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Old 01-14-2019, 10:29 AM
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When did country music jump the shark?

I haven't really listened to country music since about the mid 1980's. So I was rather surprised at what I heard when I listened to a local country radio station for nearly an hour while waiting to have new tires installed. It seemed to me then that the genre has MUCH more in common with rock and pop these days than its folk roots. In fact, I don't think I even recognized I was listening to a country station until I heard a station identification message.

It's normal for art forms to evolve as artists introduce and explore new variants and as fusions occur with other forms/genres. At a certain point, however, it ceases to be one thing and becomes a new species altogether that simply shares the name with its predecessor.

Do you think country music has changed to the point where it bears little resemblance to its original form - jumped the shark as it were, and become something quite different?
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Old 01-14-2019, 10:34 AM
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I don't follow it closely, but the country I hear nowadays is closer to rock than it is to country when I was growing up. Much of it is country rock a la Poco.

Of course, Country and the blues originally had a lot in common musically, as did rock and blues. So in a way, it's going back to the roots.
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:14 AM
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It might have started when Chet Atkins and his crew at RCA started adding strings and backup choruses in the 1950s to create the Nashville Sound. Or in the 1960s, when artists like Glen Campbell started putting songs by artists like the Beatles and Tom Jones on their albums. Ode to Billie Joe hit the charts in multiple categories. In any case, the line between country and rock (or at least pop) has been blurry ever since the beginning.

I don't even listen to "country" music anymore - I search for categories like bluegrass and roots.

Last edited by kunilou; 01-14-2019 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:19 AM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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WAG: Maybe on of the noteworthy signposts was 'Urban Cowboy' (1980). Travolta was a big star in a hit movie that gave a much broader exposure to Country Music. And to expand the audience, the genre started homogenizing, and you started seeing the Faith Hills and Shania Twains.
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:47 AM
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WAG: Maybe on of the noteworthy signposts was 'Urban Cowboy' (1980). Travolta was a big star in a hit movie that gave a much broader exposure to Country Music. And to expand the audience, the genre started homogenizing, and you started seeing the Faith Hills and Shania Twains.
That's a pretty good guess. It really seemed like country changed attitude a lot in the 1970s and 1980s, with acts like Kenny Rogers and Barbara Mandrell. A lot of country hits became more about appearance than the music IMO, things got a lot more flashy with more pop/love ballads.
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:54 AM
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Not really rock though, more like pop with steel guitars. I'll agree with the people who said it went to hell by 1980, although it isn't a hard line. Although I listen to Willie's Roadhouse sometimes on Sirius and enjoy it.

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Old 01-14-2019, 11:56 AM
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By the very early 90s it had become dominated by generic pop music. The transition lasting thru most of the 80s. The "Americana" format was invented in the 80s to cover what had been more traditional CW/Folk music. The radio format is less than thriving. But some artists do okay thanks to streaming and such.
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Old 01-14-2019, 12:11 PM
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I feel like it happened in the early to mid 90s, with Garth Brooks. He turned a lot of people into country music fans that weren't country fans before (myself included). My dad, an old country purist, called his music "crappy-sounding 70s rock." Garth led the way for Shania, Faith Hill...and all the crappy-sounding 70s rock you have today like Dierks Bentley and Kenny Chesney .


Every generation puts up crap the last generation thinks is shark-jumpy, I suppose.
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Old 01-14-2019, 12:11 PM
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You know, country and rock have always had a lot more in common than most people acknowledge. They both came out of the same mold, and have frequently swerved back towards each other in may instances. The mid 80s is a good example, but remember the mid 70s as well. Go back to the late 50s and early 60s you had rockabilly.

In short, I don't think Country has jumped the shark. If anything, I think country is just going through a period of claiming a section of popular music that rock and R&B has mostly abandoned. Eventually, there'll be another roots rock resurgence (probably given a new label, but will basically be the same thing), and in response country will curve back into a more traditional sound.
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Old 01-14-2019, 12:28 PM
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Country has been influenced by rock and pop for decades.

Even Alabama which many consider to be a quintessential country band would not be recognizable as country music to a time traveller from the 50s or 60s.

