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Is there any way I can unsubscribe from American politics? Is that possible? Can someone please tell Mr. Scotty to beam my ass to November 7th so I can just be done with it all? Why must every single element of American culture be permeated by political polarization and rancor?
Once again country music finds itself on the brink of blackballing one of its artists because of some tepid political assertion squeezed out of them over in the UK. It all began when a Carrie Underwood statement was taken out of context and sensationalized by the left-leaning rag The Independent.
“As a married person myself, I don’t know what it’s like to be told I can’t marry somebody I love, and want to marry,” is how Carrie Underwood handled the inappropriate question of how she felt about gay marriage. “I can’t imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love.”
As Carrie Underwood explained later in an interview with the UK Associated Press, “I was asked a difficult question in the last five minutes of an interview and I answered it the best way I knew how, and after that I do what I do and I love making music…”
But of course, this is not how The Independent characterized it saying:
In a development that will doubtless outrage her many fans on the religious right, the nation’s most popular country singer, Carrie Underwood, has come out vehemently in favour of gay marriage.
Vehemently in favour? (and with a ‘u’ in favour nonetheless?!?!) Please, this is a gross mischaracterization of an off-topic and inappropriate question that acted like a speed trap to bait Carrie and help sell subscriptions. And Carrie Underwood is not “the nation’s most popular country singer” by anyone’s measure.
Congratulations Carrie Underwood fans, haters, apologists, and detractors who’ve been swept up by this story, you’ve just been played by a sensationalizing British tabloid with an overt political agenda trying to sell Rolex watches, Land Rovers, and bland food. (see, we can be stereotypical too!)
Why was Carrie Underwood asked about gay marriage in the first place? Why should we even care what Carrie Underwood thinks about gay marriage or any other political wedge issue? She’s a ding-dong pop country singer, not an opinion maker or pundit. Sing and look pretty–that’s her job.
And for all the Christian fans who are now bad mouthing Carrie because of how bad her family values are, where were you when the 2012 ACM Awards invited us all into Carrie Underwood’s vagina? Watch the introduction below. Noticed how the camera is centered right on Carrie’s privates as it zooms in, with lights blanking out her face in a “V” formation telling America, “Yes, country isn’t country folks! Join us and our hip party, where we hang out in Carrie Underwood’s vagina for three hours and hand out awards! And then wait for it….wait…ah yes, the silhouettes of naked women gyrating in the background. Now what could be more appropriate prime time family viewing?
And why doesn’t Carrie Underwood get mad at the Christian fans backstabbing her now who eat shellfish? I mean, that’s iterated in the Bible as a sin right down the street from the “don’t be gay” stuff. You know why Carrie doesn’t do that? BECAUSE IT’S STUPID AND NOBODY CARES. I can’t blame anyone for disagreeing with Carrie Underwood’s political beliefs if they differ from theirs, but the real person they should be blaming is The Independent for characterizing Carrie as some pro gay activist when really she’s just kind of “meh” on the subject and was trying to be polite. Huh, I wonder how they would have characterized her if she said she was against gay marriage?
Life is too short and music is too much of a beautiful thing to let someone’s political beliefs get in your way of enjoying it. If you enjoy Carrie Underwood’s music, then enjoy it. And if you don’t, then don’t. And leave all the political bullshit for when you step into that little photo booth-looking thing and draw the blue curtain. Why do we draw a curtain when we vote? Because your personal political beliefs are nobody’s business unless you want them to be, and because people should not have to fear retribution for whatever those beliefs are.
Ascending from the ashes of the country music underground’s ultimate proving ground known as the .357 String Band, banjo player and songwriter Joseph Huber releases his second solo offering, Tongues of Fire. With some songs originally meant for the now deceased .357 project, and some that speak to the causes of its demise and dealing with its aftermath, Huber compiles an engaging and surprisingly bright-sounding album that speaks true to his life, and is easy to relate to yours.
It is difficult to describe Tongues of Fire without comparing it to Joseph’s first solo album Bury Me Where I Fall which in contrast was very dark, and not from the easy avenues of screams and Satan references, but from deep and intelligent songwriting and eery chord structures. Tongues of Fire takes almost an exact opposite approach, with a lighter feel to virtually all these songs even when the lyrics deal with dark subject matter. In this respect Bury Me Where I Fall and Tongues of Fire make an excellent tandem. They create a duality, a fulfilling yin and yang approach where the two projects combined become better than the sum of their parts.
Joseph Huber doesn’t fit the average mold of an ultra-talented musical artist. We’re used to the best and brightest being tortured and fey, yet Joe is surprisingly clear-eyed and relate-able. He’s just like you and I…well…except for being one of the best banjo players I have ever seen, yet giving absolutely nothing up when it comes to his songwriting, and also being able to master guitar and fiddle. He’s a creative dynamo, but the struggles he goes through are simple: trying to find his place in the world, searching for balance; not the deep torment or torturous pursuit for meaning that usually comes with the hyper-creative archetype.
And that is what imbibes Tongues of Fire with that intangible thing that makes certain albums feel warm to you. This album is about Joe searching and finding that sense of balance and purpose, while still recognizing that certain wild desires are there and will always be.
Though on the surface Tongues of Fire may seem like a less poetic approach, after a few listens you find the poetry very much alive in songs like “An Old Mountain Tune” and “Dance Around The Daggers”. “Iron Rail” seems to speak to the hopeless, caged feeling Joe may have been laboring under in .357, while the theme can speak to frustrations in all of us. “Fell Off the Wagon” is the outright fun song that was lacking from Joe’s first release. And just about the time you wonder where Huber’s signature blazing banjo is on this album, here comes “Walkin’ Fine”.
On some songs like “Where the Shadows Shiver to Sleep” I wondered how it would sound with a darker approach to match the song’s dark theme, instead of the playful one it employs. Huber shows a better mastery of DIY recording in his second attempt, though on his first album his lack of recording skills did nothing but compliment his dark approach. It is still good to see his home engineering skill set dramatically improve, yet not grow past the one-man-band approach so Tongues of Fire still gives a fair representation of what you will see from Joseph live.
“Hello, Milwaukee” in the heart of the track order is also the heart of this album. It spells out the struggles Joe has faced, and then the sense of fulfillment when he finds out what he’s been searching for is what he left. This sense of fulfillment is what permeates this album, beyond any of the songs or words or any individual instrumental performances, to make this album special and give it an infectious warmth. Listening to this album, you are happy for Huber.
And whether you can relate to Huber’s sense of content or you are driven by the faith that your contentment still lingers out there waiting for you to find, Joseph Huber’s Tongues of Fire finds a way to speak to you.
Two guns up!
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