I mean, other than when you scroll down and read my awesome take on the Dave Clark 5. But this takedown of the whole “Country Boy Can Survive” knock-off genre is pretty damn great. You know I blame Hank Jr. for all this nonsense, but I actually think considering what makes Hank Jr.’s “Country Boy Can Survive” work over the rest of these “we cart our dicks in wheelbarrows out here in the country; I don’t know how you do it, city slicker” songs is that Hank Jr. writes only deceptively simple songs. I mean, there’s always some bit of pain working its way out of Hank’s soul, like a long-forgotten splinter coming to the surface. Even “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” became “and the hangovers hurt more than they used to” in “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down.”
So, yes, “Country Boy Can Survive” does, indeed, seem like simply the progenitor of all these terrible songs, if you’re only focusing on the “we say grace and we say ma’am. If you ain’t into that, we don’t give a damn” part. But Williams, at his best, is not that simple. And so we know the singer has a friend in New York City and we know his friend never calls him by his name, just hillbilly. And, in the context of the song, we can imagine that a New Yorker calling the singer hillbilly would be cause for “fuck you, man” but the New Yorker is called only “friend” by the singer, twice, when we learn of him and when we learn what happens to him.
And isn’t that the meat of the song? It’s not that the country is so much better than the city, exactly. It’s that, in the country men don’t lose their lives for $43, at least not without being able to get a shot off themselves first. “Country Boy Can Survive” is a song about grief disguised as a song about how great rural America is, colored with the notion that we’re losing rural America.
All of Hank Jr.’s best songs are like that–the veneer of the seeming subject of the song covering the actual subject, which is always loss, always grief.
This, I would posit, is why the knock-offs don’t live up to the original–they don’t understand the feeling of things and people slipping away that causes people to cling to “simpler” times and places, to crow about them like they’re the best thing ever. The knock-offs think they’re telling the truth; Williams knows he’s got to build a myth he can live with.