An Ode To My Favorite Genre Of Music

Yesterday UPROXX briefly set the internet on fire when they posted this, a NCAA style tournament to determine the Most 90’s music:

This isn’t a terrible effort! It definitely captures the music that comes to mind when you think of the 90s, with one key exception:


Or Alan Jackson or Reba McEntire or Dwight Yoakam or Confederate Railroad?

Where is the 90’s COUNTRY?

I grew on country music because, frankly, it’s the stuff my folks listened to and I didn’t have much of a choice. Keith Whitley, George, Patty, Vince, Garth. I remember saving up chore money so I could buy my mom CDs by The Judds on mother’s day. Every summer before my teenage years we’d make our way to Eau Claire, Wisconsin for Country Jam and Cadot, Wisconsin for Country Fest. One year I met Hal Ketchum as I was leaving our hotel; my mom and I lost our collective minds when he spotted us in the crowd later that evening, tipping his hat to us during a song. I remember having dinner with Nicki Nelson of Highway 101 because my mom won a radio call in contest. My sister became something of a sensation in the family because she could identify songs on the radio only a note or two into a song. I can still remember her blurting out, “JOE DIFFIE PROP ME UP BESIDE THE JUKEBOX!” from the backseat of the car.

She was, like, three years old at the time.

When I hit my teenage years I stopped seeking out country music to listen to. Out was Little Texas, in was 2pac and Naughty by Nature and Westside Connection and DMX. Later came punk and Fat Wreck and Nitro, a phase that lasted a solid decade.

But despite not owning any country albums or keeping the radio dialed to country stations for a solid seven years, I still know all the hits because of my folks. I still generally liked it.

But it wasn’t until I hit my 30s when I really was able to appreciate the country music from my youth. Why? Two reasons.

The first was the rise of patriotism in main-stream media. After 9/11, letting everyone know just how much you love Jesus and the good ol’ U.S. of A. and your pickup became normal. Singing about how the Middle East was going to get their collective asses blown back to the stone age was officially a thing.

I blame Toby Keith.

And my commie pinko liberal tree hugging ass hated it. Patriotism…cool, whatever. It’s when you make it your brand I have a problem,  and it seemed like every country artist I grew up loving couldn’t wait to make a song about how much they loved this country and Jesus, i.e. The Dude Who Created It.

So I tuned out.

But there was another reason why I could suddenly appreciate the old Garth Brooks or Vince Gill or Trishia Yearwood or Tanya Tucker songs of my youth:

Bro Country.

From Wikipedia:

Bro-country is a term for a style of mainstream country music originating in the second decade of the 21st century. It is a general term for styles of country music taking influence from 21st-century hip hop, rock, and pop. Many “bro-country” songs are about partying, attractive young women, consumption of alcohol, and pickup trucks.

Look, the country music I grew up on was depressing as hell. You wouldn’t even have a difficult time convincing me that it had a negative effect on my emotional growth. The overwhelming majority of the songs I listened to were about the loss of love. How can you not be completely messed up listening to hundreds of sad songs in your formative years?

What I didn’t hear was rapping about who in the hell knows what and singing about red solo cups. I definitely didn’t get a distinctly rapey vibe in these tunes.

I mean, just look at these two awful motherfuckers.

But this is what the genre seems to be these days. Last summer I went to Country Jam for the first time in 20 years, and stuff like this was all I heard when I arrived. Then a drunk girl puked on my shoes and threw a wedding ring at her equally drunk as hell husband.

Yes, I’m old and out of touch and get off my damn lawn, but you can have all of it.

But enough about frat boys and their date-rape soundtracks, let’s celebrate a time when the music was about something great:

Being completely miserable!

First, your playlist. This may be my greatest contribution to mankind:

*this playlist was 300 songs. then i realized it only took 200 when you embed it. cutting 100 songs was not easy

Now, not all songs here are from the 90s. I included a band I loved quite a bit that didn’t arrive until 2006, The Wreckers. That they only made one album is a tragedy. 

I also included 80s hits from The Judds and Keith Whitley. 

