"Country. Admit it. You love it."
May 2, 2001 10:02 AM   Subscribe

"Country. Admit it. You love it."...this is what the country music industry's new campaign says. "There was one young woman in Dallas in one of the focus groups that said, `I listen to country music in my car, but if I pull up at a traffic light and I see someone cool pull up next to me, I'll hit the button and change the station."
posted by 7sharp11 (39 comments total)
Well, now, that depends. Are we talking about Real Country (Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams I and III) or New Country (you know who they are)?

I am an unabashed fan of Real Country music. Hell, I'm listening to a bunch of Guy Clark MP3s right now, volume up, singing along with it, getting funny looks from the people who walk into my office. This stuff is great, it is excellent musicianship, it is excellent songwriting, it has soul, baby.

But I'd rather poke out my eardrums with sharp sticks than listen to what Nashville considers country music.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:20 AM on May 2, 2001 [1 favorite]

I listen to country. It rocks.
This saturday, I'm gonna see Hank III and the Melvins! Oohhhh, yeah. (melvins aren't country.)

I'd also recommend Junior Brown, and Split Lip Rayfield (with members of Scroat Belly (Oh, and you can download the Scroat Belly's entire first album here.))
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:27 AM on May 2, 2001

Does Trailer Bride count?
posted by whuppy at 10:31 AM on May 2, 2001

Growing up in Idaho, I got exposed to all the country (crappy and non-crappy) that I could handle. About the only country I can deal with anymore are the synthesists who are able to fuse it with jazz, pop, rock, or whatever.

Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Alison Krauss, Steve Earle.

Purists may now heap scorn upon my sagging shoulders.
posted by Skot at 10:35 AM on May 2, 2001

Oh, why don't they just call this "new country" pop and be done with it? Or pop country? Then again, that almost implies a land filled with beverages (depending on what you call soda....)

Steve Earle is country? Hm, always thought of him leaning towards folk. Labels: they stink.
posted by hijinx at 10:37 AM on May 2, 2001

I can go for Junior Brown. I'm into entertainment, and in that respect, he provides.
posted by 7sharp11 at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2001

My name is Dreama.

I like Country Music. New country, old country, all country.

(Dreama waits for the chorus of "Hi Dreama" from fellow Country Anonymous types. Dreama hears nothing but silence. Dreama hangs her head in shame.)
posted by Dreama at 10:49 AM on May 2, 2001

"If you can make it more acceptable for younger audiences, what does that do?"

It makes it not country music. Most people I know don't like country because it's perceived mystique is completely trailer court, soap opera, rural, yokel.

That's the problem. People don't like the association. The kids they're trying to lure are the same ones that will always dis them.

I'm not sure if this is wishful thinking or just ignorant. Some people just don't get it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:53 AM on May 2, 2001

Hi Dreama!

My name is Avogadro, and I like Country music, though I can't stand just about anything that gets airtime.

Add Robert Earl Keen, Jr. to the list of recommendations. He, like Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, et al, is an excellent singer/songwriter; to me, their ability to craft their own tunes is what separates them from the hacks churned out of Nashville rather than what "style" they fit.
posted by Avogadro at 11:05 AM on May 2, 2001

In the good old days, when jobs for illiterate southerners were tough to get , a guy could always get food, clothing, shelter and some money in the regular army. Nine of every ten guys, it seemed, were into country (shit kicking music it was then called), and it was sort of like poison ivy. You caught it. You couldn't get rid of it.
When you got out (if you were from the north and discovered there was another way to live) you found yourself singing this crap and only truck drivers at rest stops knew what the frig you were babbling about.
All has changed. Country is like McDonalds. It is everywhere and everyone feeds on it.
My favorite (I can not recall the group): If I Had It All To Do Over, I'd Do It All Over You.
posted by Postroad at 11:26 AM on May 2, 2001

Since this whole thread seems very pro-country, I'll do something the Country music industry thinks kids can't do. Disagree with their peers.

Country. I admit it. I can't stand it.

I haven't listened to a lot of "Real Country", but I can vouch that "New Country" sucks. It is to music what gunracks are to trucks. What lawn gnomes are to sculpture. What Bankers Club is to gin. What Nashville is to America.

The "Real Country" might be pretty good. But if country is "soulful" then I must just be confused the propoganda of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye.
posted by kcalder at 11:28 AM on May 2, 2001


That Melvins/Hank III show sounds cool. I'm thinking of going myself.

Man, I love old country music. Bob Wills is a personal god of mine. In fact, I just got an awesome tattooed portrait of him on my arm. I could listen to Western Swing and Honky Tonk all week.

When I listen to what those people were doing fifty or sixty years ago and compare it to the pap that Nashville pumps out these days, I get kinda embarrassed and more than a little pissed off.

Anyhow, I normally hate using quotations, but it's like Wayne "The Train" Hancock wrote about modern "county music:"

"You want a sensitive sissy who will hear your command,
Not a hillbilly singer with a five-piece band."

