I was raised on country music. As my taste and openness to other genres has blossomed in the advent of my adult life, the genre has remained a favorite of mine. I like the story-telling, the emotional through-line, the authenticity.
There's nothing like a touch of twang to make my heart flutter. The genre is evolving, quite literally as we speak. The raw, rudimentary stylings of the genre's architects is, for lack of better words, out of fashion. That's not to insinuate that it's not good music. Because it IS. It broke the ground that has slowly led to the genre in its current iteration.
But I've noticed the stars of yesteryear seem to lament and FEAR the genre's ongoing progression and that frankly baffles me. I stumbled upon George Strait's 2000 duet with Alan Jackson "Murder on Music Row" just recently, and was curiously astonished by the way it lampooned and criticized the genre's change in the most smug, condescending way possible.
I love both artists' music fiercely, but this song is objectively speaking, a smear and a spit in the eye. It's disingenuous, mean-spirited and wrought out of fear. As the two men exchange whimpers about how the genre's pioneers and the instruments they used "wouldn't stand a chance on today's radio," they seem to ignore how dishonest those words really are.
It's not like steel guitars, fiddles and banjos stopped being used by today's stars. What has changed is the marketplace of ideas within the genre. Favorites of mine in modern times include Rascal Flatts' 2009 masterpiece Unstoppable. That album is emotionally tormenting but eventually uplifting, more and more hope finding itself embedded in the fabric of that album.
Another I am currently head over heels in love with is Kacey Musgraves' latest consummation, the bubbly and lush Golden Hour, which finds Musgraves trading the political commentary of her first two albums for inspiring tales of love brought about by life experience. There's still a whining steel guitar and a touch of twang to keep things cohesive, but this music doesn't keep itself trapped in a box. And those two examples barely tip the iceberg. Plenty of artists the last several years have taken the genre to places it should have gone, but never had been before.
And that's not because the genre couldn't go to these places; it's quite evident the genre should have come face to face with its current maturation a long time ago. But it simply didn't because it was practically hearsay to insist the genre could unshackle itself from tradition.
So, when Alan Jackson and George Strait mope and complain about how the way they did things is no longer viable, that's not only insulting to today's stars who are working just as hard to make names for themselves, but exposes the underlying frustration that the two gentlemen and their contemporaries can no longer send the kinds of game-changing chart toppers they once did up through the channels of country radio.
The point I'm trying to make is; don't view the world (or any part of it) in this myopic, vacuous, black and white way. The vitality of our very existence on this earth is to adapt, evolve, grow, try new things and see the world around us through a newer, better, smarter lens. Just imagine for a second how boring and frankly, frightening, the world would be if we all liked the same music, followed the same sports teams and upheld the same ideologies.
Don't trap yourself in a box. Broaden your horizons and open your mind to new things. Take it from the current crop of talent in country music today. Because it's clearly worked for them. To steal from Rascal Flatts, "don't waste the time that goes so fast." Simple and cliché, yet resonant, vulnerable and real. Don't worry about fitting the mold. Make your own. You'll find life a lot more worth living as a result.