May
16

Collin Raye Asks “Is Country Music Dead” in New Editorial

May 16, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  65 Comments

collin-rayeIn mid April, country music artist Collin Raye who was known for his contemporary style that found great success in the 90′s, had some very critical remarks about the direction of country music that he shared as part of a new biography he just released called A Voice Undefeated. Raye says in the book, “They’ve largely abandoned the reality-based moral message for the common man that made country music a strong cultural force for good.”

Then in an interview with Fox News about the book, Collin Raye spoke further, saying in short,

It’s like American Shakespeare in a way, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. From Hank Williams, to before Hank Williams on up, that’s this beautiful thing we all love so much, and so many of us got into the business knowing we could never be as great as those guys, but we always tried to live up to that standard that they had set.

And I’m really depressed in how it has dumbed down to basically a one-dimensional “Let’s party in the truck, gonna drink some cold beer!” There’s so many of those, and I’m not begrudging anybody their living. It’s not really the artists I blame, and it’s not the songwriters I blame because they’re just trying to make a living. It’s the gatekeepers quote unquote that we used to have in Nashville which are the label heads who used to decide what was good enough to put out and what was not.

Now in a new editorial on FoxNews.com, Collin Raye has once again directly criticized what he calls the “gatekeepers” of country that are allowing the bro-country trend to continue in a piece he titles, “Is Country Music Dead?”

I’d like to think that I am expressing what nearly every artist, musician and songwriter (with perhaps a few exceptions) is thinking when I contend that the Bro’ Country phenomenon must cease.

It has had its run for better or worse and it’s time for Nashville to get back to producing, and more importantly promoting, good singers singing real songs. It’s time for country music to find its identity again before it is lost forever.

Raye goes on to specifically criticize Luke Bryan’s That’s My Kind of Night”—the same song that caused a scuffle between Luke and Zac Brown when Zac called it the “worst song ever”.

Compare for a minute the poetic, “middle American Shakespeare” infused lyrical prose of classics like Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” or Hank Jr’s “All My Rowdy friends are coming over tonight” or Garth Brooks’ “I’ve got friends in Low Places” or his “Ain’t going down till the sun comes up” to the likes of contemporary offerings like “That’s My Kinda Night,” or any of the other 300 plus songs from recent years that say the exact same thing in pretty much the exact same way. It’s like comparing a Rolls Royce to a ten speed.

Collin goes out of his way though to say it is not the performers or songwriters’ fault, but “the major label execs, the movers and shakers, the folks who control what is shoved down radio’s throat, that I am calling out. They have the power and ability to make a commitment to make records that keep the legacy of country music alive, and reclaim a great genre’s identity.”

The editorial ends with Collin simply saying, “God Bless Hank Williams. God Bless George Jones.”

***Read The Entire Collin Raye Editorial***

65 Comments to “Collin Raye Asks “Is Country Music Dead” in New Editorial”

  • Having read the whole article, I have to agree with every word he said.

       10 likes

  • Great read, although I am not particulary a fan of Mr. Raye he hit the nail on the head. This new Bro-shit is feeling like a bad re-ocurring hangover everyday and it will be a huge day when it finally goes away for good!

       6 likes

  • He was on EWTN radio a while back talking about it there too. That’s a Catholic talk radio station, not even one that plays music on a regular basis. The message of discontent with this music and these lyrics is reaching a lot of people outside of country music fans and even music fans in general.

    I’ve shows that article to a number of people, both fans and non-fans of country music, and every one has agreed with it.

       5 likes

  • “Can I get a Yee Haw?”

    LOL. I liked that Jake Owen cd, and that was actually the weakest song on it.

    Great editorial. He pretty much nailed it.

       4 likes

  • Radio stations want listeners to make money.
    Labels want to sell records to make money.
    Artist want to fill stadiums to make money.

    The current horrible music makes everyone a lot of money, because people really like it.

    There is no conspiracy.

    I too wish we had better mainstream music, but we don’t because its not what people want.

       8 likes

    • Do people really like it, or do they like it because it’s all they know? In my experience, when mainstream fans are exposed to the fact that they have alternatives, they make better choices.

