Country music has a bad reputation, and it’s not hard to see why with much of the work that has dominated the mainstream in recent years.
These songs can be repetitive and shallow, filled with throwaway lines about beer, trucks, and other stereotypical “country” themes.
Although still part of country music, being a genre with many diverse subgenres, many listeners who have not heard and dislike this style have their view of the genre as a whole marred.
However, both new and old country music is full of insightful lyrics and artistry and has long been representative of the issues facing the rural working class.
George Strait, Merle Haggard and other artists before them lamented the conditions faced by workers. Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” is a well-known classic that covers this exact theme.
Moving on to more modern artists, artists like Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers and The Steeldrivers have helped revive old school country. Simpson’s style changes with each album he releases, ranging from rock to bluegrass to folk, all appealing to country roots.
The ability of modern artists to mix genres while operating under the broad umbrella of the country shows the versatility of style and designers.
Tyler Childers is arguably the main catalyst for the revival of country music at its best. His song “Feathered Indians” is a moving piece with tender lyrics and a mix of string instruments.
It has over 160 million streams on Spotify, lending mainstream appeal to a song that truly smacks of country.
Childers also lends her talents to social issues, demonstrating the impact of gender on society.
Following the summer 2020 protests, Childers recorded a mostly instrumental album titled “Long Violent History”.
The album’s title track urges a predominantly white audience to understand racial injustice in the country. Childers was vocal in support of Black Lives Matter.
The album serves as both a public statement and a vehicle for good, with Childers pledging all net proceeds to his Hickman Holler fund for underserved communities in Appalachia.
Country music can be the vehicle for a wide range of change. Storytelling is integral to the genre and connects millions of people to issues that might otherwise be ignored. The themes are varied, however, and the stories detail love, pain, happiness, and more with grace and intensity. The parts of the ship, each of the many instruments used in different songs, add their own unique touch to the art.
From fast ditties to mournful laments, music has a strong ability to evoke the intended emotions. Happy songs have a vibrancy that is rarely replicated, and a sad country song is sure to connect the listener to the artist’s pain.
The magic in this again comes from the storytelling, but is also largely due to the instrumental components of the song.
Although country isn’t defined by a single style, mixing a few instruments together can make a song dynamic and moving.
Violins and mandolins back many of the genre’s best tracks, while the use of a bass guitar drives the rhythm as much as the drums in many songs. The distinctive sound of steel guitars is prevalent, and a driving banjo brings bluegrass elements to the best works.
The varied voices of country music put their own spin on different songs, from the deep bass of Colter Wall to the almost haunting whine of Childers.
The twang present in the sound of many artists and the cracks in the voice of some singers help country stand out and give the lyrics a different depth. The sum of the well-made country musical elements creates masterpieces worth listening to.
None of this is to say that people shouldn’t appreciate traditional country pop. For those who don’t like this brand, there’s a lot more to the genre than some realize.
Diving deeper into the music and appreciating works on the folk, bluegrass, or Americana side can open the door to country that might have been closed by an incomplete perception of the style.