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by
Curtis Edmonds

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May 22, 2014 - 4:09 pm
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There’s an article at PJ Media, sparked by my friends at Liberty Island, which asks the question, “Who Are the Greatest Country Music Artists Everyone Should Have In Their Collection?” The subhead reads: “Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton? Who are the best?”

I have all the respect in the world for these people, but let’s get real. Johnny Cash is dead. Willie Nelson is in his eighties. Dolly Parton is Medicare-eligible. Are they country music legends of the highest order? Of course they are. But are they who we should be talking about?

I looked at the comments on the article (breaking my own rule of never looking at the comments). The people who read the article suggested people like Lester Flatt and Jimmie Rodgers. Someone suggested the Stoneman Family, who were playing ninety years ago. Ninety years ago!

I am not saying we should not honor the greats of country music. Of course we should. I’ve got an iTunes player full of Johnny Cash and George Jones music. But I’ve also got two five-year-old daughters, and I live in by-God New Jersey, and I’m going to have a supremely hard time to convince them that country music is worth listening to.

I’m driving with them the other day, and they want to listen to the kids’ station on XM, and I turn it on, and for some reason known only to the Elder Ones, they’re playing “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, which is not what I’d classify as kids’ music, but whatever floats your boat. And they’re listening to it, and Child A starts complaining that the words of the song aren’t right.

“Those are the words,” I say. “Why wouldn’t they be right?”

And then, hand to God, she starts singing the chorus of the Katy Perry song “Roar,” which, indeed, talks about the eye of the tiger.

That’s what I’m up against. And if you tell me that the best way to stop my kids from listening to Katy Perry and start listening to country music is to get them hooked on the Stoneman Family, you’re wrong. I say that with the deepest respect, but you’re wrong and you need to maybe think about listening to something more current.

I was lucky, I guess. I grew up in the ’70s, bouncing around the North Texas prairie in my dad’s pickup, listening to all hundred thousand watts of WBAP in Fort Worth, with Paul Harvey on at noon, and listening to George Jones and Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. Add in some Kenny Rogers and Barbara Mandrell and you had yourself a well-rounded listening experience. But even then, country music was, objectively, kind of a hard sell. Take a look at this, if you dare.

If you didn’t click on the link, what you missed out on was Conway Twitty, on the old “Hee-Haw” show, singing what can only be described as a seduction ballad, while rocking an improbable toupee and mutton-chop sideburns, and wearing a pale-pink double-breasted polyester leisure suit and white cowboy boots. And he’s gently caressing the inside of his thigh. This was–and I say this very advisedly–considered to be perfectly normal at the time.

I want better than that for my kids.

So when they’re ready to start listening to country music, I’m going to break out three artists that I think they’ll like, and that are a good introduction to the genre:

All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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Sturgill Simpson.

Ditto on the Hag.

Every now and then I get in the mood for some Hank3.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
"So when they’re ready to start listening to country music" - they were ready before they were born!

Most of our parents were born listening to country music, we were born listening to country music and our children listened to country music in the back seat every time we got in the car. The first songs I remember singing along to were Glenn Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy and Moe Bandy's Bandy the Rodeo Clown.

There is so much wonderful music out there that they should be listening to. My all time favorite album is Tom T Hall's "Songs of Fox Hollow". There are wonderful groups like Riders in the Sky, Don Williams, Micheal Martin Murphey, Dan Seals, The Whites, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Steve Warner, Neil McCoy, Hal Ketchum, Phil Vasser, Jessica Andrews, Moe Bandy, Lefty Frizell, Red AND Keith Stegall, Bob Wills, Asleep at the Wheel, Allison Krause and Union Station, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristopherson, Mac Davis, Buddy Holly (he's from Lubbock - so we claim him), Glenn Campbell, Martina McBride, Pam Tillis, Mel Tillis. Charlie Pride, Hank Snow, Jimmy Rodgers, Jimmy Dickens.... Chris LeDoux, and everything that George Strait every sang.

My XM generally bounces between Roadhouse and Prime; only an occasional trip over to the Highway. If my son is driving it's on Bluegrass. When I'm working around the house, I tune into rural west Texas radio stations on net radio where you'll hear everything from western swing to outlaw to red dirt to top 40... this is my current favorite station -
http://streema.com/radios/Big_Country_97.1_KVRP_FM

And yes, some of those old Conway lyrics were racy..... but to be honest, I sometimes haven't caught onto some of those until recently.

Not all the new guys are bad either - Lady Antebellum, Glorianna, Corbin Easton. If you're really looking for some wonderful stuff out there that is current - try Jody Nix or The Iveys. Country is a vast genre - so look around, you'll find alot to like out there that's far beyond the Top 40.

And for heaven's sake - if you want your kids to stop listening to "crap" - don't turn it on - you control the radio. You'd be amazed at the way what you listen to rubs off on them - even when they're working on being "too cool" for your music. And that also means exposing them to Jazz and Classical too.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why bother with Nashville country when more interesting music is coming from Texas and Oklahoma?

Jason Eady "Back to Jackson" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0665-exu7eY

Turnpike Troubadours "Good Lord Lorie" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIzb_NTU2pI&list=RDDIzb_NTU2pI

Kids may have heard of Kacey Musgraves from the Grammys. She writes and performs fairly traditional country songs with lyrics atypical for Nashville songwriters. For example, "It Is What It Is" is a country song about "friends with benefits". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6zsUnkScEQ
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Merle Haggard is far better than anything mentioned.

Allison Krauss is very good.

There is a band that "never made it" called Corbin Hanner. Bob Corbin and Dave Hanner. They wrote many #1 songs in the 80s and 90s for Kenny Rogers and Don Williams and others. Their own albums are some of the best country crossover I have ever heard. Amazingly intelligent lyrics and great tunes. I think it is all on iTunes. If you get their albums you will thank me later.

Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline is excellent. So is Sweetheart of the Rodeo by the Byrds.

I don't like much being made now.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, I think it's true you can't get kids into old stuff, but the point people are making is look how different each artist was, one from the other. The first two vids you present are asleep at the wheel, going through the numbers. Kids are going to like anything modern, particularly if it's aimed at them. They have no ability to discriminate or artistic appreciation.

Probably the closest to honest and carefully thought out arrangements is someone like Dwight Yokum - Pocket of a Clown, Bakersfield.

For a lot of that you're going to have to search out the edges of CW closer to a contrarian rockabilly thing - and that's not on the radio. Ironically it's that stuff that's keeping the old way alive. For me it's all about the arrangements - if that's dead the whole thing's dead. Listening to Taylor Swift or Katy Perry is like listening to a cicada.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Johnny Cash is NOT Country music.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Billy Joe Shaver
Ray Wylie Hubbard
BR549
Kentucky Headhunters
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I classified Eye of the Tiger as kid's music the moment I heard it, right alongside KISS and Radar Love. I had a friend who wanted to be a rapper and when he first started doing events he was surprised, angry and frustrated how much of the audience was kids. I wasn't. I said, "Who do you think really listens to that empty, shallow stuff?" Rap, Eye of the Tiger - same difference. Simplistic rah-rah stuff appeals to kids. I call it "Freebird Syndrome."
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd like to add Alan Jackson to that list; he's got a good traditional sound while still showing some original takes. If you want to get them interested in Brad Paisley, encourage them to read is autobiorgraphy, it's a fascinating read and quite the story.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
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