The Origin of the
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Another Country, Not My Own

With the recent demise of Johnny Cash and the defection of the Dixie
Chicks to the "rock 'n'roll family ", there just isn't any reason to pay
any attention to Nashville product anymore. Long gone are lyricists like
Jerry Jeff Walker or George Jones; today, dumb sells, and the more
offensively ignorant, the faster a tune will climb the C&W charts.
Instrumental creativity on the order of a Bob Wills just doesn't exist
anymore; instead, Nashville session musicians serve warmed-over
Jimmy Page licks on a bed of Celine Dion and call it Shania Twain.
Even the name of the genre rings false. "Country and Western" long
ago morphed into "Suburb and Southern", its audience now composed
of exactly the sorts who would have threatened Charlie Daniels in his
"Uneasy Rider" days, who would stand aghast at Willie Nelson's activism
on the part of farmers, who think "Achy Breaky Heart" was a genuine
expression of working America. Kids in rural areas are at least as likely
to be listening to Linkin Park or Good Charlotte as Toby Keith or Vince Gill.

It's not as though regressive politics are new in Nashville product
(please don't cheapen it by calling it "country music"). "Okie From
Muskogee" was, after all, staggeringly popular. That said, Merle
Haggard at least could claim a rural and working-class background,
and much of the rest of his catalog shows it. More than that, he
actually took risks--his outlaw persona wasn't just PR, and he didn't
have a squad of handlers covering his ass when he went out and did
dumb things.

None of this is to say that there isn't enjoyable, intelligent, and
musically advanced country music to be heard. Netherota Records offers
Three Payments
, Eban Schletter's perfectly imperfect portrait of the artist
as a flawed man with diminishing options--the same essential theme that
powered Willie Nelson, George Jones and Johnny Cash. Red Meat is a
band worth watching: the spirit of Bob Wills animates a funny and insightful
bunch of misfit musicians. The aforementioned Dixie Chicks keep getting
in trouble for asking audiences to think. Why, I'll bet that there is even
a band in your very own town, dear reader, that plays country music with
more thought and feeling than Brooks and Dunn have managed of late.
Why not scour the bars and find them? It would certainly be more rewarding
than watching some Nashville hack butchering "I Walk the Line" in some
synthetic memorial.

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