Monthly Columns,  Reviews

Witch & Popcorn

 

The 57th Annual Country Music Awards

Bright Blessings!

This time, I am reviewing something that is quite different from anything else I have reviewed before- the Country Music Awards ceremony from November 9, 2022. You might not think such a program was magical, but it was, and I will tell you why. First, watch one of the performances here:

 

(33) This Performance by Chris Stapleton and Patty Loveless Will Give You Goosebumps | LIVE @ CMA Awards – YouTube

 

This particular performance of You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive that was at the awards has been a work in progress since at least 1997 when the song was released to the world by singer and songwriter Darrell Scott in his album Aloha from Nashville. He got inspiration for the song while in Harlan County, Kentucky researching his family’s roots, and was touring a cemetery there. One of the tombstones read ‘You’ll never leave Harlan alive”, and he composed a song that spoke of the poverty and hopelessness coal mining families there endured.

For some of us in the States, coal mining was a major career field our family members went into. My father was one of seven sons, some of whom went into the military, and some did become coal miners. My uncles James and Cletus did, and the only time I got to meet Uncle Cletus was when he was elderly and too sick to get out of bed to greet me. He laid in bed and cried because he was so upset to be too sick to get up. He did have diabetes, and old age, but another diagnosis? Black lung. He died in great pain because of it. Nobody deserves that fate.

The peak of coal mining employment was in the 1920’s when over 800,000 people were employed as miners, and as of 2020, there were just over 41,000 of them. Most coal produced is used to create electricity, and there is talk about retraining coal miners to work in the solar power energy fields. It would be a cleaner energy for certain. It is said that someone who has worked underground as a coal miner has 5-10% chance of contracting black lung, but that’s too high of a risk. Miners also risk being buried alive or killed in cave ins, and the way the industry was initially set up kept the workers and their families tied to the company.

The coal mines set up business places where quite often there was nothing else for miles, and even when there was, they expected workers to only buy goods from the company ran store. The company store marked prices so high, the workers and their families would actually become indebted to the company. Life was hard for coal miners and their families, and while some would get by on this income, if the mine ownership decided to stop operating, the workers would be left with no means of income whatsoever.

Another song featured at the awards show was Coal Miner’s Daughter, which Loretta Lynn made famous, and a tribute was paid to her. Lynn died in October of this year at age 90, having touched many lives with her music. It was not just that song that was performed, but multiple songs she made famous. The tribute performance can be watched here:

 

(33) Musical Tribute to Loretta Lynn Live at ‘The 56th Annual CMA Awards’ – The CMA Awards – YouTube

 

Throughout the entire show, there was a balance of songs from years back, and new songs as well. Older veteran musicians played alongside of younger new performers and watching the eyes of some of the celebrity country music performers in the audience as their favorite performers came onto the stage was like watching kids in awe of their heroes. They sang along with each other’s songs, and the nominees who did not win the awards cheered for the people who did. The veteran performers were supportive of the younger, newer performers, and everybody behaved like one big family.

The whole show was a major celebration, not of awards, but of history, culture, and art. The history of the people of the American South and Appalachian Mountains as well as the way those people are today was celebrated and honored. The connection with the musicians who passed away and had shaped country music for new generations was honored. The relationship between lifelong musicians who are uplifting new musicians and the younger generation musicians who appreciate and admire them was honored as well.

The magic of this event was not just in music, but in people and their connections with one another. Music, and any form of art for that matter, is a living tradition that everybody contributes to, thus changing it, and making a bigger, greater entity. If nothing changed or evolved, the creativity would be gone. If the past was forgotten, there would be no honoring of those who taught us. The music sang about real people and events in their lives, and every celebrity there, no matter how famous, rich, or accomplished they were, behaved humbly, and nobody acted like they forgot their roots. Human connections are the most magical thing there is, and the artists at the awards show demonstrated how to forge those powerful connections and keep them strong.

Older performers like Ricky Skaggs, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, and Patty Loveless took the stage to show their mastery of music and blew everybody away. They played and sang alongside new stars, and treated them as the peers they are. No sign of egos or “cock measuring contests” could be detected, and even when accepting awards, the people who won thanked other people, and some of them were genuinely surprised to have won.

Humility, no matter how good you are is important and a very powerful magic. If you become arrogant and tell yourself you are so perfect, you can never improve, then you won’t. You become stagnant and can never move forward to excel. None of us are above learning something new, or improving ourselves, and being humble reminds you of that.

Something I have seen change in country music recently is how much more inclusive it has become. I noticed it last year, and I am sure it has been happening for far longer than I picked up on. Diversity in circles with creative people is nothing new, but I am old enough to remember when country and bluegrass music was pretty much done one way. I am old enough to remember when Dolly Parton and her big boobs, spiked heels, long fake nails, huge wigs, and heavy makeup were frowned upon. So many of the women of country music today emulate that example on their own terms, and the people dressed as they saw fit, some just wearing street clothes to perform.

I will also mention that country and bluegrass used to be pretty much all white folks, but there are people of all races performing, and non-heterosexual performers are embraced by the stars. Now, some of the fans of country music don’t approve of it…but they go to the concerts to see Melissa Etheridge and KD Lang anyways! Lil Naz X with his cover of Jolene has been celebrated as opposed to being scrapped by country fans. Love wins!

Growing up listening to country and bluegrass music, I can see that it’s all become more inclusive, which is powerful magic, but plenty has been magical for as long as I can remember. The musicians love the music itself and support one another respectfully, paying tribute to their roots and they respect and honor the older musicians who they learned from. They move the younger players forward, keeping the tradition of this music going.

Like any living magic, music transcends the musician, and lives on through new musicians. If you have not gotten to see this show, watch it on Hulu, and individual performances can be found on YouTube. Enjoy it for the great music, the glamour of the fashion, and the powerful magic.

Blessed Be.

**

About the Author:

Saoirse is a practicing witch, and initiated Wiccan of an Eclectic Tradition.

A recovered Catholic, she was raised to believe in heaven and hell, that there is only one god, and only one way to believe. As she approached her late 20’s, little things started to show her this was all wrong. She was most inspired by the saying “God is too big to fit into one religion” and after a heated exchange with the then associate pastor of the last Xtian church she attended, she finally realized she was in no way Xtian, and decided to move on to see where she could find her spiritual home.

Her homecoming to her Path was after many years of being called to The Old Ways and the Goddess, and happened in Phoenix, Arizona. She really did rise from her own ashes!

Upon returning to Ohio, she thought Chaos Magic was the answer, and soon discovered it was actually Wicca. She was blessed with a marvelous mentor, Lord Shadow, and started a Magical Discussion Group at local Metaphysical Shop Fly By Night. The group was later dubbed A Gathering of Paths. For a few years, this group met, discussed, did rituals, fellowship, and volunteering together, and even marched as a Pagan group with members of other groups at the local gay Pride Parade for eight years.

All the while, she continued studying with her mentor, Lord Shadow, and she became a Third Degree High priestess in 2022. She belongs to the Black Dragon Clan.