(This post originally appeared on my Facebook – facebook.com/j.lemastersmith on February 16, 2023)
A friend and I went to a concert last night. It was a smaller venue, but it was a sold out crowd. The opener was from Oklahoma, and the main performer, Charles Wesley Godwin was from West Virginia.
The feeling I got was that everyone in that room last night was from Oklahoma when the opener played, and then from West Virginia when Godwin played. What I mean by that is that country music has the ability to help us recognize ourself in the music. I’m from neither of those places, but I am from a rural space that deals with similar issues, has similar experiences, and though one is plains and one is mountain, the feeling was still there.
Rural recognizes rural. We have durable issues and experiences that cross geography. Even with my students on other continents, we recognize the similarities in our experience. However, we never downplay our rich unique differences. Even in the same county, the rural experience might be different. And while I know other music does this for other groups, but in a lot of ways, country helps a people who feel forgotten (literally labeled as non-metro-we don’t use the word rural in many official documents-which is read as “not good enough” or “leftovers” by rural people) feel like they can connect with one another through these songs.