Tag Archives: music industry

Country Music: Looking back to look forward

A little over a week ago, I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum with my parents.


I’ve been to the Hall of Fame a few times. I went first at their old location in 1997 over by Music Row. Then went in 2007 with my friends Anna and Lindsey, and in 2009 with my brother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece.

This visit I went with a slightly different mindset. I’ve been through the fed-up-with-country-music stage, and today I’m more in the mode of embracing changes we see. (To a degree. There’s still some SERIOUS crap being put out on radio, and even calling it “change” doesn’t make it okay.)

So I went in with an eye for the evolution of music through the years. Dropped smack dab in the 1920s at the start of the tour, you can’t help but go, “Man we’ve changed a lot.” even as you go, “I still see elements of this today.”


You see the changes that came with TV and more influences of rock. Cross-overs of Elvis, Ray Charles and John Denver. The Southern Rock influx and the Outlaws. I found myself realizing that we have over time embraced the changes that occurred through the years… changes that lead to the time that many (myself included) considered a golden time in country music: the 90’s.


I think, though, that it could easily be argued that the 60′ into the 70’s were also a golden time for country in a way.  Merle Haggard, anyone? Johnny Cash? Buck Owens? Waylon Jennings?  We look back at these greats today, just as we’ll some day look back at Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Joe Diffie.

Country music didn’t fall apart and die in the 80’s… it shifted and changed. It advanced. It opened the doors for what the 90’s became. And today… even as I myself at times shake my head at what country music has become today, I also know its all a part of the process. If we never changed, we’d still be pickin’ banjos on the porch with every song sounding pretty much the same.


And this change… this change is why you see many of the “old timers” opening their arms so quickly to the new comers. They were all once new artists, trying to find their way through the crazy, crazy music business. All trying to walk the line between being true to themselves and doing what the labels demand and giving fans what they are begging to have on radio.

As you walk through the Country Music Hall of Fame, you walk through that struggle along with the artists of the past. And suddenly… suddenly you understand a little better what’s going on in music today. At least I did. And it made me step back and re-evaluate the things I’ve pushed back against over the last couple of years. The influx of rap and hip hop into country isn’t exactly a new thing. I mean, isn’t the “Devil Went Down to Georgia” a country rap song at heart? We embraced that and its still heavily played in honky tonks today. Maybe we really DO need to look back to look forward and if not embrace, but at least accept the changes today as simply part of the creative process.


A little music pondering

I remember as a kid, looking forward to the CMA’s every year. I guess before the days of internet, it was the only time you got to see your favorite country artists other than in a magazine. I was amazed and enamored year after year.

Today? Today an awards show makes me hold my breath. Will it be good? Will I be upset?Are they going to shine a good light on the industry?

Granted a big part of that is being as close to the industry as I am today. But a bigger part is the fact that in my heart I am still a big fan, and I just want to see the industry flourish… not fail.

Last night’s CMAs…


On a whole, I truly enjoyed it. It had its moments where I walked out of the room on a performance that just didn’t answer me. I (not literally) threw things at the TV when I disagreed with a winner. But seriously, in general, I enjoyed it and it showed me glimmers of the great music and the class of award shows of old. (In my opinion, it was one of the better awards shows in the last few years!)

But. Tonight, it really made me sit back and look at the landscape of country music today. One of the things I love about country music is how broad and open it is. One of the things I hate is how hard people push the invisible lines of the genre within that. If country is so open, why do we turn our noses up at people who explore the boundaries of the genre? But in the same breath, why can’t people keep at least a toe in the water of traditional country as they push those boundaries? (And I don’t mean, “Oh let me mention a pickup truck and a back road and that makes it country.”)

Can we ever really find that happy medium and stay there?

Not without getting stagnate.

As much as I shake my fist at artists pushing the envelope (or flat out not playing country, in my opinion), I also have to recognize that they are testing the waters and helping the landscape change with the times… and maybe they’re going to find people pushing back! Or maybe they’re going to draw new fans into the fold who will finally give our more classic country artists a chance for the very first time. Time will tell. This phenomenon has happened in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little.

Right now, I hear more and more songs with substance that makes my country music loving heart happy, but I also hear more and more songs with little substance and too much distorted electric guitar set on 10. (I love me a great rock song, just not on a country station.) But, you know what? I’m willing to let those rock songs go in hopes that those rockers truly do respect that classics as they claim to respect. And maybe, just maybe, the heart of country will continue to beat just as strong.