On August 4, 1927, Jimmie Rodgers—free of his entanglement with the Tenneva Ramblers—made his first recording as a solo act. Commercial country music, which had been born, unheralded and unnoticed, on August 1, when the Carter Family made their first recordings, came into focus at that moment. (The Tenneva Ramblers—free of their entanglement with Jimmie … Continue reading I Walk the Line
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
Tom Hiddleston will be up early on January 17, 2017. So will Ethan Hawke. Don Cheadle too. That’s the day the next Oscar nominations will be announced, and Hiddleston, Hawke and Cheadle will be getting up before dawn to see whether they’ve been nominated as Best Actor for their performances as, respectively, country icon Hank … Continue reading Getting On Up, Walking the Line and Seeing the Light: The World of Musical Biopics
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?