Country Music – General Introduction

by Emilio Pérez Miguel on July 13, 2009

I listen to country music very enthusiastically. I never thought about the reason why until I sat down to write this general introduction announcing the category’s addition to MusicKO.

Many scholars explain that the very genesis of rock and roll can be traced back to two main musical movements. The blues are obviously one of them. The other is country music. That is, music that came from sectors that were discriminated either for racial considerations or owing to cultural aspects. Black music and white music. It dawns on me that every person who is attracted to rock music is going to delve upon them sooner or later.

Obviously, the genres have evolved and changed drastically – “white” bluesmen top my personal list of musical nightmares, whereas the modern sound of country is palpable in songs like “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus.

I find country music far more malleable than the blues. Just look at all the different subcategories on offer: country gospel, bluegrass, honky-tonk, cowboy country… the list is endless. And there is even a genre named Americana which mixes country with rock, and which is actually one of my favorite musical styles ever. Note that such a mixture is not easily achieved, and even people who are music-educated mistake Americana for contemporary rock. Some artists that get the balance right very often are Ryan Adams and American Music Club.

Moreover, there are some country artists like Johnny Cash that have had an appeal which is not easily replicated. Rockers and rappers respect the Man in Black and his music, even if they cannot stand country music itself.

Like blue numbers, traditional country compositions are nothing spectacular from a technical point of view, and even those without musical training can tell at a glance. When it comes to country, though, lyrics are interesting more than often. Structurally, I have seen many alliterative titles (renowned composers like Willie Nelson or Hank Williams use them frequently – see “There Will Be No Teardrops Tonight” or “The Night Hank Williams Came To Town”), and some compositions have a certain poetic merit that s evident even in early country tunes such as “Wildwood Flower”. That song is a clear example of how country’s characteristic natural themes are used to draw rich parallelisms between a person and the world he or she is part of. Of course, romantic poets have done it since the 19th Century, but it is a recourse that always strikes a chord – anybody can relate with the topic in question, and the pictorial approach gives everything  added permanence.

I am reviewing the many country records I have in the coming months. These include both new and old names – from Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to Alabama and American Music Club, I hope to share my basic understanding of the genre and at least some of the most notable ramifications with you.

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