Boots.

In response to popular demand (hi Millie!), some more stuff on country music. Three songs. I’ve heard these both on my late night drives when I can listen to whatever I want on the radio without annoying anyone else in the car. All three are about how work sucks and wanting to get away from work or blow off steam from work, like I talked about with Kenny Chesney, “Shift Work.”

I like the guitar in this tune, rock sound, the loud bass and drums, it’s the lyrics and the vocal styles that mostly mark it as a country song rather than a rock song. (This reminds me I want to write about “Blame it on Waylon” and “Put Drive in Your Country.”) I like the singing too, loud and belted out. I should listen to more Randy Houser.

I relate to the feeling – working too hard, too long, not getting paid well – and wanting a big raucous night out.

What do you do after work, according to the song, at least on a good night? Drink and socialize. It’s about working class social life outside of work, what it’s like and what it’s for. The song’s narrator goes out to blow off steam built up from working life, in clothes marking working life and working class life – the dirty hat, the muddy jeans, the callused hands, the ring from chewing tobacco, the work boots. I think part of the point is a sort of “fuck it, I need to go out bad enough that I’m not gonna bother changing,” so it speaks to the amount of steam built up that needs to be blown off, and speaks to the kind of night out planned. The thing about picking up a woman and going home together is a part of that as well, what sort of night it is. Once again all this is about working class masculinity, and to “do it country style” is a type of white, straight, working class masculinity. I relate to all of this imagery (though I think chewing tobacco’s gross). I also feel a disconnect from this as I don’t do work that calluses my hands… as my higher paid male family members – which means all of my male family members with jobs – like to remind me. It’s certainly not just the song that identifies manliness with a kind of physical work. I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t make the same identification at least at a gut level. Another disconnect is that I’m married and don’t (and haven’t) pick(ed) people up in bars.

I love that the video has a little kid in it. The toy guitar thing is cute, as is the kid singing along. It seems like this is also about generational transmission of masculinity. The ending is funny in a video, though it’d sure as hell not be funny if it happened in my life with my kid.

I wasn’t as into that other Josh Thompson song. This tune’s more my thing. I like the sound. A bit more country in the music, I think, with the clean channel acoustic guitar (or whatever that is) alongside the electric guitar. Another work song – getting up early, “going somewhere I don’t even want to go,” doing what you gotta do to get through. “It’s killing me but then again it’s keeping me alive.” It’s the ‘everybody is working for the weekend’ sentiment. Work sucks but at least we have social life after work. And it could be worse: “I still got running water and they ain’t cut off the lights” and at least there’s beer. “All I need is a few good friends and a good job and a good dog,” I’ll get by.

In the visuals there’s more about work and masculinity: men work hard in physical jobs in dirty environments, with heavy tools and machines, and drive trucks. Again, this speaks to me at a gut level given how I was raised, and to disconnects I have with people in my family. (And it’s straight men: “maybe a woman that understands,” and the visuals of attractive women.) I feel like this

I like the reference to poker and scratch off tickets. I don’t play poker – too busy, too lazy to learn – and I never seem to get around to buying lottery tickets, but I like thinking about it and I do once in a while. I realize the only people who predictably get rich off gambling are casinos and the sellers of lotto tickets but the real point isn’t to get rich, it’s to have a momentarily more believable fantasy of not having to work anymore. Wanting to be rich is wanting to be free from the necessity imposed by money. Part of the fun of gambling is fantasizing about that freedom. That (vision of) freedom, though, like the stuff in this and similar songs about the momentary freedoms of the weekend and big boozy nights out, is a vision of individual freedom within the structures of our society, with all the lack of freedom built into them. Like, “Work sucks. It’d be nice if I could be one of the few people who didn’t have to work, if I could have more time like my time off.”

Toby Keith has written some songs I really don’t like and object to the content of, but this is another “work sucks, let’s get drunk” song and one of my favorites of the type. There’s the complaint: the boss is a jerk, I work hard, I’m nobody that matters. Then there’s the blowing off steam by getting drunk, and when I do I feel like I’m really someone who matters. All of us ordinary average nobodies, we get drunk together and have a great time and feel significant. The song doesn’t get into the kind of work that men do, though the woman works in a typically feminine job. There’s at least some recognition that women have similar experiences. The music is a less hard rock than the other two, good horn parts and as usual I like the vocals.