No genre is a monolith, and the New Country vs. Real Country debates miss all the in-between. Each sound is wide enough to accommodate a variety of substance and style – listeners permitting.
In May, Columbia will host a pair of standout artists, each showcasing just a taste of what country music can be. Here’s a quick rundown of what each brings to the table.
May 1: Jason Eady at Rose Music Hall
Taking his place somewhere behind musical forerunners such as John Prine and Lyle Lovett, Mississippi-born, Texas-born Jason Eady plays the kinder, softer — but never sentimental — side of country.
“Known for songs about the harder side of life played with heart, soul and a rootsy vibe, Eady’s music combines contemporary country with hints of bluegrass and Americana.” AllMusic’s Mark Deming wrote.
The approach that Deming rightly notes is found in Eady’s most recent project, “To the Passage of Time” from last year. Opener “Nothing on You” opens with the bittersweet scream of steel guitar sweeping over listeners, then unfolding to the warm, upbeat beat of a folksinger.
Other rocksteady tracks include the mid-tempo “Back to Normal,” which asks questions about how to adjust our lives to thrive after an event like the pandemic.
“French Summer Sun” displays Eady’s idiosyncratic side – and his kinship with an old school of songwriters – by specializing in spoken-word storytelling. “Gainesville” is a timeless travel song.
On earlier efforts, Eady shows off his range with blues that roll like a blowing storm, beautiful rusty ballads and ecumenical hymns. He harnesses the charm of someone who has seen and felt his fair share of miles, but never turned bitter when the forks in the road offered him the chance.
Eady co-headlines the Sunday show with Justin Wells; Ben Danahar shares the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m.; tickets range from $12 to $15. https://rosemusichall.com/
May 20: Osborne Brothers in front of The Blue Note
TJ and John Osborne certainly share the familiar name here, headlining this season’s premiere big summerfest shows outside the Blue Note. But the sister group’s popularity — with six singles reaching gold or platinum status, and a trophy from this year’s Grammys — shouldn’t be taken as an assault on their artistic integrity.
The Osborne Boys offer “an inclusive brand of modern country, throwing their hats off to an outlaw past while embracing the funky sounds of the present”, AllMusic Matt Necklace Noted.
A look at the title of recent single “I’m Not for Everyone” might counter that sentiment; but the song’s lyrics invite outcasts and acquired tastes of all kinds to join hands. The seductive tune practices what it preaches with an arena-ready chorus, zydeco undercurrents, and a brief but principled pop breakdown.
Within their catalog, the duo handle so many elements with grace and flair: breathless gospel beats, soulful slinky beats, gently gliding guitars, soaring hooks and rough baritone verses.
This take on country – bringing together elements that resonate with many listeners while creating something distinct – is refreshing when it’s easier to make everything sound the same.
“What’s great about (the band’s 2020 record) Skeletons is how much it seems like they appeal to broad quadrants of rock, pop, country and American audiences without sounding like anything but them- same”, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote, summarizing the band’s charisma inside and outside of this album.
Ashland Craft shares the poster. The show starts at 7 p.m.; tickets range from $37 to $40. https://thebluenote.com/
Aarik Danielsen is the Features and Culture Editor for Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.