A notable omission is Garth Brooks, because he won’t let his catalog appear on Spotify or Youtube. This is a terrible move. THERE ARE MILLENNIALS WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD “WHAT SHE’S DOING NOW”, GARTH.


Holy Shit Did These Folks Crank Out The Hits

Like, you knew back then that Vince Gill and George Straight and Reba McEntire were monstrously successful. But then you look at their lists of songs and holy hell Reba had 93 singlesShe had 24 that reached #1.

MJ is the GOAT and he only had 11.

But it isn’t even powerhouse artists like Reba that could say they were massively successful. A guy like Clay Walker (really good!) but never someone you’d consider a massive star cranked out enough singles that you could legitimately fill in a greatest hits album and leave a couple off because of time restraints.

It’s totally dumbfounding. You know who Joe Diffie is, but it isn’t until you fire up Spotify that you realize HOLY CRAP I KNOW EVERY WORD OF LIKE A DOZEN OF HIS SONGS AND I NEVER OWNED A SINGLE ALBUM OMGGGG

Toby Keith Wasn’t Always Terrible

I still remember when Toby Keith came out in ’93. I was 12 years old at the time. He was immediately huge with Should’ve Been a Cowboy, and followed it up with about seven years of really good ballads. Dude had an awesome voice and came out with killer sensitive tunes that were, like everything at the time, totally depressing. I LOVED THEM ALL.

To this day when I’m listening to country music he’s the guy I’m likely to sing along with in the car or in my apartment doing laundry or cleaning the dishes. I know my neighbor can hear my belting out Wish I Didn’t Know Now from time to time and I REGRET NOTHING.

Top Five Toby Keith Songs When You’re Terribly Depressed Because Your Love Life Is A Dumpster Fire:

5 – You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This
4 – He Ain’t Worth Missing
3 – Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You
2 – Who’s That Man

1 – Wish I Didn’t Know Now

Then the 2000s happened and he turned to shit.

Music Was Hella Punny

That may be my biggest takeaway, putting together this playlist. It wasn’t something I realized at the time (because I was 12) but oh man if you had a pun you could make it into a country song.

Patty Loveless: Timber I’m Falling in Love:

Travis Tritt – Here’s a Quarter (call someone who cares):

Joe Diffie – Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox If I Die

Joe Diffie made one or two of the decade’s most incredible songs, but he also made the punniest songs in music history.

Best Music Video To Feature Luke Perry As a Bull Rider

Underrated Artist That Still Holds Up Surprisingly Well

Mark Chestnut. Of everyone on this list, he’s the guy I’m least likely to hit skip on when he plays. Every damn thing he released is solid and still worth listening to today.

Top 5 Mark Chestnut Songs I’m Probably Going To Listen to Tonight:

5 – Goin’ Through the Big D
4 – Too Cold At Home
3 – I’ll Think of Something
2 – Ol’ Country

1 – Almost Goodbye

Song Tragically Ruined By An Ex-girlfriend

Clint Black – Like the Rain


Artist Worth Being Super Happy For

Ty Herndon, who came out last year. Good for you, dude!

The Criminally Underrated

Hal Ketchum, no question.

You would think a guy who had 5 albums and 16 singles in the 90s could qualify, but this is someone with a legendary voice. I’d put it up against anyone other than the next person on this list. He was amazing.

The Voice You Would Kill Numerous People To Have

It’s Vince. Of course it is.

He didn’t have the volume of George Straight or the peak that Garth Brooks had (though still pretty dope with 14 albums, 49 singles) but absolutely no one will ever match his voice.

He’s the guy that I’m singing in the shower but only because the sound of the water masks how obviously inferior my sound is to his.

The Other Voice

…belongs to Alison Krauss.

Look, she’s almost got a voice that would make this heathen believe in angels. It’s perfection.

Speaking of that song, the original is responsible for the most depressing country music of all-time…

The Truly Sad

It’s Keith Whitley.

On the morning of May 9, 1989, after a weekend of drinking and partying, Whitley awoke and spoke with his mother briefly on the phone. He was then visited by his brother-in-law Lane Palmer, and the two had coffee and they were planning a day of golf and having lunch, after which Whitley had planned to start writing songs for Lorrie Morgan and himself to record when she returned from her concert tour. Palmer departed at approximately 8:30 a.m., informing Whitley to be ready to leave within an hour. Upon returning, Palmer found Whitley face down on his bed, fully clothed.

