Progress vs. Traditionalism in Country Music

April 16, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  39 Comments

The war vs. pop influences and progress in country music, and the purity yearned for by the traditional elements of the genre is almost as old as the genre itself. The introduction of electric instruments on The Grand Ole Opry stage, drummers in country outfits, it was all met with stiff resistance from purists in their time. Steel guitar might be one of the most identifiably “country” elements in music, but think what shock must have ran through traditionalists’ minds in the late 40’s when the appeal of this strange electrified sound was brought back from Polynesia by WWII GI’s.

This continuous country music cold war tends to go hot periodically, as it did over the last couple of weeks. The ACM Awards, a following brushup pitting Miranda Lambert and Justin Moore against Ashton Kutcher, followed by a prominent Fox News story on the matter, had the old standard battle lines being cast, and like most battles in the culture war these days, both sides being defined by extremes as opposed to a more true measure of feelings, creating a polarized environment where little understanding could be garnered.

So in an attempt to power through the rhetoric, here is a cool-headed attempt to explain some of the differences between the traditional and mainstream mindsets, a detailed look at the term “progress” and how it relates to country music, and how it all relates to radio, still the most important medium for relaying country music to listeners.

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“There needs to be more old stuff on country radio”


“Nobody wants to hear that old stuff on country radio”

Country radio is the real battleground in the country music war. Radio programming is reflected at country awards shows, and that is why they become battlegrounds as well. When the argument is made that more older music, or more traditional-sounding new music needs to be on country radio, the reaction from mainstream and pop country fans usually is that country music needs to “progress” (see below) and that the old stuff is outdated.

You can’t argue taste when it comes to music, but it is impossible to argue against statistics, and the statistics released by Edison Research at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville this February conclusively state that country radio is on a dramatic downhill trend, and that one of the reasons is because country music’s big traditionalist demographics are being undeserved.

Conversely, traditionalists that think that pop country has no place on country radio and that they should only play Hank, Cash, Willie, and Waylon are doing just as much of a disservice. By saying the current radio formula needs to swing in the complete opposite direction and wholesale eliminate pop influences, they negatively typecast the more common pragmatic traditionalist argument that is simply looking for balance. Country music and radio has always had pop influences, even in the 50’s, and it must continue to. A complete flip of the radio format would in turn disenfranchise the mainstream audience and put radio on just as much of an unsustainable path.

That is why balance and quality is what must be strived for on country radio. As Edison Research pointed out, at this moment there is an imbalance towards the pop or mainstream. Something commonly misunderstood by mainstream fans is that just because something is “traditional” country doesn’t mean it needs to be classic or “old”. There are scores of traditional, neo-traditional, post-punk, and progressive country artists putting out relevant, commercially-viable music receiving little or no mainstream radio play. Touching on all of country’s current styles, along with paying homage to its roots with a classic song or two, with an overall emphasis of showcasing the the best and most appealing music the genre has to offer is the way radio, and in turn country music, can preserve its viability as a medium.

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“Country music must progress”

This is the argument commonly made by pop country fans whenever traditionalists and purists push back on pop, rap, or other influences entering the genre. However “pop” doesn’t necessarily translate into progression. It many times results in regression. You can have progress in country music while still keeping the music firmly attached to its roots. That exact formula was what “alt-country” was founded on, with artists like Uncle Tupelo, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, and Bela Fleck. A term often used in exchange for “alt-country” is “progressive country”. Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Townes Van Zandt were also labeled as progressive country in their day.

One of the reasons progressive country came into existence is because the progressive approach was met with resistance from both the pop-oriented, commercial influences of the country music business, and traditionalists. But many alt-country artists went in the alt direction in the 80’s because they were embarrassed of the way country’s roots were being treated by the mainstream country genre. And the mainstream, by not showcasing or attempting to re-intergrate the tremendous talent gravitating to the alt-country world, found itself in one of its darkest periods in regards to both commercial success and artistic appeal.

Today there are many great country artists with progressive approaches to the music, yet they must compete with pop, and now hip-hop oriented “country” acts that many times frame country music in a submissive role to these other genres and are leading to the formation of a mono-genre.

