"You're not supposed to say the word 'cancer' in a song.
And tellin' folks Jesus is the answer can rub 'em wrong.
It ain't hip to sing about tractors, trucks, little towns, and Mama, yeah that might be true.
Ah, country music. The American answer to Folk Music
that is mostly associated with places like Kansas and men wearing cowboy attire unironically. Despite its widespread notoriety, country music is not bad, as proved by many musicians, and is in fact by some measures the most listened-to genre of music in the United States.
Country music as a genre of its own originated in the 1920s in the United States, primarily played on string instruments, most notably the guitar, fiddle and banjo. It has its roots in the folk ballads of the Appalachian Mountains, which in turn descended from the various folk traditions of the British Isles. Depending on whom you ask, the offshoot genre of bluegrass
might be referred to as "good country music
". Modern mainstream country has progressed through a "Nashville sound" in the 1970s, which layered the string sections on heavily, and a 1980s pop-heavy "Urban Cowboy" sound inspired by the film Urban Cowboy
, followed by a more traditional wave in the 1990s inspired by honky-tonk music. Modern mainstream country music has become a melting pot, ranging from more traditional acts such as George Strait
and Alan Jackson to pop acts such as Carrie Underwood
, and in-betweens such as Brad Paisley
. Starting in the 1990s, a large number of pop and rock acts, ranging from Bon Jovi
to Kid Rock
and the Eagles
, crossed over to country with varying degrees of success. The crossover acts, in particular Taylor Swift
, are often among the most divisive in the fanbase.
On that note, the fanbase is stereotyped as being right-wing Boisterous Bruisers
who personify the Deep South
of Eagle Land
. While such an portrayal is two-dimensional and uneducated, one must remember k.d. lang was
blacklisted for being outspokenly pro-vegetarian (she didn't come out as a lesbian until after she felt she no longer had a country fanbase to alienate). And yet the Dixie Chicks
were surprised when their fans turned on them after bad-mouthing George W. Bush
(granted, the death threats were a bit much).
" (sometimes abbreviated as "Alt-Country") is a loosely defined term that means, more or less, the attitude of Alternative Rock
with a country sound.
See also: Country Rap
Notable country musicians:
- Ryan Adams: An alt-country musician (mostly), he's experimented with other genres most notably indie rock and metal. He's married to former teen pop star Mandy Moore.
- Alabama: Most popular band in the genre; most #1 hits for any country band. Named Artist of the Decade for the '80s.
- Jason Aldean: A-list country singer known for being one of the more rock-oriented acts in the genre, and is currently the genre's most popular male vocalist.
- The Band Perry: A popular band who had a crossover hit with "If I Die Young."
- Dierks Bentley: One of the younger names in country music.
- Clint Black: Has had success mostly in the 90s.
- Garth Brooks: One of the best-selling acts in any genre, explosively popular throughout the 90s only to retire abruptly in 2001. Surprisingly, he only had one top 40 hit on the Hot 100. Often credited or blamed with reintroducing pop influences to country music. Named Artist of the decade for the '90s.
- Brooks & Dunn: Most popular duo in the genre, most #1 hits for any country duo.
- Zac Brown Band: One of the best selling bands of recent times.
- Luke Bryan: A very popular modern country singer.
- Jimmy Buffett: More thought of as a pop singer, but much of his fanbase overlaps with country music.
- Glen Campbell: A musician who had a few number-one hits on the pop charts as well.
- Johnny Cash: The genre's greatest legend.
- Kenny Chesney: A massively successful star of the 00s. Mixes traditional country with a tropical/island sound.
- Dixie Chicks: One of the most popular (and controversial) all-female acts in the genre.
- Eric Church: Fast-rising country-rock singer.
- David Allan Coe: A key figure in the decidedly un-mainstream "Outlaw Country" movement of the 70s. Recorded a couple of very dirty albums back in the day. At the behest of Shel Silverstein, no less.
- Steve Earle: A country-rock musician who has had hits on both genre's charts.
- Lefty Frizzell: Perhaps the most influential country artist ever along with Hank Williams.
- Brantley Gilbert: One of the more rock-influenced artists nowadays.
- Vince Gill: Former Pure Prarie League leader who became more successful as a solo act.
- Merle Haggard: Legend who is one of the most prolific and esteemed singer-songwriters in country music history.
- Hunter Hayes: A young up-and-comer of the new tens.
- Faith Hill: Was a regular visitor to the pop charts in the late 90's, and is also known as Tim McGraw's wife.
- Alan Jackson: Consistently acclaimed singer-songwriter who is known for his self-described simple songs, "everyman" disposition, and countless well-received recordings.
- Waylon Jennings: One of the most respected country musicians ever, and a chief member of the outlaw movement of the 1970s.
- George Jones: Was known as "the greatest living country singer," and often regarded as the genre's greatest vocalist.
- The Judds: Second most-popular country music duo (they were tops until Brooks & Dunn trumped them). After mother Naomi retired from singing, daughter Wynonna went on to a modestly successful singles career, and then her sister Ashley became a highly successful actress.
