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Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music

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In her provocative new book Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Nadine Hubbs looks at how class and gender identity play out in one of America’s most culturally and politically charged forms of popular music. Skillfully weaving historical inquiry with an examination of classed cultural repertoires and close listening to country songs, Hubbs confronts the shifting and deep In her provocative new book Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Nadine Hubbs looks at how class and gender identity play out in one of America’s most culturally and politically charged forms of popular music. Skillfully weaving historical inquiry with an examination of classed cultural repertoires and close listening to country songs, Hubbs confronts the shifting and deeply entangled workings of taste, sexuality, and class politics. In Hubbs’s view, the popular phrase “I’ll listen to anything but country” allows middle-class Americans to declare inclusive “omnivore” musical tastes with one crucial exclusion: country, a music linked to low-status whites. Throughout Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Hubbs dissects this gesture, examining how provincial white working people have emerged since the 1970s as the face of American bigotry, particularly homophobia, with country music their audible emblem. Bringing together the redneck and the queer, Hubbs challenges the conventional wisdom and historical amnesia that frame white working folk as a perpetual bigot class. With a powerful combination of music criticism, cultural critique, and sociological analysis of contemporary class formation, Nadine Hubbs zeroes in on flawed assumptions about how country music models and mirrors white working-class identities. She particularly shows how dismissive, politically loaded middle-class discourses devalue country’s manifestations of working-class culture, politics, and values, and render working-class acceptance of queerness invisible. Lucid, important, and thought-provoking, this book is essential reading for students and scholars of American music, gender and sexuality, class, and pop culture.


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In her provocative new book Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Nadine Hubbs looks at how class and gender identity play out in one of America’s most culturally and politically charged forms of popular music. Skillfully weaving historical inquiry with an examination of classed cultural repertoires and close listening to country songs, Hubbs confronts the shifting and deep In her provocative new book Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Nadine Hubbs looks at how class and gender identity play out in one of America’s most culturally and politically charged forms of popular music. Skillfully weaving historical inquiry with an examination of classed cultural repertoires and close listening to country songs, Hubbs confronts the shifting and deeply entangled workings of taste, sexuality, and class politics. In Hubbs’s view, the popular phrase “I’ll listen to anything but country” allows middle-class Americans to declare inclusive “omnivore” musical tastes with one crucial exclusion: country, a music linked to low-status whites. Throughout Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Hubbs dissects this gesture, examining how provincial white working people have emerged since the 1970s as the face of American bigotry, particularly homophobia, with country music their audible emblem. Bringing together the redneck and the queer, Hubbs challenges the conventional wisdom and historical amnesia that frame white working folk as a perpetual bigot class. With a powerful combination of music criticism, cultural critique, and sociological analysis of contemporary class formation, Nadine Hubbs zeroes in on flawed assumptions about how country music models and mirrors white working-class identities. She particularly shows how dismissive, politically loaded middle-class discourses devalue country’s manifestations of working-class culture, politics, and values, and render working-class acceptance of queerness invisible. Lucid, important, and thought-provoking, this book is essential reading for students and scholars of American music, gender and sexuality, class, and pop culture.

30 review for Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    lauren

    This book was a mixed bag for me. There was a lot about it that i liked (chapter 2, focused on class, was great), but i feel like there were also disappointments and missed opportunities. The book was really more about the white working class and how the working class is viewed through the lens of the middle class, and that there are different values and behavioral norms between the classes, which makes for the middle class analysis greatly lacking in a real solid understanding of how the workin This book was a mixed bag for me. There was a lot about it that i liked (chapter 2, focused on class, was great), but i feel like there were also disappointments and missed opportunities. The book was really more about the white working class and how the working class is viewed through the lens of the middle class, and that there are different values and behavioral norms between the classes, which makes for the middle class analysis greatly lacking in a real solid understanding of how the working class functions. This part of the conversation will make me listen to country music a bit differently, and was a good reminder to keep in mind who is in the role of defining values and taste and behavioral norms. The stuff about queerness left a lot to be desired. It seemed like her whole point was to argue that country music isn't explicitly homophobic, and that the white working class country listeners have some level of acceptance of same sex sexual relationships that may be surprising to the middle class. I appreciated her pointing these things out, but I think there is a whole lot about being queer that she didn't come near to touching on. There was an entire chapter and a fair amount of build-up devoted to the David Allen Coe song "fuck aneta briant". This song is used as an example of what she was arguing is the white working class attitude towards gay sex, which is that it's okay for men to have sex with men but kinda only if you're the top, and if you're the top that doesn't even make you gay. She goes on to explain how Coe killed a man in prison for suggesting that Coe be a bottom in their encounter. Coe himself takes so much offense at being considered a bottom- therefore gay- that he's willing to kill someone over it! It's cool that he dislikes Anita bryant and is willing to admit to having sex with men, but this song and his attitudes towards queers is not very convincing for me of the white working class being cool with the queers. (I'm not arguing that the white working class all hate queers, but this song and the discussion around it don't bring me any comfort as a queer person) There was also no discussion of race in this, which I don't like being glossed over since Coe has deeply problematic lyrics and confederate flags all over. One thing I was really hoping for from this book was a look at the overlap of country and queerness. There was only a fleeting mention of gay two step culture. And the brief discussion of trans identity felt very dismissive, arguing that it is the invention of white middle class gays trying to distance themselves from more deviant expressions of gender. While there is certainly a lot to dislike about how white upper middle class gay men have defined the priorities of gay rights, that doesn't erase the very real lives and identities of trans people. I'm glad I did the work of reading this very academic book. I did get some stuff out of it. I'm not sure that I'd really recommend it (other than maybe the second chapter) and I have no idea how i'd give it a star rating. I still love country music, and will keep on listening to it critically, but with some new things to think about thrown in there. SAL/SPL summer 2019 book bingo- about music or musicians

