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I Went Country Music Speed Dating With Keith Urban... and I Liked It

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Here's how it went down.

The Location: a massive arena in Nashville.
The Attire: someone else's cowboy boots.
The Beverage: 24 oz Bud light lime.
The Line Up: All the best group acts in country that are still breathing, although I'm fairly confident Keith and Vince may have figured out how to resurrect people from the dead based on the age of some of the performers.  
The Cause: The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  

The concert was a three hour revolving door of country acts.  Each band performed two songs, and then it was on to the next, the equivalent of auditory speed dating. The exception to this being Keith Urban and Vince Gill, who never left the stage.  This was the exact opposite of what it might sound like.  In a move refreshingly devoid of ego, Vince and Keith spent three hours just playing back-up guitar for all the other bands.  Can you imagine some other major stars, say Mick Jagger, spending three hours singing back-up vocals for Adele and Paul Simon?  I don't think so.  

This reflects something about country music when it's at its best.  It is accessible, and it is real.  As Michael McCall, one of the historians from the Hall of Fame, said, these aren't songs about life as we would like it to be, these are songs about life as it is.  The lyrics of country music are stories of heartbreak and small towns, of high schools crushes and hard times -- of nights where we drink too much, and the way we feel when we fall in love.  It's the soundtrack to life in many parts of America, and it's all there in the lyrics of Jimmie Rogers and the chords of Vince Gill. 

If the songs are our stories, the instruments are our ancestors.  There are mandolins from Ireland and Italy that came to the music by way of porches in old mountain towns.  There are steel guitars, first made in California, and strummed alongside banjos from Africa, set to the beat of a Texas drum.   When you combine these influences and instruments,  just like when you combine the countries of our grandparents and great grandparents, it produces a sound that's wholly unique and completely American.  

It might seem ironic that one of the two organizers of this concert is Australian, but I couldn't think of anyone more perfect.  Although he wasn't born an American, through country music Keith Urban has become one.  This is because country music, like America, is where a guy from Australia can find his voice and make a name for himself.  He can move to Nashville with a demo and a dream. He can make mistakes, he can stumble, and he can fall. He can pick himself back up and build a life on hope and hard work.  There is nothing more American than that. 

Sure, country music isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you dismiss it entirely you're missing the point.  We are the sum of our parts. We are the diverse and eclectic places that we came from, and we all carry within us the stories of the little towns many of us have called home.  

If you want to hear stories about where in America we came from, listen to country music. If you want to learn where country music came from, go to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
 
If you want to go speed dating with Keith Urban... well for that one, you're on your own.