Hometown <em>Blues</em>?


May 8, 2009

One of country music's gifts is its ability to evoke strong images and feelings through its relatable lyrics. And nothing engenders intense, occasionally conflicting, emotions like your hometown.  Whether or not your hometown is a reflection of who you are or have become, it is an integral part of your personal history and has influenced you in ways perhaps too obscure to realize.

I love hometown songs because of the obvious emotion behind the lyrics. That emotion is always imbued with a sense of nostalgia or longing (for what was or what could be or what might have been), even if the lyrics don't necessarily shine a positive light on the hometown. It's an irresistible combination, especially for country music listeners.

encinitasI have no doubt that I am a product of my hometown. Despite being couched between two large sprawling metropolis', it's an intimate and friendly place, a beach town where you can't leave the house without running into somebody you know.  I babysat the girl tearing my ticket at the local movie theatre, my neighbor's son takes my order at the restaurant down the street, and a few minutes spent strolling through the local grocery store or Target is akin to a high school reunion; a verifiable “who's who” of my past and present.

I love the fact that I can wear flip flops pretty much anywhere, and that the people are open, laid back and affectionate.  I love that my old high school has a highly ranked surf and bodyboarding team, and it's still considered cool to own a volvo station wagon (hello, the board fits in the back!). I also love that it has maintained its quirkiness despite a certain amount of gentrification, and that the locals still devoutly support their favorite hole-in-the-wall taco shops and music stores.

Of course, it's not quite so small that “everybody dies famous” (it's definitely more than a

“single stop light town”).  And while it's not remotely in the American heartland, I spent plenty of  days “suckin on chili dogs outside the tastee freeze” and cheering on my local team “from the cheap seats.”  It also has its very own marquee, but I can't say that “when people leave town, they never come back.”  If people do ever leave town, they nearly always come back.  (I did.)

Although every hometown song makes me a wee bit nostalgic for my own, given that I didn't grow up in the South or the Midwest it's hard to find a country song with direct application. Ironically, the country song that most reminds me of my hometown is Kenny Chesney's “Anything But Mine” (the only Chesney song on my iPod).

del-mar-fair-3Summers in my hometown have always been signalled by the start of the local fair in June.  I still recall that tingling excitement back in my school days that came with the opening of the fair. The fair meant that school was nearly out and an entire summer of fun in the sun awaited.

Chesney's song refers to a beachside Boardwalk, e.g. the Santa Cruz boardwalk, but my local fair is essentially located where the surf meets the turf of the fairgrounds, so these lyrics always have the ability to make me smile and reminisce:

You can hear the cries from the carnival rides
The pin-ball bells and the ski-ball slides
Watching the summer sun fall out of sight
There's a warm wind coming in from off of the ocean
Making its way past the hotel walls to fill the street
Mary is holding both of her shoes in her hand
Said she likes to feel the sand beneath her feet

I still remember summer as a time for fleeting crushes, orange slushies, giant ferris wheels and late night bonfires at the beach. Great memories.  And this song manages to bring all of them back. 

What song reminds you of your hometown?

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Category: Discussion

23 Comments so far

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  1. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Harper Valley PTA – Jeannie C. Riley
    Alyssa Lies – Jason Michael Carroll

  2. Mike KNo Gravatar says:

    Good idea for a post Lynn. “Anything But Mine” is also a memorable song for me although I happen to be on the other coast. When that song came out I was working in the Florida keys between college and law school. Definitely had similar feelings about the time I spent there and the people I spent it with.

    I moved back to my hometown, which is fairly small, and I enjoy many of the same type of opportune meetings that you described. A couple of songs come to mind. One is “Look Away” by John Anderson a song about the modern south and how it has lost some of its charm. appropriate for the ever-changing Florida landscape. The other is “Good Friends” by Hayes Carll off his Little Rock album. After moving back to my small hometown I have spent some time wondering where all my old buddies are.

    Thanks again for the post.

  3. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    It’s not original, but Hal Ketchum’s “Small Town Saturday Night” reminds me of my hometown. While my hometown isn’t quite as bleak as Cutting the Treacle’s seems to be, it’s not a place where young people usually go back once they’ve gotten out.

  4. William WardNo Gravatar says:

    I grew up in town so small that you had to drive a half hour to reach a town large enough that they would call it small town on television. While not as positive of a direction as the post is going, the song that comes to mind for me is “Hometown Blues.”

  5. Martin in NYNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, Lynn. This is an incredibly well-written post.

    I also love “Anything But Mine”. It makes me feel like I’m back home in Louisiana.