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“Tradition is important in country music”

More than in any other genre of music, tradition and a tie to the roots of the music is a vital element that makes country music work. My favorite illustration of this is to compare it to religions, and compare country music to the Jewish faith. Anybody can be Christian or Muslim as long as they are believers in that faith, but being Jewish is just as much a culture and a bloodline as it is a belief.

Country is a roots genre that other genres are derived from, with a pure bloodline running through its past, just like the blues. Rock & roll for example has always been an amalgam of blues, rockabilly, country, and other influences. Hip-hop was founded on borrowing beats and modes from other genres. Country did draw from other influences too, but it also ties its traditions into its sonic structures and lyrical themes with the nostalgia and reflection found in its songs. The traditions and roots are fundamental elements of the style, just like the rapping of hip-hop, or the back beat of rock & roll.

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Without the tradition and roots of country in the music, it begins to fall apart as an art form. Without any pop or other outside influences in country, it begins to lose its commercial viability. The war for the heart of country music will continue on, but what must not is the imbalance favoring pop that has paralleled the most daunting and undeniable decline in the country music industry in its history.

39 Comments to “Progress vs. Traditionalism in Country Music”

  • To me, the thing that makes American music great is that those who have opened gates and blazed new trails have understood what rules they were breaking. They were marked by their individuality. The reason for the “war” seems to be the fact that there is a very small group of people/entities that decide what “country” means on the national stage. I caught a few minutes of the Lionel Richie special on TV that included Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry. I realized that while I don’t care for either act, the biggest problem was false “country” labeling. Our traditions are being stolen from us and we’re cast as outliers when we refuse to buy them back.

  • “Without the tradition and roots of country in the music, it begins to fall apart as an art form.”

    The problem is that the folks in the high level offices controlling this shit show don’t give a damn about the roots and traditions. They don’t respect our music as an art form. All those bastards care about is padding their pockets. The problem runs deeper than just our music though, this whole society is partying on a sinking ship.

    • I honestly think from a complete business standpoint that if Music Row paid even just a little more attention to the roots and traditions, then they would be padding their pockets even more by re-engaging a massive amount of people disenfranchised by country’s current direction. They think they are doing that with these “new Outlaws” but that’s turning even more people away.

      • I agree with you. I would like to think that the people in charge of the labels are smart enough to realize that, but apparently that’s not the case. Maybe they just want to completely kill the culture that has historically been synonymous with the music, it’s hard to say. What I do know from being in college is that when people my age hear the word “country” they think of Jason Aldean and Eric Church, so It might be possible that they are targeting the youth more than anything.

        • I’ll bet they are smart enough to realize it. They, like many of us, probably know the kind of revolution that would bring. I’ll bet they’re banking on pliable artists that know their place. More attention to tradition would most likely bring back a large disenfranchised audience. Is it worth it for the suits to deal with self-made artists?

        • ” Maybe they just want to completely kill the culture that has historically been synonymous with the music, it’s hard to say.”

          Amen to this. Call me crazy, but I’ve felt this since all the country has been being erased from “country”. Country music is just another traditional institution being sucked into the vortex of homogeneity, globalization, conformity, whatever is behind all the flattening of culture. If it was just a crass matter of money, they’d make room for the legions of people who still like their country music to have some real connection to country music, even as a “sub-genre”. There would be money in it. There’s something more to this.

          What’s interesting is that the more people are fed the lie that we’ve never been more free, more individual, less conformist, etc, the exact opposite appears to be true, to me.

          • “If it was just a crass matter of money, they’d make room for the legions of people who still like their country music to have some real connection to country music, even as a “sub-genre”. There would be money in it. There’s something more to this.”

            I know I’ve brought this up a few times in the last few years, but that statement made me think about how mainstream country radio seemed to refuse to play anything from the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack album, even though millions of peope were buying it. To me, it was like they were saying “we’ve got this infrastructure in place for creating widgets and we’ll be damned if we’ll change our ways to accommodate these fringe people. Next thing you know, everbody’s going to want this real country stuff.”

