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Two words to the wise

Country Musings by Robert Loy, January 2006

One of my favorite urban legends comes from the days when Coca-Cola was sold exclusively at soda fountains. Supposedly a budding idea man approached the CEO (or whatever they called them back then) of the company and told him that for $500 he would tell the company how to more than quadruple their profits. So Coke paid up and received the secret, which was as simple as it was effective: "Bottle it!"

What I like about this story - besides the prospect of earning 250 dollars a word, which is just a little bit more than CST pays - is the concept that we all might be surrounded by great ideas, by things that would immeasurably improve our lives if we only knew how to grab hold of them.

I am about to give you some advice that will enrich your heart and your mind at least as much as those other words enriched Coca-Cola's company coffers. Since brevity is the soul of wisdom, I've distilled it down to the same number of words as the soda pop polymath: "Get XM" (or Sirius, XM's competitor).

I'm sure you know about satellite radio. You probably have a friend that drives you nuts raving about how great it is. You might have even checked it out at Circuit City once and marveled at the plethora of channels, but wondered why you'd want to pay for something you can get for free.

I'll tell you why. I've recently realized that we are in a new golden age of country music. We are, in fact, surrounded by great, soul-feeding, heart-elating music. And we have been for some time. But you'll never know it turned into what Clear Channel wants you to hear.

One of the most frustrating things about being a music journalist is when we find some new artist and want the world to share the wonderful feelings we get from listening to them. But as a wise man once said "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." You're not going to get the same experience reading about it - you have to hear it. But how are you going to do that? It gets expensive real quick, and besides a lot of those CDs you can't just pick up at your local record store, you have to go online or dial some 800 number.

XM has several country music channels, some that play progressive stuff, some classic, some traditional - not to mention folk and bluegrass. And if you hear somebody you sorta like with the push of a button you can set it so that XM will let you know every time one of their songs is on any channel and with the push of another button, take you there. I've found several of my new favorite artists this way.

Not convinced? Maybe you're fortunate enough to live somewhere where you have an alt.-country (or whatever you want to call it) station you can pick up, maybe even a classic country station too. And you probably enjoy it too - in between all the commercials with car salesmen screaming at you come down and check out the UN-Beeeelievable deals, deals, deals! There's none of that on XM.

What's that you say? Too expensive? Come on. 13 bucks a month is a steal for the music alone, but there are also several comedy channels (uncensored and family-friendly) news, talk, entertainment, old time radio like Jack Benny, all kinds of sports channels including just about every single major league baseball game.

If you're not ready to sign up yet, I have two more words for you - traffic jams. As I no longer mind being stuck in them. In fact some times I wish my commute were longer so I could listen to more XM. And that's more than just a good deal. That's a genuine miracle.

The views expressed in this column are Robert Loy's and do not necessarily reflect those of CST.