The official cause of death was determined to be acute ethanolism (alcohol poisoning),and Davidson CountyMedical Examiner Charles Harlan stated that his blood alcohol level was .47 (the equivalent of 20 1-ounce shots of 100-proof whiskey[10] and almost five times the then Tennessee level of .10 legal intoxication limit, and nearly six times the current .08 legal limit to drive). Whitley was 34 years of age.


The Top 10 Favorite Country Songs That Are All Super Depressing (Non-Garth Division)

I know you’re super interested in finding out the songs that ruined me for a good decade. Here they are!

10 – Sawyer Brown – All These Years

9 – Keith Whitley – Don’t Close Your Eyes

8 – Dixie Chicks – You Were Mine

7 – Faith Hill – Let Me Let Go

6 – McBride & The Ride – Sacred Ground

5 – Travis Tritt – Tell Me I Was Dreaming

4 – Vince Gill – Pocket Full of Gold

3 – Joe Diffie – Ships That Don’t Come In

2 – George Straight – I Can Still Make Cheyenne

1 – Little Texas – What Might Have Been

My Favorite Chapter (probably)

Today on Gawker they have their 50 Best opening lines in literature. 

I don’t know if this is my favorite but it’s the first one that came to mind:

and it’s a story that might bore you but you don’t have to listen, she told me, because she always knew it was going to be like that, and it was, she thinks, her first year, or, actually weekend, really a Friday, in September, at Cam-den, and this was three or four years ago, and she got so drunk that she ended up in bed, lost her virginity (late, she was eighteen) in Lorna Slavin’s room, because she was a Freshman and had a roommate and Lorna was, she remembers, a Senior or a Junior and usually sometimes at her boyfriend’s place off-campus, to who she thought was a Sophomore Ceramics major but who was actually either some guy from N.Y.U., a film student, and up in New Hampshire just for The Dressed To Get Screwed party, or a townie.

It’s from “The Rules of Attraction” by Bret Easton Ellis. It’s one of my favorite books and I’ve read it a half dozen times. I read it, give it away, realize I want to read it again and give it away again. That’s the cycle that’s occurred a half dozen times since college.

Anyway, it’s good.

Here’s my favorite chapter, it contains no spoilers. It’s told from the perspective of Sean Bateman, younger brother of the infamous Patrick Bateman. He’s one of three main characters (all in college) in the story and the three of them switch perspective on a chapter to chapter basis. This is Bateman telling us about a girl:

Sitting in class, staring at the desk, someone’s carved ‘Whatever Happened To Hippie Love?’ I guess the first girl I kind of liked at Camden was this hippie I met my Freshman year. She was really stupid but so gorgeous and so insatiable in bed that I couldn’t help myself. I had met her once, before I fucked her, at a party off-campus my first term. The hippie had offered me some pot and I was drunk so I smoked it. I was so drunk in fact and the pot was so bad that I threw up in the backyard and passed out in some girl’s car who had brought me. I was embarrassed but not really, even though the girl who drove was pissed off since I lost it again all over the backseat of her Alfa Romeo on the way back to campus, and was jealous since she could tell that the hippie and I had been making eyes at each other all night, and had seen the hippie even kiss me before I left to throw up in back.

I really got to meet her the following term when another person I knew when I first came to Camden (and who had been a hippie but quit) introduced us at a party at my urging. I cringed, mortified, when to my shock I realized I had been in the hippie’s Intro to Poetry Workshop my first term and this girl on the first day of class, so high her head looked like it was on springs, like some doped-up jack-in-the-box, raised her hand and said slowly, ‘This class is a total mindfuck.’ I dropped the class, disconcerted, but still wanting to fuck the hippie.

