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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.