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jere Pilapil

    This book had a lot of academic words in it, and they don't all add up to a satisfying read. The majority of the book - about the relationship between working class values and country music (and how both get intertwined and dismissed by middle class values) - is fascinating and well-researched. It's when the book gets to the "Queer" portion of its title that is falls apart. The author uses a single David Allan Coe song (one that was an "underground" release that, pre-internet, would have been di This book had a lot of academic words in it, and they don't all add up to a satisfying read. The majority of the book - about the relationship between working class values and country music (and how both get intertwined and dismissed by middle class values) - is fascinating and well-researched. It's when the book gets to the "Queer" portion of its title that is falls apart. The author uses a single David Allan Coe song (one that was an "underground" release that, pre-internet, would have been difficult to find) to illustrate how non-homophobic country music audiences are, and the effect is unconvincing, to say the least. I don't disagree with the book's conclusions, but the work showing it is not satisfactory on this subject.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Goldston

    A thoughtful book about classism and particularly the relationship between classism and the hate of "country" as a lifestyle. I wish there had been more of an awareness about race. Often, Hubbs used the term "working class" to mean "white working class" and while Hubbs did note that distinction in several moments, it was not in all the moments it could have been in. A very good read for anyone who has said "I like all music except country" or to anyone who has heard that and been frustrated with A thoughtful book about classism and particularly the relationship between classism and the hate of "country" as a lifestyle. I wish there had been more of an awareness about race. Often, Hubbs used the term "working class" to mean "white working class" and while Hubbs did note that distinction in several moments, it was not in all the moments it could have been in. A very good read for anyone who has said "I like all music except country" or to anyone who has heard that and been frustrated with that answer.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dalice

    Overly academic in a way that made simple points feel drawn out and convoluted. Clearly the final result of a dissertation. Beyond these faults, Hubbs draws a pretty clear line from disavowing country music to classism and middle-class reaffirmation. A point barely even considered when people exclaim that they will listen to "anything but country." Certainly not a book for everyone, but those queer, redneck, country-loving academics out there will probably appreciate the time, research and energ Overly academic in a way that made simple points feel drawn out and convoluted. Clearly the final result of a dissertation. Beyond these faults, Hubbs draws a pretty clear line from disavowing country music to classism and middle-class reaffirmation. A point barely even considered when people exclaim that they will listen to "anything but country." Certainly not a book for everyone, but those queer, redneck, country-loving academics out there will probably appreciate the time, research and energy Hubbs puts into Redneck, Queers, and Country.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    Despite what Goodreads will inevitably say, I did not finish this book. However, the author's thought-provoking thesis about the relationship between country music and class in America saved it from being a single star rating. Unfortunately, that thesis is pretty much laid out in the introduction and from there on, the book feels repetitive, full of examples that don't add anything new to the argument. The title is also misleading; the queer aspect feels like an example of the thesis at best and Despite what Goodreads will inevitably say, I did not finish this book. However, the author's thought-provoking thesis about the relationship between country music and class in America saved it from being a single star rating. Unfortunately, that thesis is pretty much laid out in the introduction and from there on, the book feels repetitive, full of examples that don't add anything new to the argument. The title is also misleading; the queer aspect feels like an example of the thesis at best and an afterthought at worst. As far as academic nonfiction goes, this fell flat as a quality, interesting idea was rendered boring by mediocre execution.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robert Hudder

