For my first real post on the blog, I wanted to go back to where it all began- the 1990s! I was born in 1990 so 90s country was the soundtrack to the first decade of my life. And growing up in Orange, Virginia, it was the soundtrack to most people around me and their lives too. It wasn’t until I got older and moved away that I realized not everyone had friends in low places, did the Watermelon Crawl, and thought John Deere Green was an acceptable paint color for declaring one’s love on a water tower.
For me, the best part about 90s country were the strong female voices that reigned supreme in this decade. I’m talking Shania, Faith, Reba, Deana, Martina, Trisha, the Dixie Chicks, and many others that I won’t mention for the sake of space. When these women sang, you shut up and paid attention to what they had to say. Shania let us know that any man of ours better walk the line, the Dixie Chicks encouraged us to find wide open spaces, and Reba taught us that there’s life out there beyond our family and our home. As a precocious and head-strong little girl, I looked up to these women and their songs of female empowerment. One of my main gripes with contemporary country is the lack of female voices and it’s one of the topics I hope to explore further with this blog. I owe partial credit (the other part to my mom) to these women for making me the woman I am today. These women taught me about love and never settling for less than you deserve. Deana Carter painted a picture of how sweet first love should be with “Strawberry Wine” and Faith Hill’s line, “I’d trade a million pretty words for one touch that is real” taught me about what’s important in a relationship (from her song, “Take Me As I Am.”) And in case I ever found myself with a man who wasn’t treating me right, Lorrie Morgan gave me the courage to say, “If you think I won’t go, watch me!” The songs that these women sang were anthems for an eight-year-old girl going on eighteen.
To this day, many of these songs still bring to mind a specific memory. Whenever I hear Shania Twain’s “Don’t Be Stupid” I think back to my cousin and I singing this song in our church’s variety show (they were always sure to point out that it wasn’t a talent show because nobody had any talent. Also, why did our parents think this was an acceptable song to sing at church? One of the lines is “when I talk to other guys you think they’re on my tail”? But, I digress.) Another Shania-inspired memory also comes to mind when I think back on my childhood. I can remember asking my dad what PMS was after hearing the line, “this could be worse than PMS” from Shania’s song “Honey, I’m Home.” I think his response was something like, “it’s something that women get” and he probably told me to ask my mom. Gee, thanks! I also remember getting Faith Hill’s album Take Me as I Am on cassette tape in my advent calendar one Christmas and how excited I was to pop this into the stereo and press play. When I hear these songs today, I’m transported back to my childhood- a young girl singing songs with lyrics meant for grown women, not realizing the lessons they were teaching me at the time and how important these messages would be in my own development.
Nineties country also music taught me that sometimes life sucks but that’s no excuse to not get out there and have some fun from time to time. Even when dealing with a broken heart, David Lee Murphy went looking for a “Party Crowd.” Although, on the other hand, Bubba grabbed a .45 and shot the jukebox just from hearing a sad song that made him cry, which brings me to my next point- 90s country had a sense of humor. Just look at Sammy Kershaw’s “Vidalia”- a song about a girl who shares her name with an onion, which seems to be quite fitting as she’s always making Sammy cry. Nineties country taught me humility and that it’s okay (if not absolutely necessary) to laugh at yourself every once in a while.
The holidays also have a special place in my memory because of country music. Each Christmas, the album I most look forward to hearing is Alan Jackson’s Honky Tonk Christmas, which was released in 1993. I don’t think there’s been a single December since I was a child when this album wasn’t played. As soon as the holiday season began, my mom would pop this tape into her car and Alan Jackson would sing us through to the New Year. The songs on this album bring out the emotions that we’ve all felt around the holidays at some point in our lives- cheer, loneliness, and financial hardship. My cousin and I always requested that my mom play “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)”, the last song on this album, finding the title and content to be hilarious. Little did we know that for my mom this song served as a painful reminder of the Christmases that she grew up with as a child surrounded by people with alcohol addiction. As an adult, I understand why she did not find the song as funny as my cousin and I did. But don’t let this fool you- this album also features some more happy songs to bring you your yuletide cheer, including a Duet with Alvin and the Chipmunks about Santa coming in a pickup truck. My family has since upgraded from the cassette tape to the CD version of this album ensuring that we have a “Honky Tonk Christmas” year after year.
Country music, especially 90s country, helped raise me and taught me some great life lessons along the way. Lessons like, “Life’s a dance you learn as you go– sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow” and “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” It was the decade that gave us Tracy Lawrence, Lee Ann Womack, Travis Tritt, Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, Mindy McCready, and Collin Raye. These artists and their songs shaped my life. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without country music and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Had I been raised on another genre of music, would I still be the same person? I’m not so sure.
Currently listening to: Sammy Kershaw- “Queen Of My Double Wide Trailer”