Growing up is great. Seriously, it is. You get your own driver’s license and credit card, and people call you ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am.’ But then comes the point when someone younger and better-looking shows up and tries to steal your man (or woman). That’s the message behind Dolly Parton’s late-era smash, which is apparently a composite of a number of different women she encountered in middle age.
You could have your choice of men
But I could never love again
He's the only one for me, Jolene
Bear in mind that even in her sixties, Parton is pretty smashing to look at, so this is just proof that everyone feels anxiety about relationships no matter who they are or how many millions of records they've sold.
Lee Kernaghan – Hat Town
Kernaghan is about as country as they come. He was born near Albury-Wodonga and he’s spent his entire life writing songs about the outback and living in small country towns. ‘Hat Town’ is great, not only because it tips its hat to that Slim Dusty song from before, but also because it uses a great metaphor to describe that feeling of being stuck in a relatively small place with absolutely nothing to do. There are tons of songs about New York and Paris, but it takes real balls to describe the art of slowly succumbing to death by total boredom.
From the back of the channelled country, and across the dusty downs
There’s a pub, a store and not much more, you’re living in an old hat town
If you don’t live in a big city, Lee knows how you feel. But, you probably have a cinema, so things aren’t that bad after all.
Johnny Cash – I’ve Been Everywhere
You might remember this song – Telstra used it in an ad for Bigpond Internet a while back. It’s a Johnny Cash original and remains legendary. Cash, who spent a good portion of his later years living up to his reputation as the Prince of Darkness, did have a lighter streak. When he wasn’t shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, Cash was on the road all the damn time. This song is basically an itemised itinerary of the whole of America, but it’s also Cash talking about dealing with change. Because he’s always travelling, nothing fazes him, so he’s happy to make an upbeat ditty about it.
I've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I've had my share, man.
I've been everywhere.
There aren’t a lot of Johnny Cash songs this happy-sounding, so it was a nice change from that time he covered Nine Inch Nails.
Ryan Adams – To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
You’re going to want to spend some time with Ryan Adams. He makes feeling miserable seem like baseball. The youngest of the pack here – who happens to be married to former pop star Mandy Moore, – Ryan Adams almost single-handedly made country cool again by slapping the word ‘alternative’ in front of it and only playing at rock and roll bars. This is from Heartbreaker, his best album, which came out ten years ago this winter. Back then Adams was all about seizing the moment; he used this song to poke fun at himself for being morose from the perspective of someone older – and it worked.
Oh one day when you're looking back
You were young and man you were sad
When you're young you get sad
When you’re young you get sad then you get high
In essence what Adams spells out is what most country music is about – perspective. Even when it seems bad, it’s probably just a phase in your life, which will be as long as the dusty road that leads to a pub in some town in the middle of nowhere.
Hopefully there’s beer in it.