I think what's especially unique about more recent iterations of country has been the hip hop influence. The rapping of lyrics and the bass beats are a definite new development.
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Old 01-14-2019, 12:51 PM
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Everyone has an opinion on this, so here's mine: around 1995. After the Urban Cowboy debacle of the 80s, when Country strayed too far into Pop, there arose a movement lead by musicians who were often called New Traditionalists. They were Dwight Yoakam, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, George Straight, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Travis, the Desert Rose Band and others. Unapologetically Country, but sometimes willing to push the envelope just a little. (Garth Brooks was a thing all to himself.) I was a Country radio DJ from 1990 to 1995. When I came in, I knew nothing about Country, and what I did know I didn't like, having formed my opinions on the likes of Kenny Rogers, but I found I enjoyed the music of the people I've mentioned and became, for a time, a real fan. But about 5 years in, I began to notice that the Nashville equivalent of Tin Pan Alley was beginning to come back, pushing uninteresting middle-of-the-road music by unremarkable artists. (We called them "hair" acts or "hat" acts," they were so interchangeable.) One day I'm driving to work, listening to the station, and realized that while I had played several of the songs I'd heard hundreds of times, I couldn't for the life of me name the artists. They all sounded the same, just a different hair or hat. At that time I said to myself "It's time to move on." The last day I was on that radio station was the last day I listened to Country music. I also had begun to have to issues with the Country "lifestyle" the music often portrayed, but that's another subject altogether.
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Old 01-14-2019, 02:07 PM
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I also had begun to have to issues with the Country "lifestyle" the music often portrayed, but that's another subject altogether.
Do tell!
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Old 01-14-2019, 02:57 PM
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It was already starting to turn "mainstream" by 1981, as evidenced by the Barbara Mandrell song, I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool. (Not that the song itself was necessarily "mainstream," but the message made it sound like "traditional" country music was on its way out.)
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:25 PM
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There is no clear line that divides country and rock, nor, really, could there be. (Or for that matter between country and folk, or between folk and rock.) They bear too many similarities for them not to blend into each other.
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:50 PM
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There is no clear line that divides country and rock, nor, really, could there be. (Or for that matter between country and folk, or between folk and rock.) They bear too many similarities for them not to blend into each other.
No, but a decent Venn diagram should be possible
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:50 PM
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You probably heard Bro-Country.

I don't think there's been a "real" country song written in 30 years, but it's hard to pinpoint a moment when country changed. Maybe in the early 80s with the rise of Alabama.

Of course, the 80s is when I became a metalhead, so my judgment could be way off.
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Old 01-14-2019, 06:13 PM
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Alex Chilton said that Gary Stewart was the last real country singer, and I see no reason to disagree.

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Old 01-14-2019, 06:22 PM
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If anything, I think country is just going through a period of claiming a section of popular music that rock and R&B has mostly abandoned.
This is my conclusion as well. Country music artists commonly use musical instruments including guitars, which is becoming rare in CHR (contemporary hit radio) offerings.
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Old 01-14-2019, 06:52 PM
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The problem is that there are two completely different genres which are both called "country". So far as I can tell, the only thing they have in common is that the singers wear broad-brimmed hats. There's still plenty of folk country out there; it's just not played on the same stations as pop country.
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Old 01-14-2019, 07:08 PM
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Is the blurred line between country and pop-rock at all new? The Eagles always sounded to me like they straddled that line a good forty years ago.
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Old 01-14-2019, 07:20 PM
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The problem is that there are two completely different genres which are both called "country". So far as I can tell, the only thing they have in common is that the singers wear broad-brimmed hats. There's still plenty of folk country out there; it's just not played on the same stations as pop country.
"Oh, we got both kinds..."
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Old 01-15-2019, 01:08 PM
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I'd say early 2000s. As a woman in my thirties, I grew up liking rock/pop music but not liking country. Then pop music turned hip hop, and rock music turned too hard for my liking, and for a while I just turned to eighties music and didn't listen to much of anything modern. It was around 2010 that I realized I liked country music. But I liked modern country music, not the country music of my childhood, because the modern country music seemed closer to the rock/pop of my childhood than modern rock/pop did.
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Old 01-15-2019, 02:06 PM
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I think the shift happened much earlier than a lot of posters are suggesting, when country drifted away from its folk/ballad roots. Or maybe it would be better to talk about two different shifts that led country music to where it is today.