That guy just rocks.
posted by estopped at 11:29 AM on May 2, 2001

For the record. I'm a big Johnny Cash fan. So maybe I do like "real country"
posted by kcalder at 11:32 AM on May 2, 2001

Johnny Cash is the definition of real country. BTW, there's a very famous story about Charlie Parker, and how, when he was on the road, would always play country music on the jukebox. One of his sidement finally mustered the nerve to say "Bird, what are you listening to this hillbilly music for?" Bird would answer "Just listen to it, man, this music's got soul."

I think someone told that story in Ken Burns' Jazz.
posted by jpoulos at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2001

...dumbass me forgot to close his tag. There, that's better. carry on.
posted by jpoulos at 11:49 AM on May 2, 2001

ugh. there.
posted by jpoulos at 11:50 AM on May 2, 2001

("If I Could Do It All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You" was by Caravan, a group that was about as far removed from country as it was possible to get. Different song?)
posted by rodii at 11:54 AM on May 2, 2001

Shoot. Avogadro beat me to suggesting Robert Earl Keen, Jr (added trivia: he was Lyle Lovett's college roommate; cool, no?).

The reason why it's hard to define anyone new and good as "country" is because "country" has such a negative connotation (see the stupid country marketing campaign in the article for proof). So, whenever someone says, "Steve Earle's a great country singer," someone else says, "Steve Earle, I thought he was sort of folk/rock/roots/americana. Country? He's not a country singer..."

But, I like country music. Another name not mentioned yet: Tom Russell -- his new album, Borderland, is amazing. (But he's not really country, he's early-southern-faux-rock-a-bill-alt-roots-blah-blah-blah.)
posted by MarkAnd at 12:00 PM on May 2, 2001

Oh, and Nanci Griffith and Iris DeMent are good, too.
posted by MarkAnd at 12:01 PM on May 2, 2001

She thinks my tractor’s sex–y!

Hear it here.

(No comment.)
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:05 PM on May 2, 2001

I was driving down south many years ago, and I heard a song come on the radio. It was about a guy whose wife had left him, so he was sitting alone, drinking whiskey poured from an Elvis-shaped bottle into a Flintstones glass.

The chorus:

I pulled the head of Elvis
Filled Fred up to his pelvis
Yabba Dabba Doo
The King is gone, and so are you.

I don't really listen to much country these days, but if you're having one of those my-dog-took-a-leak-on-my-pickup-truck kind of days, I don't know much that will cheer you up better than watching and hearing Coal Miner's Daughter.

And, for the record, Patsy Cline is the best popular singer ever.
posted by anapestic at 12:16 PM on May 2, 2001

I am a country music lover. I am not a pop-country lover. Putting on hat and boots, singing with a fake twang and hiring a steel guitar player for your studio session ain't country. No way.

Old country: Charlie Pride, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Flatt & Scruggs, The Carter Family. Roger Miller, but he's not quite country. What the hell. Genre-tagging sucks, anyhow.

Roots country and similar: Uncle Tupelo and spinoffs Wilco, Sun Volt, the Bottlerockets. Also the Billy Bragg-Wilco projects (and Billy by himself, anyway), Blue Mountain, Steve Earle, V-Roys, Kasey Chambers, Whiskeytown, Mike Ireland, Alejandro Escovedo, Loudon Wainwright (okay, he's folk, but it works so well in a live segue or shuffled on the 50-dics CD player), Jayhawks (older stuff).

And I don't know if they're still doing it, but Greg Garing's Monday night show at 9C (Ninth Street and Avenue C) in New York was always a great time. A reall come-as-you-are Opry-style hoedown.

One of the best shows I ever saw was Johnny Cash at Carnegie Hall.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:21 PM on May 2, 2001

MarkAnd, good call on Nanci Griffith. I also forgot to mention the tragically ignored James McMurtry.
posted by Skot at 12:24 PM on May 2, 2001

I doubt that any of the artists that anyone has listed here fit under Nashville's "country" umbrella. For one thing, I notice that not one person here has put Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson or the Dixie Chicks on their list of favourite artists.

You couldn't pay me enough to listen to any commercial country station, but I have my share of quote-alt-country-unquote CDs in my collection, as well as Hank I/III (not II), Patsy Cline, and Lucinda Williams. Good songwriting is good songwriting, regardless of the twang quotient.
posted by shannon at 12:40 PM on May 2, 2001

My tendency is to redefine the vaguely country things I like in order to save them from being classed among the ear-torturing trot about dawgies goin' to heaven. Folk, roots, bluegrass, something else.

But then again, like Mo said, if you buy into the Nashville look'n'feel you're sort of off the artistic rollcall, unless you're Johnny Cash. (Driving past the Grand Ole Opry while travelling through Nashville to Kentucky was like skirting a circle of Hell. In fact, it astonishes me that there's a British subculture of country fans.)

