Is Country Music Really That Bad?


Dear Paperlaters:

Glad to see that the list is back to its former glory.  Sorry I have to be a little off topic again.  I noticed a recent thread in which people applauded each other for putting down country music.  It is understandable that Europeans may not have had much exposure to this very American musical form and therefore may be biased against it, but I am rather surprised that none of the Americans on this list have come to its defense.  I guess this means I will have to be the one to speak up, especially since I had been a country music fan for 5 years previously. Technically speaking I had been a country fan longer than I have been into Genesis, I am sure some of you would like to ban me from the list for that confession alone.     

I am not sure why country music is often singled out as a target by music fans.  Many well-respected rockers have country influences:  Eagles, Bruce Hornsby, Dire Straits, to name a few.  Others like Elvis Costello and Sting have tried to record country songs themselves, to varying degrees of success.  Granted that the current state of country music (especially the country radio) is pathetic to say the least, however this only mirrors the general state of pop music if you take into account some of the garbage that are being played on pop radio.  Moreover, I trust that you will agree that to dismiss an entire genre by its state at one of its lowest points is just not fair.  Otherwise many of us can equally easily dismiss pop and rock music as being utterly worthless, and indeed many pessimists have declared "rock is dead".

Another fallacy I often encounter with country music haters is that they base their opinions on minimal listening.  Most of them can name less than one dozen country acts, even more laughably, a lot of them really have only heard of Garth Brooks.  I am sorry to break it to you, Mr. Brooks may be the most commercially successful of the contemporary country artists, but he is not even close to being the best whether we are talking about vocal, instrumental or song-writing abilities.  I suggest to those of you who might be interested to check out the following for some of the best in country music (my list is by no means exhaustive):

Vocalists:  George Jones, Randy Travis, Dolly Parton(!), Patty Loveless
Instrumentalists:  Chet Atkins (Mr. Guitar himself), Mark O'Connor  (fiddle), Jerry Douglas (dobro)
Songwriters:  Harlan Howard, Kris Kristofferson.
Singer-songwriters:  Johnny Cash, Merle Haggart, Willie Nelson, Mary Chapin Carpenter
Singer-instrumentalists:  Vince Gill, Alison Krauss
Group:  Alabama
All-around:  Roger Miller
Arguably the best country song of all time:  "He stopped loving her today" performed by George Jones

"If you like country music so much why are you no longer a fan?" I hear you ask.  I guess I finally decided to explore other forms of music after 5 years of listening almost exclusively to country.  One thing that helped me to move on was the noticeable decline in quality among newer country acts.  Despite the powerful inertia, I finally had to change my course since I realized that I detested most of the new music coming out of Nashville (for those in Europe, Nashville is the country music capital).  I did not like the recent cross-over country pop acts such as Shania Twain, Faith Hill, etc.  Not that I think country music should never change or progress, but these "country-pop divas" combine some of the worst elements of country and pop music and create an extremely bland product devoid of vitality.  The rest of the country radio acts also became intolerably derivative. 

Even though I have since found my way to a wonderful and unique brand of prog/rock/pop known as Genesis, when I occasionally revisit a few of my country music albums I feel a curious lack of embarrassment.  I can still appreciate the simple emotions, the crystal clear voices and the straight-to-the point directness of the lyrics.  To those who think country music lyrics never stray from "wives", "houses" and "dogs", I leave you with this from an old George Jones song:

Where does a little tear come from
where does a little tear come from
it comes from a heart that has been broken apart
that's where a little tear comes from

where does a broken heart come from
where does a broken heart come from
it comes when you find that you loved a roving kind
that's where a broken heart come from

where does a roving kind come from
where does a roving kind come from
from a wind and restless river that wanders on forever
that's where a roving kind come from

where does the restless river come from
where does the restless river come from
it comes from little tears that have been shed through the years
that's where the restless river come from

where does a little tear come from



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