Bluegrass lyrics as a life coach

Chris JonesI’ve never been a fan of daytime talk shows and all the advice they dispense about everything from nutrition to finances to pet psychology. I’m not big on advice columns either (this isn’t one of those, is it?).

One reason may be that they seem to just give us new things to worry about that wouldn’t even have occurred to us otherwise. If I hadn’t watched a recent Dr. Oz show, I would have had no idea I was allowing that many free radicals into my system (and not once have they offered to pay rent!). Dr. Phil has introduced me to relationship issues I would have been better off not knowing about.

I think the main reason I prefer to take a pass on this stream of fear-inspiring pop-psychology, pop-nutrition, and pop-a-top tips for better living, is that all the advice I need can be found in the lyrics of my favorite bluegrass songs.

Of course it helps that any message, or instructive story sounds way better when it’s sung, though I’m not sure having Dr. Phil sing his entire show would ever be a good idea.

Here is just a little of what I learned:

About housekeeping:

  • It’s possible to lock the door, then put out the cat (I’ll Go Stepping Too).

About the weather:

  • When dark clouds are rising, it’s a sure sign of rain. Putting an old grey bonnet on wouldn’t be a bad idea (Pig in a Pen).

About livestock management:

  • A hog pen is not a recommended place for a nap. Try these alternatives: a hay loft, the shade of a tree, under a truck, the cow pen (if no bulls are present), or even a bed (He Went to Sleep and the Hogs Ate Him.)

About legal matters:

  • If your girlfriend’s brother stabs you for some unknown reason, it’s still a better life strategy to call the police and press charges, rather than stew about it for three months and then kill him (The Hills of Roane County).
  • If you kill your girlfriend for not marrying you (also not a good life strategy), don’t go to the jailhouse and confess before you try to make your getaway (Pretty Polly — see also “about relationships” below)

About math (and legal matters):

  • 99 years is almost for life

About drinking:

  • If your liquor’s too red, it’ll swell up your head (at least according to Roosevelt in Mountain Dew)

About relationships:

  • Never speak harsh words to your true loving husband, he may just run off and lose the air brakes on his train while going 90 mph (between Lynchburg and Danville), and never return (Wreck of the Old 97).
  • If you find your girlfriend in the embrace of another man, check to see if this could possibly be her brother, before doing anything rash (Tragic Romance).

Speaking of brothers, if your girlfriend approaches you with another man at her side and says “I don’t believe you’ve met my baby,” then you find during the conversation that you have no idea who’s talking to whom, and it’s all very confusing, relax; you’re only dreaming or living in a Louvin Brothers song.

About relationships and survival:

  • If someone named Little Willie proposes to you, it would be best to say “yes” just to humor him, then take the first train out of town and never come back. Above all, don’t accept wine from this guy or accompany him on a walk, unless it’s in a well-lit public place.

This is a mere cup from the vast well of knowledge that can be found within the songs we know and love.

By the way, I hear that Oprah is planning to do a whole segment on parenting, in which a panel of experts will be suggesting that parents keep a better eye on their kids. Something about a growing problem of little girls wandering off into the woods and encountering awful dreadful snakes. Now that’s one I may actually watch.