Especially for a guy born in New York City, raised in New Jersey, and living in Los Angeles, I really love country music. And as someone who spends a lot about music and life in both my professional and personal life, I often think about why country music seems to have a closer bond with its fans these days than other genres. Part of the reason, I think, is that in country music, writing about life as it is really lived is not just allowed, but also actually encouraged. I think about a song I've listened to a lot this year -- "One Of Those Lives" by Brad Paisley from his stunning This Is Country Music album. "One Of Those Lives" -- written by Paisley with Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller -- is an amazing song about how the genuine trouble of others can put our own more imagined personal trials into some larger and more realistic perspective. "One Of Those Day" is an emotionally truthful musical statement that dares to mention the word "cancer" in a song -- and as Paisley sings so memorably on the album's extraordinary title track, "This is country music and we do."
"Life Ain't Fair" by Josh Charles -- which is released on iTunes today from Down Home Records/Interscope -- taps into this grand tradition of country truth telling and is worth checking out. You can go to www.joshcharlesmusic.com and hear the song for yourself. I know of Josh Charles because he started following me on twitter at @wildaboutmusic, and I followed back. But from what I gather, he's an extremely talented signer-songwriter, pianist and guitarist with impressive range. Apparently, Charles was a bluesy protégé of Dr. John, who's also done an EP of keyboard-based covers of Jimi Hendrix songs. But make no mistake; "Life Ain't Fair" is pure country drama. Co-written by Charles and veteran hit country writer Milton L. Brown ("Every Which Way You Can" and "Any Which Way But Loose"), "Life Ain't Fair" is a deeply troubled state of the union address. What they see is not pretty. This is a powerful song about the personal emotional impact of hard times - one that sadly will hit home with way too many Americans today. Musically, too, "Life Ain't Fair" is powerful -- featuring the backing of Marty Stuart's Fabulous Superlatives and legendary pedal steel player Al Perkins.
Sadly, chances are that life will remain unfair for the foreseeable future. Yet thanks to country music, we can always find some measure of solace in the kind of truthfully sad songs that move us and somehow make us feel a little better.