I wasn’t greeted with the typical sound of the driver screaming into his bluetooth headset on my last NYC yellow cab ride. Instead, after giving the driver my destination and orienting myself in the cab, it occurred to me that I was being serenaded by the dulcet tones of Eric Church’s Springsteen and a quick glance confirmed that 94.7 NASH FM was playing on the radio. (More to come in a future post analyzing the strengths of “Springsteen”, including but not limited to an analysis of the title lyrics’ ability to conjure up of powerful nostalgia as well as both musical aspirational and inspirational themes all in one word.)
My ears perk up whenever I hear country music in New York City but the context of a taxi cab, being driven by a man who I initially thought – and subsequently confirmed – was not originally from these United States and did not speak English as a first language, I was particularly surprised at the choice of music. I tentatively engaged Mr. Ait-Ouamer in conversation, asking whether he liked the music that was currently playing, assuring him – lest he interpret my query as some sort of complaint – that I, in fact, liked the music. And so it turns out that he did like the genre, expressing a preference for country over various other genres and in sum delivering his verdict that it was nice music to drive around to. We chatted for the rest of the ride about music and culture, the driver I think manifesting significantly more surprise at the fact that I knew where Algeria, his native country, is located than I, at least outwardly, displayed with respect to his preference for country music.
And at the end of the day, while I can’t confirm that Mr. Ait-Ouamer will be attending the time Reckless Kelly comes to town for a concert, this was a nice reminder of some of the things that make country music so great. Country music features songs that are easy to listen to, based around universal themes like family, love and hard times that defy boundaries of state or country. A song about the nostalgia of young love can be just as appealing to a middle-aged immigrant from Algeria driving a taxi cab up and down the potholed streets of a big city as it can be to a young kid driving a harvester up and down rows of corn that seem to go on forever in a farm town out in the sticks. Brantley Gilbert sang that country must be country wide, and I agree with that sentiment as far as it goes, but – as my recent encounter reminded me – the appeal of country is indeed even wider than that.