Country Music and Regular Folk
Country music can trace its roots back to the Old World, transplanted to the United States via immigrants settlers who found a new home in the Appalachian Mountains. The folk music of the 19th century would meld with newer styles into what became known as hillbilly music in the early 20th century.
In 1925, the Grand Ole Opry started broadcasting and made its way to airwaves across the country. Soon enough, the golden age of country music began with artists like Roy Acuff and Uncle Dave Macon at the forefront, followed later on by George Jones, Porter Wagoner, and Loretta Lynn. There was something about the simplicity of the music that resonated with listeners, a truth that still holds all these years later.
Over the subsequent decades country music has evolved, mixed, and mingled with other styles to spin off a number of sub-genres like Western swing, bluegrass, honky tonk, and rockabilly. Although the instrumentation has changed, the heart never has. Even as the countrypolitan sound of Nashville became the norm, country music is – and has always been – a music for the people.
A resurgence in the genre's popularity came in the 1950s and 1960s on the strength of records produced by Owen Bradley, Chet Atkins, and Billy Sherrill. Artists such as Patsy Cline and Eddy Arnold reigned supreme before they would pass their torches to folks like Tammy Wynette and Charlie Rich.
By the late '60s and early '70s, the roots of country music were being co-opted (or, perhaps, tainted) by rock musicians like Gram Parsons and Neil Young. Still, the resulting country rock yielded lots of record sales and lasting stars. Beginning with her 1975 debut, Emmylou Harris would bear the fruits of Parsons pioneering work and carry it forth for a new generation.
From that point on, country rock became the norm. Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Hank Williams, Jr., Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, Dwight Yoakam, Garth Brooks, and more would reap the bounty of this musical harvest.
Alongside that progression, outlaw country was making strides all its own with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Roger Miller, and Townes Van Zandt leading the charge. At the polar opposite end of the spectrum, country pop was also gaining traction with crossover artists like Kenny Rogers, Barbara Mandrell, Crystal Gayle, Eddie Rabbitt, and Ronnie Milsap enjoying wide appeal.
It wouldn't be long before a crop of neotraditionalists would grow and so it did in the mid- to late-80s with Randy Travis, the Judds, Travis Tritt, Ricky Skaggs, and Kathy Mattea. That scene would combine – if not clash – with the country craze initiated in the 1990s by the work of Clint Black, Garth Brooks, and Billy Ray Cyrus that often led to line dancing.
With the turn of the century, country music was as popular as ever, with stars as big as ever in Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, and the Dixie Chicks. A whole new generation of superstars even emerged with Keith Urban, Sugarland, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, and Taylor Swift at the forefront.
Steeped in stories of everyday life and rooted in the heartland of America, country music will long continue to be the soundtrack to the lives of regular folk.
Copyright 2013 EMagineMusic.com