This is another post on one of my favorite obsessions, "non-verbal narrative expression" ("narrative" in things we don't normally think of as being narrative vehicles, things that embed narrative or express it indirectly).
This is about the "migration narrative" in the sound of country music.
The embedded audio excerpt below is taken from WNYC's Radio Lab from the episode titled: Pop Music. It frames country music as "migration music" and explores its phenomenal, somewhat inexplicable global appeal.
Did you know that Country-Western music is extremely popular with Australian Aborigines?
Dolly Parton is revered like a saint in Southern Africa.
Don Williams has filled Soccer stadiums in Zimbabwe.
Quotes pulled from the podcast embedded above:
Ignore the details and listen for the larger story which has to do with moving, with migration and with regret... you're lonesome for something and the thing you're missing is the old hometown.. "the green green grass of home"... therein, Fox says, you can boil much of this music down to just this feeling, you look, you long for something simpler, something you left behind.
According to U.S. census data, in 1927 the number of people living in urban areas (as opposed to agrarian and rural) exceeded 50%. "Country music really exploded, and this is not an accident, when most people no longer lived in the country. Country music is born when "the country" becomes a nostalgic idea."
One explanation for its popularity elsewhere is that even if you don't speak English the message is literally in the music itself, there is grammar here, in the vocalization, the singers, they actually make a croaky sound that is very distinctive... One of the principle vocal articulations is what country singers call a cry break
... and it's not just the voices... it's the instruments... the instruments seem to be crying. The steel guitar is the signature sound of country because it's recognized as iconic of a crying human voice... it's called the crying steel.