'cause I'm a redneck woman
I ain't no high class broad
I'm just a product of my raising
I say, 'hey ya'll' and 'yee-haw'
- Gretchen Wilson
Although it was definitely on the list, it wasn’t until a couple of the other exchange students got the ball rolling that I finally got my head around a weekend jaunt to Nashville. And I’m glad I did – nothing quite beats it and all its cowboy kitsch.
The golden mile
We left Friday afternoon, a small convoy heading west towards the North Carolinian mountains. Nashville is about 13 hours drive away on a good run, so our destination for the night was Knoxville, Tennessee, a city which still seems to be recovering from the 1982 World’s fair. Our edge of town was dominated by the ‘Sunsphere’, which is best described as a giant ball on a stick. If you ever saw the Simpsons episode with the deserted fairground, I’m pretty sure it was all modelled on Knoxville. Actually, I’m being a bit unfair, because in the daylight, Knoxville was a nice looking town. Going out that night, we had our first taste of the bars of the rural south – complete with live band, minimally dressed bartenders and a thick, authentic haze that certainly wasn’t coming from a smoke machine. Our night ended with 50 chicken nuggets and a gallon of sweet tea from Maccas – a bargain at $12.99.
Want a little more right, and a little less left
Little more right now, a little less what's next
Act like tomorrow's ten years away
And just kick back and let the feelin' flow
Drank a little drank, smoke a little smoke
- Eric Church
As the capital of country music, Nashville is full of country music types, decked out in their boots, jeans, embroidered shirts, and (of course) cowboy hats. It was pretty clear that we would have to follow the local trends if we were to have any chance of hitting the honky tonks incognito. These small music venues, which clog the street with their neon signs and blearing music make Nashville such a cultural experience. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to the country music capital of the world without a spot of line dancing, which we had to pick up when we unwittingly walked in and entered a dance competition.
We headed home, after less than 24hrs to take in the sights and sounds, with the car radio tuned to country music, of which we all have a new appreciation.