Friday 13 December 2019

Country music brings back sweet memories

Country Matters

Garth Brooks at Croke Park
Garth Brooks at Croke Park

Fiona O'Connell

The 'Croke Park Five' seems a suitably solemn phrase for the fantastical furore over a certain country and western singer's plans to perform here. Suffice to say, Garth Brooks doesn't seem satisfied with "friends in low places", expecting matey manoeuvres from prime ministers to meet 
his demands.

But this hugely successful singer seems a decent fellow. No further proof is needed than the fact that he apparently offered to donate part of his liver to save the life of a country-music contemporary and 
close friend.

Still, I'm not his number-one fan. Not since a friend advised me years ago to forget Garth, who he considered a pale, marketing-manipulated imitation of the real deal: Dwight Yoakam. Godfather of country, Johnny Cash, once said this 'Hillbilly Deluxe' was his favourite country singer.

Whichever twang tempts you, country and western is firmly embedded in rural Ireland's rhythmic repertoire. Maybe the maudlin tone and 'messy lives' themes evoke the louche yet laidback showband era. Our propensity for pub crawls may also explain our attraction to music that sometimes sounds slurred. As if, as maverick musician Tom Waits sang, not just the piano has been drinking.

Like many country towns, this one is mad for music. But it's the country and western bands that play in the pub next door that I enjoy most, for they bring back memories of childhood holidays.

Many an evening, my siblings and I would crouch in a boisterous country bar, ironically on our best behaviour, while the adults around us went ape. This was the era when children were supposed to be seen and not heard.

But we were happy as Kentucky coal miners on Sunday, because we had a precious 'mineral', as my country-reared father referred to the fizzy drinks that we were allowed on holidays.

We sat sipping Coca-Cola or Fanta, armed with the all-important straw, which allowed maximum capacity to drain them noisily. Not that we could hear, for the music was so loud.

The music still seems 
too loud, but that's part 
of its charm. I often sit outside on these summer evenings, soaking in the ballads that are belting out at full decibel.

So "if tomorrow never comes" because such 
events get sold out in 
every sense, you'll get 
"more than a memory" 
to mollify you in any 
country town.

Sunday Independent

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