    Okay. I do have a lot to say about this book. I have read a few of the reviews and they seem to center around the basic idea that there is a relationship between class and country music. More specifically that country music and metal are the music of the lower classes. Country music and by extension the lower class that listen to it are racist, sexist, homophobic and shall we go on? This point of view is from the middle class and does not hold up when you analyze the music. Yes, this book suffer Okay. I do have a lot to say about this book. I have read a few of the reviews and they seem to center around the basic idea that there is a relationship between class and country music. More specifically that country music and metal are the music of the lower classes. Country music and by extension the lower class that listen to it are racist, sexist, homophobic and shall we go on? This point of view is from the middle class and does not hold up when you analyze the music. Yes, this book suffers from the odd middle level academia of rolling out your thesis in a particular way. It suffers a bit from the expectations of this genre. Now, I ended up getting a lot more out of this than many of the reviewers. It seems to me that many of those reading this academic book would actually come from the class (middle) that is heavily criticized in this book and that they may not have the same point of view as the author. Having listened to the playlist on spotify and knowing many of the tunes from my childhood to adolescence might give me a leg up. https://open.spotify.com/user/1273934... I was willing to wade through some of that initial set up of thesis and all the boring parts that needed to be done to get a degree or get it published or whatever, in order to see if there was anything else there. I would bet that this author is queer and from a lower class. The use of the concept of intersectionality is mainly one from the middle classes. Hell even bell hooks is now saying that maybe we should look at class first on some of these issues rather than race or sex. That is an important point and one easy for academia to gloss over. In fact, part of the point of this book is that the lower class don't give a fuck about some of this as they are too busy working to have to deal with this. They just want to be left alone and leave others be. This cuts through a lot of the current identity politics that is going on and is remarked sometimes in this book. In the third part, a brief history of how queer moved from lower class to middle class is talked about and it reminded me of the reclamation of Harlem. Renaissance Harlem has a similar history to country music in some respects. Yeah, there are all kinds of kinds and you don't want them talking about it or flaunting it. It isn't because you hate them but rather the core values are different. Work not talk. Politics is not a part of every day life when you are busy trying to make enough money to live. The values are integrity, truthfulness and trying to work against all those things that are trying to change you. There is a reason that working class support the troops. It is because they are the troops. One of the ways out of the working class is to enlist. The blind support for the troops isn't political but familial. I grew up rural and from the working class. i would say that the concept of feminism doesn't hold. Everybody does what they have to do in order to survive. If you had a garden, it was likely a family thing and the woman might end up working more in it than the male as the male is a more desirable employee. It is fatalistic in some ways because you can't change your lot much. If I had not found a way to go to school, I would have had to chose between working in the bush, the mill or some work that was supported by tourism. I grew up listening to songs about women being treated badly leaving their men ( D-I-V-O-R-C-E, Put another log on the fire), or men trying to figure out how to treat their women or sticking it to the man (Take this job and shove it). These are songs that reflect the real life values. It is odd to talk about racism when in some communities of the working class it is less white that you think. Of course, all this working class bashing by the middle class creates a fight culture against the dominant middle class' ability of writers to name them as being rednecks as a reclamation. Funny how both queer and redneck come from the same place of being labelled... This book just hints at the anger. It is interesting to read this in wake of Trump being voted in where middle class turned and looked stink eyed at the working class without checking what really happened. Middle class voted Trump. But it is much easier to blame those who do not have the agency and power to fight back but in a few songs that the middle class won't listen to anyway. I get angry reading so many of the reviews because it is plain to see that they are not coming from working class. I remember how queer was flagged in the rural areas. Hell there is a long running Pride Parade in Maynooth. As long as you pitch in and work, no one cares that much. Lazy and book learning are more stigmatizing than queer. Anyway, the thesis and book reinforce my thoughts on growing up. It is too bad that more working class will not get a chance to read this and say hell ya, that's me. This could be a rallying cry to push the crappy frame back onto those with the need to change it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    I thought this was very much worth reading but I could only give it three stars, okay well three and a half, because it was so damn difficult to get into. It started out extremely academic and was super dry. It also focused on mostly contemporary country, most of which I can't get into as much (so don't know the song references she used as well) as old 1970s and earlier country or even Alt-Country. Most (not all) contemporary country just has a super slick over produced sound I just don't like a I thought this was very much worth reading but I could only give it three stars, okay well three and a half, because it was so damn difficult to get into. It started out extremely academic and was super dry. It also focused on mostly contemporary country, most of which I can't get into as much (so don't know the song references she used as well) as old 1970s and earlier country or even Alt-Country. Most (not all) contemporary country just has a super slick over produced sound I just don't like as much. To each his/her own. I really liked that it made me examine and think about some things in a very different way, which almost made me up the review one star but nope, I just could not do it because 4 = "really liked" and I can't say that about this book, but I "really liked" that it made me think, so yeah, it gets four stars on that point. The chapter on David Allen Coe, and his song "Fuck Aneta Briant" made digging into this book totally worth it, and that part of the book is the best part. This is where the author really gets into a lot of what I think is the real meat of this book. Parts of this are a total slog fest though so not sure who I would recommend this to, but I do think it was worth digging into and it certainly wasn't a long book or anything as 25% of it, is all of her research, of which she did a ton, so I can also give her credit for that. She has a ton of references to back up all of her theories. This is an older book, so would love to see maybe a newer addition or something with an addendum or additional chapters talking about some of her theories, and how they relate to what is happening now. So all in all, worth reading, interesting theories, and very well researched, but be prepared for an academic slog fest at the beginning.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    You can definitely see the queer theory framework here: lots of challenging assumptions, breaking down false dichotomies, muddying up "common sense" stereotypes, and putting received wisdom in a new light. It certainly gave me a lot of new information and made me think quite a bit. I'm not sure how I feel about all of her conclusions; the treatment of "not political" as a political position in chapter 4, for example, particularly irked me, since even in her formulation, it comes off as complacen You can definitely see the queer theory framework here: lots of challenging assumptions, breaking down false dichotomies, muddying up "common sense" stereotypes, and putting received wisdom in a new light. It certainly gave me a lot of new information and made me think quite a bit. I'm not sure how I feel about all of her conclusions; the treatment of "not political" as a political position in chapter 4, for example, particularly irked me, since even in her formulation, it comes off as complacent and problematic, which she doesn't address at all. It also definitely seemed like her main thesis at the very least implied that she was going to argue that the working class/country music fans weren't terribly bigoted as a whole, and while I'd agree she made the point that a lot more of the middle class than stereotype would lead one to believe certainly is currently, and that the working class used to not be, as a rule, the question of the working class's current bigotry or lack thereof remains unsettled. Certainly my own anecdotal evidence on that front isn't always bright. The text is also dry and way academic at times, and a bit repetitive in places. But this book does succeed fantastically at making the reader look beyond stereotypes and examine things from underrepresented perspectives, and for that, I very much appreciated it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John

