There’s no denying the quality of mainstream country music has sharply declined in the last few years. While the genre was never known for its lyrical or musical complexity, most songs at least had something to say. At least they were trying.
I notice three areas that can easily be attributed to this decline:
- Lack of creativity. Gone are the clever story songs and unconventional song structures. Today, we’re faced with the same laundry list of market-tested themes. To borrow a line from Will Hoge and Wade Bowen, it’s “trucks, trailers, tailgates, and tractors” on top of drinking beer under the moonlight, etc. It would also be nice to see more songs that aren’t just repeating the chorus over and over with slight variations in sound or tempo.
- Lack of talent. Consider that the “evolution” of modern country is mainly the result of the introduction of elements of other genres, such as pop, hip-hop, and dubstep. We are seeing less emphasis on traditional instrumentation and more reliance on digital crutches like auto-tune. Guitar solos are shorter and simpler, and vocalists place a higher premium on their dance moves than their ability to convey emotion in a way that pleases the ear.
- Lack of authenticity. Back in the day, if you played country music, it was probably because you identified with the traditional, rural American lifestyle. Recently popular artists may be from the South, but their feigned accents and v-neck tees give them away. The rise of crossover artists trying to prolong their careers is another disturbing trend that demonstrates how much the genre has lost its identity.
Now, these criticisms may lead you to ask who I am and what makes me so qualified to offer my opinion on the state of music. I don’t pretend to be a qualified critic by any means. In fact, I barely meet any of the three criteria I offered above. My musical experience consists of two years of middle school band. I went to college in Washington, D.C., and I currently reside in a very hipster area of Austin, Texas — South Congress (the blog’s namesake).
With that said, I have been actively listening to and seeking out good country music for years. I was born and raised in the Texas Hill Country, and I love to hunt, fish, and go muddin’ as much as the next guy. The purpose of this blog is not to serve as an authority on what is considered “real” country music. I meet people all the time who claim to dislike country, but haven’t been exposed to sub-genres like Texas Country, Red Dirt, or Americana. My hope for this blog is that it will serve as a resource for open-minded music listeners who are looking to discover new artists.
I suppose what makes me so interested in music artists is that I don’t understand them. No friend or family member of mine works exclusively as a professional musician, so it can be difficult to relate. Their creativity and ways of thinking just fascinate me. We can try to pick their brains and interpret their emotions based off of their songs and performances, but there will always be more to the story. Moreover, there is the behind-the-scenes human element of trying to balance time on the road with maintaining personal relationships.
People who know me are often surprised to learn I listen to more than just country. At any given moment, you can find me jamming to 90’s grunge, adult alternative, blues, Tejano, hip-hop, and even a few Nashville artists. If you want to get a better feel for what I like, you will find all kinds of influences in my Top 10 Country Albums of 2014.
I am always open to ideas for blog posts, so please send any albums and topics to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!