July 13, 2011
Country Universe is proud to introduce our newest staff writer, Ben Foster. Ben began his blogging career at his own 1-to-10 Country Music Review, which is essential daily reading for country music afici0nados. We are thrilled to have him on board! – KJC.
Hey, y’all! My name is Ben Foster. I was born a Yankee up in Michigan, near Detroit, and now I currently live in Russellville - a small town located right smack in Middle of Nowhere, Kentucky. Some of the regular readers may already have an idea of who I am, since I’ve been an active comment thread participant for well over a year now.
How did I discover country music, you may wonder? The simple truth is that I didn’t. Country music found me. I know that sounds hokey, but it’s true. In general, my parents were not country music fans. Their music collection was largely dominated by the pop and rock of the seventies and eighties. Still, a few country albums would sneak into the stack here and there. As a child of the nineties, my earliest exposure to country music came through artists like Garth Brooks and Lorrie Morgan. At that time, I still didn’t really know what country music was, nor did I realize that artists like Garth and Lorrie fit into one unique genre. At such a young age, I couldn’t fully appreciate the deep emotional resonance of the music. But what attracted me was, quite simply, the sweet sounds of the fiddle and steel guitar. I just thought it was the coolest-sounding music I had ever heard. I still think that today. Having been attracted to the genre by the sound of traditional country instrumentation, it saddens me to hear such sounds evaporating from country radio. Granted, I’m no purist. I can appreciate a good pop-country song (I’m a huge Shania Twain fan, I jam out to “Stuck Like Glue” in the car, and I even kind of like Taylor Swift if that doesn’t tell you something), but it’s safe to say that I will always have a special fondness for traditional country music.
Over time, I began to develop a great appreciation for the lyrical content of country, as well as the palpable sincerity that the most talented country artists seem to exude so effortlessly. One of the most lauded qualities of country music is that it’s relatable to everyday life. But I’m still a young guy, so there are relatively few country songs that describe situations I’ve personally experienced. I’ve never been married, let alone divorced, and I’m not even old enough to drink. As a certain one-hit-wonder country singer did not hesitate to remind me, I haven’t lived enough. But when I hear a great country lyric paired with an achingly sincere vocal performance, I can instantly see myself at the heart of whatever story the song is telling. Sometimes I see where I could be in my life ten or twenty years from now. Even when I can’t relate to the specific situations portrayed, I can still relate to the emotions being expressed. For example, the Dixie Chicks sang about falling in love with a soldier who is later killed in the Vietnam War. Could there possibly be another story further removed from my own? And yet, when I hear Natalie tell the story, I feel her pain. I ache along with her. No other genre has been able to have that effect on me so consistently.
Sadly, I found myself gradually losing interest in FM Country Radio as it increasingly took on the stench of pandering focus-group music as opposed to the authentic, sincere brand of music that I orginally fell in love with. I can’t be moved by a song if I get the notion that the song is trying to get me to like it – that the songwriters were primarily focused on creating a product that is inoffensive and universally appealing. On the positive side, I’ve also learned that there’s so much more great country music to be heard than what comes over the radio.
Discovering the world of country music blogs was undoubtedly one of the best things that’s ever happened to me as a country fan. As I became increasingly disillusioned with the music that was taking over country radio airwaves, I found a community in which lesser-known independent artists whom I had never heard of before were being treated with just as much importance as the top Nashville hitmakers. The classic country music of the past was continually recognized for its enduring relevance. Thus, I discovered a genre with more breadth and variety than I had ever known before. The country blogosphere was a place in which I could freely exchange thoughts with other individuals who loved the music as much as I did – a place to share great music with others who would come to have similar appreciation for it. I’ve always immensely enjoyed the experience of being able to bond with others, so to speak, over our common love for the greatest music ever.
Before long, I was inspired to try my own hand at the art of being a country music critic. Thus, my own blog The 1-to-10 Country Music Review was born. My past work on The 1-to-10 is a chronicle of my journey in finding my own voice as a writer. I write for many different reasons. I write to express. I write to learn. I write to spark discussion. I write to sort out my own thoughts and feelings. As I continued exploring my newfound passion for writing, I came to realize that it’s something I’m going to keep on doing forever. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. Many of my early posts were quite amateurish, but as my writing style gradually evolved, my little blog grew into something that I could be genuinely proud of, as well as a launch pad for me to be a part of other projects in addition to it.
Country Universe is a site that has long been near and dear to my heart. Joining the site’s writing staff could hardly be more of a dream writing job for me. I regard Kevin, Dan, Leeann, and Tara as four of the greatest writers on the planet – honest, straightforward, insightful writers whose opinions I hold in the highest regard. I’m very humbled that they’ve been so kind as to take me into their company. Country Universe is a site that I’ve genuinely loved since long before being invited to write for it, so this is a team that I’m truly proud to be a part of.
Of course, there are many people who have been listening to country music longer than I have, and who have a much more expansive knowledge of the genre and it’s rich history. I don’t know everything there is to know about country music. I’m learning, and I will continue learning indefinitely. I know more today than I did last year, and in another year I’ll know even more. I will never stop digging into the genre’s history, making new and exciting discoveries.
In summary, I am not an expert. I am, first and foremost, a fan.
I will do my best to provide honest, well-thought out commentary for the readers of Country Universe. People won’t always agree, but I think it would be boring if they always did. I hope to be able to introduce others to great new musical discoveries, as I know my blogging buddies will continue to do for me. And when I hear a new song or album that speaks to me on the same level as all my favorite country songs, and that makes me feel proud to be a fan of great country music, you can be sure that I’ll be quick to tell you all about it. Is this going to be fun or what?