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I Am Country

Updated: Jan 6, 2020

I tried to avoid choosing a genre. I have skirted the question, made up new names for my style, answered the question with a question, and all manner of other tactics to keep from saying these three little words: “I am country.”

Photo credit Vickie Vaughn edited by Hillbilly Culture.

I have flat out said, “No,” to people who ask me if I play country. Looking back now, it is perfectly hilarious to have said no to such an obvious observation.

Why would a rank stranger on having met me for two minutes automatically assume that I play country music?

Photo credit Tammy Lewis

Because I am country.

I come from a small town in East Tennessee. My voice drips with the smooth and spicy flavor of Appalachia honey.

I harken to another era when women could cook, sew and chop wood. When men awoke at dawn to tend the animals and get in a good hard days work before sundown.

Independent like. Rebellious even, but reverent. Living in harmony with the land, sustainable before that was the thing to be.

I am country.

My grandma on my mama's side grew up in what is now Big South Fork National Park near Oneida, TN.

Her daddy fought in the Civil War on the Northern side (because East TN stayed loyal to the Union) when he was 14 years old. He was 76 years old when she was born.

She married my papaw when she was 18 years old and they lived in a tent for two years making barrel staves during the Great Depression.

She knew every spring and salt lick east of the Cumberland Plateau.

I am country.

Photo from Williams family archives

My grandma on my daddy's side had 8 children in 20 years.

She married my papaw, Lonzo NMN (military code for no middle name) Williams when she was a girl of 16 and began having children the very next year.

My papaw played just about every instrument with strings on it & taught his boys to do the same, though “you get a good honest job through the week and just make music on the weekends for fun”.

My daddy paid his older brother 50 cents to teach him how to play “Wildwood Flower” on the guitar, a lot of money back in them days.

Photo from Williams family archives

I am country.

My mama and daddy married in 1972 after meeting on a blind date and courting for a year.

Daddy was burned within an inch of his life in 1974 and my mama stuck by him through all that and only once came close to leaving him.

She was 21 years old at the time he was burned, and he was 26 and they are still together to this day. That's loyalty for you.

Photo from Williams family archives

I am country.

I have so much pride and heritage built up inside me for where I come from and who I am that I just can't contain it anymore.

I will not accept any longer that the music I make is anything other than what I am. And that is country.

If my music gets a little heavy sometimes, well that's just a late fall downpour in the forest.

If my lyrics are a little racy from time to time, ask Grandma to sing you the one about the girl with the red shoes. If I (heaven forbid) break into a rap song, well, I'm just showing you where I've been since I left the holler.

Photo credit Matthew Starling edited by Hillbilly Culture

I am country.

And by God, that's how I'll stay.

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