  • I just wish they’d try to get a bit more balance. The one hour traditional country special they play at noon on Saturdays just don’t cut it. And it’s not even traditional, it’s just 90’s shit mostly. My thing is: why not pepper in some of the bands on this site? Hellbound Glory and Whitey Morgan for example would be perfect for mainstream radio. They’ve got enough of a beat to them that I think mainstream fans would like them almost as much as we do.

    • I haven’t heard much Whitey Morgan, but Hellbound Glory could definitely gain a huge fanbase on radio. There are a bunch of bands that, if they were given a chance, could be huge in country music.

  • I am a hard core traditionalist yet I well understand the need for country music to evolve and progress over time. In any era of country music’s history there has always been a dominant style and sound of the music in an overall sense that finally gets a bit stale in the marketplace and is slowly replaced by something slightly (or greatly at times) different. As much as I love 40’s western swing, late 40’s to early 50’s hillbilly boogie, and the 50’s honky tonk styles, I’m sure glad there has been a wide variety of mainstream country music styles come and go since then!

    I lay most of the blame regarding the current dilemma at the feet of mainstream country radio program director suits who often don’t like traditional country music in any form. The further these folks can get their playlists away from twanginess the better, and that is doing irreparable harm to the genre. The days of radio stations being independently owned and catering to local markets got swept out the door in the corporate consolidation rush thanks to FCC ownership guideline changes back during the Clinton administration, and there’s no going back. The Top 40 Country Radio “tail” has been wagging the Nashville label dog ever since and I don’t see this changing any time soon.

    Here in Los Angeles our Top 40 FM station KKGO 105.1 FM is actually independently owned by 80 something Saul Levine, but its as cookie cutter as they come. As a Mediabase reporting station they feel almost compelled to “play the game” and program director Tonya Campos attends the CRS each year in Nashville to keep up with the rules. Tonya spent most of her early career with rock and roll stations, which makes her perfect for today’s Top 40 pop-rockin’ country marketplace. Thankfully they do have a separate HD “classic country” feed but most of the songs are from the 80’s and 90’s although the playlist is expanding. It’s not gonna change things one bit, but it’s still nice to know it’s there.

    As for keeping up on new artists I have to rely on blogs like this and Engine 145, and I’m sure glad they offer this public service! (lol)

  • I followed trad country into the territory of Americana and even that genre of misfits is galvanizing into a commercial folk establishment. I’m not sure where the neo-trad artist can find a commercially viable home. Music City has been chocking te twang from country to chase the almighty buck uptown for decades and the latest Lionel Ritchie release proves that there is no change on the horizon.

    In it’s day Patsy Cline and Tanya Tucker were pop-country. I would enjoy a return to that model and not the current variety.

  • I think the problem is bigger than just country music. Turn on a “rock” station. To me, everything just sounds like Nickelback, screaming “Cookie Monster” vocals, guitar distortion with the gain maxed out, etc. When Clear Channel and all of the big boys starting taking over the mom and pop radio stations, the homogenization kicked into overdrive. Then again, when you get a country full of people who watch nothing but American Idol, The Voice, or X-Factor, you really wouldn’t expect them to like much depth in their music.

    • there ya go. dumbed down by the dumb ass suits. spoon fed crap and come back begging for more. wake up, folks.

  • It’s a small thing, but thanks for the mentions of Uncle Tupelo and Townes. Two of my all-time favs. If we could back to a time period where John Denver was pop-country (which by definition, he probably was), country music would be in a much better place than it is now. The weird thing is that since I saw the Turnpike Troubadours live a few months ago (who you did a great review of on here), me and my friends who saw them have been showing their music to our pop country friends. EVERY SINGLE ONE of them has said that they liked their style better than radio “country.” So it may just be the marketing of the current Nashville artists above anything else. Even pop-country folk can recognize good music when you put it in front of them.

