Who first described country music as more than just a guitar or banjo? More than a lyric or a melody. It’s a feeling. Maybe Dolly Parton summed it up when she said, “I think country music has been popular, and will always be popular, because I think a lot of real people singing about a lot of real stuff about real people…” Or, as Willie Nelson said, “A lot of country music is sad. I think most art comes out of poverty and hard times. It applies to music. Three chords and the truth – that’s what a country song is. There is a lot of heartache in the world.”
Great country music is timeless. Timeless music sounds great. Whitehorse is back with a country album that sounds as timeless as those of the greats that preceded them. I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying is filled with wonderful takes on all those classic country music motifs. The pedal steel weeps, whines, and rings true throughout. But it was the album’s overarching theme that strikes.
For instance, the song “6 Feet Away”, with the chorus: “I hope I never have to stand 6 feet away from you again.” A song that also sung about washing hands and disinfecting things. Oh, COVID… this subject, this time in all our lives, that left us bruised and battered, will not leave our memories anytime soon. Many are still angry and sad about what was done. The hypocrisy, the stoked fear, the confounding frustration that weighed us down like a heavy blanket that few had the strength to shove off. The album filters those thoughts and emotions.
“Life gets crazy, and I get lost” they sing in “Sanity, TN” Describing the whittling away of another idle day. “Oxygen is my contraband. Every move a sleight of hand,” is a nice line from that song. Is Sanity, TN referring to leaving Canada, for place that didn’t lockdown, and maintained a certain level of personal freedom? A sane place during an insane time? There are other songs like, “If the Loneliness Don’t Kill Me”, “I Miss the City” and “Lock it Down” which compare, being in lockdowns to being locked up.
Describing the lockdowns as being locked up does not leave much room for ambiguity. And I applaud them for that. Finally, “Scared of Each Other” ends the record. Describing all the simple things in life that they miss since we were told and conditioned to fear each other.
Country music is storytelling music. The stories we missed, the stories we shared, the stories we still long to tell, the stories we need to get off our chest and out of our heads. Stories of anger, sadness, love, passion, longing, excitement, forgiveness… all of it. Yes, there is still a lot of heartache in this world. I think we need country music now, to channel and process those emotions. There’re feelings we still need to let go of, somehow. Whitehorse has hammered the nail on the head. They’ve rolled with the punches and emerged with three chords and the truth. I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying is as timely as it is timeless.