I worked at my first country-western station – KDAK in Carrington, ND – in 1982. I worked at a couple after that, including WDGY in Minneapolis in 2001-2002. I learned a great, immutable lesson; when country western is bad, it’s very very bad. When it’s mediocre, it’s very, very bad. When it’s good, it’s very, very good.
And while the country audience is reliably Republican and the heart and soul of this country, country’s big themes – adultery, drinking, adultery, drunk driving, adultery and being hung over – show that America’s heart and soul longs for it’s younger, dumber days.
JB Doubtless’ protestations aside, most country-western music is cynically-marketed, focus-grouped tripe that makes N*SYNC sound fairly deep and fascinating in comparison. Y’know – like rock and roll, R ‘nB and “Smooth Jazz”, only marketed with an ersatz twang to a different market vertical.
There’s tons of great country, of course. Emmylou Harris was a favorite of mine back when I was still mainlining Stiff Little Fingers. Over time and stints at a couple of C/W stations, I found quite a few other singers and groups that grabbed me; the classic stuff, of course, George Jones and Johnny Cash and Ernest Tubb and Hank Senior (the twangier the better), Waylon and Willie and Dolly Parton and Buck Owens, as well as a few that dragged the genre back from the pop-crossover hell of the eighties (Garth Brooks was a good thing by that standard), Dwight Yoakam and Rodney Crowell (and Roseanne Cash, and for that matter Carlene Carter before she fell off the face of the earth dragging Howie Epstein with her), the Desert Rose Band, Vince Gill, Suzy Bogguss, Steve Earle (at his early-eighties best), Holly Dunn…
And, the incandescent Patty Loveless – here covering (since I’m going through a Red-like obsession phase) one of my all-time favorites, a Richard Thompson song whose original version would be hard to top.
Loveless has a ton of great stuff – she’s one of those rare country singers who writes some of her own stuff – but some of her covers (like this one, by yet another long-time fave, eighties cowpunks Lone Justice) just kill me.
Apropos not much.