  • In the late 90s when the O’Brother soundtrack went multi platinum, and won a boatload of grammys, Music row freaked. shortly thereafter there was a minor resurgance in traditional influences in pop country. Brooks and Dunn released Red Dirt Road, The Dixie Chicks released ‘Home’ which was an all acoustic record, and had nary a drum on it. But what was also happening is that the labels started snatching up any available alt/trad artists. (derailers, BR549, etc) they locked these bands into contracts, then released a record which they did not push at all, effectively getting those bands ‘out of circulation’. then following 911 you had the onslaught of ‘Uh-murikka’ anthems, and ballads. Somewhere in there, the tables turned. instead of seeing country artists trying to crossover into pop, you had pop artists going country. Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, Uncle Cracker, Darius Rucker, etc. up to this new Lionel Ritchie abortion that is a ‘country’ record. The music being made for country radio is pop music. It’s what I will call (for lack of a better phrase) “Subrural-pop” it’s pop music that uses instrumentation and inflection from what was traditionally rural music, and repackages it to appeal to a suburban demographic, who likes to romanticize that ‘rural’ lifestyle. It’s no different than mainstream pop punk, urban music, or Adult contemporary. A group of people get together and figure out how to sell the most records to a given demographic. They hire songwriters and producers to create the product, and then they market the shit out of it at Wal-Mart. The fact is, people who really care about the content of any music or art form are in the minority. Most people just want something to distract them from how lame their commute is on the way to work. Country radio as a whole is never going to be concerned with embracing traditional influences until the majority of it’s demographic is concerned with it. While those of us who care are vocal, and often well spoken, we just don’t have the numbers to exercise any real influence in the industry. Sad but true. Be thankful that there are labels, promoters, venues and organizations still dedicated to truth in music. but don’t hold your breath waiting for John Q Affliction shirt and Mary Jane Snookie clone to ever give a shit.

    have a nice day.


  • I don’t much care about the radio or the mainstream vs traditionalist rumble (gggrrrrr…) I’ll give you 2 reasons and try to keep them brief, I’ll surely fail on the latter.

    1. The country I grew up on was a mix of “traditional” and “modern” country that my dad played. At the time, Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Pride, etc…were considered modern and were blasted for not being real country. I still have all the music I grew up with AND there are and will always be plenty of bands putting out records I like. There will be somebody to pick up the torch for HBG, Sunday Valley, etc… Call me selfish but I’m getting what i want.
    2. The minute somebody gets their head out of their ass and signs HBG to do what they’re doing today but for a major, over half of their fans will say “I only like their old stuff before they sold out.” If you don’t believe me look at what happened when DIY punk bands like Green Day and Nirvana were signed to majors. Neither did it for cash, they both did it because with indy distribution they couldn’t get their music into the hands of their fans. The music didn’t change but for whatever reason a lot of people abandoned them and in m opinion wrongfully so. I know this because I was one of those jackasses, I missed out on some good records and good shows. Maybe it’s a music snob superiority thing, maybe it’s because people who made fun of you for wearing a certain band’s shirt were now wearing the same shirt, or maybe (this was mine) people get pissed because of how hard they had to work to get their hands on a band’s music and the new fans now had good music served up to them on a silver platter.

    At the end of the day I agree that Jason Aldean is a douche, the new “outlaws” are too chickenshit to steal a stick of chewing gum, and that Toby Keith song about laying on the beach has left horrible visions in my head that give me nightmares to this day. That said, the time and energy spent arguing with folks and trying to convert one Kenny Chesney fan to “just listen to just one” Justin Townes Earle song is better spent finding other folks who share my preferences and who MIGHT just turn me on to the next John Prine…

    That’s my two cents, cue SCM reader flaming in 3…2…1…

    • I think a lot of what you said here is true. I think that Nirvana held on to many more of their original fans than Green Day did when the both signed the big deal, which speaks to the mindset of the two fan bases. And since many punk converts are into underground country, probably many more than grunge converts, backlash towards success could definitely be a dynamic in the future.

      However, I am not arguing that we should try and convert Kenny Chesney fans here. More what I am saying is that traditionalists need to understand that the Kenny Chesneys will always exist, and that’s normal. What’s not normal is the imbalance where the Hellbound Glory’s are not even given a gentleman’s chance. You’re right, we can bitch all we want, but I really tried to do less bitching here, and more pragmatism.

