Raunchy Country: Inside the Genre’s History of Comedy and Irreverence
Birdcloud is pretty accustomed to being banned.
Sometimes, it’s for the sillier things: like pictures of the Nashville-based duo’s bare behinds being removed from Facebook, because members Jasmine Kaset and Makenzie Green like to moon their followers. Most recently, three printing companies turned them down when they asked to manufacture “dick picks” for their merch table: not lewd images of the Snapchat variety, but guitar picks adorned with images of male genitalia. There are boob koozies aplenty, but no one wanted to help make Birdcloud’s cocks rock.
But the most egregious came in 2012, when their video for “Saving Myself for Jesus” — a song about abstaining from sex until marriage — was pulled off YouTube by the site’s administrators, who claimed the clip violated community guidelines. While they may make a mention here or there about dry humping (alright, it’s a little more graphic than that), none of those allusions are uncommon in other artist’s songs. Perhaps it was how the words were delivered that tweaked the more conservative viewers: by two innocent-looking women sporting prairie dresses and singing face-to-face in a trailer-park twang. A country song about the hypocrisy of religion, “Saving Myself” is only really funny because it’s true.
“We’re not setting out to make the whole wide world laugh their asses off,” says Green, sitting at an East Nashville coffee shop next to Kaset, her bandmate since 2011. The duo’s most recent release, Tetnis, came out last year. “We try to write true-to-life, fucked-up songs. If they are funny, well, that’s a byproduct of the writing.”
Those types of songs — true-to-life, with a healthy dose of humor — are actually a longstanding country tradition. The genre’s always had a special knack for folding social commentary into snickers and/or smut to create an even more perfect package. While the best-known example may be Johnny Cash’s Shel Silverstein-written “A Boy Named Sue,” it actually goes back much further than that.
From the early days of Jimmie Rodgers and his “Pistol Packing Papa” (nope, not about guns) and Jimmie Davis’s “Tom Cat and Pussy Blues” (not about animals, either) to the 1936 track by western-swing band the Tune Wranglers “Red’s Tight Like That” (a remake of bluesman’s Tampa Red’s song that is most definitely not about the color), the genre’s founders often dipped their pens into the dark side, frequently pairing them with a jaunty jingle and big ol’ smile. Even the legendary Roy Acuff had his own catalogue of dirty tunes from his early days with his band, the Crazy Tennesseans. In fact, much of rock and roll’s daring roots can be found in how brazen early Southern music could be.
Roger Miller, Bobby Bare, Red Sovine and Tom T. Hall mainly kept it clean, but excelled at using novelty as a way to make their point — listen to Miller’s “My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died” or Bare’s “Dropkick Me Jesus (Through the Goalpost of Life).” David Allan Coe, however, took it to the extreme, diving headfirst into raunch with his underground X-Rated Hits. And to many, that’s where the racist, misogynist and homophobic album should have remained.
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