Do you read The New Yorker? Me neither. But since last week’s issue had a story about Eric Church and Luke Bryan, I did think I should find out what the magazine’s longtime music critic Sasha Frere-Jones had to say about what he thinks is going on in Nashville right now.
And before I was even into the guts of the story, let me say how relieved I was to read two entire pages without one single reference to bro-country. That was really, really refreshing.
I also liked that, instead of just commenting on the latest singles from Church and Bryan, Frere-Jones looks back at older songs and deeper cuts. Like Church’s “Talladega.” Maybe one day, the song will be a single on the radio. But right now, it’s just track No. 5 from The Outsiders.
The magazine points out that the lyrical elements of “Talladega” — whiskey, NASCAR and nostalgia — are country, but that the music itself is as much classic rock as it is country. (That would explain why I’m able to love Bob Seger and country music simultaneously, I guess.)
The story also talks about how country is no longer conservative music for conservative states. But the credit for that progress does not go to Church and Bryan. That’s just praise for Garth Brooks and the Dixie Chicks for singing about topics as controversial as gay rights and domestic violence, respectively.
But the best line in the whole story, I think, is when it talks about Church’s 2011 “Homeboy” and how it gave country a broader social gaze. “In Nashville, at its best, observation trumps preachy,” it says. Amen to Church for that.