God and Country Music: 5 Christmas Country Songs That Aren’t Awful

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As much as I love Country music—even the bad stuff—when Christmas comes around, Country music seems to spit out some really bad tracks (it’s not that I don’t think Alan Jackon’s Christmas album isn’t very good it’s just… okay, it’s exactly that). But I want you know that it doesn’t have to be this way! There is some wonderful Christmas music that has that high and lonesome sound—you’ve just got to look for it.Christmas albums are by nature somewhat stale. It takes real talent to make a beauti … [Read more...]

God and Country Music: Stories and Reformation in Outlaw Country

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In God and Country Music, Nick Rynerson examines the world of Americana, folk, alt-country, and popular country music.Ever since Hank Williams got kicked out of The Grand Ole Opry, country music has been outlaw music. Well, country music has been a big stew of church songs, traditional rural folk tunes, western cowboy, and ruff, unruly outlaw music. But the outlaw mentality has been one of country music’s most prominent and continual threads.Outlaw country, as a genre, came into its own i … [Read more...]

God and Country Music: Eric Church’s “Springsteen” Is Sort of Like Heaven

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I don’t listen to the radio very often. It’s not that I don’t like the radio—the real issue is that I am a CD junkie and my truck is my sound booth. Lately I have been listening to Rhett Miller’s live cover album The Interpreter and Jason Isbell’s new album Southeastern. But when I am with my wife, the radio gets some love. On my way to the grocery store last weekend my wife and I were listening to country music radio and my ears were piqued by a fantastic song: "Springsteen" by Eric Church. … [Read more...]

God and Country: Echoes of the Church in American Music

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Church history is a vital subject for any serious student of theology. Without church history, we don’t have a historical framework for the development of liturgical styles, church music, culture, and doctrine. Church history is not confined to pews and hymnals, though; because of the seeping nature of Christianity, Church history interacts with and affects everything around it. When the dots are connected, sacred and secular prove to be moot terms in the scope of history. Culture and s … [Read more...]

How The Psalms Made Folk Music

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Traditional country and blues music is a far cry from most contemporary country and blues music. Some music purists (or snobs, if you will) find FM radio country and blues unlistenable replicas that bear more resemblance to the Eagles than to their early folk heroes. And to an extent, they are right. American folk music from the early twentieth century captured a powerful, bizarre, beautiful landscape on their newfangled recording devices. The question is: Can this really be replicated … [Read more...]

God and Country Music: Traditionalism as a Shadow of Reconciliation

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Music journalist Greil Marcus believes that you can understand a culture if you understand its music. And while statistics are about as reliable as Firestone Tires on Ford Explorers, research has shown that 42 percent of the American population listens to country music. This means that out of every ten blokes you’ll meet, at least four of them probably love that high and lonesome sound. So according to Greil Marcus’ school of thought (and mine, and you know, a lot of people), what is being said i … [Read more...]

God & Country Music: The New Jason Isbell

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I was fourteen when I first heard Jason Isbell. When he was still with the Drive-By Truckers in 2004, “Goddamn Lonely Love” was on one of those CDs that used to come good music magazines. I knew I had found something special. For a teenager looking for a world to relate to, Jason Isbell’s songs were just what I didn’t know I was looking for.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4LDjo8ltl4Isbell is an unusual kind of songwriter. Starting out with the Drive-By Truckers a little over a decade ago, … [Read more...]

God and Country Music: Nostalgia, Alienation, and Home

Nick Rynerson

I tend to be somewhat nostalgic. When I daydream of running away from my everyday life (come on, you know you do too) I usually picture myself settling in some imaginary picturesque southern town circa 1928. I imagine a place without iPhones or Netflix, what would seem to be a comfortably conservative culture, and lots of old-timey string bands. Now, this small pre-Depression southern town isn’t a real small pre-Depression southern town. In my mind there aren’t racists and somehow there is a pol … [Read more...]

God and Country Music: The Really Attractive False Heaven of Small Town Living

Nick Rynerson

I have written more than one God and Country Music column on the relationship between Nashville and Christianity. And really, you wouldn’t have present-day Nashville without American Christianity. From George Hay's “strictly clean and decent” policy at the Grand Ole Opry to the chorus of Eric Church’s hit ”Like Jesus Does,” religious life has been an important aspect of country music. From an anthropological position, it’s fascinating how this type of popular culture has been a safe haven for rel … [Read more...]

God and Country Music: The Salvation of George Jones

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Each week in God and Country Music, Nick Rynerson gives country music a chance and examines the world of Americana, folk, alt-country, and popular country music.The passing of George Jones this past week brought about a storm of nostalgic tribute from NPR and The New York Times and even Russell Moore. And at this point, there isn’t much that can be said that hasn’t been. Jones (or “The Possum”) was one of the most influential musicians in 20th century American Country. His distinct style was … [Read more...]


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