For the love of country

A work of art available in the museum shop at the Musical Instrument Museum

Hank Williams, Jr. made headlines this week for likening America’s president to one particular genocidal monster, an analogy that doesn’t do justice to the patriotism evident in so much of country music.

My daughter Jennifer, a cultural anthropology major at ASU, is a longtime fan of country music who’s introduced me to a smarter, kinder side of the genre long-affiliated with love of country and — at its best — love of fellow citizens.

Recently she pulled me aside to watch a videotaped performance from this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony. It featured Darius Rucker performing with 25 campers from the “ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp.”

They sang “Music from the Heart,” which songwriters Brett James and Chris Young composed with campers during the summer of 2010. “Lifting Lives” is the philanthropic arm of the ACM, which sponsored last summer’s camp.

The music camp has been hosted for six years by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Tennessee, which works to “facilitate discoveries and best practices that make positive differences in the lives of persons with developmental disabilities and their families.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d spotted a country/Kennedy connection. Alan Jackson opened the Kennedy Center’s 9/11 memorial in Washington, D.C. with his song titled “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.”

Those of you seeking country music closer to home can look forward to several concerts coming to Valley stages this season. Vince Gill performs at the Mesa Arts Center on Oct. 23, and Josh Gracin performs with special guest Nick Nicholson at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 9.

Chandler Center for the Arts presents Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis on Feb. 4, 2012 and Marty Stuart on March 31, 2012. I hope someone gives me a call when Roseanne Cash comes to town.

The Musical Instrument Museum, already home to country western fare, says exhibits about Toby Keith and Buck Owens will go up later this month in the Artists Gallery

I was intrigued to see several country music-related exhibits being prepared during my last visit to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, and I’m told that Suzy Boggus will be performing at the MIM on March 23, 2012.

It’s always fun to explore country western-related artifacts at the MIM. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a genuine “Nudie suit” — named for the Russian-born American tailor who crafted rhinestone-studded garb for lots of country western superstars.

And it’s nice to know, in a day and age when some use their celebrity to pedal hate and intolerance, that others are using their own good fortune to enhance the lives of others.

— Lynn

Coming up: Art meets Americana, Spending time at the “Spitfire Grill”

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