Run and Surrender
by Al Kaufman
It’s not the least bit controversial to say that today’s country radio sucks. It’s full of cookie-cutter pseudo-cowboys and cowgirls who dress better than they sing, and sing better than they write. The music appeals to folks who think sitting behind the wheel of a fast car and occasionally turning to the left is a sport. Country music used to be rebel music, not Rebel with a capital "R," but music for people who liked to rebel against the confines of society. It was punk music for people who didn’t want to pierce body parts and get strange haircuts. It was Johhny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings. It’s a tradition carried on today by folks like Todd Snider, Lucinda Williams, and Steve Earle, to name just a few. But country radio won’t go near Snider, Williams, or Earle (or Cash, Nelson, and Jennings for that matter). These people are too well-rounded to fit in country radio’s little square holes. They tried to create new categories for them: Americana, alternative (or alt) country, Triple A. It’s country music that rocks a little too hard, leans a bit too far to the left, or is just too provocative or thought provoking to appeal to the NASCAR crowd.
Atlanta’s Sonia Leigh is such a musician. Combining the twang and girlish charm of Kasey Chambers with the grit and rock and roll passion of Melissa Etheridge, she defies categorization. Some of her songs may force you to drop a tear in your beer, while others will get your boots a-stopmin’. But mostly the songs on Run or Surrender are just well-crafted songs that stand up to repeated listens. Nice lap steel from John Hopkins and fiddle from Jimmy De Martini ensure that the music remains too country for pop radio (which suffers from many of the same problems that hold country music hostage), and the quality and realism of the songs all but guarantee that Run and Surrender doesn’t meet the low expectations of country radio. As usual, it’s the listening public that loses.