         15 likes

      • Trigger,
        I am a perfect example of the very fan you’re describing. I once had every preset in my truck set to the local Country stations. I snapped up every new record by every artist on CMT and GAC the moment they came out. I thought I was a real Country Music fan!
        I had already started listening to more and more Traditional, Old-School Country out of a growing sense of dissatisfaction with what I was hearing on the radio. I just didn’t know any better. Mainstream radio Country was all I thought there was.
        Then, about a year and a half ago, I stumbled across your site. You introduced me to Hellbound Glory and Sturgill Simpson and Brandy Clark and Lindi Ortega and a host of other great artists who were making the kind of music I loved and missed hearing.
        Now, my friends ask me if heard the latest big hit my the hottest new thing out of Nashville, and all I have is a blank stare. Can’t remember the last time I even turned my radio on!
        Now that I’ve droned on and on, I’m gonna go give “Metamodern” a spin. Thanks for what you do, Trig! Keep up the great work!
        – Jamie

           20 likes

        • Thanks for the note Jamie, I’m glad you found the site! Stories like this are what keep me going, and prove that if we can just reach people and let them know they have options, we’ll have a lot more happier country music fans out there. Like Sturgill said, one person at a time and eventually the tide will turn.

             4 likes

          • Just to be give more positive about this site, I didn’t really need it to learn that mainstream country sucks. I was very into traditional country as well as Red Dirt, before this site, but I did not know much about the “Underground Country” stuff beyond Hank III, who I always liked but was not crazy about. This site is where I discovered some of my favorite artists like Hellbound Glory, Sturgill Simpson, and Dale Watson.

            So regardless of whether I disagree with some of your rants, I still am really grateful for this site.

               3 likes

        • You sound exactly like I did circa 1991-1994. I listened to nothing but country exclusively, bought countless CD’s. Then Shania Twain’s second album came out and suddenly things started changing. My personal change came one afternoon watching CMT’s “Rockin’ Country” where in this one particular hour, and I’m not making this up, they played John Hiatt (Buffalo River Home), Kim Richey (Just My Luck) and Junior Brown (Highway Patrol).

          My music life at that point in time literally changed. I could barely listen to what I had in my collection, I *had* to have albums by those three artists. Suddenly what was on the radio was bloody *boring.* Around that time I also started listening to rock — though still bought albums by those three I listed — then eventually metal (and now its various sub-genres of it). With this site I’ve discovered some great music I wouldn’t have even thought of trying out before. Haven’t come full circle, but my musical tastes have expanded. Since I basically don’t listen to radio — on purpose — I rely on the internet to expose me to new singers and groups.

          Good music is good and Trigger is a big part of this. :)

             2 likes

          • Well, I grew up being told the only thing that was acceptable to listen to was Southern Gospel! I still remember the first time I heard Country Music. I was 16, and my Dad was pastoring a small church in the sticks of Chilton County, Alabama. The midweek service was coming to and end, and my Dad asked the tiny congregation to stand for the dismissal prayer. I snuck out the back door of the church, and got into that old Chevy Caprice and stuck my newly-minted key in the ignition, hoping for the chance to drive home that night. As I sat there, waiting for the church doors to open and spill light onto the cool ground, I began to scan through the radio stations – something I had never done before. It was then that I heard, for the first time in my life, a voice that I would never forget. The song was just beginning, I was immediately enraptured as a timeless voice that, even to this day, some 15 years later, still stops me in my tracks. “He said, ‘I’ll love her ’til I die…’” That night, my world changed. For the first time ever, I heard a song that reached down and touched my heart and moved my soul. It wasn’t some sad song about how hard life was, but it would all be okay ’cause Jesus loves me. It was a song about real life. Real love. Real loss. Real emotion. It told me a story amd made me FEEL something. That’s what drew me, pulled me, called to me from Country Music. “Like the sound of a Siren’s song,” it beckoned to the place I always belonged, but didn’t know it until that night. Maybe it’s because that was my first encounter with Country Music, and it affected me so deeply, I hold it to such a high standard.

               5 likes

      • Agreed – I was a country music hater for years because all I knew was what I saw on TV, radio, or if I was unfortunate enough to be dragged to a country bar. It wasn’t until I exhausted all of classic rock that I turned to southern rock and slowly inched my way into country.

        But he does have a point. The goal is to make money and lots of it. Kids buy the majority of music and kids want the tailgate and cold beer songs.

           1 likes

      • Yes, they really like it. They love it. Either you like something, or you don’t. To me, the idea that they like it because it’s all they know, is silly.

        It would be like saying, “I don’t really like the taste of shit, I just eat it because it’s all I know.