    I never was a big Alabama fan, but when I hear “Dixieland Delight” it really takes me back. And “Down at the Twist and Shout” by Mary Chapin Carpenter does that for me too.

  6. DiamondNo Gravatar says:

    Sara Evans: Missing Missouri (“Where they love me, where they know me, where they show me…”)

  7. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Yes, fantastic post, Lynn.

  8. JakeNo Gravatar says:

    I just recently started listening to Anything But Mine, and while it isn’t a “hometown” type song for me, I do think there’s a great nostaglia to it.

    Since I’m still only 16, to me, when I think about my hometown there’s always this bittersweet feeling that comes with it. I’m pretty sure it’s with anyone who’s growing up or grown-up. But I always think back at how I loved my hometown when I was a child. Now as a teenager(and this could also be because of the passing of my dad) I seem to always think I could’ve been something bigger in my hometown, like the high-school football star or something. At times I also feel like this place is just made of hypocritical people. But enough of my rambeling.

    Hometown type songs for me:
    “Heartbreak Town” – Dixie Chicks
    “Dreaming Fields” – Trisha Yearwood(since I’m surronded by farmland, I seem to always connect with this one.)
    “Georgia Rain” – Trisha
    “Strawberry Wine” – Deann Carter
    “Time Marches On” – Tracy Lawerence

  9. KarlNo Gravatar says:

    Growing up in an exurb, I have to say the most resonant song is “Welcome Back” by Mike Ireland & Holler.

    Maybe it doesn’t have the nostalgia, but then again where I grew up was pretty nondescript. Almost everyone my age has left and moved somewhere where there are jobs and winters that don’t last 6 months.

    That being said, going home still feels good.

  10. BLLNo Gravatar says:

    ‘Nobody Gets Off In This Town’ sums up my childhood. Main isn’t dirt, but there’s still only one high school and my sibings never left. I can’t imagine myself living there again

  11. Matt BNo Gravatar says:

    My “hometown” (where I Went to HS and 2 years of college before transferring to a big city school near where I was born and spent all my summers) isn’t much different than what Justin Moore describes in his “Small Town USA” song. The big news there was when a Dunkin’ Donuts/Subway opened up on the main highway. They’re in a fuel station but that represented the biggest ‘progress’ in ages. The town, a decade after I last lived there, still is remarkably the same.

  12. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    “Maybe it doesn’t have the nostalgia, but then again where I grew up was pretty nondescript. Almost everyone my age has left and moved somewhere where there
    are jobs and winters that don’t last 6 months.”

    Karl, are we from the same hometown?:)

  13. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    “Home” by Joe Diffie. My hometown doesnt feature “muddy road between my toes”, but we do have a nice fishin hole just outside town and that song is just so full of small town nostalgia..i love it

  14. BillyNo Gravatar says:

    Famous In A Small Town – Miranada Lambert

    My town has around 300 people. There’s a new scandal everyday.

  15. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    Because I am a resident of the city that hosts the Rose Parade, and the annual Rose Bowl game…

    “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena”–Jan and Dean

    That’s the best I could come up with.

  16. KarlNo Gravatar says:

    Karl, are we from the same hometown?:)

    Probably not (unless you are from the 585?), but I feel that sense of displacement is pretty common. I swear that I only know one person who still lives in my hometown. The Eastview Mall there is huge.

    I wish I was from ‘Americana’ by Moe Bandy. That place is waaaaay less depressing.

  17. lanibugNo Gravatar says:

    One I have always liked because I have moved away from my very small hometown — Tiny Town by Shelly Fairchild.

  18. AnnieNo Gravatar says:

    I grew up in a small town in Northern California. “Boondocks” by Little Big Town sounds like home to me. Great post!

  19. Rodney in South CarolinaNo Gravatar says:

    Sara Evans’ “Bible Song” reminds me of my hometown…not a good reflection but real, nonetheless.

  20. CharlieNo Gravatar says:

    Low Places by Garth- I’m from New York City, but my specific neighborhood is its own kind of small town. My Dad is from a place like this too, and there is no self-consciousness about being from a simple place in the midst of arguably the biggest city in the world.

  21. JoeBNo Gravatar says:

    … the end of Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars, Cadillacs” album when someone says, “What kinda Indian reservation is this?” is the first thought that came to mind when I read this topic. (Yes, I live on the rez).

    Other than that, when I lived away in my twenties I found “Detroit City” and “500 Miles Away from Home” always put a lump in my throat.

  22. HermanNo Gravatar says:

    nice article..love it

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