So, um. Does Richard Buckner count?
posted by holgate at 12:44 PM on May 2, 2001

"Jimmie Rodgers was the first figure inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and is fondly referred to as the "Father of Country Music." Yet his combination of blues and hillbilly styles made him a true forebear of rock and roll, and he was also part of the first group of musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

Now this is country with "soul".
posted by bjgeiger at 12:56 PM on May 2, 2001

I pulled the head of Elvis
Filled Fred up to his pelvis
Yabba Dabba Doo
The King is gone, and so are you

That's "Ya Ba Da Ba Do (So Are You)" by George Jones. Jones has done a lot of schmaltz, but he's done some great songs too. His most recent album, "Cold Hard Truth," fits in well with the modern alt.country/Americana stuff.
posted by maurice at 12:59 PM on May 2, 2001

I'd also like to point out that Ray Charles, who has more soul in his left pinkie than most human beings do in their entire body, made a hefty amount of C&W songs.

I've always thought that any art that is heartfelt and honest is soulful. Hence, Real Country has soul in spades. Hank I & III have it; and Hank II couldn't buy it.

My name is Adam, and I listen to Country Music. But only the Real stuff.
posted by RakDaddy at 2:46 PM on May 2, 2001

What? No shout-outs for my boy Merle Haggard?

Also, on the "Roots Country" tip: The sawbuck I dropped for the "O Brother Where Art Thou?" soundtrack is the best thing I've done with a single Andrew Jackson in recent memory.
posted by Optamystic at 3:37 PM on May 2, 2001

I really hate country music, but I did like the soundtrack to 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?'. Aside from that, I wouldn't touch country music with the 10 feet pole.
posted by Rastafari at 3:45 PM on May 2, 2001

"What lawn gnomes are to sculpture"

I can't believe someone is actually dissing lawn gnomes! I have a cheery plastic gnome guarding my balcony against flying monkey attacks, and so far only a few have made it past his diminutive hatchet.

On the country thread... I'll weigh in as a huge Cash fan too, stumbled in backwards through Nick Cave covers years ago. Now it comes full circle with Cash covering The Mercy Seat. I've seen Johnny 4 times, each time better than the last. Hopefully, his health will allow the imminent follow-up to Solitary Man that is being rumored. I also am digging a bunch of alt-country, which of course wouldn't be around without Cash etc.

As far as twang, lately listening to: Giant Sand, Willard Grant Conspiracy, Sparklehorse, Gillian Welch, Oh Susanna, Virgil Shaw, Dwight Yoakam

I agree with RakDaddy that "any art that is heartfelt and honest is soulful". That's pretty much my only qualification for music. Gotta sound like they mean it. Give me the Dirty Three over anything on the radio. Not country, but those guys MEAN it.

whistling dixie

posted by Kafkaesque at 3:51 PM on May 2, 2001

C'mon let's not beat around the bush here.
You all love Shania, right? Admit it!
Everyone loves Shania.
posted by lagado at 4:36 PM on May 2, 2001

Not unless you're referring to Shania MacGowania

thank you. thank you. I'll be here all week. Enjoy the buffet!
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:53 PM on May 2, 2001

I would like to add Townes van Zandt to the pantheon listed above. Pickup High, Low And In Between/Late Great, 2 albums on one disc. I much prefer the tag SINGER/SONGWRITER, or as Townes use to say, a storyteller.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 5:39 PM on May 2, 2001

Kcalder: What Nashville is to America? You mean, the place from which came the extremely influential early recordings of Bobby "Blue" Bland? The home of the now-defunct WLAC -- inspiration to rockers and soul musicians by the score and throughout the south and Midwest in the '50s and '60s? Also the place where Bob Dylan recorded "Blonde on Blonde," among other recordings, and with some of the same session musicians who appeared on "Hee-Haw?" The place where James Brown recorded "(Get Up, I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine?"

James Brown, just for the record, is heard on a live recording, saying, "Heh. Talkin' 'bout Nashville. Hey-hey-hey-hey. Uhh. Johnny Cashville." Or words to that effect."
posted by raysmj at 8:47 PM on May 2, 2001

Regarding the O'Brother soundtrack: that was put together in part by Gillian Welch, who I also like, but forgot to mention.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:53 AM on May 3, 2001

I've heard people refer to the music in O Brother as "bluegrass".
posted by Potsy at 4:50 AM on May 3, 2001

I like country music just as well as the popular music you hear on a top 40 rock/pop station. Most of what you hear is going to be crap, but occasionally they play a good song. I do not listen to country stations much these days, so I am not aquainted with a lot of the newer country. I like one or two of Shania Twain's songs, but I like watching all of her videos with the TV muted. I _love_ a lot of the music I hear on the local classic country station. It plays country from the late eighties and older. And there was a two-year phase during junior high school during which I listened to nothing but country and I still like quite a bit of what I heard during that time period.
posted by bargle at 8:23 AM on May 3, 2001

The music on O Brother runs the gamut. Bluegrass, purist country, gospel, Dixieland, honky-tonk. It's really a brilliant compilation represented by some serious-as-a-heart-attack talent.
posted by Skot at 9:17 AM on May 3, 2001

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