The Bristol Sessions looms large in history for artistic reasons: They launched the careers of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, whose music would define the parameters of country music for generations to come. However, the Sessions were not primarily an artistic exercise, but rather an economic one. Ralph Peer wasn’t in Bristol looking for … Continue reading If You’ve Got the Money: The Economics of the Bristol Sessions
Today “the Bristol Sessions” is a portmanteau phrase in its own right, so much a given to country-music aficionados that it hardly seems necessary to ask questions such as “why were there sessions in Bristol?” or, more relevant to this discussion, “Why were the sessions in Bristol?” They didn’t have to be. In the 1910s … Continue reading Why Bristol?
As one of the two parents of rock ‘n’ roll (the other is rhythm and blues), country music understandably has had a considerable impact on the younger genre, and it’s no surprise that 10 country artists are enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not enshrined there, however, is the country star who … Continue reading An Unlikely Queen
Watch the Grammy awards—it doesn’t matter what year—and you’re watching an exercise in nomenclature. Americans love music, but they also love finding new words to categorize it. Is this song country, folk or Southern rock? Folk-rock, alt country or Americana? Is it neo-folk, country-punk or folkabilly? Why does anybody care? Well, it’s about money, of … Continue reading Is It Country? Is It Rock? 20 Ways to Tell
A few weeks back, a relative of mine wrote to me: “I'm so excited about your new career as a country-western singer.” I wrote back to clarify that I’m a country singer now, not a country-western singer. Earlier this week, when I again found myself explaining this distinction, this time to an old friend, I … Continue reading Go South, Young Man
My first blog post, back in February, was titled “What Is Country Music?” That question—or, rather, its kissing cousin, “What is it that you like so much about country music?”—is in my mind again today. It’s been there since July 10, actually, when I had a brief conversation with a young friend, herself a brilliant … Continue reading Music for Grownups
This post isn’t about country music. Or maybe it is. Maybe it’s about the only thing that really matters about country music. You figure it out. A few weeks ago I was in Austin, Texas, to do a show. The show was on Sunday, and I got into town late on Friday, so on Saturday … Continue reading Herman Hupfeld’s Magic Moment
Let’s begin by acknowledging that it’s a profoundly unnecessary question. A good song is a good song, whether you call it country, barbershop or Gregorian chant, and it won’t get any better—or any worse—by any other name. If you like a song, it doesn’t matter what genre it is. Nonetheless, there’s few things Americans like … Continue reading What Is Country Music?