Country music has been a tradition in American homes since the Great Depression. The sound is historically linked to folk, gospel, and bluegrass tradition. It saw a rise to popularity during a time where people had very few opportunities for a better life. It was also around this time that the radio was beginning to rise in popularity. Communities during this era saw country music as a channel to exhibit their displeasure with the economic situation. The suffering people during this time were drawn to the genre because of its unadulterated, genuine, raw emotion. The honesty that the music was founded on has eroded over time to a state of calculated, careless, watered down remains.
Pioneers of country music like Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash had a firm understanding of song writing, guitar musicianship, and how to entertain and draw an audience. These artists sang about pain, because they understood pain. Today, country icons like Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, and Dierks Bentley are nothing more than the brainchildren of soulless marketers in the music industry. These “artists” are marketed to the listener as warm hearted, ingenious musical visionaries. Although in reality they have incredibly limited musical ability, lack any creative insight, and are typically just directed by their higher-ups.
The biggest problem with the country music on the radio today is this overt lack of integrity. The once undeniably honest genre has become a timid parody of itself. Country heavyweights today generally do not write their own songs. Instead a group of “ghostwriters” who work in an office setting, and are paid on salary; craft them for the music publisher or record company. The producers bring in a handful of session musicians, and then attempt to create something deliberately imitated and recycled. This is to ensure the trained ears of country radio listeners won’t be disappointed by any contrast in the music. These “ghostwriters” work a forty hour week and as long as their songs are churning a profit and in the Top 40, everybody is happy.
However, between the spineless product placement and redundant themes there is still a small pocket of hope. Off the radio airwaves, there are still many artists seething with emotion and song writing ability. A handful of modern country artists like Justin Townes Earle, Scott H. Biram, Pat Bernhard, Mike Cooley and Corb Lund are in a constant battle to both sell records and continue producing sincere music. These artists receive little exposure and radio play because their material does not fit the criteria laid out by the executives in Music City.
Let me finish by saying that I personally don’t believe true and honest country music is dead, but it’s a lot harder to find than it ever was best before. You won’t hear it on CMT, and you definitely won’t hear it on your local “country” station. If you want to find fresh, genuine country music, your best bet is to begin searching online. There are thousands of individuals on the web who are furious with the decaying state of country radio and how the music industry has obliterated the sincerity and virtue it was once rooted in.