I'm going to give it to you straight. The NYPD is turning this city upside-down, so I haven't been listening to much music. Country music, specifically, has an historic vested interest in maintaining a status quo where white people are apolitical, if not downright conservative. (You don't have to take me at my word; Karen Pittelman is way smarter than me and explains it so beautifully here.)
But country music is also working-class music, and it has a long history of providing comfort during difficult times. On Victoria Bailey's new single, "Honky Tonk Woman," she croons about the nostalgia for slower days, jukebox hits, and nights of escape. The song is a gentle three-step with lush instrumentation, infused with a warmth that will transport you to your favorite bar with your favorite cold beverage and all your favorite people -- a balm all of our hearts surely need right now.
Bailey, a California native, grew up with a rock drummer dad, took to music and performance early on. Her voice is perfect for classic country, and her upcoming album Jesus, Red Wine, & Patsy Cline is a treat.
Here's what Bailey has to say about the single:
"'Jesus, Red Wine and Patsy Cline,' one of the lines in the song, captures the album as a whole and myself as an artist: my faith, my love for a good glass of wine, and the classic country ladies who inspire me. This autobiographical piece sums up the past few years of my life, singing away my nights in the local honky tonk bars, and is also a nod to one of my heroes, Loretta Lynn."
It's worth interrogating the value of nostalgia these days -- especially in country music. Patsy and Loretta were singing in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. What kind of backdrop did music like this create to the revolution happening outside the honky-tonk?
I recently spoke to my aunt, who's just at the tail end of being a Boomer and isn't quite Gen X. She kept repeating, "I've never seen anything like this before." That's patently untrue; the uprisings in Newark and Ocean Hill - Brownsville were practically next door, and she was old enough to know what was going on. How do we, as white people, move beyond erasing and forgetting? Is this a historical moment we really want to rinse and repeat?
But we also need to find moments -- and I stress moments -- of joy and comfort right now, and "Honky Tonk Woman" more than provides.