Ben Bostick

For fans of:Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Shooter Jennings

There’s nothing better than a good country song. And nothing worse than a bad one. As far as I’m concerned the world has enough of the bad ones, so I’m crusading to redeem the name of the genre. But hell, with legends like Townes van Zandt being retro-classified as folk, and Dale Watson labeling his sound “Ameripolitan” to distance himself from the libelous epithet of “country,” maybe it’s a lost cause. On the other hand, what I do sounds country to me, so as Kris would say, “that’s what it is.”

My country sounds like country sounded when country was country. When Waylon, Johnny, Loretta, and George were doing it. My country is about real life, about complicated shit, hard times, wild times, cheating, devotion, love, hate, addiction, and poverty. My songs are not pleasant suburban jingles affirming the values of the companies that own the stations that play it. My country is talking about how to survive in the USA.

My country is country music, but it’s not essentially rural music. I was born rural, in the small town of Beaufort, South Carolina, but I’ve done some rambling since I left home: NYC, Nevada, Washington, Minnesota, Paris. For now I reside in Los Angeles, in a neighborhood called Echo Park. And I swear every place I’ve been I’ve experienced country. But never the kind on the radio. My friend Mike, a 71-year-old homeless man from Baghdad that I know from playing for tips on the Santa Monica Pier, is ten times as country as the songs I hear on country radio.

My country is not corny, disingenuous fluff. I can’t stand that stuff. I see country like I see the blues—as a state-of-mind. A feeling. Not a chord progression, a location, an accent, or a morality. I like Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Adia Victoria. If they’re country, then call me country. If not, just call me whatever you call them. In the end, “there is two kinds of music: the good and the bad,” said Louis Armstrong. And regardless of genre, I believe the hallmark of the good stuff is a scarce resource called honesty. Lots of people call it soul. But it boils down to simply meaning what you say. And I mean what I say.