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Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. To be or not to be a country boy? To my ear, this has always been one of the animating questions in country music. Country boys, Denver says, have all they need: a warm bed, good work, regular meals, fiddle music.

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For Hank Williams Jr. Loretta Lynn could do without Hank Jr. They either get nostalgic Cash or defensive Hank Jr. In the first song on his album Rhinestone CowboyCampbell sings about a country boy who has hit the big time:. His modest beginnings are both a grace and a liability. On the one hand, they keep him from getting carried away.

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On the other, they prevent him from being fully present. To do so, he fears, would be a self-betrayal.

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What about a country boy in finance? The scene takes place in a Manhattan office building, where Skaggs sits behind a big desk in a business suit. In his teens and twenties he had toured with the Stanley Brothers and the Country Gentlemen, more bluegrass royalty. With his high-lonesome voice and confident grasp of the bluegrass canon, Skaggs had often been regarded as the future of the genre, which is to say a faithful steward of its past.

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Now he was making mainstream country. Had he sold out? Despite ills and bills and all the rest of it, not to mention a streak of No. He shakes his head in disgust.

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The song is less a dirge than a shoulder shrug. Even so, reation has its own complexity.

The country boy remembers falling asleep to the sounds of John R. Maybe he never was one to begin with. Still, that he can recall these experiences and artifacts with such precision reveals how inured of them he remains.

So much so that in the end, his statement about freedom of choice has been allayed by a kind of fatalism. Which way is it aimed?

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Chagall completed I and the Village when he was in his midtwenties. He had traveled from Belarus to Paris and back. The painting, a spectacular of rapt disorientation, describes the churn.

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In it, scenes from Vitsyebsk, the town where Chagall grew up, wheel around a polychromatic dreamscape. The characters are earthy, low down, and yet the picture radiates a kind of weightlessness.

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A man with a green face and white eyes holds a little tree of life. In the background, a woman in blue skirts stands on her head, a kind of yin to the yang of a peasant shouldering a scythe.

I and the Village projects a cockeyed vision of village life. There was adoration in the Chagall, and there was also revulsion, nearness and distance, the red and the green. What is a rambling man? A country boy gone rogue.

As much as he sees the good in a simple, even simplistic way of life, a rambling man values his freedom more. The songs Hank recorded as Luke tend to deliver morality tales.

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Luke is a kind of itinerant preacher, a wandering prophet whose home church seems to consist solely of Hank Williams, whose own songs, reflective of his life, were often about carousing, heavy drinking, and existential despair. Instead of Dr. He seems older than Hank, at once more frightening and more reasonable, cut off from society and yet drawing from a deeper source.

Rambling, in this sense, is the process by which a country boy becomes a man. The question, in other words, is not whether or not to be a country boy.

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The question is, What kind of country boy are you going to be? Drew Bratcher was born in Nashville. He received his M. He lives in Chicagoland. Remember Me.

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Just because we are all internet generation now, never ever underestimate country boys.


LAST week I wrote about the 10 essential items a girl should bring with her on her journey into the outback, if she finds herself heading there for a bloke.


The song was originally included on Denver's album Back Home Again.