      • Agreed, well written article and very pragmatic. I agreed with a lot of it. I just had this soapbox sittin’ here so I figured I’d jump on it and see what came out. Keep on keepin on…if you weren’t here I’d be left with cmt.com, and that’s no good for anybody.

    • Just a footnote: Nirvana didn’t really lose fans when they signed to geffen. They were barely more than a regional act on sub pop, they had limited national exposure. A lot of people claimed to be into them ‘way back’ but the fact is, 98% of Nirvana ‘fans’ didn’t have a clue before ‘teen spirit’ dropped. I knew who they were, and had a copy of bleach, but that’s only because I grew up in the pacific NW and a friend sent me Bleach when I was in the army.
      A similar thing happened with Green Day. I say them at the Antenna Club in Memphis for 6 dollars and a year later they were on Reprise, and playing lollapalooza. While some of the ‘punker than thou’ crowd were very vocal about them selling out. I bet a good 75% bought Dookie anyway, cuz it was a good fucking record, and it sounded awesome. If HBG or another underground band signed to a major, there would be some backlash but it would be minor. Honestly the chances of it happening are minor. Curb isn’t gonna sign a band who lyrical content is centered on prescription pill, and alchohol abuse. That’s not the image of rural america they want to sell to the soccer moms. If one of those bands gets signed, good for them, I hope they have a really good attorney read that contract. I’ve seen too many bands get destroyed by label debt.

      Honestly as a professional musician, the days of the ‘RECORD LABEL’ are over. They’re just not necessary. A label like Farmageddon, that acts as more of a collective, is far more useful to an artist than a major label anymore. All a label can do is dump way too much money into you as an artist, promote it and hope it sticks. meanwhile, you’re left living on shit money because you’re in the hole to your label for 6 digits.

  • Something tells me that, long after I’m gone, my grandkids will lying on their deathbeds, arguing about what ‘real’ country music is. I remember seeing an interview with Kris Kristofferson in which he said, “If they play it on country radio, then it’s country music.” Now, like a lot of other people, I’ve listened to mainstream country radio, and I’ve heard everything from pure unadulterated pop, to glam-metal songs sung with a twang. To me, it’s not a matter of ‘progress’ per se. It’s a matter of the corporate mentality being in charge of the creative process, versus letting some lone songwriter create what he or she is really feeling in their heart or soul. The problem is that a business degree does not automatically qualify you to produce music or write songs. Nevertheless, they try. And, from a business standpoint, I’d have to say, “More power to ‘em!”. They’re making a mint! MacDonald’s is making a mint, too! And, that’s what a lot of mainstream country is: fast food for the ears. Nothin’ wrong with that. However, it’s just fast food. It’s cheap and forgettable. Now, in the weird way this analogy is headed, on the other end of the spectrum, we have the musical equivalent of ‘haute cuisine'; what many of us regard as ‘true country’. This music is, well, ‘real’, and earnest, and, when it’s done right, it grips your heart or your mind, and doesn’t let go until the last beat. There’s not a computer in the world, or a songwriting ‘staff’ that could come up with a “Live Forever”, or “Another Like You”. Ain’t gonna happen. As far as ‘progress’, I don’t believe that’s not an accurate label as far as I’m concerned. New vs. Old? Well, there’s some new country that I absolutely love. Ray Wylie Hubbard came out with a new album this year, so that counts as ‘new’, right? No, we’ll probably never see him on the dais at the ACM’s, and I’m sure there are already Gilbertites running around jangling their wallet chains, trying to figure out if Blackberry Smoke is a new strain of weed, or RIM’s new phone. The truth is, a lot of ‘mainstream’ fans don’t know any better. Country radio’s numbers are declining because even the most die-hard Luke Bryan fan gets tired of hearing the same old crap recycled over and over. The twisted irony is that, all of the ‘old’ country, i.e. Cash, Waylon, Jones, et al, is so good that it beats the test of time. “Me and Paul” is still in rotation some places, because it’s a great song done by a brilliant singer-songwriter. It’s just that the good stuff isn’t getting the exposure it should. And, is that Nashville’s fault? Hell, yeah! But, the reality is that there is a market for it. I went into a local western store last weekend, one where they play all of the ‘Hot, New Country!” during the hours that the store is open. The salesman who helped me couldn’t have been a day over 25. We struck up a conversation, and I told him I’m a musician who does what would be termed ‘outlaw’, or ‘alt’ country,and his eyes widened. It wasn’t that he was familiar with me; he had no idea who I was. When I told him I have a CD coming out next month, he begged me to give a copy to the store, only because, in his words (as he pointed to the speakers in the ceiling), “I can’t stand this shit!” Things will change when Nashville realizes that it has to be about the music. When the folks on music row realize that money can be made without total control over an artist, and that people may actually want real country musicians playing and singing real country music, just like their parents and grandparents, then we will have made real progress.

