Wednesday, August 24, 2005

My soundtrack

I've been thinking about the music that I grew up with and how much of it has stuck with me and formed my listening tastes today. Growing up in Appalachia, mountain music and bluegrass were always a staple. It wasn't really a choice, it was just all around. It's what your family and friends played, not necessarily what you listened to on the radio. These were mostly self-taught musicians, and they taught the younger generations, informally and by example. On the radio, I listened to a lot of country music, back when it comprised playlists of Johnny Cash, George Jones, Buck Owens, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn; Willie and the other Outlaws; harmonizing groups like the Oak Ridge Boys and the Statler Bros.

Of course, in my teens, I migrated my radio dial to the rock stations, and they generally played everything from the Classic rock tunes to "new" bands like Loverboy and REO Speedwagon (and hey, I guess they're still around!) There's nothing that puts me in mind of big hair and Budweiser more than hearing a song by Def Leppard or Van Halen. Punk, as far as I remember, made absolutely no inroads into the Appy hinterlands. I remember one girl in highschool--younger than me--an art student, of course, who had pink hair and dressed a little punk. Seriously, I don't think she was from around there--she must have hailed from up North.

I guess the last piece of the musical puzzle was my mother's collection of LPs, which was everything from Classical music to country, 60s rock and folk, swing, jazz, and broadway show tunes. While I'm sure I never admitted it to anyone else, my favorite albums as an adolescent and teen were Connie Francis, Jane Morgan and the Troubadours, The Four Seasons, Johnny Mathis, Peter Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez. So it's no wonder I'm still exploring music in just about every genre, plus the ones I missed out on like punk.

I guess my comfort zone in music goes back to the early rootsy influences. As "country" music has morphed into pop schlock, I've turned to the so-called "alt" genres, which to me aren't so much "alt" as genuine country, folk, rock, and honky-tonk--sometimes all together in one artist's album, which is how you can tell that they are real musicians with an interest in--of all things--MUSIC--instead of a bunch of pre-fab, test-marketed, blow-dried musical parasites. Not that I'm bitter about the industry.

Wow, now that I've found that Amazon link to "Fascination," I really want the CD. It's fantastic--I had forgotten about all those great songs. Even when I was a youngster, I felt like I was being transported into some chic, smoky European cafe. Ahhhh...

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