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@JakeShell

LIFE AT MAXIMUM VELOCITY

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Confession: Why I Love Country Music

I have a confession to make. I love country music. Now that is not to say I love all of it...but as for The Good Stuff....it is hard to find better without going back to Vienna circa 1790 or Havana circa 1959. Now let me say this before you judge me...my taste in music is quite diverse, ranging from Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and co. to the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos to the Buena Vista Social Club. Yes, I appreciate mastery and have an ear for the music of the cultural elite; I also have the iTunes receipts to prove it. 

Having said that, in an age where pop music and pop culture have brought us the Miley Cyrus performance at the 2013 MTV VMAs...it is refreshing to hear country artists singing about family, faith, the simple life, and other wholesome values and virtues. Now certainly not all of country is fit for a Sunday Worship Service, but the majority still is, and I would like to think God himself listens to the wholesome country when He wants to kick back a bit on a Saturday night. And even at its moral low point, mainstream country is still a far cry from the deplorable lyrics found in much of pop music, rap, and hip-hop. In my humble opinion, what we witnessed on stage with Miley (poor Billy Ray...) and Robin Thicke in 2013 was the epitome of the downfall of taste in this country. I cannot imagine pop music going much lower! Thankfully the majority of country has stayed wholesome, and I do not believe we'll ever see the Miley type of tomfoolery at the CMAs.

It is for the aforementioned reasons I love country music. For the most part, it is still GOOD, good in the way that I yearn for our pop culture to still be good (read Coming Apart by Charles Murray...American pop culture still had class in 1960). If you haven't guessed, I loathe the mainstream. We've lost our way, and while yes, I realize that statement locks me into the old curmudgeon category at the young age of 32, tell me what good can come of 12 year old girls and boys listening to pop/rap lyrics promoting promiscuity, misogyny, drug use, violence, etc.?  I won't hold my breath for a logical answer! 

If there is one song that exemplifies my love for country music, it must be "Small Town Southern Man" by Alan Jackson. Jackson used his own life as inspiration for the song, and I can relate well to the lyrics as they mirror much of my life to date. I have listened to the song countless times since its release in 2007 and subsequent number 1 ranking on the country charts in 2008, and still to this day it brings a tear to my eye whenever I hear it. The song focuses on...no surprise...family, faith, hard work, growing up on a farm, and the great virtues perhaps lost to generations prior.

Similar to Jackson, I also grew up on a family farm, mine located in Lancaster County, PA, a farm settled by Ulrich Schellenberger in 1748 after his arrival from Switzerland in 1727. Our family has occupied these 90 acres since 1748, and we still have the original deed to the land that predates the American Revolution by nearly 30 years. As true country fans know, you can't pull roots when they run that deep. As another example of said roots, I grew up in one of the family farmhouses that was built in 1859 by a several time great-grandfather of mine; his name was also Jacob Shellenberger. Yes, you read that correctly. I grew up in a farmhouse built in 1859 by a grandfather whose name I share...Powerful, to say the least! 

To my 3 month old son, Eli, if you are reading these words someday, know that our family is built on the same principles of faith, family, hard work, and a love for history, tradition and the land that is interwoven throughout much of country music. These values run deep within your veins, and my hope is that you will someday embrace them as your ancestors have since 1748 and beyond. 

 

And now, "Small Town Southern Man" by Alan Jackson 

Born the middle son of a farmer
And a small town Southern man
Like his daddy's daddy before him
Brought up workin' on the land
Fell in love with a small town woman
And they married up and settled down
Natural way of life if you're lucky
For a small town Southern man

First there came four pretty daughters
For this small town Southern man
Then a few years later came another
A boy, he wasn't planned
Seven people livin' all together
In a house built with his own hands
Little words with love and understandin'
From a small town Southern man

Chorus:
And he bowed his head to Jesus
And he stood for Uncle Sam
And he only loved one woman
(He) was always proud of what he had
He said his greatest contribution
Is the ones he'll leave behind
Raised on the ways and gentle kindness
Of a small town Southern man
(Raised on the ways and gentle kindness)
(Of a small town Southern man)

Callous hands told the story
For this small town Southern man
He gave it all to keep it all together
And keep his family on his land
Like his daddy, years wore out his body
Made it hard just to walk and stand
You can break the back
But you can't break the spirit
Of a small town Southern man

(Repeat Chorus)

Finally death came callin'
For this small town Southern man
He said it's alright 'cause I see angels
And they got me by the hand
Don't you cry, and don't you worry
I'm blessed, and I know I am
'Cause God has a place in Heaven
For a small town Southern man

(Repeat Chorus)

 

 

It is hard not to love these lyrics and this song when you were born country, when you have 267 years of down-home running through your blood, and when you believe fully in the wholesome values that much of country music still preaches! 

Substitute northern in place of southern (I am proud to be from the north!) and a few other minor details, and this is a near perfect match for what I experienced growing up on the family farm. Alan is clearly promoting and embracing the many wholesome values mentioned throughout this article, and I applaud him and other country artists for doing so. We need more of this type of music, not less, and ideally we hear it from the mainstream pop/rap stars as well.

A few pictures of the family and the farm - 

My grand-father on my dad's side, Robert Shellenberger

Our Family Tree

Since 1748

Mom, Dad, and I in front of the farmhouse, built in 1859 by Jacob Shellenberger

The barnyard 

3 generations of Shellenbergers from the farm at my high school graduation in 2001. From left to right - Robert Shellenberger, Ken Shellenberger, Jake Shellenberger, Don Shellenberger 

 

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