Zac Brown Band Songs

by Jenna Stern

When most people think of the south, they picture pristine beaches, good food, and some nice, Southern hospitality. Yet sometimes those qualities can be blown out of proportion in pop culture today. Sometimes people pick and choose how they portray this region. However, the few songs that I’ve heard from Zac Brown Band do a good job of portraying Southern Culture. They  tend to make the main focus of the song on the laid back aspects that are so quintessential to Southern Culture. They also highlight all the other stereotypical Southern things that make this region so interesting to some people. Some of these include things like sweet tea, sitting by the ocean, and being very patriotic among other aspects. Their songs also have story lines to them, which is something we discussed as being common in Country Music.

First off, the song “Knee Deep,” is all about sitting by the beach and just worrying about how far the ocean waves will go. This laid back attitude is something that the South is known for because their reputation is one with a slower pace of life and not worrying about lots of crazy influences. Oftentimes, this is the differentiation between the south and other regions in the country; to me, this is why retirees and other people move down South. They want their only “worry in the world” to be whether or not the “tide will reach their chair.” While this song doesn’t explicitly mention the South, the attitudes portrayed in the song are very much Southern. It really just emphasizes the reputation the South has for being such a happy place. In addition, their song, “Chicken Fried” ties in the food and laid back attitude. Much of this song is dedicated to them singing about how they want to eat some fried chicken, drink tea, and sit on their porches. All of this together is used to describe the way the lead singer grew up, which ties in the story aspect of southern music.

“Friday Night Lights”

by Mariah Morrill

Friday Night Lights was a popular television show that ran from 2006 to 2011. The show was directed by Peter Berg, and had a star studded cast that included co-stars Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. The show depicts a small town in Texas, whose identity seems to solely rest on the success of the high school’s football team, the Dillon Panthers. While the plot seems basic, the show is truly stunning in the way it explores each character so deeply, and how it brings a face to the small, Southern towns of America.

Dillon, Texas seems to embody the stereotypical characteristics that many associate with the South and Middle America. The accents. The small town with a burger joint where all the high schoolers congregate after class. The drama filled, seemingly Earth shattering break ups that occur between football players and cheerleaders. And of course, the ever famous echo of the Panthers motto, “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” For those who hail from communities similar to Dillon, Friday Night Lights offers scenes of nostalgia. And for those who come from communities that feel almost completely opposite, the show offers a great insight.

Some may say that this sweeping generalization of small town America does a great disservice to those living in one. However, as previously stated, Berg uses the small town of Dillon as a vehicle for intense character exploration and development. In addition, the show covers many issues relevant to teenagers today including teen pregnancy, sexual assault and racism and many of the characters come across as incredibly relatable, even to those living in completely different situations. 

All in all, Friday Night Lights is about more than football, and it is about more than the South. It is about everyday Americans trying to make a living and get through everyday. In the end, Friday Night Lights is a show that all can relate to, in a number of ways.  

Jimmy Buffett

by Claire Filaski

In the scope of southern music, Jimmy Buffett stands alone; his beachy, laid back vibe differs from the grit of most southern rock, but the tin-can, Caribbean element keeps him from being a traditional country singer. In this sense, Buffett is unique– his musical presence reflects a very specific region and way of life. This Caribbean influence is felt most heavily in his well-loved hit, “Margaritaville,” which describes the island lifestyle of Key West, Florida. This song encapsulates the beachy, leisurely lifestyle of both Key West and the South at large.

Every line of “Margaritaville” caters to the idea of the slow-paced, southern lifestyle. Buffett describes himself as “wastin’ away” in this beachy town, thus hinting that he spends his days how he pleases– usually with a minimal agenda. He can be found “…watchin’ the sun bake” or “strummin’ my six string,”– both hardly demanding activities that all exemplify how the “southern lifestyle” revolves around appreciating the environment and every individual moment. Buffett wants nothing more than to relax in this beautiful harbor town and simply take each day as it comes; this largely represents the overall southern appeal, where people tend to be more laid back, easygoing, and appreciative of simple pleasures.

This laid back lifestyle is very closely tied with the southern cuisine that Buffett describes. He mentions shrimp, sponge cake and above all, “booze in the blender.” His described food items both stand as key features of southern cuisine, and the reference back to alcohol again hints at the idea of a leisurely lifestyle. Buffett can spend his days under the influence and no one can tell him otherwise. Like other southerners, the tourists provide a passing annoyance, as can be seen in their description as “covered in oil.” He wants little to do with them or with the demands of life– he’s happy to keep sitting, drinking, and playing guitar.

While “Margaritaville” acts as the pinnacle of Buffett’s idealized, southern lifestyle, all of his songs reflect similar island vibes. “It’s Five O-Clock Somewhere,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” and “Mañana” all emphasize Buffett’s love for the South and the water.

Green Book

by Beck Smith

Green Book is a movie that centers around the American South in the 1960s seen through the lens of an African American man. Dr. Don Shirley is an extremely famous African American piano player who hires Tony Lip, a white man as his driver and bodyguard to bring with him on his tour through the deep South. 