        And Trigger, If I’m wrong you’re right; then why do the labels care what kind of music they put out? I think we all agree they’re just in it for the money; so why don’t they promote traditional music if you believe it would sell just as big as the current style does?

           0 likes

      • I could be wrong, but I just don’t agree that the reason people are listening to and buying popular country music is simply because they have no better options. It just doesn’t make sense to me that someone would listen to a song on the radio, or buy a certain CD, just cause that’s all there is. I think they genuinely like it, and even if more options came around they would still pick the mainstream, because they’re not interested in substance, they just like what they like. I used to think it was the artists/record exec’s fault, but I think people get what they settle for in this case, and there is a huge amount of people out there that seem happy to settle with what’s on the radio right now.

           0 likes

        • I’m not saying they don’t like it. I’m saying they would like something else more if they knew they had the option, which many consumers don’t. Also, radio is hemorrhaging listeners, and people are buying less mainstream music now than ever. It is because at some point they were exposed to choice.

             0 likes

    • “The current horrible music makes everyone a lot of money, because people really like it.”

      I completely disagree with both aspects of this… 1. that it “makes everyone a lot of money” and 2. that “people really like it.”

      Here in Nashville, publishers are closing left and right…artist rosters have never been smaller…songwriter rosters at the pub companies have never been smaller…record levels have never had a harder time making money than right now (thus, the rise of the 360 deals)…studios have fewer bookings than ever before…musicians have a hard time finding work, etc, etc. There is an absolute attrition going on.

      I would argue this is because country listeners DO NOT like the product and are NOT buying the product. In the 90s, country music was a golden goose. The artists were great and actually had talent, it seemed like every song that was released was an AMAZING song, and more money flowed through Nashville than the town had ever seen. Unheard of amounts of money. There would literally be songwriters in the parking lots of recording studios writing songs in their trucks, waiting to go straight in to record and get to artists the same day. The activity and energy was amazing.

      Today?? ALL of that has changed.

      In the 90s, some record labels had 25 or 30 artists. Today, they might have 7 or 8. Publishers have skeleton rosters and staff. Another one closes every week. The money has dried up. Why? Undoubtedly, illegal downloads, file sharing and iTunes, etc, have all had an effect, but I submit that it is the QUALITY OF THE MUSIC that has most caused this drastic change. Comparative to the 90s, NOBODY IS BUYING THE PRODUCT. In the 90s, if a major label artist didn’t go platinum (a million sold), the album was considered a failure. Today if an artist sells 200,000 copies, the labels throw a party.

      They might be making big money for a few, but it’s a fraction of what the genre saw when it was TRULY making great music that country fans loved.

         10 likes

    • So sad, but so true.

         0 likes

  • A lot of this recent talk about the state of country music reminds of the late 80′s and early 90′s when rock was pretty much a mess of homogeneous sound alike bands. Then the grunge thing hit and “alternative” went mainstream. I think that this is coming for country music too. When our alternative country artists start getting major radio play there will be a shift among mainstream artists to this style of music. I think it’s birthing to some extent with the amount of airplay Eli Young Band is getting. While I have a hard time considering them alternative country anymore they do still have ties to the Texas music scene. People that go to see them might dig a little bit and start finding all these great alternative country acts which will hopefully boost record sales and radio play for these artists and move them into the mainstream. Just imagine hearing Sturgill Simpson on a ClearChannel station.

       8 likes

    • I think you describe the landscape pretty well in how it compares to that era.

      The problem is that in the early 90s when Nirvana, et al. hit, you didn’t have ClearChannel and other national owners of radio stations tightly controlling playlists and focus grouping everything to death. There isn’t some DJ in some town somewhere that’s going to one day decide to give Sturgill Simpson a spin and have it explode from there.

      The other thing to remember about the 90s is that after that initial period that followed “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, a few years later the rock playlists were filled with copycat major label bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, etc. that had little to no connection to the indie/DIY underground scene that Nirvana did. So even if an Americana artist broke wide open on mainstream country, over time they’d likely be viewed as more of an outlier than a true innovator.

         5 likes

      • The other thing to remember about the 90s is that after that initial period that followed “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, a few years later the rock playlists were filled with copycat major label bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, etc. that had little to no connection to the indie/DIY underground scene that Nirvana did.

        And they still are, some 20 years later…

           2 likes

        • That’s probably another discussion for another site, but despite the occasional left field surprise, commercial rock music has been dead as a doornail for at least 15 years. Country is sadly headed that way as well.

