I love all types of music – original late ’70s punk, traditional Irish fiddle music, string quartet, jazz (esp Ethiopian), classical, disco, metal, hip hop, rap, grime, trash, ska, industrial, electronic, opera, etc. To me, there is good and bad in all types of music.
Country usually gets a bad rap though. This is largely down to how teeth-grindingly schmaltzy and kitsch many popular country singers are.
Daniel O’Donnell had a big row years ago with English country music charts when the country fans in England tried to stop him being listed on country charts on the basis that he was a boring dinner jacketed crooner, not a real country singer.
The new wave of cheesy so-called country is even more misleading. It has little to do with authentic country, either in its ethos or its delivery. Very revealing that when the massively popular Nathan Carter was asked who his biggest musical influence was, he said Michael Bublé. Where do you go after a statement like that? Michael Bubble! No harm to Mr. Bubble, but he is to country music what I am to financial planning.
In reality, these new country pretty boys are just cleancut pop crooners wearing big hats to market themselves to an essentially pop market.
But dig deeper into country, and its stuffed full of gems.
Here are a few of my favourites – in some cases (Waits, Stones), the performers are only dabbling in country, but they do it well:
Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs – Orange Blossom Special (Instrumental):
The Dead South – In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company:
Clarence Ashley – Cuckoo Bird:
Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues:
Tom Waits – Looks Like I’m Up Shit Creek Again:
Tom Waits – Cold Water (Sample lyrics: “Well, the polis at the station, and they don’t look friendly … I’m reading the bible by a 40-watt bulb“):
Rolling Stones – Country Honk:
Rolling Stones – Faraway Eyes (Jagger’s spoken intro is a treat – walks a fine line between taking the outright piss and authenticity, but the music, and the harmonies, are 100% proper country – nice slide-guitar work from Ron Wood):
Mean Mary – Blazing (Instrumental):
Bruce Molsky – I Get My Whiskey From Rockingham (Live @Pickathon 2012):
The Hillbilly Gypsies, live: