Country Boys and Redneck Women
New Essays in Gender and Country Music
Essays that overthrow stereotypes and demonstrate the genre’s power and mystique
Country music boasts a long tradition of rich, contradictory gender dynamics, creating a world where Kitty Wells could play the demure housewife and the honky-tonk angel simultaneously, Dolly Parton could move from traditionalist "girl singer" to outspoken trans rights advocate, and current radio playlists can alternate between the reckless masculinity of bro-country and the adolescent girlishness of Taylor Swift.
In this follow-up volume to A Boy Named Sue, some of the leading authors in the field of country music studies reexamine the place of gender in country music, considering the ways country artists and listeners have negotiated gender and sexuality through their music and how gender has shaped the way that music is made and heard. In addition to shedding new light on such legends as Wells, Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Charley Pride, it traces more recent shifts in gender politics through the performances of such contemporary luminaries as Swift, Gretchen Wilson, and Blake Shelton. The book also explores the intersections of gender, race, class, and nationality in a host of less expected contexts, including the prisons of WWII-era Texas, where the members of the Goree All-Girl String Band became the unlikeliest of radio stars; the studios and offices of Plantation Records, where Jeannie C. Riley and Linda Martell challenged the social hierarchies of a changing South in the 1960s; and the burgeoning cities of present-day Brazil, where "college country" has become one way of negotiating masculinity in an age of economic and social instability.
This thoughtful collection of essays offers compelling evidence that a gendered lens helps us understand how country music negotiates its own generic identity, as well as ongoing issues in authenticity, race, class, and social relations. The editors of the groundbreaking A Boy Named Sue have collected a powerful new series of essays that incorporate subsequent developments in masculinity studies, as well as in country music scholarship. The collection shows the value and necessity of methodological variety and interdisciplinarity, and it documents the global reach of country music as it addresses dislocations both individual and collective. It will be of interest not only to scholars in gender studies and country music but also to anyone interested in how the many tensions between tradition and transgression are constantly being negotiated in popular culture.- Joli Jensen, Hazel Rogers Professor of Communication at the University of Tulsa and author of The Nashville Sound
In this sequel to their highly ambitious and successful A Boy Named Sue, Pecknold and McCusker have produced a collection that more than stands on its own. The essays presented, while recalling insights of the original, address new research, topics, and trends that reflect a dynamic and vibrant field. Ultimately, Country Boys and Redneck Women argues cogently that gender is central to understanding country music's past, present, and future.- Michael T. Bertrand, author of Race, Rock, and Elvis