             4 likes

          • Commercial arena rock bands are dead, yes. Even my beloved Kings of Leon went pop and destroyed themselves. But – there is really great rock out there. Restavrant, Left Lane Cruiser, Black Pistol Fire, J Roddy Walston – just to name a few.

            Rock hasn’t died, it just split up into a bunch of sub-genres. Just like it may have taken work to find Sturgill or Hellbound Glory, you just have to work a little harder to find the good rock.

               3 likes

      • Look what happened to Rock and Roll after the big alternative/grunge era. It turned into the same thing that modern pop country is turning into today.

           2 likes

      • Well said Mike!

           1 likes

  • I would like to see a movement started, perhaps on social media to protest the current state of country music. Maybe get some of the independent artists to promote it too. This could culminate into something like Disco Demolition Day, except it would be called Bro Country Demolition Day. I’m just thinking out loud, but I would throw my support behind this kind of cause.

       0 likes

    • There are these types of movements all over the place. There may be 500 Facebook pages devoted to the subject in one manner or another. Sites like savingcountrymusic.com and others are devoted to the subject. Arguably an entire cottage industry has popped up to decry what is happening to country music. And even the same labels that are being criticized are getting in on the business by pushing artists like Eric Church and the “new Outlaws” to attempt to re-integrate country’s disenfranchised population.

      The effort is there, but like Collin says, the few people, mainly the labels heads, are the only ones that really have the power to make a sizable impact. The artists and songwriters are just following orders, and the consumers are just taking what they’re being fed.

         8 likes

      • “Murder on Music Row” just popped into my itunes rotation. How fitting.

           1 likes

      • The idea of the consumers taking what they are being “fed” does not explain the high sales for bro-country. Songs like “That’s My Kind of Night” and “Bottoms Up” reached the top of the Billboard country digital sales chart. Lukewarm consumers might continue to listen to mainstream country radio, but would not actually purchase albums or songs.

        The fact that bro-country songs are selling so highly indicates that there is a strong fan base for it.

           1 likes

  • I agree with most everything but he’s SO wrong about Miranda Lambert. She’s sold out just as much as anyone by re-leasing one re-hash of Gunpowder and Lead after another. She’s certainly capable of putting out some great songs, here and there, but most of it is faux sassy bullshit that started out with a fun song that unfortunately perpetuated violence in one of Nashville’s current double standards. Men can’t (and wouldn’t) sing about hurting women–the backlash to “Redneck Crazy,” which was much more lighthearted than the “Gunpowder and Lead”s and “Goodbye Earl”s and “Before He Cheat”s of the world, showed us that. And they shouldn’t want to sing about anyone, but that rule should be held to all country artists.

    And then you have a Band Perry song with this line in it: “I oughtta kill you right now and do the whole wide world a service” in reference to a lover. How is that OK?

    Now, we’ve been discussing how hard it is for women to make it on current country radio, but I sure hope the violence perpetuating songs are something of the past for both sexes.

       16 likes

    • ***shouldn’t want to sing about hurting anyone.

         0 likes

    • So you’re gonna compare those who defend themselves from abusive spouses to people who stalk their exes? Nice.

         2 likes

      • The issue here is that these songs perpetuate violence, not the reasoning behind them. I would never question a woman for protecting herself against an abusive ex.

        But the first step is to, you know, separate yourself from the individual, not turn their brain matter into wall art.

        For what it’s worth, many people who are abusive are capable of overcoming those issues because their abusive nature is often linked to real depression, and therefore with the proper treatment, it’s something they can move on from and not do again.

        Abusive partners is NOT a gender specific thing, but I guarantee you if a man were to sing about doing these things to a woman who abused him, it would never fly. And it shouldn’t, because violence is not the answer.

        Also, “Redneck Crazy” is the same song as “Before He Cheats” so it’s not like there’s any line drawn, there. None of these songs should be considered OK.

           4 likes

        • To play the devil’s advocate, I don’t think violent songs are any worse than violent movies or violent video games. I don’t have a problem with such songs if there is some artistic value in the lyrics or the music, but at the same time gratuitous violence for its own sake detracts from the genre.

          I was definitely disappointed in Carrie Underwood as an artist after she released “Before He Cheats”. She had the potential to contribute much more to country music, to record classic songs, if she had been less eager to follow the herd.

