Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture: Introduction and Table of Contents

Barbara Ching, Iowa State University

Table of Contents and Introduction, of Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture by Dr. Barbara Ching, [2001], reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.


This book is about hard country music for two reasons. First, it's impossible to really understand country music, now one of the most popular forms of music in the United States, without recognizing that its "country" is a disputed territory where a mainstream-oriented pop production style reigns over a feisty and less fashionable form-"hard country." Second, hearing hard country music offers an important perspective on the bewildering cultural situation, often called postmodernism, in which we find ourselves. Conversely, once we recognize the postmodern rhetoric of cultural distinction embedded in contemporary hard country, we can hear the music as something more significant than a stylistic variant of a harmless breed of popular music. Although cultural critics like Susan Sontag may well assert that contemporary culture has done away with the traditional distinction between high and low culture,1 you don't find them writing an appreciative essay on George Jones. Country music-let alone hard country music-has not figured in any of the now canonical discussions of postmodernity. The difficulty of imagining it may suggest just how remote country music is from intellectual discourse, and thus how overlooked it is in contemporary cultural politics.