After the summer of '96, I left a church that I had worked as a youth ministry intern for. Theological issues, along with a disdain for the secretive and unilateral ways in which the decision makers ran the show made it hard for me to stick around, so I hit the road. It was a good decision, because, as in so many other events in my life, it set off a chain of events that probably led me to where I am now.
There were (and are) people in that church who I remained close to, so for a while I made a habit of popping in every few months. On one of these visits I ran into a lady who also worked with the youth. Although we were often on different pages when it came to our ministry, we were nonetheless friendly to each other. She had a personality of gold, which made it easier to forget our differences. We had a great conversation, just your general catching up on what's going on in each other's lives.
At the time I was in my last year at ETBU. She told me that her daughter, although just in 8th grade at the time, was already thinking about where to go to college, and was considering ETBU. She was a singer and had heard about the wonderful choral program the college offered. Ever the evangelist for my Alma Mater, I put on my recruiter cap and talked about how we had a world class choir whose director was nationally recognized, and all that jazz. Somewhere in the conversation her daughter walked up and began to listen. She was a tiny little girl. Long, straight blond hair on top of a cute face with a magnetic smile, and shy. If I remember correctly, she was wearing one of those sunflower type dresses that only pre-pubescent East Texas country girls, and Kindergarten teachers wear.
By the time I finished my sales presentation, I felt good about the possibility that in a few years she would end up at ETBU. Both her and her mother seemed to love what I had to say, and were already talking about the possibility of visiting the campus when she made it to high school.
But in the end, my advice wasn't heeded. That little girl started playing the guitar and over the next few years found herself traveling all over Texas, singing in dives and honky tonks, perfecting her songwriting craft into something truly special. I would like to personally thank her and her mother for going against my wishes. Yesterday I downloaded Miranda Lambert's second CD, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, which will solidify her position in the top tier of all country female artists.
Before they found religion (through politics,) the Dixie Chicks sang humorous, if a little hoky, ditties about girl power and killing abusive husbands. Martina McBride, the gold standard of all female vocalists, also sang a song celebrating what happens when the other half pushes back against violence committed out of an excess of testosterone. Carrie Underwood is taking her keys to the truck of her cheating boyfriend. Yet no one pulls off bad-ass, beer drinking, strong woman like Miranda Lambert. Females will flock to her independence, men to her beauty, and everyone to her ability to write and deliver a classic country song that is not Nashville-slick, but Texas-as-hell.
If you're looking for a test-run, download Gunpowder & Lead and Down for salty. For sweeter, more Dolly-esque traditional country ballads, try Love Letters and Love Your Memory (which is actually from Kerosene, her first album.) If you want a picture perfect description of what it was like growing up in small-town East Texas, check out Famous in a Small Town. It's my favorite, if only for the fact that I know exactly where Turnertown is.