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Country Music

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"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.
But this is country music, and we do."
Brad Paisley, "This Is Country Music"

Ah, country music. The cousin of American Folk Music that is mostly associated with places like Texas, men wearing cowboy attire unironically, and old-timey instruments like fiddle, pedal steel guitar and banjo. Despite its widespread notoriety amongst latte-sipping urban coastal city Bourgeois Bohemians as a deplorable Flyover Country genre, country music is not unpopular, as proved by its successful musicians with top hits. It is by some measures the most listened-to genre of music in the United States. Together with Blues it was a huge influence on Rock & Roll and Rockabilly. Country music songs do emotional storytelling about issues that are close to the heart, like family and relationships. Heartfelt vocals bring out the narrative, supported by virtuoso lead instrument "pickin" solos.

Country music as a genre of its own originated in the 1920s in the United States, primarily played on string instruments, most notably the acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo, the big upright bass, and the use of sweet vocal harmonies. 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". In the 1970s, mainstream country developed "Nashville sound", a commercial, radio-friendly style, which layered heavily arranged string sections with lush harmony vocals. In response, Progressive Country developed out of the Country Rock scene, drawing from Bakersfield and classic honky-tonk country, Rock & Roll, Folk Music, Bluegrass, Blues, Jazz and Southern Rock. Essentially Progressive Country is Progressive Rock Meets Country. The grittier, simpler style "outlaw country" developed out of Progressive Country. Outlaw Country emphasized Three Chords and the Truth, a more raw singing style, and darker themes. Outlaw country was heavy enough to intrigue Punk Rock musicians, some of whom launched cowpunk bands.

While fiddle and pedal steel continued to be used to add a country flavor, the genre electrified like its pop and rock cousins. Twangy Fender Telecaster electric guitar with a tweed amp became a defining sound, and the electric bass took over the upright bass' role.

Country in the 1980s turned to a pop-heavy sound inspired by the film Urban Cowboy. Like their pop counterparts, country artists used synthesizers to add sustained chords to ballads. This 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 and Jewel 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.

The New '10s saw the rise of "Bro-country", basically a combination of Testosterone Poisoning and modern rap influence, leading to jacked-up songs about driving around in pimped-up pickup trucks, drinking copious amounts of beer with friends, and partying in the woods with a hot girl. The Trope Maker of such was Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise", a review of which even coined the term "bro-country". However, bro-country quickly drew ire for its simplistic themes and marginalization of women (lampshaded heavily in Maddie & Tae's "Girl in a Country Song"), which led to an increased discussion of misogyny in the genre. From this spawned a more romantically-minded "boyfriend country" and a mix of artists with more traditionally country influence drawn from the early 1990s traditionalist boom, as well as a resurgence in female artists who were largely marginalized during the heyday of "bro-country".

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).

"Alternative Country" (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, Alternative Country, Gothic Country Music, Outlaw Country Music, Bluegrass and Southern Rock.

Country musicians:

Alternative Title(s): Progressive Country