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Carlo Rotella

Carlo Rotella’s books include October Cities, Good with Their Hands, Cut Time, and Playing in Time. He contributes regularly to the New York Times Magazine and his work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Slate, The Believer, and The Best American Essays, and on WGBH FM. A recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, the Whiting Writers Award, and the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award, he is director of American Studies at Boston College.

 "'I Come in Here So I Don't Have to Hate Her': Midland and the Barroom Weeper"
Like Hollywood, Nashville tends to innovate on the templates of tried-and-true models. One reliable way to express new ideas in a country song is to wrap them in a familiar musical and thematic package, and one such standby song-form is the barroom weeper, in which a narrator with drink in hand and too many under the belt tells a story of woe. Usually this narrator is a man, and he's there because of a woman. Especially in the hands of its greatest exponents, George Jones and Merle Haggard, this lament wearing the mask of a bottoms-up anthem can explore complex psychological states combining jaunty pique and sorrow, forgiveness and recrimination, critical self-examination and reflexive misogyny.
Taking Midland's recent hit "Drinkin' Problem" as a test case, this talk examines the barroom weeper's inner workings and considers how they might be configured to say something new. The members of Midland, a self-consciously post-bro trio offering a synthesis of honky tonk tradition and Eagles-style harmonies, send mixed signals of conventional country masculinity. Similarly, their hit song, written with Shane McAnally, attempts to add a self-aware gloss to the standard rites of country's male weepie.