Baltimore City Paper

The Best Ever Country Radio Show Out of Worton: Next time you're on the Eastern Shore, check out Southern Star Country Club on 90.5

Southern Star Country Club is a radio show broadcasting out of the small town of Worton, Maryland on WKHS, a commercial-free station connected to Kent County High School on Monday nights at 8 p.m. It's hosted by Mike Martinez, a country and western savant who mixes contemporary country of all sorts with music from the past with little interest in boring old authenticity. Martinez frequently kills his show's mix momentum by running through say, every famous person of note, alive or dead, born on the day the show's broadcasting, or airing some throwback commercials ripped from YouTube, or using some country song he just played to reminisce about some detail of his personal life for a little bit.

In an episode that aired on President's Day, Martinez talked a whole bunch about competing tractor brands after he played Joe Diffie's 'John Deere Green.' That Martinez played 'John Deere Green' tells you all you need to know about Martinez's show: He gets it. The 1993 hit is just one of the most affecting and well-written songs of all time if you ask me. Diffie's narrator takes you back to the '60s with a young redneck couple, Billy Bob and Charlene, and the "hot summer night" in July when Billy Bob got atop the town water tower and wrote on the tower "in John Deere green" paint, "Billy Bob loves Charlene," Diffie adds, "in letters three foot high." Charlene was touched and the town mocked him because nothing is ever good enough for the chatty Cathys and dickweed Donalds in small towns: "And the whole town said that he should've use red," Diffie sings. "But it looked good to Charlene." If you love the Replacements, you should love this song of adolescent dedication and romance—think "The Ledge" meets "Skyway" meets "Can't Hardly Wait," with slumming-it humor replaced by something more restorative, though just as funny. It's a song that often makes me smile and cry.


On the same show, Martinez played Sue Richards' 1975 cover of Gene McDaniels' 'Tower Of Strength.' In Richards' hands, 'Tower Of Strength' is a mildly misandrist, sunbaked send-off to an ex: "If I were a tower of strength, I'd watch you cry/ I'd laugh at your tears and tell you/ 'Goodbye, I don't want you, I don't need you, I don't love you any more'/ And I'd walk out that door." There is something about 'John Deere Green' and 'Tower Of Strength' that acknowledges a certain male idiocy that I've noticed pops up here and there in Martinez's playlists. Not sure it's on purpose and don't really care—that he played tracks from '50s honky tonker Stonewall Jackson with no comment suggests Martinez is not doing an enlightened country show (not that he should be)—and it's maybe more of a testament to the way country is so frequently feminist (shout out Loretta Lynn's 'Fist City' and 'The Pill') but Martinez's deep knowledge manifests a semi-#woke block of country music such as this one every once in a while. And Martinez also played the recent Garth Brooks single 'Baby, Let's Lay Down and Dance'—a piece of horizontal boogie-woogie that hints at where Luke Bryan could end up in 15 years when he ain't so thirsty—from Brooks' 2016 album "Gunslinger," a man-out-of-time fret that you maybe missed.

Southern Star Country Club cannot be streamed online, but its weak signal spreads pretty far because it can jump across the Chesapeake Bay relatively unabated and so, if you are ever on the Eastern Shore of Maryland or in Southern Delaware for vacation or in your house in Baltimore City, turn that dial to 90.5 and hear the best thing on regular-ass radio.


This Summer's Can't-Miss Country Concerts:

May 19: Dierks Bentley, Cole Swindell, and Jon Pardi at Merriweather Post Pavilion

May 20: Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, Joe Purdy at Rams Head Live!

May 20: Sam Hunt at Preakness Infield Fest at Pimlico

June 19: Bubba Sparxx and Struggle Jennings at Baltimore Soundstage

June 23: Kip Moore at Rams Head Live

June 25: Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge, and Lauren Alaina at Merriweather Post Pavilion

June 30: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Mountain Goats at Merriweather Post Pavilion


July 8: Chase Rice at Rams Head Live!

July 21: Jake Owen at Rams Head Live!

Aug. 13: Lady Antebellum, Kelsea Ballerini, and Brett Young at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Sept. 15: Sturgill Simpson and Fantastic Negrito at Merriweather Post Pavilion