Smokin' Hot Southern Sounds
by Kiersten Hallie Krum
There are a lot of hot things that can be found down south. Hot food. Hot men. Hot weather. And some smokin’ hot sounds.
I spent many years sneering at country music, home of the slide guitar and songs that praise the love of a good dog and a good truck and a not-so-good woman. But that stereotype is like any other–little bit of truth wrapped up in a whole lotta WTFery. Though I’m never going to like the twang of a slide guitar. That’s just not gonna happen.
My attitude toward country music changed back when I was working full-time and finishing my graduate degree. There were many late nights of me on the laptop with the country music radio station as my only company–that and the borderline crazy people who called into the station at that time of night. Those DJs should get hazard pay.
The fact that we had a country station in New Jersey was nothing short of miraculous (and it didn’t last for long). These were the heyday times of Shedaisy and the Dixie Chicks and Faith Hill and the phenomenon that is Shania Twain, Tim McGraw and Toby Keith and Keith Urban and megalith Garth Brooks who helped bring rock and pop into country. I wanted to live in some of those songs, revved up and ready for wild times and hot romance.
Like its antecedents in Celtic and folk music and the songs that came out of the hills, country music is story music, vignettes of loss and love and drinking and good times and triumph and faith and redemption and retribution and victory all wrapped up in a three to five-minute tune. And there’s lots of joy too, whether from a sharp zydeco swing or a fast fiddle on the fly. Country songs resonate with emotion. I’ll never be able to hear Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” and not get choked up on the chorus. The lyrics and harmonies of Mumford & Sons and Alison Krauss and Union Station make my heart happy,
Country music is back on the radio in New Jersey again but it seems the themes have retroed to those stereotypes with a dominance of male performers crooning about that chick in her tight blue jeans climbing in his truck. I love me some Luke Bryan, don’t get me wrong, especially when he’s shakin’ that prime bootie. But country music is arguably the home of female empowerment where women are taking the stage and taking names and I wished they just took the airwaves more often.
Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood blast the way forward for the women of their generation. The Band Perry’s lead singing sister can (and does) rock it hard with the best of them. Joy Williams from The Civil Wars, Hilary Scott from Lady Antebellum, Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland, and Miranda Lambert all power on as queens of country.
These days, most of the regular rotations on my iPod are songs from the show Nashville. Nashville is a show run by and spearheaded by women on screen and behind the scenes. But one of the many reasons why I love the show is the music.
When the show gets more soapy than I’d like, it’s the outstanding music that keeps me hooked, grounding the show in real, raw emotion and relationships with achingly beautiful melodies and harmonies. Nashville has an embarrassment of riches as the best songwriters in the city vie for a chance to be featured on the show.
Whether fun and flirty, deeply loving, or down right sizzling sexy, country songs know how to bring the romance. They tell the story about all kinds of love: New, long-term, young and fresh, experienced and rooted, broken and restored. Luke Bryan’s “I Don’t Want This Night To End” and “Drunk on Love” tell the story of a one-night stand that resonates for months until it becomes something real. Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” is a pain-filled admission of loneliness and longing after a breakup. And Faith Hill and Tim McGraw’s “Like We Never Loved At All” weeps with regret and lingering love.
One of the hottest places to be down south is deep in the bayou. More than one scorching love affair has ignited in the dark secrets of that mysterious and dangerous territory. This week, we’re celebrating the release of Lady Smut blogger Elizabeth Shore’s new novel Hot Bayou Nights.
When corporate consultant Carla Saunders’ work takes her from the skyscrapers of Manhattan to a research facility in Louisiana filled with king cobra snakes, she sees her dreams of a job in Paris sinking into the swamp. But unexpected desire burns hotter than a sultry bayou night. The snakes terrify her, but lust for the scorching hot research scientist has her dreaming less about the Champs Élysées and more about being coiled in his arms. Obsessed with finding a cure for multiple sclerosis, Jackson Rivard’s got zero time for relationships. But when a lush, efficient business advisor sweeps into his lab, zero spikes to a hundred before he can shut off the engine. In theory, no-strings-attached sex is scientifically feasible, but having an ex whose fangs make a cobra’s seem modest brings new meaning to the phrase “once bitten, twice shy.” How can he protect his heart when Carla’s charming it out of hiding?
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Postscript: If you’re looking for a gorgeous movie about folk music, I highly recommend Songcatcher about a musicologist in the late 1800s who is researching and collecting Appalachian folk music in the mountains of western North Carolina. It also co-stars Aidan Quinn who knows how to make a woman sing…