, you get the idea. Post the lyrics here and within a week I’ll name a winner, for whom I will bake a relatively authentic (and admittedly mediocre) pecan pie.

Or, I can sing for you. I’d be willing, even though I’m as atonal as they come. But put me under the prairie moon with that Scarsdale dirt beneath my feet and a gui-tar in my hand…

Marek Fuchs is the author of "A Cold-Blooded Business," the true story of a murderer, from Westchester, who almost got away with it. His upcoming book on volunteer firefighting across America, “Local Heroes,” is due out this year. He wrote The New York Times'  "County Lines" column about life in Westchester for six years and teaches non-fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville. Follow him on Twitter: @MarekFuchs.  

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Yes, by and large, country music traffics in tamer themes than, say, rap or hard rock...though the cheap sentiment and nostalgia almost cancels that out. I, for example, can deal without hearing Justin Moore lament that he can't drive his pick-up to heaven to grab his bird-dog Bo for one last hunting trip. That's so cloying it makes my teeth ache. But how about the good side of country lyrics, but written about the suburban land we inhabit here in the North East? Maybe it's a matter of being careful what I wish for, but I'd love to hear some....

Let's face it. NY radio is eons behind other major cities. Go to any other state with a comparable city ( California, Massachusetts) and you will find MUCH better radio. The music here is repetitive and predictable. I can't tell you how many times I have changed stations only the find the exact same song on 2 or more stations at the same time!!! You need to listen to sugarland, Keith urban, carrie underwood, the band perry, Darius Rucker, jerod neiman, zac brown band, Kelly pickler, Miranda lambert, blake shelton...... I could go on. We are talking about music that is NOT about owning women, beating them, Stealing, doing drugs, killing (ok, some of it is about killing, but it's usually in jest or because of domestic abuse). Sometimes the songs are about sex, but not sexually explicit. You will very rarely hear a song that needs half or any of it bleeped out. This is not Conway twitty and Loretta Lynn country. This is alternative country that speaks to millions of Americans daily. Yes, a lot of the songs are either about or reference drinking. Those are usually the funniest ones ('the more I drink, the more I drink',' I love this bar', 'red solo cup' are a few examples). These artists have fun and most of them do not take themselves too seriously (read: not a Kanye West in the bunch.). I was introduced to country music when 107.1 changed their format years and years ago. I switched the Sirius when I could not get a country station where I live. It's relatable and relevant. Try it. I can loan you my iPod.