- Toby Keith: One of the genre's more politically-oriented acts.
- Alison Krauss & Union Station: The best-selling, and perhaps best known, bluegrass group in the business.
- Kris Kristofferson: Known for writing songs made famous by other people ("Me and Bobby McGee" was popularised by Janis Joplin), but also well-regarded in his own right.
- Lady Antebellum: Country-pop trio that rose to superstardom in the late '00s.
- Miranda Lambert: Best known for marrying Blake Shelton and for influencing Cassadee Pope on "The Voice".
- Jerry Lee Lewis: Rockabilly legend who had a series of top 40 hits in the 1950s.
- Lyle Lovett: The trope maker of Alternative Country and, for a while, one of the few alternative country acts to get attention on country radio. Nowadays, you're likely to find his music playing on an Adult Alternative station rather than your local country station.
- Loretta Lynn: Legend who is arguably the most important female country artist. Called the "First Lady of Country Music", a title that has never been granted to anyone else. Named "Artist of the Decade" for the '70s.
- Barbara Mandrell: Famous for her spectacular live shows and one of country music's most iconic female singers.
- Reba McEntire: Most Top 10 country hits for any female singer, also very popular as an actress.
- Tim McGraw: Highly successful commercially; made independent Curb Records a driving force in the country industry.
- Ronnie Milsap: Prolific 70s and 80s country-pop singer, best known for being one of the only blind musicians in the genre.
- Willie Nelson: Venerable singer-songwriter who has written or recorded numerous classic songs. Also known for being ridiculously prolific in recent years and collaborating with just about every musician in existence.
- The Oak Ridge Boys: A gospel group dating from the 1940s, The Oaks got retooled into a country-pop band following a membership change in the 1970s.
- Jake Owen: Highly successful singer of the 10s.
- Brad Paisley: The first 70s-born musician to make it big in the genre. Well-known for his absolutely insane guitar-playing skills and pop-culture heavy lyrics.
- Gram Parsons: Helped create country rock as a member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, as well as releasing a couple of well-regarded solo albums before his untimely death at the age of 26. He was also a major influence on Alternative Country.
- Dolly Parton: Like Reba, she is known almost as much for her acting as for her singing. *.
- Charley Pride: Most popular black artist in the genre by far.
- Rascal Flatts: Easily the most popular country band of the 21st century.
- Marty Robbins Named "Artist of the Decade" for the '60s.
- Kenny Rogers: Has had the most pop crossover success of any country singer in history; also known for his chicken restaurant.
- Blake Shelton: Current A-Lister and reigning Entertainer of the Year; he is one of the judges on "The Voice."
- The Statler Brothers: A country-gospel group who scored one big pop hit in 1966.
- Ray Stevens: Popular novelty artist.
- George Strait: Most #1 hits of any artist (44 on Billboard). Known for his extraordinary longevity, he's been a commercial A-lister for almost thirty years. Named Artist of the Decade for the aughts. Finally retiring from touring in 2013.
- Sugarland: Popular duo from the 2000s.
- Taylor Swift: Insanely popular among teenagers; her popularity is on the level that only pop musicians usually achieve.
- Randy Travis: Highly regarded singer-songwriter who achieved his greatest commercial success during the neotraditional movement of the late 1980s of which he was a key component. Mostly recorded gospel music in the 2000s.
- Shania Twain: One of the biggest crossover successes of the 1990s.
- Conway Twitty: Known for his rock influences and overt sexual themes, not to mention being a Family Guy running gag.
- Carrie Underwood: By far, the most successful American Idol winner in terms of commercial and chart success.
- Keith Urban: A little bit of Australian flavor on the charts. He joined the "American Idol" judging panel in 2013.
- Kitty Wells: The first female country music star, and known as "The Queen of Country Music".
- Hank Williams: A legend whose career was cut far too short, arguably the greatest and most influential country musician.
- Hank Williams, Jr.: Son of the legendary Hank Williams, but managed to craft a substantial career and identity of his own. One of the leading lights of the late 70's "outlaw country" genre, and known for his popular Monday Night Football theme.
- Hank Williams III: Grandson of Hank Williams and son of Jr., he's carved out a unique career different from both his grandfather and father and is one of the more popular alternative country artists today, largely influenced by punk, metal and the neotraditional country scene. (His guitar case bears Woody Guthrie's famous "This Machine Kills Fascists" sticker, fairly clearly indicating his stance vis-a-vis the stereotypical country fanbase).
- Lucinda Williams: One of the more popular alternative country singer-songwriters. Daughter of the poet Miller Williams; of no relation to the three Hanks.
- Chely Wright: Most famous nowadays for being the only openly gay country star. *
- Trisha Yearwood: A singer whose only crossover hit was a cover of a LeAnn Rimes song.
- Dwight Yoakam: Another notable early Alternative Country musician, Yoakam is a Honky-tonk singer who brought back his genre until it died yet again.