TENNESSEE: “Give me weed instead of roses /Bring me whiskey ‘stead of wine /Every puff, every shot you’re lookin’ better all the time.”
Ashley Monroe’s voice is sweet like Dolly’s as she proposes an illegal drug as marital aid, the need to get a little wild in the face of monotony.
The Nashville singer-songwriter can also be heard on some country radio, dropping the most controversial line in the current anti small-town-stuffiness single from her all-girl country band, the Pistol Annies: “So I snuck out behind the red barn/And I took myself a toke/Since everybody here hates everybody here/Hell I might as well be the joke.”
They’re surprisingly blatant references to marijuana, a drug that’s that common and yet surreptitious – still a restricted substance in North America save for, until last fall, the states of Colorado and Washington. These mentions are also somewhat jarring to find tucked in a genre more broadly associated with corn-fed good ol’ boys than law-busting rebels.
But the 26-year-old and her band are far from the only ones in on the Nashville pot party. Country music has always been a haven for outlaws – that White Lightning George Jones enjoyed early in his career could have been moonshine or something else; either way, it was definitely illegal.
But just as country enjoys a slight uptick in mainstream popularity today, thanks to Blake Shelton in The Voice chair and Taylor Swift feigning surprise at every turn, the pot lobby is also enjoying an upswing of support. For the first time in 40 years, the majority of Americans supports the legalization of marijuana – 52 per cent – a Pew research thermometer on popular opinion reports. In a recent Slate article that asked, ‘When did country music and weed get so cozy?’ writer Rachael Maddux draws parallels between pot approval and dope references in country music through time, dating back to the 1970s.
“If my popular music geared toward a younger demographic, I’d be surprised, frankly, if it wasn’t talking about smoking weed and smoke in all of its ambiguities,” said Jocelyn Neal, associate professor of music and director for the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.