Certainly, it was at least in the air and sharkward-bound as the Nashville sound took hold in the 1960s. By the 70s, though there were still songs and artists that called back to country's roots, they were adrift in a sea of whining voices and whining strings; the era of cryin'-in-your-beer country was so established that it was satirized by John Goodman and David Allan Coe in 1975 (with "You Never Even Called Me by My Name").

I think that era painted country music into an emotional corner. I grew up rural in the 70s and 80s, and the country music I heard back then (and I heard a lot of it) generally had no joy, or hope, or even excitement in it. There was nothing to leaven the grating pathos, and the genre was losing a generation of listeners, even in one of its strongholds. In the late 80s and early 90s, we saw another shift as it tried to find a way out of the dead end. Some artists tried to return to the genre's folk roots. Others started grafting themes from other genres onto country's style--notably pop, but also punk and others. Pop themes took the strongest hold, probably in part because they were so precisely what country had lacked for so long--energetic and, if not exactly optimistic, at least not actively depressing.
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Old 01-15-2019, 02:23 PM
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I'm by no means a country music historian, but I do recall that as a kid in the 1970s and early 80s, there was a LOT of crossover between the country stations and Top 40- to the point where I remember hearing a weird mix of acts on Top 40- stuff like Queen and Village People, as well as Crystal Gayle, Linda Ronstadt and Eddie Rabbitt. "Smokey and the Bandit" along with "Urban Cowboy" were popular movies of that era that popularized country as well. I mean, who didn't hear "Devil Went Down to Georgia" on the radio in that era?

But country soon veered back into their own lane, with the rise of 80s pop, even if the music they were playing wasn't exactly Willie, Hank Sr. or Ferlin Husky.

Fast forward about a decade, and country had a sort of resurgence in the late 80s/early 90s with Garth Brooks, Randy Travis and George Strait. Not so much Top 40 play though, just more general popularity.

Then fast forward another decade, more or less, and you got the same thing with the female artists like Shania Twain and Faith Hill, both of whom actually got a fair amount of Top 40 or Adult Contemporary airplay.

I kind of think we're seeing another one with that execrable Bebe Rexha/Florida Georgia Line song and other stuff like the Maren Morris/ Zedd song (although that one's more of a pop song with a singer who typically sings country).

At some point though, the more "traditional" artists branched off into Americana and outlaw country - the Steve Earle, Ray Wylie Hubbard type stuff. Even though it's not classified as "country", to my ear, it's closer to old school country than a lot of the poppy new stuff with the country label.
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Old 01-15-2019, 02:25 PM
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Is the blurred line between country and pop-rock at all new? The Eagles always sounded to me like they straddled that line a good forty years ago.
Not only is it not new, the blurred line between country and whatever was popular at the time has always existed. Before rock country borrowed from blues, swing, folk, traditional westerns, hillbilly, etc. There has never been such a thing as "pure" country music.
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Old 01-15-2019, 03:34 PM
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You probably heard Bro-Country.

I don't think there's been a "real" country song written in 30 years, but it's hard to pinpoint a moment when country changed. Maybe in the early 80s with the rise of Alabama.

Of course, the 80s is when I became a metalhead, so my judgment could be way off.
Depends on your definition of "real." Steel guitar, fiddle, no dance beat? I like Johnny Cash, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, and Gram Parsons. But there is new music that I also like in the Outlaw Country and Americana genres like Jamey Johnson, Turnpike Troubadours, and Whitey Morgan.

There is plenty more though. John Prine has recent albums, Willie Nelson released one last year. Things aren't so bad once you get away from nationalized pop country radio.

I like metal too.

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By the 70s, though there were still songs and artists that called back to country's roots, they were adrift in a sea of whining voices and whining strings; the era of cryin'-in-your-beer country was so established that it was satirized by John Goodman and David Allan Coe in 1975 (with "You Never Even Called Me by My Name").
Steve Goodman actually. And I think John Prine was also a co-writer.