             3 likes

        • For what it’s worth, many people who are abusive are capable of overcoming those issues because their abusive nature is often linked to real depression, and therefore with the proper treatment, it’s something they can move on from and not do again.

          That’s all fine and good, but as a woman’s getting beaten, she’s going to find that .45-caliber pistol to be a whole lot more effective remedy to her immediate situation than a pill is gonna be.

          violence is not the answer.

          Just remember that if some dude starts whaling away at you for whatever reason. Don’t fight back. Let him do as he will. Because violence is not the answer.

             3 likes

          • I’d agree with you on the first part if Gunpowder and lead depicted a woman defending herself in the heat of the moment, but it depicts what would ultimately be charged as premeditated murder.

            And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the issue of people randomly starting to beat on me, so you don’t exactly raise a valid point. It’s like every gun nut who’s first reaction to stricter gun laws is “What if someone breaks into my house?” The majority of us will never deal with a break-in. It’s not a valid counter-argument.

            Not that I advocate stricter gun laws to any extreme (there’s no reason last years bipartisan law shouldn’t have passed. Too many representatives were cowards), but there are better arguments that the 2nd Amendment supporters could turn to.

               1 likes

          • I’d agree with you on the first part if Gunpowder and lead depicted a woman defending herself in the heat of the moment, but it depicts what would ultimately be charged as premeditated murder.

            And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the issue of people randomly starting to beat on me, so you don’t exactly raise a valid point. It’s like every gun nut who’s first reaction to stricter gun laws is “What if someone breaks into my house?” The majority of us will never deal with a break-in. It’s not a valid counter-argument.

            Not that I advocate stricter gun laws to any extreme (there’s no reason last years bipartisan law shouldn’t have passed. Too many representatives were cowards), but there are better arguments that the 2nd Amendment supporters could turn to, just like you present a better argument than ignorant incredulity.

               0 likes

          • but it depicts what would ultimately be charged as premeditated murder.

            So if she can’t get to the gun in the heat of the moment, he should be able to keep doing what he will without fear of reprisal? That is just so wrong that I don’t even know where begin.

            there’s no reason last years bipartisan law shouldn’t have passed.

            I presume you’re talking about the Manchin-Toomey amendment, and in that case I’m going to have to disagree. I know the amendment specifically prohibits the establishment of a national gun registry, but it still creates the mechanism for one. And that prohibition doesn’t really matter anyway. Why? Because there is no way a universal background check law is going to be able to be enforced without a national gun registry, because if you don’t track the transfers beyond when the background checks were run during the initial FFL-private customer transfer, there is no way to tell whether people are following the law. And we’re already seeing massive public disobedience of new draconian weapon bans in places like New York and Connecticut. How easy do you think it would be to defy this law on the sly? Here’s a clue: Pretty damn easy.

            What’s wrong with a gun registry? Well, many things, but the biggest thing is that it makes it easier to come and get the guns if the authorities get the right hair up their asses.

            (What? Oh, it was just a bunch of letters, you say? Well, what do you think is going to happen if someone sends a letter back telling the New York police to fuck right off, hmm?)

               4 likes

    • But we’re all ok with Johnny Cash singing about shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die?

         2 likes

      • Actually, Yes.

        That Johnny Cash song is a traditional Murder Ballad and the protagonist is already in prison regretting his action as the song begins. It has a moral “hangs his head and cries” and message in that he went against what his mother told him. And the protagonist is full of regret for his actions.

        That is completely different from a protagonist who threatens violence or partakes in violence in the present tense with no moral or regret.

           6 likes

      • Though I caught the sarcasm, and laughed, I feel like answering.

        We’re always ok with songs depicting violence if the song revolves around remorse. And we should be, because life involves things like remorse.

           2 likes

    • There is a long tradition in folk, blues and country of songs sung from a male perspective about murdering or hurting women. The fact that some women are now singing songs about fighting back is a good thing in my opinion.

      As a society, we should strive to make “violence is not the answer” an ideal, but in real life that is not always an option.

      Please take a listen to Hurray for the Riff Raff’s “The Body Electric” – I think it deals with this dynamic & history in a very nuanced and powerful way.

         3 likes

      • You’ll have to highlight that “long tradition” in the instances where it was a huge radio hit in recent years (good luck), because that would not be accepted in today’s world, and neither should these female-sung songs that don’t even consider the actual, real solutions to abuse. You don’t kill the individual. You break up with them, file a restraining order, etc. Sometimes those things don’t work, and you go to drastic circumstances but if someone hits me, that gives me no right to take their life. If every romantic partner who ever abused another was shot and killed, there’d be very few people on this earth.