This was the Eighties, I kept thinking. How could there be any hippies left? I knew no hippies when I was growing up in New York. But here was a hippie, from a small town in Pennsylvania, no less. A hippie who was not too tall, who had long blond hair, features sharp, not soft like one would expect a hippie’s features to resemble, yet distant, too. And the skin smooth as brown marble and as clean. She always seemed clean; in fact she seemed abnormally healthy. A hippie who would say things like, ‘None of your beeswax,’ or commenting on food, ‘This is really mellow chili.’ A hippie who would bring her own chopsticks to every meal. A hippie who had a cat named Tahini.

JIMI LIVES was painted in big purple letters on her door. She was constantly stoned. Her favorite question was ‘Are you high?’ She wore tie-dyed shirts. She had beautiful smallish firm tits. She wore bell-bottoms and tried to learn how to play the sitar but she was always too stoned. She tried to dress me up one night: bell-bottoms, tie-dyed shirt, headband. Didn’t work. It was extremely embarrassing. She said ‘beautiful’ constantly. She didn’t have any goals. I read the poetry she’d write and lied that I liked it. She had a BMW 2002. She carried a bong in a tie-dyed satchel that she had made herself.

Like all rich hippies (for this hippie was extremely wealthy; her father owned VISA or something) she spent a lot of time following The Dead around. She’d simply split school for a week with other rich hippies and they’d follow them around New England, stoned out of their minds, reserving rooms and suites at Holiday Inns and Howard Johnsons and Ramada Inns, making sure to always have enough Blue Dragon or MDA or MDMA or Ecstasy. She’d come back from these excursions ecstatic, claiming that she was indeed one of Jerry’s long lost children; that her mother had made some sort of mistake before she married the VISA guy, that she truly was one of ‘Jerry’s kids.’ I guess she was one of Jerry’s kids, though I wasn’t sure which kind.

There were problems.

The hippie kept telling me I was too stiff, too uptight. And because of this the hippie and I broke up before the end of term. (I don’t know if that’s the real reason, but looking back it seems weird that we even bothered since the sex was so good.) It came to an end one night when I told her, ‘I think this is not working.’ She was stoned. I left her at the party after we made out in her room upstairs at Dewey House. I went home with her best friend She never knew or realized it.

The hippie was always tripping, which bothered me too. The hippie was always trying to get me to trip with her. I remembered the one time I did trip with her I saw the devil: it was my mother. I was also sort of amazed that she even liked me in the first place. I would ask her if she’d ever read much Hemingway. (I don’t know why I asked her about him since I never had read that much.) She would tell me about Allen Ginsberg and Gertrude Stein and Joan Baez. I asked

her if she had read Howl (which I had only heard about through some crazy class called Poetry and the Fifties, which I failed) and she said, ‘No. Sounds harsh.’

The last time I saw the hippie I was reading an article on the postmodern condition (this was when I was a Lit major, before I became a Ceramics major, before I became a Social Science major) for some class I failed in some stupid magazine called The New Left, and she was sitting on the floor of the smoking section, stoned, looking at the pictures in the novelization of the movie Hair with some other girl. She looked up at me and giggled then slowly waved. ‘Beautiful,’ she said, turning a page, smiling.

Yeah. Beautiful,’ I said.

‘I can dig it,’ the hippie told me after I read some of her haiku and told her I didn’t get it. The hippie told me to read The Tale of Genji (all of her friends had read it) but You have to read it stoned,’ she warned. The hippie also had been to Europe. France was ‘cool’ and India was ‘groovy’ but Italy wasn’t cool. I didn’t ask why Italy wasn’t, but I was intrigued why India was ‘groovy.’

‘The people are beautiful,’ she said. ‘Physically?’ I asked.
‘Spiritually?’ I asked.


‘How spiritually?’

‘They were groovy.’

I started liking the word ‘groovy’ and the word ‘wow.’ Wow. Spoken low, with no exclamation, eyes half-closed, fucking, how the hippie said it.

The hippie cried when Reagan won (the only other time I’d seen her cry was when the school dropped the yoga classes and replaced them with aerobics), even though I had explained patiently, carefully, what the outcome of the election was going to be, weeks in advance. We were on my bed and we were listening to a Bob Dylan record I had bought in town a week earlier, and she just said, sadly, ‘Fuck me,’ and I fucked the hippie.

