Curious as to why half of rural Ireland was going to see Garth Brooks (or “Gareth Brooks”, as he tends to be called in Ireland), I listened to 20 of his songs last weekend, for research purposes.
He does seem like a very nice, down to earth bloke. Bizarrely, in today’s judgemental world, this seems to help you sell records. Whereas previous generations more or less expected their fav popstars to be assholes – e.g., greedy, shallow, materialistic, selfish, promiscuous, junkies etc. Didn’t matter, in fact, it often aided their popularity, e.g., Rolling Stones, pretty much every performer in the late 60s, Rod Stewart et al. But now it does matter, apparently.
And he has a pleasant voice, and can hold a melody. And, by all accounts, puts on an energetic and professional show.
Of course, he occasionally does a proper country song, fiddles etc.
But the most surprising thing for me, as I listened, was the realisation that he’s not very country at all.
Much of his music is slick acoustic balladry and soft rock, with a country twang and a big hat. Lots of the time, he sounds like a cross between Barry Manilow and The Eagles.
So it’s not true that half of Ireland has gone mad for country music. Garth is easy listening music, slickly and energetically presented, and good luck to him.
But if you’re really looking for authentic country, no disrespect folks, you’d be advised to look elsewhere.
In particular, I’ve always preferred bluegrass, by a mile – bluegrass is the “heavy metal of country” – million miles an hour pickin’, good ol’ boys ‘n’ gals, and talent to burn.
Here are the Hillbilly Gypsies, live somewhere:
And here’s Bruce Molsky and friends with their version of the old Earl Johnson & His Clodhoppers song, “I Get My Whiskey From Rockingham”:
I also love a bit of good Cajun – here are the Cajun Country Revival, with “My Time is Gonna Come”:
And, slowing it down a bit, here’s the Stones, with “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 Ronnie Wood too):
And, of course, Mr. Cash, with “Folsom Prison Blues”: