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Musings on the soundtrack to my college years
Country music great Garth Brooks' 'Ropin' the Wind,' although released in 1991, is still getting major rotation.
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In some ways, "Ropin' the Wind" is the epitome of Nashville tradition. The cast of songwriters and musicians on the album is an impeccable list of bluegrass heavyweights including Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Edgar Meyer. The three No. 1 singles from the album, "Shameless," "What She's Doing Now" and "The River" are almost throwback country ballads, complete with plaintive acoustic guitar and tear-jerking pedal steel peals. Brooks' voice has more than the requisite twang, leaving no doubt that it is bona fide country music.
While the album does have a glossy pop production that effectively sands down any rough edges, there's just no way to mask the excellent songwriting and musicianship on each of the 10 tracks.
"Rodeo" is a reverent look at the damaging life of a professional cowboy. "Cold Shoulder" equates the loss of love with the lonesome life of a trucker. "Papa Loved Mama" is a darkly comedic exploration of a relationship between an unfaithful wife and a trucker who uses his rig as a missile. "We Bury the Hatchet" is a rollicking honky-tonk song about making up.
But the song that I always turn to is, perhaps, the simplest track on the album. "Lonesome Dove" has its share of cheese and treacle, but it's a powerfully emotional story-song in the Nashville tradition. It's the high point of an album that covered all the country music bases as it led a revolution in the genre.
I might not have listened to much of the formative rock music that shaped my peers in the '90s, but I don't think I missed much. I had country music, and perhaps the greatest album that decade had to offer.
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036