           1 likes

        • Songs are meant to convey a feeling and artists can be impressionistic. People can have strong negative feelings and feel like they want to kill someone and express that feeling in song, but it doesn’t make them murderers.

          As for whether women are more able to get away with that these days than men, I’m not up on current rap lyrics, but much ink has been spilled over the years on how that genre is particularly misogynistic. I think Eminem had a popular song a few years back about wanting to kill his ex-wife or girlfriend. Robin Thicke had a hit last year that insinuated rape culture.

          I’m not necessarily condoning or supporting such violent thoughts in lyrics, it’s not particularly my style either. But to pretend that violence in song is a modern phenomenon or that women are somehow being allowed to take liberties that men can’t is not really being honest about how these topics have been addressed in popular American music for decades upon decades.

          Again, I point you to Hurray for the Riff Raff’s “The Body Electric” – where Ms. Segura addresses the history of murder ballads and violence against women in song and tries to right some of the wrongs of the past. It’s one of the most powerful songs of the year, to my ears.

             3 likes

          • You are spreading out into genres that don’t have lyrical limitations. I’m referring to mainstream modern “country” radio over the last 10-20 years.

            We’re talking about different eras and different genres.

            FTR, the Robin Thicke song should have ruined his reputation, imo.

               1 likes

          • So yeah, my bad about the “good luck” comment. I thought we were primarily discussing mainstream “country.” I listen to different genres of metal, so I’ve run into my fair share of gratuitously violent lyrics, haha.

               0 likes

  • I like what he’s saying but I think he’s letting the performers and songwriters off too easy. ” i was just following orders ” is a weak and cowardly defense. I agree with what hobobill says about the audience also being too blame and that includes me since I still enjoy hearing that red solo cup song anytime it plays.

       1 likes

  • Country music’s not dead, despite the best efforts of country radio. Music is immortal mfer

       2 likes

  • I don’t see how any “Gatekeeper” can stop “Big Machine” from putting out their material. But, if enough industry heads target Nielson SoundScan and demand that thet stuff be moved into a different genre, Call it “Southern Pop/Rock” and make it a sub genre of Rock, and the scales will be corrected.

       0 likes

  • Trigger,
    I agree with the choices argument where fans don’t have an option. However, I just got a new truck (hell yeah) and it came with a Sirius package and I love it. I now also have a Sirius crush on Elizabeth Cook!!
    I switch between Outlaw, Willies and sometimes The Highway. I am curious as to how the other country stations on it stack up with listeners? I’m sure they track it? I have half assed looked, but thought maybe you would know.

       0 likes

  • I’m now 34 years old, I was first introduced to country music when I was about 5 years old (1985), I can can clearly remember hearing fresh new artists such as George Strait, Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Alabama, Ricky Skaggs, The Judds, Reba McEntire, Steve Wariner, Restless Heart, Vince Gill, Earl Thomas Conley.

    I even remember watching the Dolly Parton show on Friday nights in the 80′s.

    As time went by, a long long long list of new artists would emerge, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Patty Loveless, Lorrie Morgan, Sawyer Brown, Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt, Holly Dunn, Dwight Yoakam, Kathy Mattea, Sweathearts Of The Rodeo, Highway 101, Ricky Van Shelton, Mark Chesnutt, Mark Collie, Shenandoah, Suzy Bogguss, Doug Stone, Brooks & Dunn, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Joe Diffie, Diamond Rio, Mcbride & The Ride, Pam Tillis, Aaron Tippin, Trisha Yearwood.

    When you look at the many names I listed, what really stands out about all those artists is they not only were hit machines but most importantly when they came on the radio, you did not need a DJ to tell you who it was, you new instantly their names. All those artists had their very own distinct sound. Even after all the many names I listed, you could still come up with a couple dozen more acts that were successful as well.

    What I really liked about country music from lets say 1985 to 1995, not only was there a very strong young presence, you also had legends like George Jones, Dolly Parton, Don Williams, Bellamy Brothers, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette and Conway Twitty that received regular air play and also still had success competing with the new artists, not only that but there was a great relationship between the old and new.

    Now as we fast forward to the present day, I look at what Country has become and I ask myself, What the hell happened? How did the genre go from having a major all star lineup to a bunch of artists singing basically the same songs with maybe a few words changed around and acting like they grew up on the streets in a large city.

