One of the main talking points constantly heard on cable news channels is how divided the country is these days.
Pundits and political operatives have their theories. If you hop online, you’ll be buried in an avalanche of think pieces from …
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Selection: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s “The Nashville Sound,” released on Southeastern Records.
Review: Isbell broke into the mainstream with 2015’s “Something More Than Free,” a collection of acoustic guitars and muscular poetry that could just flatten the listener with its beauty, but he aims for something grander on “The Nashville Sound.” There are more bar-stompers than anything he’s done since leaving the Drive-By Truckers, but it’s his quiet numbers that still hit the hardest. Expect to hear “If We Were Vampires” at more than a few weddings soon. Isbell’s musical reach continues to grow in the most exciting ways.
Favorite song: “Something To Love”
Favorite devastating lyric: ““Soon as the sun goes down, find my way to the Mustang Lounge / If you don’t sit facing the window, you could be in any town.”
-from “Cumberland Gap”
Pundits and political operatives have their theories. If you hop online, you’ll be buried in an avalanche of think pieces from every possible source about the roots, causes and ways to bridge the divide. And don’t even get me started on Facebook posts.
There’s no easy way to fix the situation. But a step in the right direction comes from years of listening to an ever-expanding variety of music — don’t judge until you’ve experienced it yourself.
We all think we have the best tastes in music when we’re in high school, which, at least for me, is a pretty ridiculous idea, since high school is the first time most of us begin to listen critically to what we hear. Nevertheless, high school is where many of us form opinions about what music we like and, equally important, which genres are not worth our time.
So, for someone like me, who was mainly into rock like the Dave Matthews Band, classics like Led Zeppelin and indie acts like Death Cab for Cutie, that essentially meant ignoring everything from country and alternative to hip-hop and pop.
In other words, I was missing some of the best music at the time because I thought I understood it and decided it wasn’t for me.
Once I started exposing myself to these genres and artists in college and day-to-day life, I realized these were vital and dynamic voices and perspectives I was missing out on. I’m hopefully wiser, and certainly more empathetic, for giving them a chance.
From country, you can get a sense of small-town values and a more deliberate approach to life, whereas pop, at its best, can provide a joyous optimism that you won’t find in most other genres. You can find a similar joy in hip-hop, but you’ll also hear stories of struggle and overcoming adversity that is such a crucial part of the “American dream.”
By no means are these the only reasons to listen to the aforementioned genres, nor is any genre just one thing. But what listening to any or all of them does is provide a three- to five-minute window into a different world view.
So you think Rihanna’s music is too poppy and annoying, or maybe Kanye West’s music is just so overrated? And man, isn’t country today just rock music with fiddles?
Actually listen to musicians or genres you think you don’t like. Even if you walk away feeling the same as you did before, you’ll understand and be able to explain why, instead of some tired platitude.
At most, you’ll have gained a little empathy. And these days, that’s something in short supply.
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