XIII :: Country I (Post-1960s)
By Mark Abraham | 16 December 2007
Here’s the thing about country, which I say as a fan but not a habitator, and that’s another crucial distinction here, because real country fans (like people who only ever listen to country and it’s a real strain for them even to deal with the occasional bluegrass) live country. I’m just a tourist no matter how lived-in a good country song will feel, but anyway here’s the thing: with the exception of the blues, country is the genre of music that is most focused on an artist’s personality. Now, that’s not to suggest that country is a monolithic mass of major chord progressions with different voices; country, though, is very often about the character, the viewpoint, and the politics. Which is why your choice of country is so important, if you care about such things. Because liking Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson over Merle Haggard or Glen Campbell means something: explicitly, it means choosing Texas/outlaw over Nashville; implicitly, it means venerating a specific kind of masculinity. And all you boys in the audience who love Graham Parsons: I mean, that’s just an early example of the indie-construction of the sensitive boyfriend, right? He’s an outlaw on his own gushy terms. Which in its own way is outlaw-ish too, of course, and that’s kind of the point; schools of country are schools of identity, especially since the flag waving brand of modern country is insanely Republican. Point being the hat doesn’t mean much at all, which is why this list offers the lilt, the twang, and just enough imagined controversy to keep law- and non-law-abiding country citizens alike uptight.