    It’s not just the song writing that is terrible, it’s the artists in general. Now it is safe to say that looking at today’s male artists, 75% of them pretty much have the same sound, they seriously lack a distinctive voice. Listen to main stream country radio and you truthfully cannot tell their voices apart, you really rely on the DJ to tell you who that was and then you still don’t care.

    But also as important is the lack of respect today’s artists show those who came before them, as Marty Stuart once said “Honer The Past”, but clearly that’s not the case is it.

    I remember listing to a new pop/rock station one morning at work, and out of nowhere the morning crew just began discussing the serious health issues that had just been released regarding Randy Travis, they discussed about how Randy brought Country Music back to the top and made it very cool with a very fresh and very country sound. One DJ stated “Look at country music today, it really has gone down hill, it’s just sad to see”

    And then last year the same station that plays Katy Perry and Maroon 5, breaks the news of the passing of George Jones and plays He Stopped Loving Her Today, this is a true story.

    What really angers me is hearing someone say that “Country Music Is Evolving”, how do you evolve from a star studded all star line up to a bunch of singers that sound the same, singing basically the same songs. Just how is that evolution?

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    • spot on.

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  • I’ve enjoyed the perspectives offered by everyone here. And the frustration of most who’ve commented is palpable so its probably a very good thing that much of it is vented here before one of us kicks somebody’s puppy into next week just because “it was there” .
    I’ve been involved in the (country) music business as a performer , teacher , booking agent , bandleader , studio owner and writer for a very long time . Several years ago , myself and a few contemporaries began to notice changes that , quite frankly , had us bewildered . I think most of us recognize and agree that lyrical depth and substance has all but evaporated from contemporary commercial country music with very few exceptions . A musical form once based , in large part , on lyrics that actually said something listeners were emotionally moved by and connected with created by gifted, seasoned, hard-working writers/craftsmen , somehow ,still had a pulse even with almost no attention being paid to this integral ingredient . But what REALLY had us baffled was that country music had always been known as ‘dancing’ music for couples and a way to meet and socialize with someone you might be interested in…shuffles ,two- steps, waltzes , polkas, Tex-mex rhythms, line dances.. and yes …even a bit of ” country rock” . Along with the the loss of substance , the form was losing this very important and popular aspect …its ” danceability ” .
    Not to get too technical here….but nearly all the new radio country became the exact same half-time/cut time slow-ish straight 4 rhythm . It lacked life and became completely UN-danceable . As a performer , part of the job in cover bands was to try to stay on top of the newer music as it charted. It became VERY apparent to us as players that in playing the newer music, dancers were staying away in droves . The people that did show up would request older dance -type songs . We gave up trying to keep up with the newer songs as club-goers didn’t respond to them . If you watch the award shows , you will see hordes of young females ( barely a young male ) gawking at the entertainers and sort of just wiggling to these half time, rap-like rhythms but NOT really dancing- alone or with a partner .
    Ok this may sound kinda silly to fans of the music itself , but this social aspect of the genre , the dancing elements of the music , was a HUGE part of its success for decades . No one dances to new country music because its not dance music .
    What it comes down to , in my estimation , is that two primary ingredients to the success of the genre have been all but extracted .
    There are only two country music clubs on the lower mainland now ( Vancouver Canada ) . At one time , we enjoyed playing a local circuit of more than 20 . The bands booked are dance bands and they play 50′s to 90′s country , for the most part, to a predominately young ( 20-35) audience who are there FOR the dancing . Dancing was an enormous factor in what made a country song a standard enjoyed by generations of fans . In modern country music it is a non-factor and , in my opinion , is a huge reason there are so few newer country standards .

       8 likes

  • Yeah, of course he’s not calling out the artists or the songwriters. That would take actual balls. Instead he throws a haymaker at label execs, the bete noir of every country music fan who is concerned about the direction of the genre.

    The responsibility for these audio abortions lies with EVERYONE who has a hand in making it. Yes the execs but also the artists, the songwriters, and, ultimately, the fans who buy this pre-packaged, assembly line cowshit.

