The Hits

With the exception of the one exchange student roommate I had Freshman year, all my future bunk mates would be named Jason. Did I plan it that way? No. It’s just the way it worked out.

There was Jason who was involved in theatre and our social circles intertwined. I once walked in on him staring at a naked woman on his huge CRT monitor claiming that he was trying to match the skin tone on the character he was creating for some graphic design class.

Then there was Jason, the only male nurse that lived on our floor. He had a violent temper and listened to a lot of Tupac. His saving grace is that he was generous with his Nintendo 64 and hosting Mario Kart parties.

And then there’s Jason who used to live on a farm and had the body to match. Tall, muscular, blonde. Girls would ask about his girlfriend but he never seemed to have one at the time. This is a story about him…

We were heading back to his farm to spend a long weekend after having a stressful couple of weeks in class. He wanted to introduce me to his friends, get drunk, and do a little camping. He was the one with the car, so he got to choose the music. After picking up some smokes and subs at the campus center, we were homeward bound (for Jason at least).

He had a POS car, but it got it from A to B. I didn’t have a car, so I had to make fun of his. It was a hatchback that sounded like someone having a constant coughing fit. It had a heater, no AC, and a CD player that hooked up to the stereo via a cassette tape.

Up until meeting Jason, I hadn’t listened to a lot of country music. Garth Brooks was the biggest thing going at the time. Sure, bands like Diamond Rio came to our college town, but that was about it. He would play it in the dorm room but I really didn’t pay attention to it.

I don’t remember asking, or maybe I do. Since we were going to his homestead and knowing that he knew more than me about Country music than I did, I thought I would ask him to introduce me. He had a big toothy smile and it could light up a room.

He started me off easy. Garth Brooks. The Hits. At first, I thought it was just noise. Bad pop music with a twang. We didn’t listen to the disc from start to finish. After the first track, I said, “I don’t get it.”

With that in mind he threw on “Rodeo” and said, “Listen to this one and tell me what you think.”

I thought it was crap, but didn’t want to offend him, he was getting me off campus for a couple of days. “It’s OK, I guess.”

Jason launched into an oral history of the rodeo. Not the song, but actual rodeos. He would pause the CD between puffs on his cigarette and dissect each and every lyric of the song for me.

I started to get it.

Up next, “Papa Loved Mama”.

Then it hit me, not every country song was about an ex-partner, a lost dog, or a broken down tractor. In its simplest form, these songs were stories told in an almost literal style. Sometimes there were things to try and figure out from the lyrics, but most of the time, it was right there. In black and white.

The ride to Jason’s place took about 4 or 5 hours. When we finished with Garth Brooks, we listened to the album again. And again. And again. And again until it got to the point of both of us driving in the middle of the night, windows down, belting out “American Honky Tonk Bar Association” and “Friends In Low Places” as if we didn’t care who heard us.

So yeah, that was Jason, the one who introduced me to country music.

1.Ain't Going Down (Til The Sun Comes Up)4:34
2.Friends In Low Places4:20
3.Callin' Baton Rouge2:37
4.The River4:27
5.Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)2:58
6.The Thunder Rolls3:44
7.American Honky-Tonk Bar Association3:33
8.If Tomorrow Never Comes3:41
9.Unanswered Prayers3:25
10.Standing Outside The Fire3:52
12.What She's Doing Now3:26
13.We Shall Be Free3:47
14.Papa Loved Mama2:52
16.Two Of A Kind, Workin' On A Full House2:33
17.That Summer4:48
18.The Dance3:41