There’s a term in comics criticism, “Women in Refrigerators Syndrome”. It’s applied when the murder, rape, torture or otherwise abuse of a female supporting character provides the impetus for a male hero’s character development. This being superhero comics, “character development” and “whuppin’ the villain’s ass” are generally synonymous. “Coward Of The County” is women-in-refrigerator pop: the hero may have the best of motivations for being yellow, but yellow is what he is, until his girlfriend is gang-raped and he discovers his inner man.
It’s an unpleasant, manipulative record, a country version of that old liberal-baiting (or Christian-baiting) hypothetical – well, what if it was your wife/daughter….? Of course, it’s a very well crafted track – it hooks you into its story, Rogers is on fine avuncular form, and its rolling country groove is easy on the ear. But I just can’t sit comfortably with its message or the tools it uses to get that message over: since I have no problem with some fearsomely conservative modern country music, and adore string-pulling schlock like Red Sovine’s “Teddy Bear”, I’m guessing it’s the deadly combination of tawdriness and sententiousness that hits me like a Daily Mail scare story.