Rural Geography: “Country Music and the Construction of Rural Identities”, identify three or more country music songs in which the lyrics make reference to rural people, places, and/or lifestyles. Each song must have been written or recorded since 1998.

In his article “Beyond the rural idyll: images, countryside change and geography”, geographer Richard Yarwood states the following: “…most people feel that there is a difference between urban and rural areas and behave accordingly. For example, many people have chosen to live in the countryside because they think it offers them a better quality of life, both environmentally and socially” (Yarwood 2005: 20). Yarwood goes on to say that there is great potential for geographers to understand the “geographies of everyday life” by delving into “everyday culture”, such as popular music, fast food and television. He also cites a 2003 study conducted in the United Kingdom that found that people’s opinions about the countryside are strongly influenced by television, radio, newspapers, magazines and advertising campaigns (which, today, would including things like the tourism brochures you are looking at in seminar during the week of ). Yarwood argues that we can build a better understanding of the “sense of place” people hold about rural areas, and how these senses of place come about by looking closely at these media through a “geographical lens”. Many of Yarwood’s ideas, particularly as they pertain to the role of popular music in shaping our senses of place, are shared in a more general way by a geographer named Lily Kong. In a journal article, entitled “Popular Music in Geographical Analyses” (Kong 1995: 184), she notes that “music from a specific area can convey images of the place” and then goes on to later say that: “the impact of listening [to music] in shaping our understanding of the world is far more insidious than we realize. It alters the impacts that places have on us without our even recognizing them as such” (Kong 1995: 195). The analysis of country music represents a potentially fruitful means of understanding how the concept of “rural” is socially constructed and what types of images and symbols are used in such a process. With Yarwood and Kong’s ideas in mind, your task for this next “Mastering Geography” assignment is to analyze the lyrics of three country music songs and then to share your thoughts about how “the rural” is represented in these songs. That is, through these lyrics, what images are used to depict rural people, places and lifestyles? Furthermore, how do these lyrics relate to Richard Yarwood’s ideas about the Rural Idyll? Instructions: First, identify three or more country music songs in which the lyrics make reference to rural people, places, and/or lifestyles. Each song must have been written or recorded since 1998. (I have provided a few links to country music song lyric sites below.) Once you’ve identified these songs, you’ll have to save the URL for the song lyrics so that you can share these with your TA (and me) within your “Mastering Geography” posting. Read through the lyrics closely a few times, and then think about the themes that emerge. How are rural people, places and/or lifestyles represented in these songs? Do they evoke images of the Rural Idyll? Or do they instead represent something more along the lines of what Yarwood has called the “Rural anti-Idyll”? Once you’ve conducted your analysis, write about 150-200 words for each song in which you: (a) identify the title of the song and the name(s) of the artist(s); (b) summarize the song’s content/theme/message; and then (c) provide your summary of, and your own personal analysis and thoughts about, how this song represents rural people/places/lifestyles. Write your responses for each individual song in the boxes below. Important Tip: In order to get a good grade for this assignment, you should devote a reasonable amount of time in choosing your 3+ songs for analysis. Don’t just pick the first three songs you find!! Some country music songs may not really be relevant to this assignment; that is, try to avoid those that don’t have at least some component that depicts rural people, places and/or lifestyles. For example, a ballad about a man and woman breaking up is probably not that useful, unless the rural context plays some sort of role in the lyrics. Not sure where to start? Try these sites: Billboard – Hot Country Songs The Best Country Songs of the 2000s Top Country Charts iTunes Top 100 Country Songs Chart Song Lyrics – Country Music: General Popular Music Lyrics, including Country:

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