Try This in a Small Town: Living in One

Chris Newman
6 min readJul 26, 2023

I’m a big fan of a country music sub-genre called “outlaw country.” Its artists are some of the most widely recognizable names in music: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels. You probably know these names and can recall some of their songs even if you don’t like country.

Outlaw is, in many ways, an ode to the pervasiveness of rural and small town poverty, and the fraught relationship it stirs up between poor people and authority (especially the law) as the former try to get by under difficult circumstances.

  • Willie Nelson’s highwayman was hung in the Spring of ’45 for killing soldiers and stealing women’s “baubles.”
  • The narrator of Folsom Prison Blues shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
  • Charlie Daniels’ Long Haired Country Boy lies in the shade high and drunk, bemoaning the self-righteousness of a Christian preacher
  • Sturgill Simpson’s Long White Line tells of a fellow leaving the stifling confines of a small town explicitly for New York City or Albuquerque

Outlaw country — and rural culture in general — celebrates its adversarial relationship with authority, conformity, and Rockwellian respectability just as much as hip hop does. The Dukes of Hazzard, an American cultural icon, was a celebration of…



Chris Newman

Building a new, accessible, open, and democratic food economy in the Chesapeake Bay region @ Sylvanaqua Farms