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January 18, 2014 / Erik Ritland

Dale Watson – Country My Ass; Johnny Cash

People call me wild. Not really though, I’m not. I guess I’ve never been normal, not what you call Establishment. I’m country.
– Johnny Cash


Country badass Dale Watson

Song Review: Dale Watson – Country My Ass (click to listen)
Well that’s country my ass
Who do they think we am?
Force feed us that shit
Ain’t you real tired of it?
Tell ‘em stick it up high
Where the sun don’t shine
Get pissed, get mad
‘Cuz that’s country my ass

I’m working the Jason Aldean concert tonight and earlier I had the, er, pleasure of hearing a bit of the sound check. Without the vocals the band sounded like ‘90s Aerosmith: big, bombastic, updated ‘70s classic rock. I would find out later that if you add two guys rapping over it with a super phony twang you have Florida Georgia Line, one of today’s hottest up-and-coming cuntry sensations.

Sometimes I get bored with complaining about contemporary cuntry music. But when I try to think of its redeeming qualities I stumble. The songwriters are talented, I guess, even though they’re largely manipulating people’s emotions. The producers are good at what they do, I suppose, except with how easy digital equipment is to use that isn’t very impressive either. Some of the hottest women in the world love the stuff, though, so that’s something to be said in its favor.

I love this Dale Watson song because it wonderfully describes why traditional country fans dislike what is called country music today. “Don’t get me wrong, to each his own I believe,” he says, “but they’ve took the soul out of what means a whole lot to me.” Sure, people have the right to like it, but people also have the right to point out that it’s a soulless mockery of what country music used to be.

As Dale says, “I can see Hank and Lefty, they’re spinning around in their graves/and if they were here now, I think y’all know what they’d say.”

I reckon ya’all know?


“American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support. Johnny Cash – Unchained – Winner of the Grammy for Best Country Album.”

*                           *                           *

I’m not what you call establishment
In the early ‘80s Johnny Cash was dropped by Columbia Records because country radio stopped playing his music. After a short stint at Mercury Records failed for the same reason Cash thought he’d never record another album. Fortunately in the ‘90s Rick Rubin took Cash under his wing and recorded several records with him that are considered among his best.

Rubin was used to commercial success. His work with the Tom Petty, Slayer, Metallica, and many others all found radio outlets. He couldn’t understand why country radio refused to play the popular, critically acclaimed music Cash was making.

So after Cash’s Unchained won the Grammy for Best Country Album in 1996 Rubin took $20,000 of his own money to place this full-page ad in Billboard Magazine. It still stands as one of the coolest things anybody has ever done.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.


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