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My kind of country

I love a Cinderella story.

My favorite is the one in which the ’80s sports classic “Hoosiers” is based. It’s the story of the 1954 Milan basketball team winning the Indiana state tournament against all odds.

Most Hoosiers know this story like they love John Mellencamp.



From beloved basketball victories in small-town Indiana to Peyton Manning returning to Indy this Sunday with his undefeated 7-0 Broncos, sports are notorious for fairytale runs. This week, a Cinderella story of the music kind unfolded during the Country Music Awards (CMAs) in Nashville.

In two words: Chris Stapleton.



Not many people know I like country music. I listen to it quite often. I enjoy most types of music and try not to restrict my favorite genre to just one. I might even go as far as to say big band and old-school rap top my list of music I’d pick to listen to if I were stuck on a deserted island.

I’d also choose the Jerry Reed station on Pandora.

I’m more of a closet country junkie. But not the type of country music on the radio these days that sounds so much like pop, Justin Bieber could get away with singing it. I mean good old-fashioned honky-tonk. The kind my grandpa listened to when he drove a semi in the 1970s. Think “Convoy” and “East Bound and Down.”

Loaded up and trucking, good buddy.

Like the stuff heard as Jackie Gleason chased Burt Reynolds and Sally Field in a black Trans-Am with a T-tops and a gold bird on the hood. The country music that put hair on adolescent boys’ chests just listening to it. The country music that made men want to grow mustaches and wear a cowboy hat with feathers and slip into tight-fitting jeans.

Conway Twitty style.

At Wednesday night’s CMAs, the room — an entire arena, technically — came alive with the music of a Stapleton-Justin Timberlake collaboration that had old-school honky-tonk written all over it. The house was brought down, as the saying goes, as they sang “Tennessee Whiskey,” originally recorded by David Allan Coe and covered by George Jones. Closing with JT’s single “Drink You Away,” the duo wowed the crowd of country music heavy hitters and won the Internet, especially the next morning.

They put the country back in country music.

Prior to the arm hair-raising performance, Stapleton won New Artist of the Year, looking surprised. He went on to win Best Album for his debut studio album “Traveller,” released this year, and the big kahuna, Male Vocalist of the Year. His acceptance speech was humble and heartfelt, as he spoke of his dad who passed away and would love his type of music. And he thanked his wife, cousins in Kentucky, sister and mom. That’s my kind of country singer.

“I hope Will thanks me one day when he wins a major award,” I said.

Even if that major award is the leg lamp like in “A Christmas Story,” I’ll be proud that Will is happy and successful. He would probably need to get any singing genes from his dad, who does a mean Bob Seger at karaoke. I’m not the most musical person, but I know talent when I see it. I hope to see Stapleton bring that old-school feel back to country so there’s less heavily produced songs with cheesy hooks and more facial hair and cowboy hats with feathers. Well, maybe Luke Bryan can keep his clean shave.

And Sam Hunt.

I always appreciate the musicians who write their own music and sing it. The talent and creativity that it takes to pull off is under appreciated in the hit-focused music industry. Judging by the reaction to Wednesday night’s performance, maybe we’ll see a focus put back on singer-songwriters of David Allan Coe and Jerry Reed caliber.

Chris Stapleton is here to save the day.

We don’t have to be spoon-fed our music like it’s processed jars of baby food that all tastes the same. And yes, I’ve tasted baby food. Music can be home-grown, born from happiness and heartbreak. It can look, feel and sound different. Music can cross generations and break down barriers. And make us feel alive like that stadium became at a country awards show on a Wednesday night in Nashville.

As Bill Murray said in “Caddyshack,” an incredible Cinderella story.

April E. Clark can’t wait for the Colts-Broncos game Sunday. Go #18. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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