Rednecks & Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music

Chris Willman. <i>The New Press. $25.95.</i>

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Can there possibly be a more succinct distillation of the Bush administration’s worldview than country star Toby Keith’s lyrical post-9/11 promise to “put a boot in your ass”? In this sharp yet dishy book, Chris Willman explores country music’s embrace of such shit-kicking conservatism and how it became the unofficial soundtrack of the Dubya years.

 As a fan, Willman appreciates country’s catalog of cantankerous songs slamming hippies and extolling God and the flag. But as a writer for Entertainment Weekly, he also knows that the genre’s current political bravado—like anything coming out of Nashville—walks the line between authenticity and slick marketing. While you can count openly liberal country stars on one hand (due largely to the fear of being “Dixie Chicked” into oblivion), Rednecks reveals that many Music Row execs are outspoken liberals who know that tunes like “I Raq and Roll” are simply good for the bottom line. Conservatism is part of the country brand, a way to appeal to its red-state fan base. Willman provides plenty of teases for outgunned “bluenecks,” though. After all, no better a source than Dennis Kucinich booster Willie Nelson confides that “Toby’s also a Democrat, you know…. Kind of.”

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate