Many years ago, my family and I drove to Memphis to visit my mom's siblings and their families. Of the many memories of that trip, including forgetting my cousin, Reynolds, at some old family friend's house and splashing through the Mud Island Riverwalk when the water was so hot it burned our feet, the one that most stands out is that of my mild-mannered and always-agreeable brother going batshit crazy at the sight of one too many "Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty LIVE at the Grand Ole Opry" billboards. I still don't know what it was that so offended him. Was it the hallucination-inducing costumes? The attempt to pass their noise off as music? The bastardization of the Appalachian sound? Or just the fact that in 100 miles, we'd seen 120 Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty billboards? Either way, it left an impression, and to this day, I associate the Grand Ole Opry (henceforth to be known as GOOP) with the one and only fit I ever saw my brother pitch. Not a good association.
The other night, while looking for the guitar chords for Dougie MacLean's Caledonia, I stumbled across a number of covers of the song. It's very popular; Dougie himself even admits that it's become "a wee bit of an anthem." That said, imagine my surprise when I found a cover of that lovely ballad by the Celtic equivalent of GOOP.
See for yourself.
Who are these curiously coiffed men who dress like my mom and whose choreography involves such difficult moves as standing still and walking from one side of the stage to the other?
And why are they so strangely compelling?
I never listened to the New Kids on the Block or to the Backstreet Boys or to the Hansons (though, if the Hanson brothers from the movie Slapshot had a band, I'd probably listen to it). No, I've never liked the boybands, but I can't help being charmed by these Celts. A little. Don't get me wrong; plenty about them is absurd. I mean, one of them is, like, nine. And the guy who winks? Come on, winking? And what about the big scary bald guy? What the hell is he doing there? It's like they're playing a real life game of "one of these things is not like the other..."
But again, why do I care so much?
I'm holding you accountable: if ever you hear me singing something by 98 degrees, take away my iTunes privileges.