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Lyrics of the top 10: State of the country

Welcome to week two in a recurring series in which I attempt to divine the cultural mood of the nation through the lyrics of the top 10 songs. Since the top 10 is a slow-moving affair, I need to wait for it to change sufficiently before I re-examine it. Fortunately, the pop top 10 is so full of hip-hop and pop songs that I can look at the country and rock top 10 list with no duplication concerns.

This week the format in the spotlight is country. It's known for celebrating true values (sort of like a hardware chain), so I'm not expecting a lot of songs about shawties in the club, of the sort found saturating the pop top 10. But you never know ...

1. Lucky Man, Montgomery Gentry: OK, this is right in the pocket of the true values syndrome. Outside of fleeting annoyance "when the Bengals lost" (another game, presumably, rather than another player to the police lineup), the duo feels pretty darned fortunate to have a house, some land, a healthy truck and heart (in that order) and a family.

2. Wrapped, George Strait: In this wrap song, George is in the throes of a hopeless obsession and it's shaking his confidence to still be wrapped around the finger of his unattainable love object.

3. Lost in This Moment, Big & Rich: On their first monster radio hit, the maverick duo are not, for once, concerned about dynamiting the borders of country music but instead celebrating the transcendent moments of a wedding.

4. Find Out Who Your Friends Are, Tracy Lawrence: Tracy says when times are tough (as for instance when you've run your car into a ditch or lost your shirt), that's when you learn who your real friends are. Possibly a veiled metaphor for the tough times he recently endured career-wise before this comeback vaulted him back into the top echelon.

5. Ticks, Brad Paisley: This song stacks up well with the various seduction strategies offered by hip-hop experts such as T-Pain in Buy U a Drank and Lloyd in Get It Shawty. But the always-witty Brad puts a different spin on it: He's in a bar chatting up whatever the country equivalent to a shawty might be, but instead of inviting her home like every other hustler in the club, he's "got way more class than them" and proposes an excursion to the backwoods where he can "check you for ticks."

6. Moments, Emerson Drive: Now here's a country song for you -- virtually a novel in three verses from this Canadian band. In the first movement, a guy on a bridge gives some change that he "won't need" to a homeless man, who tells him he had his moments back in the day when he was feeling a lot better about life. In the second movement, the first guy is contemplating making a bridge jump (without bungee cord) but the homeless man is still hanging around watching him, so the potential jumper tells him he had his moments too, giving up booze and getting married. In the third movement, the first guy imagines the homeless man telling the story about his recent good moment, when he saved a young man from committing suicide. You're still not sure what caused the guy to contemplate ending it, but otherwise, quite a story, the kind you don't get in the collected works of, say, the Pussycat Dolls.

7. I Told You So, Keith Urban: For most of the song, Keith's pleading with his significant other to come home, and promises he won't say "I told you so." This resolve holds up until the final verse, in which he mutters, "And I won’t say I told you so/But I told you so/Shoulda known better than to leave me, baby." No word on whether she turns around and stalks off again.

8. Startin' With Me, Jake Owen: A long laundry list of failings (one night stand with best friend's little sister, losing good job owing to carousing, pawning grandfather's cherished guitar for beer, etc.) followed by expression of regret and wish to have been able to change the past, "startin' with me." That kind of repentance theme is big in country music.

9. Never Wanted Nothin' More, Kenny Chesney: Kenny starts off in carousing mode, excited about his first truck and his first luck in the romantic arena, and asserting the title. He then applies those same titular words to getting married and getting born again, wrapping up any number of country-song verities in one neat package.

10. Good Directions, Billy Currington: Only in country ... Protagonist is idly "sellin' turnips on a flatbed truck" while "crunchin' on a pork rind" when a hottie from Hollywood pulls up, clearly lost, and asks how to get to the interstate. He tells her to head up to the nearby country store, grab some of Miss Bell's sweet tea, and then she can go left to reach the freeway or turn right, which will "bring you right back here to me." Despite the suavity of his pick-up line, he is distraught as she roars off, thinking he's seen the last of her. But then he sees her heading back; it turns out Miss Bell at the country store is his mother and, after serving her some of that fabled sweet tea, directed her back to him. Bless her heart.

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