  • Honestly, the fight between what’s country, what’s pop, what’s progress, and what’s tradition is the wrong fight to be fighting. It’s like fighting over what makes an action movie an action movie. How much comedy is allowed? What kind of comedy? Are you allowed to have romance?

    I can guarantee you this: No one walked out of “Gran Torino” because there weren’t enough shoot outs.

    What we need to focus on, and what we need to fight for is quality. We need to be fighting for excellence. Whatever genre, sub-genre, or mono-genre of music a song might fall under, as long as it’s done well and to the best of the artist’s abilities, who cares what influences it may have?

    Colt Ford sucks because he’s untalented. Almost everybody else on modern country radio sucks because they don’t try. They aren’t making great music, and they aren’t making authentic music. They are singing what they think we want to hear instead of what they feel, and the genre as a whole is suffering.

    I liked, “Forrest Gump,” and I liked “Braveheart.” They are two very different movies, but just because you like one doesn’t mean you can’t like the other. When artists are writing strong lyrics and putting out excellent music, no one is going to worry about whether or not their music is pure, traditional country.

    • That is why I support Taylor Swift, even though she’s not good and not country and I’m not a fan.

      If that makes any sense.

      • Not really. Seems supporting her is like supporting Obama. Both are fakes. She’s not a musician or a singer and he’s…………

        • I get your point though. There is room for everything, people even liked that William Hung guy and Tiny Tim! LOL!

  • As the words in a Dale Watson song “you can’t grow if you rip the roots out of the ground”

  • great article…. and definitely agree underground bands like HBG, Scott Biram, and Whitey Morgan deserve a fair shot. However, I think we could really benefit our case by focusing on neotraditional artists such as Daryle Singletary, Sammy Kershaw, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam… Why do we not show more support for these artists who are/were true country musicians?

    • I agree these folks need more support as well. I had a conversation a week or two back about Dwight. He’s taken a pretty extended hiatus from music for the last years, focusing more on film and only playing a few short run casino tours. I think he purposely did this, to retool his music career, but because of this, there hasn’t been many occasions to talk about him. Now he’s got a new album coming, and I feel well have many more occasions to talk about him and music in the future.

      • that’s great, I just feel it would really help our cause to include these guys. Give Darlye Singletary a listen sometime, think you’ll be impressed with his vocals. Last few albums have been covers, done some nice duets with the hag, jones, and paycheck.

  • I’m no expert on what people think, I don’t care for the most part, but it has always seemed to me that people who listen to the radio just don’t really care about music. If you love good music you will find it, it gets easier every day. Why would anyone let someone else dictate what they listen to when most people walk around with internet in their pocket? Not only can you find just about what ever you want to listen to at any given moment, you can ask other REAL people what they think is good and give it a shot, or not. Imagine a young John Lennon with that kind of access
    ! If radio still ruled the world things would be different but there’s no danger of lost tradition because sites like saving country music are keeping it stronger than ever. The best music I’ve ever came across was from trusted referral, not some stranger looking to make a buck. Word of mouth is the oldest tradition. Songs passed down from person to person before anyone dreamt of recording or broadcasting. Let it die, won’t faze me a bit. I’ll continue loving good music every day. Who knows, maybe the radio listening zombies will be forced to discover what they’ve been missing. ;)

    • I agree Rico, I gave up on trying to listen to country music on the radio a long time ago, unless I am in the mood for some oldies rock, it’s never on.