    Did not know that Tina Turner's first album was country...I digress. Hubbs did a great service to country music, the white working class, and LBGT Americans by showing in this work how class values frame and distort the message of country songs. Basically, in American social history, the middle class has always been right and the working class has always been wrong. And Toby Keith wrote an antihomophobic song? I am impressed with her research.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ian Hamilton

    Rednecks is densely academic during too many stretches and would be an overall stronger and easier read if it wasn't bogged down by citations and esoteric sociological theory. Still, it presents some thought-provoking arguments that have changed my perspective on country music.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris Bacon

    Interesting premise The book contains some interesting premises most notably that rural (redneck) America may not be as homophobic as people think. Unfortunately, the book is way too long and repetitive. If could have made a great article for The New Yorker.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Corey

    Particularly relevant in today's political climate - a fascinating look at how class and culture affect our perceptions of right and wrong and identity (including how we view working class politics and queer stereotypes).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I heard an interview with the author a while back on NPR, and I thought this might be an interesting book. It is, although I wasn't expecting it to read like a college textbook. I would actually give it 3.5 stars. It was fascinating, if a bit repetitive in its assertions.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ash

    Didn't tell me much I hadn't already figured out from years of listening to and mentally analyzing country (as it is one of my favourite genres) but it was a good read nonetheless.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    The author Nadine Hubbs argues the middle class is biased against the working class and this bias against the working class prevents the middle class from seeing the values held by the working class and keeps them from seeing the authenticity of popular Country-Western music and to falsely accuse the genre as bigoted because Country-Western is the music of the white working class. This work is a very effective counter-argument against Thomas Frank's work What's the Matter with Kansas, but the wo The author Nadine Hubbs argues the middle class is biased against the working class and this bias against the working class prevents the middle class from seeing the values held by the working class and keeps them from seeing the authenticity of popular Country-Western music and to falsely accuse the genre as bigoted because Country-Western is the music of the white working class. This work is a very effective counter-argument against Thomas Frank's work What's the Matter with Kansas, but the work at times uses the context of the moment to make it's case, like in the Garth Brooks song "We shall be Free" and leaves out other contextual moments when it would hurt the argument, like not mentioning Toby Keith's feud with the Dixie Chicks and comments made publicly by Country-Western artists.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tacman

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carri

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Rogers

  19. 4 out of 5

    melissa

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  21. 4 out of 5

    Billie Pingree

  22. 4 out of 5

    Janet

  23. 5 out of 5

    Larry

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mairead

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Hollowell Jr.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jonah Francese

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adam Corvo

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

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