There is a war going on right now for the heart of country music my friends, and we just had a salvo shot right into our belly. I would love to be sitting here writing about one of the countless original, highly-talented bands out there that Music Row won’t even let sniff it’s panties, but every day I have to watch an art form that I love get dragged through the mud and exploited for every last dollar possible, and I must comment.
The latest felonious assault on country comes from pop country’s Gretchen Wilson, from her new album I Got Your Country Right Here. Her song “Work Hard, Play Harder” was legally found to be a ripoff of a Black Crowes song, and yet, this isn’t even the most sinister song on the album. That distinction belongs to the song “Outlaws and Renegades.” The first verse goes:
Well just the other day I was driving down the road
And I thought I turned on my country radio
Well I didn’t recognize a single song, or none of the names
But it didn’t really matter because they all seemed to sound the same
Where’s all the Outlaws and renegades?
Some might think that I would applaud lyrics like these coming from a mainstream country artist, even though in my world they were cliche half a decade ago. But the problem is their just words, and Gretchen’s actions speak louder.
I Got Your Country Right Here is a pop album. I have listened to it cover to cover, and not only hear nothing Outlaw, but nothing original. Some of the ballads are somewhat decent, but I can’t even dress this album up as being traditional, like a George Strait or Miranda Lambert album, it’s just pop. So that means these lyrics did not come from an Outlaw inspiration, but an inspection of the country music landscape and how to profiteer off of it.
Where’s all the Outlaws and Renegades Gretchen? Haven’t you heard of JB Beverly and The Wayward Drifters? Or how about Lucky Tubb? Or what about Hellbound Glory, or Hank III, or Bob Wayne, Rachel Brooke, Dale Watson, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Brigitte London, Peewee Moore, William Elliot Whitmore, Whitey Morgan & The 78’s, Jayke Orvis, James Hunnicutt, Joe Buck, Dex Romweber, The Deadstring Brothers, The Calamity Cubes, Pete Berwick, Ronnie Hymes, Kara Clark. . . .
Let me catch my breath for a sec . . .OK.
Little Lisa Dixie, .357 String Band, Split-Lip Rayfield, Scott H. Biram, The Honky Tonk Hustlas, Devil Makes Three, Karling Abbeygate, Hillstomp, Highlonesome and many many more?
And thanks for noticing, but Willie Nelson is still around, putting out relevant music, and so is Billy Joe Shaver, and David Allan Coe, and Roger Alan Wade. The Outlaws have always been here Gretchen, you were just too busy to notice because you were riding that same gravy train that you’re now flame throwing because you think it is expedient from a marketing standpoint.
Great, you started your own label, but you were more Outlaw when you fought for creative control of your music and the radio was ignoring you. Now you’ve gone back to selling out to keep your 30 employees and 300-acre spread in the black. Being an Outlaw is about priorities and principles, and you can’t make up for leaving all those behind by paying lip service to the disgruntled country music fan in a pop song. Being an Outlaw means doing it YOUR way, money be damned.
Since Hollywood has gone country, Nashville has gone Outlaw. Unfortunately the music hasn’t followed suit, it’s only the Nashville suits throwing around music terms to try to move more “units”. Instead of fighting against the REAL country music insurgency, Music Row is trying to incorporate it, assimilate it, steal our vigor and our words to try to keep the agro music consumer within their fold.
It will not work.
Gretchen Wilson is not an Outlaw, a renegade, a redneck, or a blue collar. She’s not even white trash. She’s just trash, period, for stealing songs and our message to get a sputtering pop country career back on track.