Country Music Is Dead
Or at the very least it is now shuffled under Americana or Folk. But, wait a minute country music is folk music right? Have you ever listened to a Carter Family record? Or how about a Hank Williams tune? Style-wise, it sounds similar to something you would hear by Tyler Childers or Wayne "The Train" Hancock.. But something happened way back in the 50's that brought us to where we are today.
Chet Atkins, and Owen Bradly created a very sleek, polished, and production line type recording process that emulated what Los Angeles, and New York were doing at the time. The result were Countrypolitan artists like Eddy Arnold, and Brenda Lee that generated mass appeal in mainstream America.
Most listeners were suburbanites or Townies, whose parents, and/or grandparents came from rural living. The offspring made it! Now they lived in town, in a house with a white picket fence, TV, and car, and a corporate job. I know because my parents were a product of this upgraded lifestyle. Both came from a long line of farmers, and left the rural life for a patch of green, a white picket fence and pocket change.
Scholars say that art is a reflection of what is going on in society. I would have to say, if we take a closer look, Country Music gives credence to the old adage. Overalls, and pitchforks just does not bring in the kind of money smooth crooning, and suits do. Crossover was the target, in the 50's it was hard for a country single/album to move a million copies just by selling to the core audience.
You had to crossover onto the pop charts where Bing, Frank, and Elvis were waiting to keep you company. I agree that the pop stylings of the 50's, and 60's brought a level of sophistication, and class to country music. Maybe, in that respect, the influx of bro country has done more to perpetuate stereotypes, and undermine the carefully crafted mediated genre creations popularized by Patsy, Jim Reeves, and Ray Price.
I don't think it's hypocritical to call out the obvious degradation, and in some instances downright disrespect for the genre, and artists that helped shape what it truly is. But mainstream country music, since the middle 50's is pop. We've had neo traditional resurgences in every decade since, but generally speaking, the pop country songs have fared much better on the Billboard charts.
There is always those exceptions to the rule like George Jones, Alan Jackson, King George, and so forth. But consider that the all-time top selling female artist is not Loretta, Dolly or Patsy, in country music it is Shania Twain.
Country pop or mainstream country has been around longer than some of us have been alive. It's not going anywhere. Traditional country music is dead, if you are only looking at the music charts, album sales, and on radio. The acoustic twang, and front porch harmonies that came from the mountains of Appalachia is no longer considered country music.
You can hear it on community, and smaller terrestrial radio stations, and streams. The hardcore purists, we are here, we are still listening, making a list, and checking it twice. We still purchase tickets, go to concerts, buy merchandise, and share our love for music that touches our bare soul.
We've found the echoes of the mountains in bluegrass, folk, and sometimes Americana. Country music lives on, it just moved, and goes by a different name, but if you are paying attention, you'll hear it.
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