The South remained segregated through the sixties and although Dr. Shirley was hired by white people to perform at their events, they still often treated him as a second-class citizen. The movie explores the glamorous and high society lives of many wealthy upper-class white men and women while displaying the role that Dr. Shirley plays in it. In this movie, the South is overall depicted as an intolerant and deeply racist region of the country with Dr. Shirley having very similar experiences in almost every city he visits. 

Segregation is obviously at the forefront of this movie when Shirley is not even able to have dinner in the dining room at the event he was scheduled to play at because it was for white patrons only. He was then forced to eat dinner in a broom closet even though he could be seen as the guest of honor. The only moments in the movie where Dr. Shirley is seen as completely human is when he is playing the piano, but every moment before or after that time he is met with prejudice and racism. This movie shows the South as an area that was truly frightening for African Americans and helps to convey why green books were a necessity for every member of the black community. 

This movie depicts the South in an overwhelmingly negative light with a focus on the racially divided and segregated South. Although accurate, it does not attempt to romanticize or glorify the South, something that most southern movies like Gone With The Wind are all too familiar with.  

“Southern State of Mind”

by Meleana Cabales

Southern spaces have been represented in popular culture with varying degrees of accuracy and focus on aspects of Southern life. In some movies, the South is portrayed negatively for its history of bigotry and racism. Some television shows often highlight the South for its unique charm, unmatched hospitality, and unbeatable food. Other shows chalk up the Southern lifestyle to cowboy boots and horses. The extent to which these perceptions are authentically represented are affected by factors such as who created the cultural artifact and who is intended to receive it. While an older white person from Georgia might feel affectionately towards Gone With the Wind, a younger black person from Virginia might criticize the romanticism in the movie. Both are Southerners, but from different generations and walks of life.

Despite the vast range of Southern portrayals and interpretations, some facets are uniform within and distinct to the region. Darius Rucker’s “Southern State of Mind” perfectly captures what it means to be a Southerner away from home. Darius Rucker is a singer-songwriter from Charleston, SC who gained fame from his time as the lead singer of the 80’s rock band Hootie and the Blowfish. He emerged with solo activities at the turn of the century, but didn’t have any success until he signed as a country singer with Capitol Nashville. From there, his career took off as he produced several hits that put him on Billboard Charts. Today, he is a versatile singer with songs in country, rock, pop, R&B, and blues genres.

“Southern State of Mind” is sung from the perspective of a Southerner who has traveled around the country and interacted with people from different states. The lyrics indicate different Southern traits or trends that have earned him strange reactions from others. Ironically, even if he apologizes for being in a Southern state of mind, he has a huge sense of pride in who he is and where he comes from. It doesn’t matter that they don’t have sweet tea in New York or that the girls in California don’t like it when he holds the door. It doesn’t matter that he receives weird looks for wearing cowboy boots or for waving at cars as they pass. It doesn’t matter if he finds himself in Ohio or in Caroline, because he will always be in a Southern state of mind.



The Old Gods of Appalachia: Welcome to the Family

by Gwen Steele

The Old Gods of Appalachia is a podcast introduced by my friend as “Lovecraft narrated by your estranged uncle from Kentucky”. If you’re acquainted with either of these things, you’ll find the description to be accurate upon listening. The Old Gods of Appalachia (TOGA) is a piece of horror anthology staged in what the writers, Steve Shell and Cam Collins, call an “alternate Appalachia”; one where the oldest mountains in the world were never meant to be inhabited. It follows a fiery girl dubbed “The Witch Queen”, who must endure the crossfire of eldritch meddling, and gather up the broken pieces of her past to escape. In the rise of podcasts, TOGA stands in unique contrast to the rest with its chilling sound production, voice acting, and terror filled story.  

At surface level TOGA does not seem traditionally Southern (or Lovecraftian for that matter). The podcast follows queer protagonists, such as The Witch Queen and her mothers, and has a distinct theme of anti-capitalist industrialization. Eldritch horrors manifest from the greed of rich white men, and in contrast, the unheard voices of the poor who perished due to their neglect. The only thing close to heroes in this story are The Witch Queen and the bitter narrator of her tale, both of whom are kept afloat by respective family bonds. However, as we’ve read throughout this semester, the South is filled with criticism, for the system failing to cater to their diverse needs, or the outside world refusing to acknowledge its attempts at change. TOGA is distinctly Southern in this aspect. It combats the uneducated Appalachia stereotype with the witty and resourceful Witch Queen, who when approached by an eldritch deity bitterly called it a “smart ass”. TOGA also brings to light diverse groups in Appalachia ignored by the rest of the South through haunting prose of revenge and sorrow.

The Old Gods of Appalachia is a Southern twist on the traditional eldritch horror genre, reclaiming it from its homophobic and racist origins with long standing Southern criticisms upon industrialization and harmful stereotypes pushed by outsiders. Not to mention the distinctly Appalachian themes, such as coal mining crises, combating poverty, and the importance of family. 

The Old Gods of Appalachia became one of my favorite podcasts over quarantine, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking to try different genres of media. It’s available on Spotify and The Old Gods of Appalachia website in the link here. As the narrator fondly ends each episode, “come and join the family.”