Country music is an interesting thing. More so than in any other genre of music, you can look back at it’s history and almost see a grand design; an underlying purpose to all of it’s ebbs and flows. Country music has created folk heroes and arch villains within it’s ranks of performers and business handlers. At times it has pushed itself suspensefully to the brink of destruction, only to resurrect itself more stronger than it ever was before. Country music has never seemed to achieve balance, but it constantly seems to be striving to. In other words, country music likes drama.
The year was 1992. Country music was coming out of a very nondescript decade that tried to make superstars out of people like Ricky Skaggs and George Strait. Country music was trying to find its way, and maybe it was a little bit too hopeful, a little too desperate to find some one to give the genre a jump start. A young man from Oklahoma named Garth Brooks hit the scene, and country music was never the same.
In 1992, Country’s top album was Garth’s Ropin’ the Wind. In second place was Billy Ray Cyrus’s Some Gave All proving that Brit pop was not the only genre that could create a one hit wonder. 3rd was Garth’s No Fences. 4th was Garth’s The Chase. 5th was, you guessed it, Garth Brooks, with his first self-titled album. For those of you counting a home, Garth had four of the top five albums in country in 1992.
1993 came and Garth still had the #2 and #4 albums of the year. Just two? It’s a wonder he could feed his family. Who was #1? Billy Ray Cyrus. But as Garth was flying suspended from the ceilings of sold out football stadiums and marginalizing country music to make it appeal to the masses, the country neo-traditionalist movement was beginning. Of course it was. Country music would have it no other way.
Sure, groups like The Reverend Horton Heat and Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys had been doing the retro thing since the mid 1980’s, but they were more Rockabilly than country, bred more out of the 50’s influences in 80’s culture than a strict passion for old time hillbilly music.
For going on two decades, BR549 has been the heartbeat of the Nashville underground neo-traditionalist movement, and has produced artists such as Chuck Mead, Gary Bennett, Donnie Herron, and Chris Scruggs. You may have never seen these artists names on the front of your CD’s, but if your into that old school country sound, likely you have some CD’s with their names inside. As it was mentioned in my audio interview with Andy Gibson, musicians like Don Herron and Chris Scruggs are part of a small Nashville group of friends that are willing and able to help get great music recorded.
For example, Herron and Scruggs appear on all of Bob Wayne’s albums. Don Herron is also now touring and playing with Bob Dylan. Chris Scruggs has since moved on from BR549 and started a solo career, but you still see his name all over the place in association with the underground Nashville scene.
Here is Don Herron playing with Hank III from a few years ago:
If you are in to the old school country sound, you owe it to yourself to check out BR549.
And I hope that in the future, when the small but strong neo-traditionalist movement that tried to counterbalance the rise of pop in country in the 90’s and aught’s is talked about, BR549 is given their due for being an essential element.