One day I asked the hippie why she liked me since I was so different from her. She was eating pita bread and bean sprouts and writing on a napkin with a purple pen, a request for the comment board in the dining hall: More Tofu Please. She said, ‘Because you’re beautiful.’

I got fed up with the hippie and pointed to a fat girl across the room who had written something nasty about me on the laundry room wall; who had come up to me at a Friday night party and said, ‘You’d be gorgeous if you were five inches taller .’

‘Is she beautiful?’ I asked.

She looked up, bean sprout stuck on lower lip, squinted and said, Yeah.’

‘That bitch over there?’ I asked, pointing, appalled. ‘Oh her. I thought you meant that sister over there,’ she said.

I looked around. ‘Sister? What sister? No, her,’ exasperated, I pointed at the girl; mean-looking, fat, black sunglasses, a bitch.

‘Her?’ the hippie asked.

‘Yeah. Her.’

‘She’s beautiful too,’ she said, drawing a daisy next to the message on the napkin.

‘What about him?’ I pointed to a guy who it was rumored had actually caused his girlfriend to kill herself and everyone knew. There was no way in hell the hippie could think that he, this fucking monster, was beautiful.

‘Him? He’s beautiful.’

‘Him? Beautiful? He killed his fucking girlfriend. Ran her over,’ I said.

‘No way,’ the hippie grinned.

Yes! It’s true. Ran her straight over with a car,’ I said, excited.

She just shook her lovely, empty head. ‘Oh man.’ ‘Can’t you make distinctions?’ I asked her. ‘I mean, our sex is great, but how can everything, everyone be beautiful? Don’t you understand that that means no one is beautiful?’

‘Listen, man,’ the hippie said. ‘What are you getting at?’
She looked at me, not grinning. The hippie could be sharp. What was I getting at? I didn’t know. All I know was that the sex was terrific.

And that the hippie was cute. She loved sweet pickles. She liked the name Willie. She even liked Apocalypse Now. She was not a vegetarian. These were all on the plus side. But, once I introduced her to my friends, at the time, and they were all stuck-up asshole Lit majors and they made fun of her and she understood what was going on and her eyes, usually blue, too blue, vacant, were sad. And I protected her. I took her away from them. (‘Spell Pynchon,’ they asked her, cracking up.) And she introduced me to her friends. And we ended up sitting on some Japanese pillows in her room and we all smoked some pot and this little hippie girl with a wreath on her head, looked at me as I held her and said, ‘The world blows my mind.’ And you know what?

I fucked her anyway.

Thing that is undisputedly better than sex.

It’s 10:50 am. I just got home after spending the night with family at my folks’ place. We were supposed to have the traditional Christmas eve dinner and gift opening and drinking and cards and such. Mostly it didn’t happen. My brother has the flu and didn’t travel, meaning the little baby wasn’t gonna be in attendance. That’s a blow too big to recover from so we’re delaying Christmas a week and trying again next Wednesday night.

No big deal.

But anyway, there was still a little traveling involved and spending the night on a coach and not my bed and since I was only gonna be gone about 20 hours I didn’t even pack a bag or change of clothes.

I got back to my apartment just now and like any normal person would do I put on my sweats and most comfortable tee and hopped on the couch and for some reason I was immediately reminded of a passage from the Chuck Palahniuk novel, Choke: 

The problem with sex is the same as with any addiction. You’re always recovering. You’re always backsliding. Acting out. Until you find something to fight for, you settle for something to fight against. All these people who say they want a life free from sexual compulsion, I mean forget it. I mean, what could ever be better than sex?

For sure, even the worst blow job is better than, say, sniffing the best rose . . . watching the greatest sunset. Hearing children laugh.

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a hot-gushing, butt-cramping, gut-hosing orgasm.

Painting a picture, composing an opera, that’s just something you do until you find the next willing piece of ass.

The minute something better than sex comes along, you call me. Have me paged.

This. This is better than sex. Or an amazing meal. Or seeing the ocean for the first time after a long drive. Or anything, really.

Getting home after holiday traveling, almost regardless of distance or time away, putting on comfortable clothes and gearing up for a day of not dealing with anything holiday related is literally the best.