Life is full of contradictions, isn’t it? For example, I’m not a fan of country music, yet I like songs and artists who fuse country elements into their songs. Go figure. Lately, those country sounds have been popping up on my iPod when I’m driving to work. So I decided to grab some of those songs and add a few others and throw them into the musical blender and see how it all mixes.

“33 RPM Soul,” Michelle Shocked

Back in the days when I had more disposable income, when it came to artists I really liked, I would buy almost every recording they produced. Michelle Shocked was one of those “gotta buy everything” artists. I instantly liked her after seeing the video to “When I Grow Up” on MTV. By the time she released Arkansas Traveler, however, I was starting to fall out of love with her Á¢€” but not completely! I still love the pop goodness of this track, even though the rest of the CD is kind of uneven.

“Leave the Pieces,” the Wreckers

Jefito busts my balls quite a lot for liking Michelle Branch Á¢€” ever since I put her name on a list of artists I like on my work website. In semi-shame I took her name down, but I’ll never cave to his claim that in a Michelle Branch/Vanessa Carlton vocal cagematch Vanessa would win hands down because, according to Jeff, “she knows how to properly breathe when singing.” What a snob.

“Ring of Fire,” Allison Moorer

On a whim, I downloaded this album from eMusic not knowing that it was a collection of covers. I rather like her voice, and in this Johnny Cash/June Carter classic, I think she truly makes the song her own. When she sings “And it burns, burns, burns / The ring of fire,” she really drives home a feeling of guilt Á¢€” something the original version doesn’t convey.

“Detours,” Sheryl Crow

Even though Sheryl is a hit factory that I have had to endure at work, where every other hour we seem to play a Sheryl Crow song, I still like her music and find that her deeper cuts are the ones where she really bares her soul.

“Anniversary Song,” Cowboy Junkies

Another ’90s obsession for me. I’ve seen the Junkies play a couple of times, and while they often duplicate their studio recordings in a live setting, when they divert from the script and try variations of certain songs they really shine. This song is one example. While I do love the studio version, they recorded a version live at the Plant for KFOG, which you can hear HERE. Sorry about the static on the recording, but this comes from a DAT recording off the radio, and the station wasn’t coming in all that clearly. Hey, it was 1998 Á¢€” stations weren’t streaming their audio yet.

“I Hope,” Dixie Chicks

After the whole hubbub with the Chicks and George W. Bush, the gals recorded Taking the Long Way as their big “fuck you” to Bush and country fans who boycotted their music. Like I said at the outset, I’m not a country fan, but I bought tickets to their concert and saw them play a half-empty Oakland Colosseum like it was a sold-out show. This song, as performed live, was one of many great moments from a concert I had mixed feelings about seeing (see the “I’m not a country fan” statement).