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    • Great point , of course . Ultimately , a company will happily continue promoting and selling ANYTHING people are willing to pay for-Big Macs , A Kardashian TV show , Jerry Springer or ” Bro-Country” . Those 16 yer old girls standing down front fantasizing about Luke Bryan or fawning over Taylor’s latest hair style are , in all likelihood , not even MUSIC fans , let alone Country fans . But they ARE a market to be tapped by smart advertising guys . They will outgrow the music and the ‘artists” they worship soon enough . Meantime , there has never been so much GREAT music available -country or otherwise -to honest-to-goodness music fans who will look around a bit ….Satellite and Cable radio , CD’s from artists’ own sites , label sites , CD Baby , music available from the artist at his/her shows , ( caught Tommy Emmanuel last night – his merch table had tons of GREAT stuff and 600 happy fans at the show buying it ). Its a great time to be a music listener / fan- if we just turn our radios off.

         1 likes

  • Blake Shelton recently posted a series of rants on twitter a few days ago. Apparently he read an article calling his music bro country and took offense. Now the tweets were posted by Shelton a few days before Raye’s editorial so he’s not referring to this (unless he read the earlier item), so I was wondering what particular article he was referring to?

    His tweets:

    @blakeshelton: Ha!!!! I just read an article that includes me in the “Bro-Country” genre.. I think that makes it complete!!!! I believe I’ve set a record!!

    @blakeshelton: I’ve been called “Pop-country”, “outlaw country”(ol’ red I guess), “Traditional” (mostly), “Story-Teller”, “Hick-hop” and NOW “Bro-country”!

    @blakeshelton: When will people understand that country music constantly changes.. Always has and always will. It’s song about real people.. People change.

    @blakeshelton: That turd floated along time ago… (Note: I’m not sure if this tweet is still part of his bro country rant lol)

    He acts as if this is the first time he’s been called bro country. People have been labeling him that a long time ago, and for some as savvy as him with social media I don’t believe he’s now just discovered his bro country status.

    Could this be the article he’s reacting to? – http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/6/country-times-bro-country-vs-traditional-bring-on-/?page=all

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    • I’d love to know who thinks or thought he was ever “outlaw country.” Because that’s hilarious to think about.

         4 likes

    • I’ve often wondered how did Blake Shelton ever become famous in “country music”. He is without a doubt the most obnoxious,opinionated, conceded ASS in the genre.

      I can remember an interview back when he started with his then wife, and she said then that when she and Blake started going out that her friends thought she was nuts. This was when they were still married. Not surprised they divorced, I won’t be surprised when Blake and Miranda get a divorce.

         3 likes

  • Oh Collin, you were destroying the sound of Country music long before bro-country was destroying the content of it.

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    • Put the lyrics to Collin Raye’s “Little Rock” and “I Think About You” up against FGL’s “Cruise” and Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kinda Night.”

      Can you honestly say Collin Raye was helping to destroy country music?

         6 likes

      • Collin was destroying the SOUND of Country music long before bro-country was destroying the LYRICAL CONTENT.

        Yes, I can honestly say it.

           3 likes

  • Country music isn’t dead, just like rock isn’t dead or nor is metal dead. It’s just that anything good — more or less — isn’t being played on commercial radio.

    Personally I’m more offended by the use of Autotune/pitch correction than anything because holy shit there’s no defending it.

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  • “Country” music stations play garbage. Loud, barking, irritating noise that grinds on the mind and the soul to the point where I do not even turn the radio on anymore. The beer drinking truck driving good old boy grating blaring out at the world has gone beyond annoyance. It is down right pathetic. It has caught up to Rap and persistent dog barking as being one of the world’s greatest irritants. The label or studio that reintroduces the sounds of Jones, Jackson, and Parton to the world will succeed enormously.

       1 likes

  • Off topic- I have not seen him mentioned on this site yet so wanted to bring him up, Trigger should do a review on Wyatt McCubbin’s album “Bootleg”. I saw him opening for Dustin Lynch and a up-and-coming douche named Drew Baldridge (don’t let those two discredit this comment) in Columbus, OH a few weeks ago. Wyatt’s show was a bit low energy as it was just an acoustic set with a older guy on harmonica, but still the best part of the night (although every dumb “country girl” of my generation had their backs turned to the stage while he played). Tried to buy his album that night but couldn’t find him so listened on spotify and loved it. He is definitely somebody who can be part of turning country music around. He is also featured on “The Music Inside, A Collaboration Celebrating Waylon Jennings, V.2″. The kid is only 19. Maybe I am late to the show on him or maybe I am the first to bring him up. Regardless, just wanted to bring some attention to somebody who is doing it right.

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