  • I just have 4 words for ya ….The Marty Stuart show!

  • I think that had MTV stayed with a music format rather than a reality show format then country would have stayed country. What happened is when MTV and rock radio quit playing rock, then the artist had nowhere to go but into the country field. All of a sudden bands that were always sold under the rock n roll banner soon drifted into the country market. In other words where rock use to be the mainstream now country is the mainstream. I’m sure there was a time when rock purist were pissed off of when metal bands sprang up and still went under the rock banner. But the best point made here is that country was a roots form of music like blues. There have been artist who have tried to mix hip hop with blues and people don’t buy into just like we don’t buy into the whole country rap scene.

  • We all know that popular culture and it’s music changes over time. And in a lot of ways, it’s a good and necessary thing, otherwise we’d all be trying to make it in a Hank Sr. tribute band. I think what separates Country music from other genres, however, is that when Western swing fell out of popularity, it wasn’t replaced by something totally different that the labels marketed as “Western Swing.” Because of that, I can mention Western Swing and in those two words, convey exactly the type of music I’m talking about. Same goes for Big band music.
    What Nashville has done is they’ve repurposed the term “Country.” Instead of making Country music records, through marketing research and formula songwriting they are trying to infuse “Country” themes into what is plainly Pop music. I don’t hate Nashville music because it’s horrible, which it is. To each his/her own. I understand why people listen to it, pop music has sucked for a long time, it doesn’t surprise me that people listen to Keith Urban and Justin Moore.
    What does surprise me is seeing old country stars lending credibility to this crap. Hank Williams, Jr. is the obvious example. I don’t care what’s popular, or who gets famous and who doesn’t…just don’t lie to me. Don’t tell me Jamey Johnson is old school and an outlaw, he wrote “Honky-Tonk Ba-Donka Donk”..Don’t tell me Kelli Pickler is a country singer.

    I think Mr. Nashville Sound says it best in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4WexGUikq8

    Progress and change are part of the natural order of music, just leave the term “country” out of it.


    • Why do think Jamey Johnson is not an “old school/outlaw” artist? He’s one best damn country artists out that know that goes back to the roots. And Kelli pickler sounds good to me. And Jamey did not write that song, Trace Atkins did.

  • “Steel guitar might be one of the most identifiably “country” elements in music, but think what shock must have ran through traditionalists’ minds in the late 40′s when the appeal of this strange electrified sound was brought back from Polynesia by WWII GI’s.”

    Think what shock must have ran through historians’ minds when they read this foolishness.

    Does the phrase “take it away, Leon,” ring a bell?

    • That’s a great point Jon, but just to clarify, I did not say the instrument was brought back with WWIII GI’s, but the appeal for it in the mass public was.

      This reminds me of the story of Wayne Hancock, how it was when he was in the Marines in the 1980’s stationed in Okinawa, this was the first time he fell in love with the steel guitar sound. You would think that a kid that grew up in Texas would have been turned on to the steel sound from somewhere else, but Polynesia still continues to be one of the epicenters for the steel guitar sound.

      But yes, to not mention the impact of Bob Wills and Leon McAuliffe, and many of the other early steel guitar pioneers is an oversight.

      • “That’s a great point Jon, but just to clarify, I did not say the instrument was brought back with WWIII GI’s, but the appeal for it in the mass public was.”

        But that’s not really any better. For one thing, Wills was already plenty popular before the War. For another, there was a big Hawaiian music craze in the US well before that. See, for instance, http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=8831

  • all right this is where I stand on modern vs. traditional, Now ever modern country singer has to make a couple or more pop singles if they want any FM radio play time you have to play the Nashville game. Even dough Blake Shelton, Justin Moore, Jason Aldean and many more have made many great country songs so their is good modern country and their is awful southern pop. Traditional sound is defiantly good Some names are in that genre are Willie Nelson, Hank3 and Jr and Waylon and Shooter Jennings. If things counties the way they are going country will break up into different genres and isolate from the other groups and music city will be dead if it is not already the four groups will be. Hick Hop, Modern/Traditional Outlaw Country and Southern Pop. It happened to Rock Music next will be Country

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