Yeah the "wall of strings" in country music has always irritated me, and I think was one of the jump the shark markers. Even though Rhinestone Cowboy is a decent song.
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Old 01-15-2019, 03:54 PM
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Willie Nelson released one last year.
I think that's one of the reasons why it's hard to pinpoint when country changed. At the same time, there were massive names like Willie and Waylon, Dolly and Tammy, doing what they'd always done, and there were up-n-comers putting out new stuff that wasn't always very traditional, like Michael Martin Murphey in the 70s and Alabama in the 80s. (And, perpetually, there was Hank Jr. name-dropping like a 90s rapper.)

I tend to agree that country has always been in a state of flux. While hard rock had the fairly definable hair-metal and nu-metal and about a hundred other xxxx-metal subgenres, I'm not aware of many hard-and-fast subgenres of country.
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Old 01-15-2019, 04:08 PM
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My favorite country song.

(courtesy description: Bo Burnham Pandering)
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Old 01-15-2019, 04:54 PM
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I would say about 10 years prior to the first person feeling the need to include lyrics specifying that "this is a Country song".
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Old 01-15-2019, 05:14 PM
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Steve Goodman actually. And I think John Prine was also a co-writer.
Yes, sorry about the brain fart. (I think I unintentionally munged their names together.)
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Old 01-15-2019, 07:42 PM
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I thought the only distinguishing feature of country music was the lyrics. Country music was whatever kind of music happened to be played at the time that people were singing country-ish lyrics to. So the music can be from any genre at all, as long as the lyrics are about being a country boy or whatever. You could theoretically have a country death metal band, but they probably wouldn't have a huge following.

At least, that's my way of thinking about it.
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Old 01-15-2019, 08:46 PM
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Those Mongolian fellows we were talking about last week seemed to be fairly rural.
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Old 01-15-2019, 09:44 PM
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Everything after Ronnie Milsap was bullshit.
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Old 01-15-2019, 10:00 PM
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I thought the only distinguishing feature of country music was the lyrics. Country music was whatever kind of music happened to be played at the time that people were singing country-ish lyrics to. So the music can be from any genre at all, as long as the lyrics are about being a country boy or whatever. You could theoretically have a country death metal band, but they probably wouldn't have a huge following.

At least, that's my way of thinking about it.
To me a good country song has clever lyrics or a hook. Like "He Stopped Loving Her Today" or the aforementioned "Ode to Billy Joe", "Golden Ring" etc...
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Old 01-15-2019, 11:02 PM
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When did country music jump the shark?

September 11, 2001.
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:02 AM
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The day bands stopped using pedal steel guitar is when country music went to hell.

Even the outlaw country artist Waylon Jennings used pedal steel guitar. He hired Ralph Mooney one of the best in the business. Mooney played with Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Waylon. These men knew what was important in a real country band.

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/a...ies-at-82.html

It's rare these days to hear pedal steel guitar anymore.

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Old 01-16-2019, 02:59 AM
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Some would say when Hank Sr died. Or when Patsy Kline died. Or when the Opry left the Ryman. Or when Hee Haw started. Or when they started using electric guitars. Or when they replaced fiddles with violins. Or when they allowed drums in the studios. Or when Dolly went solo. Flatt & Scruggs broke up because of Vietnam. Or when Kenny Rogers got that plastic surgery.

You should listen to the FIRST Will The Circle Be Unbroken album. All 6 sides. Respected Country veterans and some long haired hippies from San Francisco. The only hairspray used by any of the musicians there was by Mother Maybelle.
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:43 AM
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Ha! My wife and I were just talking about this the other day. We had to listen to some god-awful so-called “country” music.

When I think about country music, I think about songs like “Unanswered Prayers” or “Seminole Wind.” These were almost spiritually meaningful. Now we have these rock-country songs that glorify NASCAR and camouflage, and emphasize redneck culture.

