Stop in, look around, have a drink and crank some tunes. I'll be posting some songs ripped from records, some out of print and hard to find stuff, some songs by artists you should be listening to, and a few mixes here and there.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Sorry State of Country Music

I'll try and keep this brief. I know there are countless bloggings out there reporting how country music now days has totally turned it's back on the classic country greats. Yes, Johnny Cash is getting his props, and he should because he is the best. Besides that, I just don't get it. I am a huge fan of classic country. Cash, Buck Owens, George Jones, etc. I'll also admit that I don't follow newish country music. This is mostly because it now sounds like lite-rock shit to me. I know there are always some exceptions to the rule but I don't even have the ambition to find who they are. Bands like The Old 97's and Uncle Tupelo sound more like country than the new "country stars." Anyway. Enough about that. Here is my story.

I was just in Vegas this past weekend. After starting the boozing at around noon on Saturday, my friends and I found ourselves on the strip by Treasure Island at around 2:30am Sunday morning. (Hey, It's Vegas. Time is pretty much irrelevant). I look down the strip towards downtown and I see it. The beautiful neon goodness of the classic Frontier casino sign. It hits me like a ton of bricks. Vintage Vegas + Vintage Country must certainly = Great music. So we stumble there (and believe me, things in Vegas are further than they seem). For those of you who don't know, the Frontier is an older casino on the strip in Vegas with a Western Theme. In the Frontier there is a Gilley's bar. The bar chain was made famous by Urban Cowboy and were pretty big in the country western fad around the time of that movie. They have a mechanical bull, I big dance floor, tons of rowdy dudes in cowboy hats. After watching the line dancing to a bunch of "country" songs that I've never heard, I decide to take a stroll over the the dj. Please note. I wasn't going over there to ream him about the music. This is obviously what country fans listen to so that's fine with me. I'm the outsider. I only asked the dj. "Can we get a little Johnny Cash?" Without missing a beat the guys gives me a really cold "No." Surely he was joking. Even the most un-knowledgeable country loving fan would love to hear (and dance to) Cocaine Blues or Jackson or Ring of Fire. He caught me off guard. Because I didn't leave right away, he looked back and said, "Not at 3am, maybe at 5pm." Already knowing his answer, I threw out, "How about Buck Owens?" "These people don't even know who that is!" he said back to me.

So I say to you. What is wrong with country music today? It doesn't seem to me that people that are into rock music turn their back on the pioneers of their music... Put a fork in it. Country is done. I wish they would just change the name and call it something new.

Time to get off my soap box. Sorry about the preaching. As you can tell from my normally short posts, I usually don't have a lot to say and my grammar is dreadful.


Mackey said...

Hey Brainwerk!
You don't know me but I happened upon your blog & I told my friend that everytime I find a cool blog I was going to pimp out his name because he says he doesn't have enough readers.
His name is Shane & he is a cool dude that is into web deign & animation & he is also a songwriter.
So pop in & say Hi & tell him Mackey sent ya!!!!!

See ya there!

The Zenman said...

I have a theory about why 'country' music is so deplorable in these times.

'Urban' pop became so popular in the USA that mainstream pop music had to go off in that direction in order to keep sales up. That left a gaping hole in the spectrum of American music that country was just glad to sidle on into...that's why current country music sound like pop, and why is sucks these days.

Anonymous said...

You are right on, 100%.

I too listen to country music (hank williams, hank thompson, hank snow,more hanks, etc. etc.) but find that is has no relation to what is played on "country" radio or labeled as "country" by the marketplace. It is simply pop, usually bordering on either what would be considered "novelty" or "adult oriented" (and I don't mean that in the good way).

Speaking of, Jerry Lee Lewis has a new one coming out on the 26th, and you can listen to it at How ironic is that?

DonHo57 said...

I was raised in a home where (late 50s/early 60s) Mom played Darin and Elvis and Peter Nero and a mix of Exotica and classical. Dad played what he grew up listening to on the old Philco battery-powered radio in a three-room farm house in Matewan, WV...Hank and Hank and Ernest and the boys and gals from the Opry. No wonder I listen to about anything. So I did an experiment with my 19-year-old who has been bemoaning the plight of country (which he mixes with his Moonspell Dream Theater and such).

We plopped Dad, now 73, in front of CMT for an hour, voluntarily of course, and told him we'd be in the next room. The deal was he would yell when something really country was played.

