Monday, August 25 2014
Has country music lost its capacity for brutal, unshakeable loneliness? Or are we just experiencing some calm before the next, inevitable heartache?
Thursday, July 31 2014
A recasting of Johnny Cash's most controversial album, Bitter Tears, raises questions about the inclusiveness of American music.
Wednesday, June 4 2014
Living out of step fits right in with Dondero's songs of tough and kindhearted outcasts, eccentrics and survivors who live out of sight, but in plain sight.
Tuesday, April 29 2014
Jason Isbell delivered one of the strongest records in 2013, and in doing so, he helped redefine the parameters of Americana.
Wednesday, March 12 2014
Let's compare Eric Church's macho, white-power Outsiders to some newly reissued country outsiders from the '70s, the out-gay-country group Lavender Country.
Thursday, January 30 2014
You can call 2013 the year that country-music album covers looked like advertisements torn from fashion and lifestyle magazines.
Monday, October 14 2013
Merle Haggard's restlessness breaks him out of one prison and sends him towards another.
Sunday, August 11 2013
John Fogerty has teamed with a group of contemporary artists to deliver a celebration of his songs and of American music with Wrote a Song for Everyone. It couldn't be a more welcome celebration.
Sunday, June 30 2013
These explorations of the African-American presence in country music are welcome at a time when country music is treated, by insiders and outsiders, as a purely white genre, and exceptions to that are treated as aberrations, gimmicks or novelty songs.
Monday, June 3 2013
Former Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap's roots run deeper than punk rock, but he's got an arty flare you might not expect from a man who loves Hank Williams and Chuck Berry.
Sunday, May 5 2013
There are at least four various artists tribute albums to Kris Kristofferson, all released in the last 11 years. Why him? Is it about the songwriter or the songs? The musicians or the listeners? The present or the past? The albums themselves might provide the answers.
Tuesday, April 2 2013
Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie “Prince” Billy pay tribute to the Everlys with What the Brothers Sang, and the Chapin Sisters with A Date With the Everly Brothers, in their new tribute albums.
Monday, February 18 2013
Revisiting Jonathan Richman’s brief “country moment” offers another window, through the eyes of an outsider into the genre.
Sunday, January 13 2013
All of the albums that critics/fans who fancy themselves “pure” country defenders have praised as the best of 2012 carry a heavy aura of the past about them. But how much can country music progress if it’s spending all of its time looking back?
Sunday, October 21 2012
It’s hard to determine anyone in the genre who has built up more of an aura of hype and expectation around each new release than Taylor Swift. Each album takes a different step outwards.
Monday, September 10 2012
How the Midwest remade country music in its own image -- and without even trying.
Thursday, August 9 2012
Country singers of all stripes have covered or referenced Bruce Springsteen in their songs, yet the reasons they do so, and what they see in his songs, is not as easy to read as you might expect.
Monday, July 16 2012
The Carolina Chocolate Drops show us why it's important that country music gets in touch with its real base: rural America and the many gifts that rural America offers.
Wednesday, May 23 2012
I vigorously defend lots of country music that sends others running. Yet there is one band that drives me absolutely batty. I need to confront and dissect this visceral feeling that their music is the worst, ever. It's time to face my enemy: Rascal Flatts.
Monday, April 23 2012
Despite country's southern roots, there remains a dearth of black artists. Darius Rucker dipped his toes in those muddy waters in the past, but alas, Lionel Richie's new country album doesn't wade in much deeper.
Sunday, March 11 2012
The perfect smile of your favorite country star might be hiding something sinister. Country songs can get kinda crazy.
Wednesday, February 22 2012
Like punk rock and heavy metal, country music has a formula and violating that formula is a kind of betrayal, a heresy for which one may not be forgiven. In Americana, such betrayals and unexpected turns are often welcomed.
Sunday, January 29 2012
Where are these towns and neighborhoods that Montgomery Gentry sing about? The Mythical Country; the country that exists in the collective imagination of Nashville songwriters and singers, and that of the audience.
Sunday, January 8 2012
The upcoming documentary, Wish Me Away, centered on country singer Chely Wright chronicles the pains of coming out in Nashville and raises questions about why more country musicians haven’t come out.
Sunday, November 20 2011
A lot of these indie musicians who wouldn’t call themselves "country" sound more country to me than Rascal Flatts or, for that matter, than Fleet Foxes, who are described as “alt-country”.
Sunday, October 16 2011
The British saved rock 'n' roll, reignited the blues, and may just make country music more American.
Wednesday, October 5 2011
These days, a country singer will bow down to Jesus at least once by the end of his album, even if he spent the rest of it cheatin’, mistreatin’ and fightin’. Jesus is that reliable way to feel good even if you’ve been acting bad.
Tuesday, July 19 2011
It's been a dead enough year in country music to make fans wonder what's going on. Is the genre taking a year off, or just jogging in place for a while?
Sunday, May 15 2011
In one fell, sweet-voiced swoop, Martina McBride gives voice to the struggles of women in contemporary times.
Friday, April 22 2011
Modern country music is in love with a new trend: women inflicting violence on men, when the men deserve it... and even when they don't.
Tuesday, March 15 2011
The implication of "Real" and "This Is Country Music" is that some forms of entertainment are more real than others, and country music is the most real. Yet what does it mean for a song to be real? What’s real about music, anyway?
Tuesday, January 25 2011
Each year brings a slew of rock 'n' roll reissues or tributes, celebrating the anniversary of landmark albums from the past. Country music, however, tends to view its past differently.
Monday, November 8 2010
Songs about Mexico run rampant through the commercial country landscape, but which Mexico are they singing about?
Monday, September 13 2010
EP sounds like an academic term. “Six pack” makes people think of beer, of a tough-guy’s abs, or Six Pack, the 1982 race-car comedy starring Kenny Rogers.
Tuesday, August 17 2010
In the pantheon of bluegrass pickers, Sam Bush is the default leader. Still, Bush remembers playing onstage with Bill Monroe in the early '70s, and after he showcased his kinetic picking technique on the mandolin, Monroe leaned over and told him to “stick to the fiddle”.
Monday, July 19 2010
Country is a genre with its own sense of time. New songs on country radio aren't necessarily new. The songs aren't interested in capturing a point in time, instead, they're all about depicting the essentials of life.
Sunday, June 13 2010
Easton Corbin's debut reads like a 'Farewell to Arms' for the truck-pull set and lays out a hero's code for existentialist country boys everywhere; that is, the practical application of action over thought.
Sunday, May 9 2010
Taylor Swift’s Fearless tour in Kansas City saw her go so far as to perform a mid-song hug-a-thon with her audience -- rather like a presidential candidate working the crowd -- except, as my brother said, “I went to a John Kerry rally, and he didn’t hug anybody.”
Wednesday, April 14 2010
Question: Since everyone seems to love the big arena-rock of the '80s, why don't they make records like that anymore? Answer: They do. It's called country music, now.
Sunday, February 28 2010
Arrogance is central to Toby Keith's music. Yet it's an arrogance tied to the notion that human beings are essentially deluded. Everyone thinks they're absolutely right, and everyone is usually wrong.
Sunday, February 7 2010
At 77, Willie's hair is now down to his tailbone, and you can see his trademark red locks fade to gray about midway up his back -- it's like examining the rings of a tree.