Am I missing something, or just selectively remembering the best songs from my childhood?
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Old 01-16-2019, 06:49 AM
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To me most of it is pop music with a phony sounding twang and the worst lyrics in recorded music. I like rock music, pop music, metal, etc, but I can't deal with modern pop-country. If I had to listen to country I'd go for the older stuff, at least.
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Old 01-16-2019, 07:23 AM
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..
Do you think country music has changed to the point where it bears little resemblance to its original form - jumped the shark as it were, and become something quite different?
I would say that country music sealed its fate and locked in to a silly formulaic brand of crap sometime around 1977-1980. When country music fans embraced, for example Kenny Rogers and rejected, for example Townes Van Zandt.
Here's Townes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-Rq-4spRz4
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Old 01-16-2019, 07:48 AM
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I thought the only distinguishing feature of country music was the lyrics.
It's what I used to prove to Mr. I Only Listen To Alt-Rock (and Metallica and Queen) that his latest find was someone to whom I'd been listening to in the local country station for about a year. She sang about "having a party", not about "fucking"; she sang about alcohol, not about the kind of drugs which come in solid form... hell, all she was missing was some lonely dogs



(Shania Twain, for anybody still wondering)



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Ha! My wife and I were just talking about this the other day. We had to listen to some god-awful so-called “country” music.

When I think about country music, I think about songs like “Unanswered Prayers” or “Seminole Wind.” These were almost spiritually meaningful. Now we have these rock-country songs that glorify NASCAR and camouflage, and emphasize redneck culture.

Am I missing something, or just selectively remembering the best songs from my childhood?
You've just defined nostalgia: it's selective memories. I started listening to Toma Uno in Radio Tres in... 1983, and there were quite a few songs about Nascar and being a redneck.


And thanks to ftg for pinpointing why Toma Uno eventually relabeled itself from "Country" to "Americana".
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Old 01-16-2019, 08:18 AM
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Well after the shark jumped, there were still a lot of Country artists I liked a lot, like kd lang, Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle.
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Old 01-16-2019, 08:41 AM
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Amen. There is real country still, Steve Earle is one of the greatest. His current band is great, too. But just like Townes, you won't hear him on country stations.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:18 AM
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Yeah you won't hear most real country on the radio. But country radio isn't totally desolate, I like Miranda Lambert, Jamey Johnson, and Chris Stapleton.
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Old 01-16-2019, 04:41 PM
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But there is new music that I also like in the Outlaw Country and Americana genres like Jamey Johnson, Turnpike Troubadours, and Whitey Morgan.
In that vein, some other names that come to mind are Cody Jinks, Flatland Cavalry, Whiskey Myers, and Blackberry Smoke.
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Old 01-16-2019, 05:07 PM
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It's what I used to prove to Mr. I Only Listen To Alt-Rock (and Metallica and Queen) that his latest find was someone to whom I'd been listening to in the local country station for about a year. She sang about "having a party", not about "fucking"; she sang about alcohol, not about the kind of drugs which come in solid form... hell, all she was missing was some lonely dogs

(Shania Twain, for anybody still wondering)
And, FWIW, Shania's producer (and husband) during her heyday was Mutt Lange -- he had previously been known for producing albums for rock bands, including the Boomtown Rats, AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Foreigner.
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Old 01-16-2019, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by flurb View Post
September 11, 2001.
Yeah... it took a nasty turn after that, all that rah rah militaristic shit.
  #48  
Old 01-16-2019, 07:03 PM
Asuka Asuka is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HMS Irruncible View Post
Yeah... it took a nasty turn after that, all that rah rah militaristic shit.
I'm no music expert but even I noticed for the longest time (maybe even extends to today) every single country music video would have both an American flag proudly waving front and center and then a truck driving prominently for an extended period.

Don't get me started on the two different country music videos I saw that both started with children saying the pledge of allegiance.
  #49  
Old 01-17-2019, 09:36 AM
Ranger Jeff Ranger Jeff is offline
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How long has Lee Greenwood been trying to grow a beard?
  #50  
Old 01-17-2019, 10:18 AM
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Eonwe Eonwe is online now
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Of course, always take anything anyone says with a grain of salt, but this video pins the late-stage era of popular country music that we're in on drum machine/rhythms.
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