Twenty minutes later he walked in the room and said "If you want me to find country in there, son, you need to find another station or move me to another country."

Ron Nasty said...

Blame it on television: Hee Haw and TV Records International (et al).

"Classic Country" has no outlet to reach out to a younger generation. When it does, they see it on Hee Haw reruns and those dreadful commercials on TV of all those great "oldies." Which is more appealing "Classic" Country or Mouldy oldies.

When I was at university we had a pub that server cheap beer (surprise!), but they only had Country music on the jukebox. My friends and I would always pay tribute to "The Man in Black" and make our donation. Johnny was cool. I can't speak for the rest of the music on the jukebox, but I do know that the last time I was there, they'd updated the music, and Johnny was gone :(

Somehow, "Classic Country" needs to be re-invented and appeal to a younger generation and throw away the "oldies" moniker.

Anonymous said...

Hey. I just found your blog and it's very cool. I totally agree with your views on country music. Personally I don't care if today's country is any good or not because there's still a ton of great old country records I've never heard that are just waiting for me to find them in a used record store somewhere. Keep up the good work!


Big Wop said...

Gonna have to totally agree with you wholeheartedly here,chief."Country Pop",or "New Country",or whatever they call that stale bubblegum shite sucks on the ole balls big time.NO ONE is better than Cash,Faron Young,Ferlin Husky,George Jones,and of course,beloved Buck Owens.That's REAL country.You've inspired me to take your subject to blog on mine,Project Bedlam.Tanks pal.

If I ever fall in love with a honky tonk girl,

Project Questor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Project Questor said...


I am in total agreement with you. I grew up listening to Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and the like. I have a theory that the country of our youth started evolving in the early seventies when Glen Campbell and John Denver started to bridge the Country/Pop gap. I don't dislike the "current" Country, but I surely miss the Country of my youth.

BTW your blog is a daily stop for me.

Project Questor

helpuican said...

I guess I didn't know you were recounting Vegas stories here; I will have to check back more often.

Reading your story, I can now vaguely recall us going to Gilley's and watching the lame line dancing... and even less of where we went after that (wink wink nod nod)

So with that, I think you should maybe put up a Vegas post with some kick ass Vegas tunes and some do's and don'ts for your blogger fans out there. We've been there; we've done that. We are now pro's and know where to spend our time, and where not to.

I would be willing to help with content. Perhaps it will prime the pump for a return trip!

Y'all come back now, ya hear!

Anonymous said...

Just ran into your blog from another one I regularly frequent. Glanced around and saw your treatise on the state of country music. You could not possibly have hit the nail any squarer on the head. I quit listening to "country" in the early 90s. I don't even care to go back to what's on the radio these days. I love the old singers/songwriters, the ones with the true country roots and still buy their music. Beyond that, it isn't country any more. How sad.

Anonymous said...

Am digging your posts! As an Old 97s and Uncle Tupelo fan, let me point you towards Bloodshot Records ( home of many cool, alternative-country heroes, including Robbie Fulks, Splitlip Rayfield, and more. They also have some great vintage sounds which should be right up your alley. Also check out Neko Case and Lucinda Williams!

Unknown said...

I agree 110% about country. I grew up listening to my dad's LPs and reel to reel blaring country all the time. Real country. Hank and Hank, Conway, Merle, Waylon, Willy, Tom Paul. Yes, I loved the outlaws, though I really did dig a lot of the Opry stuff too - Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, et al - oh - and Austin City Limits - back in the day...

Then there was Johnny and June, Conway, and even the crazy gimmicky guys like Ferlin/Simon, Sheb/Ben, and on and on and on. I could write a list as long as this webpage, but I won't subject to to that! :)

My theory is that those folks (classic country stars) were the salt of the earth. Many of them came from hard times. The country "stars" today are just looking to plug into a genre to get rich and famous - not to say that those old timers didnt want fame and fortune too, but, they didnt grow up in an era where the average person has very few worries in life. When the old timers were at it, just owning a car before you got famous was not all that common.

I suppose what I am saying is that many of teh old timers lived the lifestyle represented in their lyrics, at least to an extent.

For me, country ended with Garth Brookes.

That pretty much signaled the end of it for me (though Dwight Yoakum and Clint Black gave me a glimmer of hope, but they seem to have petered out... sigh)and his Chris Gaines era crap pretty much bears out what I am trying to say here. He didnt give a damn about country, and in fact he admitted that rockstar was his first choice, but he had a hard time breaking into that market.